Blog for Day 308 Romans 1 - 3:32
November 5, 2021, 9:28 AM

Day 308 “Helplessness” Romans 1 – 3:32

I’ve been stumbling over my intro to Romans because I don’t want to mess it up. I want it to cover all the important parts and say all the right things, but I’m not going to get there. Why do I want to do such a good job? Because Romans is my favorite epistle (letter) and because I think it is some of Paul’s best writing in all the Bible. Do I wrestle with some of what Paul says? Sure I do. But that’s not a good reason, at least for me, to throw out every other brilliant, hopeful and grace-full thing he says.

Maybe that’s what I wanted to say as we enter into the Pauline (written by Paul) books of the Bible. Don’t hate all of Paul because he talks about women in a way that puzzles us or about homosexuality in a way that we disagree with. We have to let Paul be Paul, and none of this surprises us because we have heard it all before, taken out of context usually. So yes, we’ll go there. We have to go there because we are reading this entire letter in one week, so all the disagreeable bits are in there, ready for us to chat about.

But so are the surpassing passages, including the one with which I sign every email I’ve ever sent. I only include the reference to the verse, and I don’t think a single person has ever looked it up, but it is there so that I can include everyone inside its sweeping statement that basically says there is nothing that can keep up from the love of God through Jesus (those verses are Romans 8: 38-39, for your reference—you still have to look it up yourself, ha ha!!).  I am sighing as I think of it, and I never get tired of it. However, the reason that nothing can keep us from the love is God is not because of what WE do, it’s because of what Jesus did for us. He came down to save us. He bridged the gap between Heaven and earth with his cross.

Ok, some background. Paul wrote this letter—actually he had a secretary that wrote what he dictated, an amanuensis as Alistair loves to say. That person’s name was Tertius, and we learn this in Romans 16:22. Why a secretary? I’ve read that Paul had very poor eyesight—kind of ironic given his conversion experience of being struck blind, and that Paul was extremely nearsighted, much like me. And without corrective lenses, he needed to have people around him at all times to get him safely to where he traveled, and he needed people to help him do basic tasks. In the Letter to the Galatians, later on,  we will read that Paul calls attention to his own writing—look what large letters I use, he writes! I wonder if that was because he needed to write that way due to his vision problems.

Perhaps you can also tell, but Paul had not yet been to Rome before he wrote this letter. He wrote it out of yearning to be with the Roman church, which had been founded by Peter. Paul’s plan was to visit the Roman church and spend time with them, and then head over to Spain which was considered a rich missionary territory. Unfortunately, Paul does not make it to Rome under his own power. He is arrested and imprisoned there, and we believe he was killed there as well. So Rome does not turn out to be the great vacation spot that Paul may have envisioned, although, as we read in Acts, he was able to still minister to others even though he was under house arrest.

I digress!! Here’s the message of Romans in a catchy little formula that is entirely flawed if you are looking for


(I don't mean that our good works don't have value--they do!!! Our faith compels us to help each other and to sacrifice for each other. But they don't get us one step closer to heaven.)


Therefore, and please, I know this is flawed, but I am simply making a point for understanding:


We can’t get there on our own, and that’s sometimes hard for us to absorb. Because we want to. We want to be able to be good enough, work hard enough, pray long enough to earn that space in Heaven. Because we understand how that works, how a reward or point system adds up to special prizes or special honors. I still remember my mother, after giving an unbelievable amount of blood in her life through the Red Cross, earned a special distinction from them for her donations. I determined that I, too, would earn that distinction. Imagine how disappointing it was when my blood was rejected early in my life because, through no fault of my own, I had been exposed to hepatitis. So much for that earned reward!!

In Romans 3:23 we read a famous verse, and I often hear it quoted by pastors because it’s true and it tells us something we need to hear: “since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Well, if that were the end of the story, we might as well close our Bibles and go do something else. But it’s the next  verse that gives us the key, and I don’t usually hear this as a follow up to the first: “they are now justified by his grace, as a gift, through the redemption, that is in Christ Jesus.” (24).


That’s the message of Romans.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,


Post a Comment