“I wish I’d never heard of Christianity” my 15 year old daughter said one day.
“What? Why?” came my shocked response.
“Because then I wouldn’t know that I was breaking all the rules.”
Her answer stunned me. I had been a pastor for only a few years, but I saw myself as the great champion of grace. I was the “grace guy”, I spent most of my teaching time talking about how God’s grace saves us through faith, apart from works. How had my daughter come to the conclusion that Christianity was about keeping the rules?
I’ve come to realize that there is a learning curve to this message. For my daughter, living under my roof and therefore required to function within the scope of myconvictions, her perception of Christianity was linked to my house rules. I did my best to explain the distinction, but it would be years before she caught my drift. That is the strange dichotomy that exists between salvation by grace through faith alone and the good works God created us for. The church has had an uneasy history of trying to manage that dance, often falling to one extreme or the other like a drunkard walking home.
For the Apostle Paul, it always came down to faith – but that faith was placed in something transformational.
We’re going to be reading Romans 1:8-17 as we continue our study in that book this Sunday.
The word “faith” is used several times in that section of Scripture. It’s important to understand the greater impact of that word. It is pisitis in the Greek – and is translated a variety of ways. Trust, believe, faith, faithfulness. It is more than just an intellectual assent to a proposition, it means a truth embraced and then lived by.
That being the case, in v8, Paul says the Roman’s faith was talked about all over the world. What would have been on display that would cause people to notice their faith? How has your faith in Christ made a noticeable difference?
In V11, Paul wants to encourage their faith and have his own faith encouraged by them. What do you think that would look like? How can we apply that to our life in community with the church?
The most famous verses of this passage are v16-17, where Paul makes a grand statement concerning his boldness in representing the gospel. We’ll go into this in more depth on Sunday – but notice how Paul says that the Good News is the power of God for salvation. Not a message about that power. How do you understand his meaning? In what way can you imagine the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection being God’s present power? What does Paul say it takes to unleash that power in our lives?
This is a story to live from. It is God’s transformational power at work in this world. I get why Paul is so stoked about it!