Bible Devotion Week 6

How then shall we live?

We’ve begun working our way through the letter to the Romans. This is one of the most famous books in the Bible and contains Paul’s mature theology. It was significant for the Reformation as Martin Luther’s teaching from Romans rightly corrected the church’s understanding of “the righteousness of God.” Luther was perplexed by that phrase and another passage “the righteous shall live by faith.” It tormented him because he could not understand how he might have assurance that God’s righteousness had enabled him to live by faith. He thought, and the church taught, and infused righteousness that he could work at and gradually grow more righteous over time so as to be acceptable before a righteous God. Luther was a monk and lived a devout life and could not shake the fact that he was a sinner and could never attain that level of righteousness to satisfy God. Thankfully the Lord opened his eyes as he worked through the letter to the Romans. He wrote, “Then finally God had mercy on me, and I began to understand that the righteousness of God is a gift of God by which a righteous man lives, namely faith, and that sentence: The righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel, is passive, indicating that the merciful God justifies us by faith, as it is written: ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ Now I felt as though I had been reborn altogether and had entered Paradise. In the same moment the face of the whole of Scripture became apparent to me. My mind ran through the Scriptures, as far as I was able to recollect them, seeking analogies in other phrases, such as the work of God, by which He makes us strong, the wisdom of God, by which He makes us wise, the strength of God, the salvation of God, the glory of God. Just as intensely as I had now hated the expression ‘the righteousness of God,’ I now lovingly praised this most pleasant word. This passage from Paul became to me the very gate to Paradise.”

The first eleven chapters of Romans set out the doctrines of grace. They present the fallenness of humanity, the free gift of grace, the failure to save oneself through works, the imputed righteousness of Christ, and the sovereignty of God in salvation. Chapter eleven ends with a beautiful doxology, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” 

Romans 12-15 then presents us with a way to live in light of the rich theological truths in chapters 1-11. One of the key ethical teachings in that chapter can be found in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Are we living out the peace we have with God be seeking peace with others? Paul makes it clear that this is mostly up to us. He knew what it was like to be persecuted and to have enemies. He could not control what was done to him only what how he responded. We’ve been discussing this idea in various contexts in the Table Talk Sunday School class on “boundaries.” One of the things we have learned there is that we do not have the power to change people only ourselves. It is up to us, assured of our standing in God as forgiven and redeemed, to seek peace with others. If they reject it, if they persecute, if they attack, we at least in our actions and response have kept the commandments of God. This also doesn’t mean that if someone rejects our peace we have the freedom to do whatever we want to them. The very next verse, verse 19, says, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Paul is clear, as much as it depends upon us let us seek to live peacefully with all men. When that fails, because we know there will be times it does, we do not need to seek vengeance for our wrath is small and feeble compared to the wrath and vengeance of God. It is in fact a frightening thing to fall into the hands of the living God, which is why Paul urges mercy towards ones enemies, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (12:14). 

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