In view of God's mercy - extract from foundation module: Gospel Community


Here is a short extract from our Gospel Community  module for you to enjoy.

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Who we are leads to what we do. In Romans we’ve already seen God’s mercy to us in giving us:

A new future (chapters 1-4)

Our future used to be judgement. Paul says in 2:5: “But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgement will be revealed.” A day is coming when everyone will face the judgement of God. Paul goes on in 2:16: This will take place “on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.”

In Romans 1-3 Paul establishes that everyone is condemned. Non-religious people are without excuse because “what can be known about God is plain to them” (1:19). The problem is, that “by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (1:18). We push the truth of God away because we refuse wilfully to submit to God.

But religious people are also condemned. Paul says in 2:1: “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practise the very same things.” Our outward behaviour might be very respectable, but God will judge the secrets of our hearts (2:5,16). On that day of judgement our proud, selfish hearts will be on display.

Our future used to be judgement because outside of Christ, there is no future other than judgement and condemnation.

But in Christ, God gives us a new future. Paul says: “[All] are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (3:24-25). To be ‘justified’ means to be declared ‘not guilty’. We can face the day of judgement with confidence. Why? Because Jesus has redeemed us. Jesus has died as a sacrifice in our place. Jesus has taken the judgement we deserve. Because of Christ, God can be both just (he judges our sin at the cross) and the justifier (acquitting sinners). We have a new future, grounded in the cross and resurrection of Jesus. “[Jesus] was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification” (4:25).

We offer ourselves as a living sacrifice to God because God offered his Son as a sacrifice for us.

A new life (chapters 5-8)

We were born ‘in Adam’. We all share some common traits of humanity. We are all also born with an in-built bias towards sin. We are slaves to sin, subject to law and destined to die. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (5:12).

But now by faith we are in Christ. We have been born again into his new humanity. We are no longer under the power of sin and no longer under the condemnation of the law, destined only for death. Romans 5:17 says: “For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.”

We have spiritual life in our bodies: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11). We have the Spirit of life to lead us and empower us. We no longer have to live the life we used to live. We can change to become like Jesus, and are free to be the people we should be: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

We offer our lives because we have been given new lives. We offer our bodies because Christ offered his body on the cross for us.

A new people (chapters 9-11)

We have become part of God’s people. The Jews thought only Jews could be God’s people, but Paul says in 9:8: “it is not the children of [Abraham’s] flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” What makes us part of God’s people is God’s choice and the faith he gives us in the promise of Christ. Because Israel rejected her Messiah, the gospel goes to all nations. And, because the gospel goes to all nations, Jews are provoked to turn to Christ. The key verses are 10:12-13:  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

It used to be just Israel that was God’s people. But God has created a new people, a whole new humanity in Christ, to which anyone can belong, whatever their ethnic background. All that matters is Christ and faith in him. Look at 9:15-16: “For [God] says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ It depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” ‘It’ here means belonging to God’s people. We are saved and become part of God’s people not because of our effort or even our desire. It is God’s initiative and it is his mercy.

We live as a community of God’s people because in and through the Son, God has made us his people.

In the world around us our identity (who we are) is based on our activity (what we do); who I am is based on what I do. The mercy of God turns the world’s way upside down. In the world our identity must be achieved, but in the gospel it is generously given to us in Christ. As a result, in the gospel our activity (what we do) flows from our identity (who we are). In Christ, God makes me a good person (a person declared righteous in his sight) who because of his prior action does good works, rather than someone whose good works makes him or her a good person.

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Beth Butler