Thursday, February 22, 2007

Romans 1

I am currently working through Romans in the mornings, and I've decided I may try capturing my thoughts here on it. A running notepad, so to speak, where I'm primarily looking at the book in terms of the light it sheds on the gospel... (and the first couple of chapters are going to be kind of light, because I'm writing about them in retrospect).

vs 16 - interesting to note that the reason P is not ashamed of the gospel is because it is a source of power - we don't typically think about the gospel in those terms - we tend to think about it theologically, abstractly, technically - and yet P is saying that first and foremost, the gospel makes a difference - not in terms of what we should do, but in terms of our ability to do it. The gospel frees us, it provides what we lack. It's not just an entry point to salvation, it's the very substance of salvation.

vs 17 - for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith - I need to look at the Greek for this, but I wonder if the whole 'from faith to faith' part is really saying something to the effect of 'by faith, from start to finish' - ESV suggests an alternate translation which seems to fit w/ this - 'beginning and ending in faith' - if this in fact what it's saying, then it fits very well w/ the whole concept of justification by faith, sanctification by faith, and worship by faith. Everything in the Christian life is by faith - start to finish - because it is by faith that we are united to Christ (think Gaffin's union w/ Christ (UWX) here). This also fits well w/ what follows - "The righteous shall live by faith" (Hab 2:4).

vs 19-20 - for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and his divine nature have been clearly perceived since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. - interesting how several times in the last week I've had non-Christians say to me that the believe in God, that he exists, simply because of what they see in nature. I think this statement resonates w/ unbelievers. They know that something is there. Not sure what they'll think about the 'without excuse' part though...

vs 21-32 - what's interesting about this section is how well it describes the effects of our fall into sin:
  • folly - claiming to be wise, they became fools... (22) - the mind falls
  • idolatry - and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images... (23) - the gaze turns from God inwards, our worship is corrupted
  • desire - therefore, God gave them over to the lusts of their hearts... (24) - their desires are twisted, corrupted
  • wickedness - for this reason, God gave them up to dishonorable passions... (26), ...God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice (28-29) - their own behavior follows
  • strife - they are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness, etc (29-32) - not only are they themselves corrupt, but this flows over into their relationships with other people
So what you see here is really a fruit-from-root relationship, where each problem flows from that which proceeds it. And at the source, is an issue of false worship, of idolatry, which flows from arrogant foolishness (which is ultimately from pride and rebellion, a refusal to submit and be revelation receivers rather than wise in our own sight) - at the end of the day, we all want to know good and evil on our own terms. We want to be God and decide what is right and what is not. And that is impossible to do, and still acknowledge him as God.

Also interesting to note how the fruits of our sin are all described in terms of "God giving them over" - God is not "punishing us" by making us sinful - he is giving us what we want, even though it will destroy us. He is like a parent who says, "Ok, go ahead and touch that stove. Only then will you learn to listen when I say, 'don't touch! It's hot!'"

vs 32 - interesting that it mentions approval - at the end of the day, that's at the heart of all false religion - both elder brother lawlessness and older brother religiousity. We want approval for what we do, or on the basis of what we do, and we reject those who will not give it to us. So our acceptance is always contingent on someone elses' agreement or conformity. It is never based on who they are. So neither of these is the gospel.



At 7:38 AM, Blogger Steve F. said...

I am just finding this blog, and some fascinating reading, brother Christian. Quite an opus...

You wrote, God is not "punishing us" by making us sinful - he is giving us what we want, even though it will destroy us.

This reminds me of a quote (which I will probably mangle) from The Great Divorce where the Teacher says (again, in essence), "In the end, there are two groups of people - the ones who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'Very well, have it your way. Thy will be done.'"

The other thing I find fascinating in this chapter is the peculiar Christian myopia on two verses. It's as if someone at the Bible-printers painted verses 26 and 27 in radioactive ink, so they glowed day-glo orange - and the reader focuses on them almost exclusively, which somehow allows them to skip over 22-25 and 28-31, where their own ox might well be gored.

"Yes, just LOOK at the depravity of same-sex relations," so many preachers shout. "If we do that, we can look away when it comes to the idolatry of the rest of our 21st century world. Don't be concerned that Paris Hilton, a drunken heiress, captures headlines while millions have died in relative silence in Darfur. Pay no attention to the fact that we spend forty, fifty, seventy thousand dollars for cars and trucks and SUVs, and yet whine about a hundred or two hundred dollars to feed the homeless.

"Don't worry that the entire nation seemed to stop while the fate of OJ Simpson hung in the balance, while hardly anyone paid any attention to the poverty and desperate need in some of the neighborhoods he drove past in his so-called 'chase.' Pay no mind to the depravity that occurs in straight nightclubs and party hot spots every night.

"Let's just shine the light on those two verses, and focus the light of the church on 26 and 27, so we can still stand in the rags of our righteousness."

Even if you and I agreed on the intent of verses 26 and 27, I find this myopia in much of the straight church fascinating. Oh, I know there are some who cry out against all forms of immorality - and I can at least honor them in their quest. But overall, I find the centrality of those two verses in Christian morality to be a fascinating study in selective perception.

There's a lot to comprehend here, brother. But this is a mighty work...glad I found it.

At 6:07 AM, Blogger Christian said...

Steve. Thanks for the fine comment (sorry I still haven't responded to some of your other comments on SLD yet - the downside of all this blogging is that its tough to keep up when the rest of life gets busy... and it's definitely gotten busy). Thanks for reading... :-)


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