1. Acclaimed & Anticlimax

Meditations on Aspects of Easter:  1.  Acclaimed & Anticlimax

John 12:13  They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel!”

Easter is approaching. We are just a week off and I want to put aside everything else for this week and simply meditate on the wonder and reality of this time, considering some of the key aspects of this all-important week. It is what we call Palm Sunday and it is exactly one week before Easter Sunday. Between now and then some of the most terrible things ever seen on earth have yet to happen. I love the Christmas story; it is so full of the miraculous and wonderful and full of joy. Easter is always a mixed bag. Part of it is full of anguish as we watch Good Friday approaching, full of dread at the awfulness we know is about to happen. But then the outcome is triumph, joy, rejoicing as the Son of God is revealed as the Resurrected One. It is a roller-coaster week, ups and downs and it starts here on Palm Sunday.

Of course it has started before this because just recently Jesus has been to nearby Bethany, to the home of Mary and Martha, to the wake of their brother Lazarus, who Jesus comes and raises from the dead. As a result of that, the word has spread that this miracle worker is in town. Of course he had been doing this sort of thing for the last three years up in Galilee but now he’s just done this most amazing thing on Jerusalem’s doorstep, so to speak (Lazarus had been dead for a number of days).

Israel was in a particularly fraught political position, having been overrun by the Romans and now under their rule for a number of years, and there were many political factions who wanted to rise up against their oppressors. Add to this the shadow of a Messiah spoken of a number of times in the Old Testament prophetic writings, and with the coming of their first prophet for over four hundred years, just three years ago, they are primed to believe the time might be right for the overthrow of the Romans by their possible Messiah. It was the apostle John who remembered this aspect of that time when, after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” (Jn 6:15)

Now, not long after the incredible raising of Lazarus from the dead, and shortly before the coming Feast of the Passover, when literally hundreds of thousands of visiting Jews would be there at and around Jerusalem, Jesus chooses to enter the city on a donkey. (We are following Mark’s version of events). The imagery is not lost on the crowd. No doubt he would have been seen from some distance off, and the crowd would grow exponentially as he neared the city. The word would have gone out: “Jesus, the miracle worker, the one with power over death is coming – and he’s coming on a donkey, just like Zechariah (one of the last prophets about four hundred years back) has declared: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (Zech 9:9). He’s coming to claim his crown, he’s coming to overthrow the Romans with his power. There is an immense sense of festivity, of coming triumph, of possibilities and the crowd are up for it! The crowd gets bigger and bigger and louder and louder as they enter the city gates. Come, they probably think, let’s go with him and watch as he turns up the road to the Fortress Antonia, the barracks of the Roman garrison, to throw them out!

But he turns the other way, he takes the roads up to the Temple, that gloriously restored temple of Herod, and he enters it and looks around the market there, that the temple money-changers had set up over the years, where pilgrims were expected to buy their sacrifices. What is this? He looks around and leaves.  That’s it?  That’s it. And therein is the story of the whole of the passion week and its outcome; it confused people because God was not doing what they expected. He has come to do something utterly out of this world, so big that that world would never be the same again, but big because it would affect the standing that mankind had before the holy God. That was what the Son of God had come to do, not bring about a political revolution.

And that is the thing about Christianity, it is full of surprises, things we were not expecting, things we find difficult to believe, things which confuse us. Oh yes, this Palm Sunday is not just about rejoicing at the welcoming of the Son of God, it is also about priorities. God’s priorities are so often different from ours. Centuries before, Isaiah had prophesied, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:,9)

The Lord comes to us with the challenge: it is not the state of the economy nor the state of politics, who is in power, what their policies are, that are all important. Yes, they are important but not THE most important. THE most important issue in the whole of your life is how you can possibly stand, as a sinful human being, before the almighty and holy God. That is what this week is all about.

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1. Living Sacrifices

Meditations in Romans, Ch.12 : 1:  Living Sacrifices

Rom 12:1   Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship.

As we concluded the series on chapter 9 to 11, we noted, ‘This brings us to the end of Paul’s specific thoughts about his own people, and chapter 12 onwards reverts back to instructions to the church though, as we see if we continue these studies, we are to note these things in the light of what we have just been considering.’  We have again and again throughout these meditations called the reader to note the context, how the particular present verses ‘fits in’ with that has gone before. It will be significant in terms of what the verse will lead into, but to understand it properly we will always need to see what it flows on from and the key word that reminds us of that in this first verse is, “Therefore”.

