Year A – Lent 3 – Romans 5:1-11

Third Sunday in Lent
Romans 5:1-11: Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person-though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Summary – In the last part of the previous chapter, it says Jesus was “delivered up because of our transgressions and was raised to-cause our justification” (4:25). The next verse (5:1) declares the powerful result of being declared one of God’s righteous people. We have peace objectively in the Hebraic sense – Shalom (wholeness, well-being, completeness) which should produce conscience-clearing rest/acceptance with God. Faithful Jews could (temporarily) enter into God’s peace-presence by the liturgy of the Temple, ascended and acceptable as the aroma of transfigured animal sacrifices. This kept the faithful longing in hope for a time of fulfillment. Chapter 5 says that the time has come! Now we have been justified – past tense – through Christ and currently we have (present tense) peace with God and enjoy a state of reconciliation which yields fruit inside-out. Hope is produced from the power of this peace. Without peace, then a desire for a better future is just anxiety. Only from a standing of peace with God is real hope even possible. And this hope has a present benefit. “Through the Holy Spirit who was given to us, our love for God wells up within our hearts” (5:5). The nature of true hope, powered by the Spirit, transforms desert hearts into streams in the desert. Our motivation is that God saves us when we are “unsaveable” of ourselves. Sovereign grace in salvation calls forth the cry, “Lord, Why was I a guest? Why was I made to hear Thy voice and enter while there’s room when thousands make a wretched choice and rather starve than come.” (Watts). Because of the Justification, Peace, Hope, Love and Reconciliation in Christ – We boast in God. Our “stock” and pride is not in ourselves, our ethnic status, our culture, but Christ alone.

Insight – Romans 5:1 is worth knowing by heart – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peace or “rest” in terms of Psalm 95, is the result of being right with God through Jesus’s completed work grasped by faith alone. Yet this faith is not “alone in the person justified” (Westminster Confession 11.2). This peace results in changed lives. In this case, those who believe, “stand and rejoice,” “persevere,”  have “character,” “hope,” and love. In Lenten pursuit, do you “stand” in Him? Do you live in joy? Are you persevering or giving way? Is your character being shaped by your peace with God? Does hope characterize your life? Do you walk in love toward others or hatred? If you have peace with God through Christ, cease any wars with yourself or anyone else.

Child’s Catechism – What do we have as a result of being justified by faith? We have peace with God.

Question to Consider – What is one result of peace with God do you need to exercise in your life?

Prayer – Father in heaven, thank you for gift of grace in Christ, that through His life, death and resurrection, we have acceptance and peace with You forever. Strengthen us in believing this and we are thanking You for changing our lives into those who stand faithfully, rejoice frequently, persevere in difficulties, have character to weather storms and especially, live with an outlook of hope and a an ever-present love for others. In Jesus’s mighty name we pray. Amen.

Year B – Proper 17 – James 1:17–27

James 1:17–27 NRSV –    Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 1:18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures. 1:19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 1:20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 1:21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 1:23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 1:24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 1:25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. 1:26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 1:27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

Summary – Though there are different views, I think James (the brother of John) wrote this Epistle very early prior to his martyrdom (Acts 12:2) in the context of the church in Jerusalem prior to the expansion into the Gentile world. This is a time when Jewish persecution is rising against the followers of Jesus. [For more information on the background see my paper here.] In this passage we see that James exhorts his followers that since they were given new spiritual birth by the word of truth, they should receive this word and walk according to it. One of the temptations when there is adversity is to be quick to anger, but James urges, “for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

Insight – In getting angry, some of us are like coal which takes a whole other fire to even get our ire up at all. And some of us are like gasoline. The slightest spark creates an explosion robbing the atmosphere of oxygen temporarily.  Some of us suppress our anger impulses and have a nice 500 degree, grey charcoal fire which is good for grilling for several hours. Others of us have a five minute solar flare which ends in domestic abuse charges. What are you like? To this challenge James gives us very practical advice. If we listened righteously and spoke effectively, that would eliminate most wrath before it caught on fire.

Catechism – What does our anger not produce? Our anger does not produce God’s righteousness.

Discussion – What gets you the  most angry? What happens when you get angry?

Prayer – Father in heaven, your are gracious and kind, your wrath is always just but our wrath is always unjust. Grant to us the grace to be slow to anger and to be quick to hear. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.