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Archive for the ‘Theology’ Category

Reading Romans 1 recently, I was struck by the apparent linkage between Rom 1:15 – 18. Naturally, we would expect such linkages in sentences and words written so closely together. Yet at the same time most English Bibles will place those 4 verses in separate sections.

Verse 15 ends the section on Paul’s concern and eagerness to preach to the people of Rome. Verses 16-17 are famously set off as the summary of Paul’s message: the righteous shall live by faith–the ship that launched the Reformation. Verse 18, however, is much darker, announcing the wrath of God against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of human beings.

What if verse 16 explains Paul’s eagerness to go to Rome to preach the gospel? A gospel which announces that God’s righteousness is revealed, a righteousness from God that comes by grace (so verse 17) and a righteousness of God in punishing sin (so verse 18).

This gospel, then centers itself at the cross, where God’s righteous anger is revealed in all of it’s awful reality. While at the same time, the righteousness from God is purchased by His grace through Christ’s death in taking the full load of human sin on Himself as the revealed Son of God (verse 4).

If God’s anger at sin is fully exhausted on Christ at the cross, and the Cross is the full revelation of God’s righteousness (both moral and imputational), how does this change our reading of the rest of Romans 1? Verses 19ff all seem to be written in past tense, whereas verses 8-18 seem to be all present tense.

Could it be that Paul is laying out a case that all of these sins, as repugnant as they are to God, have been dealt with at the cross by God’s righteous grace? Would this make sense of the “Therefore” at the beginning of Chapter 2 as the reason we have no right to judge?

Just some food for thought. I need to go find my Greek New Testament and dig through the original language a bit more.

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Just read the following quotes:

The faithful soul is always given grace sufficient for the matter at hand; there is no possibility of insufficiency of grace.  The realisation of this truth adds greatly to the calmness with which one may face crises and enables one to accept the events of life as they come without undue worry.

and

It is clear, then, that grace is not merely valuable, but necessary to the spiritual life; we depend upon it for our conversion to God and our union with Him, for our perseverance in holiness and for our soul’s growth…God gives His grace richly to those who ask Him, but the soul that does not pray is so shut up in itself that even the grace of God can hardly find an entrance.  Yet the use of grace demands circumspection. If grace is to have free course and attain its end one must desire to always do the will of God and avoid exposing oneself willfully to danger.  It is precisely this holy circumspection which is so often lacking even in well-disposed persons, and which is responsible for so many grievous falls from God.  There are many dangers in this world which cannot be avoided; if one loves God and desires to do His will one can rely on grace to keep one safe in these, but one has no right to presume on the grace of God by deliberately going into danger or by allowing oneself to carelessly drift.–F.B. Harton, The Elements of the Spiritual Life

Given the book is about the spiritual life, I would not want to jump to conclusions that we’re looking at another case of prosperity-type gospel here.  Rather, I would think the author is talking about spiritual dangers and carelessness.  So I see his argument is this:

  1. God’s grace is sufficient and does not fail
  2. We are dependent on God’s grace for our spiritual life
  3. We can block God’s gracious action in our lives by our lack of perseverance and our thoughtlessness
  4. In such cases, we cannot presume that God’s grace will prevail in our lives

Is this correct?  Though God’s grace is sufficient, can we block it by our lack of faith, holiness, or whatever?  Is faith, therefore, the necessary ingredient by which God unlocks the treasure house of His grace and pours those riches into our lives?  How does this fit into the finished work of Christ on the cross on our behalf?

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