“Therefore” says ‘because of what has just been said, move on in this way’. Back in chapter 11 Paul had written, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” (11:25) He is speaking to his readers as Gentiles, because that is what most of them were in Rome, and what most believers are today. In chapters 9 to 11 he had several times warned us Gentile believers to hold a good and right attitude towards the Jews and in respect of our own salvation.

It is that latter element that he returns to now, how we will live out our Christian lives in right and proper ways. At the end of chapter 11, before he moved into the doxology of verses 33 to 36, he had stated, “For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all,” (v.32) which was his way of saying that we are all sinners and we all need the grace and mercy of God to be able to enter into a meaningful relationship with the Lord. Appreciate and make the most of God’s mercy is what he is saying behind this first verse.

When he says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers,” he is showing the sense of urgency and importance that he is giving to what he is saying.   We’re all sinners but God’s mercy is there to be received, so don’t be casual about it, take hold of it, respond to it, let it do its work in you; this is critically important.  What he is going on to plead with us is “in view of God’s mercy.”  Because we have received God’s mercy, don’t be casual about it but realise the wonder of it and respond fully to it. I think I need to repeat this: don’t be casual with God’s mercy. Realise it for what it is.

We deserve death and we have done nothing to deserve God’s life, His cleansing and His forgiveness, let alone being adopted as His children and being given His own Holy Spirit. Nothing about us deserved any of that. We were 100% sinners. Left to ourselves we would be utterly self-centred and godless. We are what we are ONLY because God has reached out to us by His Holy Spirit, and ONLY because He convicted us of our need. The only thing WE did was surrender and confess what we were and what we needed. When we asked Him to forgive us and come into our lives and let the work of Jesus on the Cross be applied to us, we had nothing with which to persuade God that we were worthy of His salvation – because we weren’t!   Mercy is something that is simply given because the giver decides to have mercy, and that on no grounds of merit by the receiver, but just because He decides that is what He will do.

That is how incredible it is that we have been offered salvation. Now I have put it in that tentative way – we have been offered salvation – because although it is sure and certain when we surrendered to Him and received it, and although we are truly saved at the moment of our conversion, how we work that out in our lives on this earth until we go to be with Him, is more variable and tentative. Some people just totter into the kingdom and hardly change and go through life as nice people but with little of the life and reality of God’s purposes being worked out in them, failing to enter into the fullness of what He has for them.

That is why Paul is ‘urging’ them. He’s not just saying, ‘it would be a nice idea if you did this’. No, he is saying that it is vital that you do this if (implied) you are to enter into and receive all that God has got for you as Gentile believers now fully receiving everything that His mercy can bring you. So what is he ‘urging’ them to do – and note it is something to DO, not just think about – thinking comes next but for the moment this is all about an act of the will to DO something. What does he say to do? It is “to offer your bodies as living sacrifices.”  A sacrifice is something to be offered up to God and destroyed. This is a call to utterly give yourself over to God and to His purposes for you, to die to the old way of life and let God do whatever He will with you now.

Note three things here. First, he speaks about offering your ‘body’ so this is not some mere mental acceptance, this means giving over every aspect of what you do in your life. As an exercise you could think what you do with your head – that’s the mind, and Paul is about to speak about that and we’ll consider that in the next meditation. But then you have ears. What do you allow your ears to hear?  Your mouth? What words do you allow to come out of your mouth? Your hands? What do you allow your hands to do? Your feet? Where do you allow your feet to take you? There is a whole fruitful field for meditation here.

But there is a second thing as well. This all sounds very dramatic to the new believer, but when you came to Christ you surrendered to him and asked him to lead you from now on.  If that ‘surrender’ is to mean anything, it means you want him to lead you in every aspect of your life.

And now the third thing! This reminds us of the picture of Abraham being called to sacrifice Isaac. There God provided a substitute. In the same way today, God provides a substitute for your death – Jesus. In one sense God doesn’t want you dead; you being a sacrifice means nothing except it is an indication of your utter willingness to let God change your life.

When you do this, it is “holy and pleasing to God” and, says Paul, “this is your spiritual act of worship.”  If you want to know what real worship is, it is acknowledging God’s greatness and your smallness, acknowledging God’s great wisdom and your absence of it, and giving yourself into His hands because that is the best and safest place to be. May it so be!

