The Letter of St. Paul to the Romans is featured prominently in today’s post. The first set of verses is found there:
Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the value of circumcision? 2 Much in every way. To begin with, the Jews are entrusted with the oracles of God. 3 What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? 4 By no means! Let God be true though every man be false, as it is written,
“That thou mayest be justified in thy words,
and prevail when thou art judged.”
A not infrequent complaint that arises in this part of the web is formulated as a question: how can God, if He exists, allow for so many transgressions by His followers? How or why does He allow his Word to be abused? As this short passage from Romans demonstrates, this is not a new charge at all. From the beginning of the faith there were those who questioned God based on the actions of His people.
The problem with this approach is that it evaluates God based on human behavior. We look at the actions of men, not the actions of God. In so doing we miss the truth all around us:
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
all his precepts are trustworthy
If we actually look at the works of the Lord, we see that He can be trusted. That He always fulfills His promises. In this respect we need to have the faith of Abraham:
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was ready to offer up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.” 19 He considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence he did receive him back, and this was a symbol.
Let us therefore evaluate God based on His actions, as is right and proper.
This brings me back to Romans:
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from law, although the law and the prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23 since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins; 26 it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.
I mentioned in my last post in this series how I have to force myself to avoid being boastful, if not in words then in my heart. Sometimes it is easy for me to forget that I also have fallen short of God’s expectation. My understanding of classical Greek (which is dismal) is that the word for sin is best translated as missing the mark. If so, then I am no different than anyone else- I have missed the mark more times than I can count. What does it benefit me to say that others have missed it more often? Surely others who have gone before, and who will come after, will miss it less. This applies to all of us. As easy as it is to decry the wanton ways of those around us, it behooves us to remember that we too have fallen short. What this means for us is that we are as doomed as any if it were up to our own actions. We cannot save ourselves, no matter how hard we try. Our works by themselves cannot save us, cannot redeem us from our fate. Instead, it is the blood of Christ poured out for the world that has saved us:
For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.
Lastly, some encouraging words in these troubling times:
18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
One reason I started my Saturday Saints series is to help us remember that we are not the first to walk in the Faith. Many have gone before us who endured trials and tribulations. But despite their suffering they had hope, and carried on. May their lives give us the inspiration to follow. And “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” (Hebrews 10:23)