Preaching to the Choir

These are some sermons, but mostly lectionary discussions. It also has prayers for some Sundays.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Romans 1:16-17; 3:19-31

For Sunday the scripture is Romans 1:16-17; 3:19-31

1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.”

3:19Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 21But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, 23since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; 26it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. 27Then what becomes of boasting? It is excluded. By what law? By that of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law. 29Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 30since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. 31Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

In these two verses of chapter one, Paul establishes the theme of his letter. Paul writes concerning the gospel, a news-report that tells us of the righteousness of God, of his faithfulness to his promises.

When John Wesley grasped the full meaning of St. Paul's doctrine of justification by grace through faith in 1738, the fire of the "Great Awakening" was kindled. The occasion was a prayer meeting in Aldersgate St. London, at which Martin Luther's "Preface to the Epistle to the Romans" was read. Wesley, like most other Anglican clergy at the time, had forgotten the substance of the gospel. He was a pietist; staying a believer and progressing in the Christian life was a matter of effort - obedience to the law of God. Wesley had forgotten that through faith in Christ he was totally acceptable to God; he stood approved in the sight of God. At that time, the English church was a dry and cold affair and so most of the revivalists left and formed Wesleyan congregations. Some of those who grasped the full meaning of the gospel and its power to effect salvation for the lost, remained in the Anglican church rather than leave it and join with their "Methodist" friends. They were called "Evangelicals" - believers loyal to the gospel of God's grace, and loyal to the "reformed catholic faith" (Anglicanism). They could remain committed to the Anglican church because they understood that the gospel itself is the power of God for the salvation of the lost, not institutional organisation. This understanding of the gospel was to fire many other churches and has continued to do so up till today. How have we lost this fire, this full meaning of the gospel? How have we become ashamed of it and hidden it away? Is this message still relevant for today?

Romans 3:21 resumes the thesis statement of 1:16–17, as Paul unpacks the idea of how the coming, dying, and rising of Jesus Christ performs God's salvific "righteousness" The statement, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (3:23), essentially summarizes the context of 1:18–3:20. In response to humanity's sorry state, God does at least three things through Jesus Christ: God justifies, God redeems, and God effects atonement . From Working Preacher.org

This is also an inclusive message, and yet we often exclude. We somehow feel better than others, especially those who sin or aren't saved. Is this what has caused the fire to go out?

If you are choosing to preach this passage this Sunday, how will you preach it?

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