1. Abraham the Believer

Meditations in Romans : 1 :  Abraham the Believer

Rom 4:1-3   What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

When we came to the end of the previous series of meditations in Romans 1-3, we noted that at chapter 4 Paul steps up a notch in his thinking. Up until then he had been creating a level playing field for Jew and Gentile in respect of us all being sinners. Near the end of chapter 3 he had declared, For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law,” (Rom 3:28) as part of his assertion that there was no room for boasting about achievement when it came to salvation. To prove his point and expand on this assertion he is now going to use the example of Abraham, and he is the focal point of chapters 4 & 5.

Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation. Jacob bore the name Israel but fatherhood really went back to Abraham, so he was a significant man to quote. Thus Paul asks the question: “What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter?” (4:1) The ‘matter’ that Paul referred to? It was whether you can earn salvation by doing good things, by good works. After all, Paul argues, “If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God.” (4:2) If he was a really good example of a do-gooder he might have something to boast about, but the Lord knows the reality of our lives, so perhaps not!

So how do we know the truth? We look in the Bible: “What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (4:3 quoting Gen 15:6)  Let’s look at that original verse to see it more clearly: “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” That’s a funny way to put it. It means that God accepted his belief as part of his ‘righteousness account’ but not only part of it; it filled it. Belief was the currency that made Abraham a rich man – rich in righteousness. When a man has lots of money we call him rich. We don’t worry exactly how much he’s got; it’s just got enough to warrant being called rich. By believing God Abraham has sufficient righteousness to be declared a righteous man.

Now Paul is a teacher and he knows that we have to hear it again and again and from different angles so, to use modern jargon, he going to ‘unpack’ this whole thing about Abraham being righteous. He starts by talking generally about earning things or being given things: “Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.” (4:4) i.e. if you work you have earned your wages, they are not a gift. Now apply that to what I said earlier, he implies, “However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.” (4;5) Trusting God, or believing what God says, becomes the currency of righteousness. If you trust God to justify you, or put you right in his sight, God takes that trust as an act or attitude of righteousness.  That expression of faith is what God considers righteousness to be.  In the past we might have considered that righteousness was only seen as an act, as something done, but God looks beyond that to the heart and mind and looks for belief or faith (a heart responding to God.)

Paul knows his Old Testament and so uses David to support what he is saying: “David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works.” (4:6) Look, he is saying, David said the same thing: “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (4:7,8 quoting from Psalm 32)  In verse 5 Paul had spoken of the man who trusts God to put him right with Him (i.e. to justify him). David spoke about the one who had done wrong but who had been forgiven and justified and that without the person having to do lots of things to make up for it.

In the New Testament the matter of forgiveness is simple and straight forward: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9) This may be so familiar to us that we have lost the significance of it; this is forgiveness that follows heart change even before there is a chance for the repentant sinner to DO anything.  The “doing” to atone for the sin has already been dealt with by Christ on the Cross. All we have to do is BELIEVE that Christ has done it because God has said it, yet this is the stumbling point for many people, for they cannot believe that it can be that easy; they feel THEY have to do something to make up for their sin. No ‘belief’ or ‘faith’ or ‘trusting God for what He says’ is the currency that earns the declaration, “You are justified, you are put right with God in His eyes.” How simple it is, how wonderful it is! Yet how hard it is for the proud person who wants to put themselves right.

13. Gospel Power

Meditations in Romans : 13 :  The Power of the Gospel

Rom 1:16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

Possibly one of the biggest dangers we can face – apart from being totally apathetic or even hostile to the Gospel – is to accept a counterfeit form of the Gospel that is simply about believing some basic Christian beliefs, going to church on a Sunday and trying to be nice. In the eighteenth century John Wesley wrote of the days before he saw the light when he had a form of religion, “In this refined way of trusting to my own works, and my own righteousness…I dragged on heavily, finding no comfort … I understood it not at first. I was too learned and too wise: so that it seemed foolishness unto me.Later as he heard the truth being read from Romans he testified, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.” This was the start of a dramatic change;  he was born again (Jn 3:3)

This verse 16 is an amazing declaration of the truth that we each need burning in our hearts. It declares first that there is obviously a need for salvation that Paul speaks about. Wesley had testified how he had been locked into a life of trying to be righteous and yet it brought him no comfort. It was a life where he was burdened by his sins and he tried to overcome that burden by his own efforts. Without realising it, he was in fact godless. He was lost in self-endeavour and it did him no good. It was only as he heard the good news about Jesus Christ that the Holy Spirit was able to speak to him and he responded in faith.

