Paul says that those who have been justified by faith have been set in right relationship with God, not because of anything we did do deserve it. But rather we are in right relationship because of who God is…a God who is slow to anger, a God who is faithful from generation to generation, a God who in steadfast in love.
July 16, 2023
“Lessons From Paul’s Letter to the Romans”
God’s Love Poured Out
Romans 3; 5
Rev. Dr. Heather W. McColl
For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of gentiles also? Yes, of gentiles also, since God is one, and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.
Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely, therefore, since we have now been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
God’s Love Poured Out Romans 3; 5
We continue our conversation with the letter which Paul wrote to the community of faith in Rome. As I shared last week, the main point of this letter is Paul is laying out what exactly is the Gospel message. We took a look at what we mean when we say the Gospel message is good news. We also named the for whom the Gospel is good news. If you missed last week, let me catch you up…contrary to what many say and believe in the wider church culture, Paul says the Gospel is the good news about God’s amazing grace. Paul also says that God’s amazing grace was for each and everyone, no ifs and or buts.
All of this brings us to our text for this Sunday where we see Paul is once again talking about being justified by faith. And we realize that Paul has been talking about this same thing for the last few chapters. The thing we need to remember as we read Paul’s writings is we don’t have the corresponding letter which was sent to Paul to start this conversation. More than likely with this letter to the community of faith in Rome, yes Paul wanted to let them know that he hadn’t forgotten about them and that he was trying to coordinate a visit but it is also very likely, someone wrote a letter to Paul, telling him about what was happening within that community of faith and that he needed to address a few of their concerns.
One can always assume this is the background for one of Paul’s letters when he seems to go on and on and on and on about a particular topic. Either that, or he got paid for the number of words he used in his letters. Jury is still out on that one.
For the community of faith in Rome, there was something about this justification by faith. Since Rome was a very cosmopolitan area, with lots of different people with different backgrounds, more than likely, this community of faith was trying to figure out some ground rules about how to be in community with one another. Imagine…a group of people not getting along and imagine that it is happening within the church where one group is thinking they had all the answers and knew how everything should be done, you know the way we’ve always done it and then there was another group thinking that they had all the answers and knew how everything should be done, you know throw everything out that reeks of the past and start over.
With this language and writing about justification of faith, Paul is writing to let this group know that both sides are missing the point, that faith, that being in community with one another is not about their way of doing things. Rather, instead, faith, living out that faith, being in right relationship with Godactually has nothing to do with them and how they think things should be done in the church. Paul tells them that being justified in faith, being made whole through faith, being in right relationship with God has all to do with God and the grace which God extends.
You see, Paul takes 4 chapters to tell everyone what I just told you in a few sentences. He again reminds this community of faith in Rome that the Gospel message is about God’s amazing grace. And how we know this to be true is because God’s love has been poured out for each and every one of us, because God’s love has been poured into us through the Holy Spirit and we have been transformed.
Or let me say it this way…I had an interesting conversation a few weeks ago with a young person who returned from church camp. This youth shared that they liked who they were at camp much better than they liked the person they were in real life. The question this youth was struggling to answer was how in all things they could become that camp person instead of the person they were in their “real life”. It was a fascinating conversation for me because I realized that even at such a young age, this person was already compartmentalizing their life. And I could not offer any words of wisdom because I realized I was guilty of that same thing as well…There is a work me, a home me, a friend me, a camp me, a professional setting me, Sure at the core, some of the things were the same but I will admit that in certain situations, a “different” me comes forward…
As I was talking with this youth, it hit me exactly what Paul was talking about in our text today. God’s love is the great equalizer, meaning when we experience it in our lives, when we experience it through others, when we experience it in our communities, things transform. Things become the way God created and intended them to be when God called Creation and everything in it good.
No longer are we worried about the narrative that this world tells us…that it must be us versus them. That it must be about power and might, that it must be about us getting ahead, about getting stuff, about knowing who is more important than whom.
When we view the world through the understanding that God’s love is poured out for us, not because we earned it, not because we deserved, not because we are right and everyone else is wrong, when we view the world through the understanding that God’s love is poured out for us, the understanding that God’s love is poured into us because that is who God is, because that is who God has been, because that is who God will continue to be, it changes everything. It changes us. It transforms us into the people God created and calls us to be and suddenly, we realize that there is no work me, no home me, that there is no professional me. There is only me…named and claimed as God’s Beloved
And once we realize that….as Paul says…
We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand, and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
So now that we know what happens when we compartmentalize our lives, knowing how tempting it is to try and be all things to everyone, knowing how the narrative of this world continues to try to divide us, it is any wonder that Paul goes on and on and on and on and one about the justification of faith? You see, even some two thousand years ago, when Paul sat down to write this letter, he understood that as people of God our faith, our salvation, that the Gospel message has been, is now, and will never be about us. RAther, instead, Paul goes on and on and on and on about the justification of faith, about God’s love being poured out for us, about God’s love being poured into us and how that Good news changes us because he knew once we got that, once we embraced that wisdom, that guidance, that starting point on our journeys of faith, once we finally understood the gift that truly is God’s love, the gift that truly is God’s amazing grace, then and only then we would finally understand the humbling, the life transforming, the life changing gift which is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
Amazing how we continue to need to hear this message again and again some two thousand years latter. Amazing how we still need to hear once again that God’s love has been poured out for us, that God’s love has been poured into us, that it is this good news which gives us hope, that it is this Gospel message to which we cling, that reminds us time and time again, that love and light will always have the last word. May it be so.
See also: Theology Tuesday for Sunday, July 16, 2023 – God’s Love Poured Out Romans 3; 5.