So, as I said in my introductory blog, I’ve just recently finished my study of Romans. Reading that book brought a lot of things to light, mainly issues that we deal with today in the Church and in spreading the gospel, but they all seemed to connect at a single point: that the one thing we must be convicted of is that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save our sins.
I want to explain more, but first let me explain a little about myself – something I hope to reveal to you a little more as my blogs continue. There is a common saying among skeptics, “Religion is for the weak.” I tend to agree actually, but a little more specifically – Christ is for the weak, and I am proud to say that God has shown me how weak I am. You see, everyone is powerless and needs God to give them the peace and joy that comes from His Spirit to help them through life. Unfortunately, most people are too proud and think that all they need is happiness to make it through life, and that’s not it at all. Until recently, I was one of those people. I was looking for happiness wherever I thought it could be found – in relationships, society, school, etc – and many times I found myself compromising my morals to secure this temporary happiness. About two months ago, God gave me a wake up call to show me just how wrong I really was, and I haven’t been the same since. Pretty soon after, I picked up my Bible and began reading Romans.
This book is something that should be read slowly and many times over, because it starts out for beginning Christians, and then advances onto topics geared toward Christians who have been in the faith for quite some time. However, after reading the whole thing from beginning to end, I found the entire letter centering around a single, simple idea: All we have to know is that the key to salvation is realizing the phenomenon of God’s love and the sacrifice He made for us, and we must accept it. Nothing else matters. Now before you begin formulating your arguments, let me explain.
Notice I used the word “phenomenon” when talking about this seemingly simple sacrifice that every one of you has heard about in Sunday school or merely in passing. About a week into reading, I came across Romans 5:7-10, which as of now are my favorite words in Scripture:
“Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man, someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more will we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!”
When I read this, my mental jaw dropped, and everything I had read up to this and after this fell into place and started making sense. This small passage is strongly stating the incredible love God has for us! I love the word the NIV uses here in verse 10, “enemies.” We were God’s enemies. Think about that. It’s true isn’t it? If God is holiness and absolutely cannot be around sin, aren’t we sinful beings His enemies? Don’t we hurt Him every time we sin? That would indeed make us God’s enemies, would it not? Yet He loved us SO MUCH, He wanted to come down to the world, inside time and space, and live for 12,045 days preparing Himself “like a sheep led to the slaughter” for His sacrifice by living the perfect life while also leaving behind a legacy for us to follow. At the beginning of this passage above, Paul uses an example of both good and righteous men (the difference between the two is something I’ll go over here in a few minutes), and how uncommon it would be for someone to die for these men – these superior people of faith and works. But God loves us so much, that while we were considered sinners – people of lowest regard – He died for us anyway. Paul really wanted to put across this idea of how little we deserve this gift, and how incredibly gracious it is!
This puts in perspective the things Paul had been telling the Romans in the first four chapters. First Paul wants to point out to the Gentiles, that there is no longer a difference between them and the Jews. And he goes into depth on these things, explaining a lot, which I highly encourage you explore for yourself, but they do not entirely pertain to what I am telling you today. Most people know the common verse, Romans 3:23 (go ahead quote it with me), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” – everyone has sinned at least once in their lives, and there is no way to overcome that sin, even if it is just one. It’s feast or famine folks. One and done. You lie to your mom when your 6 years old and don’t sin again for the rest of your life, and it’s not enough. You can’t do it alone. But in Romans 3:24, “and are justified through the redemption that came in Christ Jesus.” Thank goodness. I know I deserve it, but I’d rather not spend an eternity in hell.
Paul continues to expand on this idea in the fourth chapter. He uses the famous father of the Jews, Abraham, as an example. Paul makes reference to Genesis 15:6 “Abraham believed the LORD and He credited it to him as righteousness.” It doesn’t say “Abraham did good deeds and it was credited to him as righteousness,” or “Abraham obeyed God’s law, and therefore he was righteous.” It merely said that Abraham had faith, and that was what made him righteous. Paul emphasizes this in all of chapter four. Open it up! Read for yourself! You’ll see what I’m saying. Paul touches on three main things here. Abraham’s faith was apart from works, apart from circumcision, and apart from the law. “For if those who live by the law are heirs, faith has no value and the promise is worthless (not just the promise God made to Abraham, but also the promise He made to us!)” [Romans 4:14]. We can’t win the right to live with God by upholding the law (what we call today “being good”). It’s just not possible. Jesus says as much Himself in Luke 18:9-14.
“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee (a highly regarded official of the Jewish faith, who upheld God’s law to the smallest detail) and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself, “God I thank you that I am not like other men – robbers, evildoers, adulterers – or even this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.” The tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” I tell you that this man, rather than the other went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.'”
I can’t put it to you any simpler. No matter how many times you didn’t steal a candy bar from the store; no matter how many times you didn’t lie to your boss; no matter how many times you didn’t get drunk, or didn’t do drugs, or didn’t disrespect your parents; no matter how much money you’ve given to the poor or to missionaries; no matter how much time you’ve devoted to service in your community; no matter how much people should be just like you, your not gonna win your way past God. You can sin once, you can sin a billion times. It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same in God’s eyes. You just have to accept the fact that you have have no power in this. God’s already taken care of it. And once you’ve realized and accepted that, there’s nothing left for you to do for your salvation. To put it in Jesus’ words, “It is finished.”
But I want to challenge you. Don’t just accept this fact. Try to grasp how immensely graceful this gift is that God has given you. Read Romans for yourself. Go look at the verses I put at the beginning of this post. Understand, that God didn’t have to do this. We opposed Him by sinning. He had every right to let us die eternally – the consequences of this sin. But He didn’t. And instead, he died. Died. His tortured, bloodied, human flesh turned cold because His heart had stopped beating. And He did it because he wanted to live with you. Try and wrap your mind around how Unjust that is – how much grace and mercy that would require. I dare you grasp the fullness of that grace, because when you try, that’s when you find yourself full of the Spirit and the joy He gives you. It’s an amazing feeling, and it leads me to the rest of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Rome.
Because this post is incredibly long already, I have decided to make it into three parts. Please feel free to comment on this one, letting me know where you feel I was right, or wrong in what I say. Ask me questions. I’ve had so many thoughts here rushing through my head, that I had difficulty putting them all into 1700 words, so if you need further explanation or aren’t sure of something, please ask! Crack open your Bible and see what God says to you Himself and let me know what that is. And by all means, if you disagree with what I am saying, let me know. I’m not God. I’m not the Bible, so don’t take my word as Gospel.