Romans
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By In Theology

Understanding Romans 3:21-26 in Context

Romans was an important book in the sixteenth-century Reformation, as was the topic of how one was justified in the sight of God. And one part of the cultural revolution that occurs was over how sins were punished. For instance, here are a couple of Martin Luther’s theses:

– The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.

– The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring and showing that it has been remitted by God; or, to be sure, by remitting guilt in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in these cases were disregarded, the guilt would certainly remain unforgiven.

Our passage in Romans 3 has something to say about that, but let’s remember some of the context.

Paul tells the Romans early on that he’s not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). It would be interesting to consider why Paul would even bring up the possibility of being ashamed of the Gospel, but we’ll leave that aside for now.

Paul also says that, in the Gospel “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith” (Romans 1:17). That’s a wordplay and there is some debate on what Paul meant. I think he is referencing that God’s righteousness is revealed from God’s faithfulness to our faith. There are parallels in Romans 3 that I think point to that understanding.

But it is noteworthy that Paul goes on to say that not only is God’s righteousness revealed in the Gospel, but God’s wrath is revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18).

Now here is where I think we can go wrong and miss Paul’s point about how God wrath is involved in his Gospel. What follows from Romans 1:18 is not a description of God’s wrath but of the human behavior and unbelief that provokes God’s wrath.

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By In Politics

The Conundrum of Hope

Suffering comes in all shapes and sizes. From common illnesses to terminal illnesses, from putting to death the sinful deeds of the body to being put to death by those who hate the gospel, from fighting enemies within to fighting enemies without, the church suffers. It is our calling. The work of salvation that Jesus definitively began in his life, death, resurrection, and ascension will not be complete until his body, the church, is also bodily raised from the dead at the last day. Between this time and that we have been called to endure the suffering that comes in a creation that has not yet been completely liberated from the corruption of sin.

This suffering, however, is not without a purpose. It is not a fight that ends in a draw. It is a training camp for Christians to learn to rule the creation as it ought to be ruled. Just as Jesus did in his life, so we learn obedience through the things that we suffer. And like him, we are being matured through what we suffer (cf. Heb 5.8-9). Somehow and some way that is not presently clear to us, God is working all of our sufferings for our good and, consequently, the good of the rest of creation, which will be saved when we are revealed to be the sons of God through the redemption of our bodies (that is, in the resurrection; Rom 8.19-21, 28).

The question is, What gives us the strength to endure these present sufferings? Hope. More specifically, the hope of glory. (more…)

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By In Theology

What If I Can’t Feel the Holy Spirit: A Thought for Pentecost

The Bible doesn’t teach us that the Holy Spirit announces his presence by an internal feeling that he is there.

When you are on a tourist vacation in a foreign country, you will find yourself constantly checking wherever you have hidden your wallet. You are making sure it is still there. Without it, you will be in great trouble. It carries your identity and your power.

One sad way to live the Christian life is to labor with constant checking that the Holy Spirit is still there, to worry regularly about verifying salvation. This is a very common condition. But it doesn’t need to be.

There are multiple passages that we can misread to lead us into slavery to fear about our salvation. Since we face Pentecost this Sunday, let’s look at a misreading of a verse dealing with the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit’s Presence

In Romans 8, Paul says that true believers have the Holy Spirit, and false believers don’t. Do you have the Holy Spirit? How do you know? What if you can’t feel the presence of the Holy Spirit? If you can’t feel the Spirit, are you not a Christian? (more…)

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