Day Three Hundred And Forty-One - Romans 1-3
So it begins. I have been craving and dreading this moment all year. Romans is so rich, but it ain’t a feel-good book often. It is dense, so I apologize in advance, because I will not get everything that deserves to be covered in each group of readings.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
That’s it. By faith.
It doesn’t say that the righteous shall be good and moral and earn their way to heaven. It, also, does not say that the righteous will be saved by faith and then their sanctification depends on being good and moral. It says, the righteous shall live by faith. Period.
I admit, I tend toward Lutheran perspectives on sanctification. I think all these books written by Calvinist writers on our sanctification and becoming holy do and always fail to create in the the persons who read them the result that they aim for. Mark Galli in response to one such book said something I think is quite profound: This is a good book with a lot of good Biblical stuff in it. It is a book that should be read and then quickly forgotten.
He said this because so much concentration on our progress in the “sanctification game” will inevitably play into our still broken egos and pride. The second we start taking stock of our progress and focusing on our improvements, two things happen: 1) We neglect those areas in our lives that have not improved (or have gotten worse) and 2) we nullify our sanctification we we take pride in it and start to congratulate ourselves instead of God. And it always happens that way. The most sanctified person in the world can fall into this trap. We are still human and broken. We are not fully redeemed yet. It will go to our heads, as sure as day.
So instead of taking stock in of our levels of sanctification let live by faith, for the righteous do so. The Spirit will assuredly work in us with or without our acknowledgment. God finishes the work He starts. This is not to say that we do whatever the hell we want and not worry about it, but, instead, look to the Cross when we feel good about where we are and when we feel shitty about our sins. Pray is key too. Pray that God be glorified in the work he does in our lives and that we thank him for what He accomplished and will accomplish.
None of us is righteous, no not one. And if we are obsessed with our spiritual progress and the “sanctification game” then the truth of that statement will be revealed, because humans will always misappropriate God’s work and wonders for their own. It’s just what we do and Paul, here, makes that very plain in his discussion of circumcision under the Law and uncircumcision outside the Law. At the end of the day, humanity can turn both into a God and neither is the true God.
Romans Three is a brutal chapter because it knocks down the ego of humanity. But it is a knock-out that must happen for people to come to Christ. We need to know that we cannot trust anybody, not even ourselves, but instead to put all our dependence on God’s work by faith.
The Law has its place, but grace was in place long before the Law came down. Why concentrate on the covenant of Law when we live in His grace by faith, that is also a work of God in us. Grace is too good and abundant to be shackled to a covenant that came later.