So if the first thing is that we are lost and in need of saving, the second thing is that there is hope for us because God has provided a way of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ. It comes by simply trusting in the finished work of Jesus on the Cross, the fact of him dying in my place to take my sins.  For this truth to be received is an act of faith. It is responding to what God has said. We don’t say these things because they seem a good idea to us; we say them because God has said them and it is the testimony of the whole of the New Testament. So, if God has said them, we do well to respond to them. The response of, “I believe, please forgive my sins, please wash me and cleanse me of my sins, please give me a new life,” is the door that opens up a new life for at that point the Lord responds and declares it done and imparts His own Holy Spirit to us to energise and change and guide us from then on. The truth of the Gospel is used by the Spirit to convict us, but the Spirit Himself is the means we are empowered, born again and given a new life. It is utterly life transforming.

But here is a mystery, I note after many years of watching, that for some people this life transformation is mightily dramatic and for others it is quiet and slow. I know not why! I don’t know why it is that the Spirit is able to convict some powerfully so that they turn with tears and are very obviously changed. Sometimes it is because they are great and obvious sinners, and sometimes not; it is just that the Spirit convicts like this. But then there are others who come quietly and gently – but genuinely – and the experience is far less dramatic. There are some, usually children in Christian families, who receive Jesus in their very early years and it is a very simple but genuine thing and they avoid the devastations of the obvious sins, it seems, but it is still a very real thing. My wife was one such young convert. Then there are others who, only later in life, find themselves in a corner being convicted of the Spirit of the truth of the Gospel, convicted of their need, and so turn in tears or at least deep anguish and find a mighty change. I was more in this latter category.

But it doesn’t matter when it occurred or even how it occurred, the outcome is always the same – change! Why? It is because there is a power at work, bringing us into a new life in a new way, a way that transforms into the likeness of Christ. It is a life that is no longer in darkness, a life that is no longer self-centred and godless and unrighteous; it is now a life that is God-centred, God-focused, God-energised and God-directed.

A final point: this is for all peoples and there are no exceptions. Paul speaks of Jew and Gentile which is a way of saying, those who appear religious and those who do not. It is nothing to do with class or culture or cleverness for we all have to come the same way, and having come, are all changed by the same way, by the good news of the work on the Cross of Jesus Christ the Son of God, and then by the convicting and empowering work of the Spirit. Thus we are saved!

11. Gifts Change

Meditations in Romans : 11 :  Gifts are for Change

Rom  1:11-13   I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong– that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that I planned many times to come to you (but have been prevented from doing so until now) in order that I might have a harvest among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.

While we stay with these verses we need to focus on something different, that we have only made brief reference to and which deserves greater consideration; it is about the impartation of gifts and the harvest brought thereby. Paul’s desire to come to the Christians in Rome is partly motivated by a desire to come and “impart to you some spiritual gift.” It is not until he comes to chapter 12 do we see further references to ‘spiritual gifts’. For his greatest exposition on such gifts we need to go to 1 Corinthians 12-14 but all we need say here is that when Paul uses the phrase he is quite clear that he is speaking about some particular manifestation of the Holy Spirit that is used primarily to build up the church. Now some people are very negative about spiritual gifts, more I think out of fear and the recognition that we are talking about a godly supernatural dimension which ‘naturally’ we are unable to operate in. For those of us who like to keep the Christian faith purely in the intellectual realm, the activities of the Holy Spirit, especially when in harmony with us, are particularly threatening.

So Paul is aware that he, as an apostle, has the ability to pray over others at God’s directing and impart these gifts or release these gifts in them. He sees that these gifts will help the Christians in Rome and make them strong. Strength comes when we are flowing in harmony with God’s Holy Spirit, for He is the source of all strength. He is also aware that as he comes with the faith that God has given him, it is an encouragement to the church. Looking back on my own life, I don’t know how many times I have been encouraged and strengthened by being in the presence of others who are gifted by God. Such supernatural gifting helps us realise that this is not merely about intellectual assent; it is about living in relationship with the all-powerful God who is real and who brings His power to bear in our everyday lives as we allow Him to.

Everything about this subject challenges the concept of Christianity being a passive and static faith that is all about just believing certain things. That is where the crusading atheists of the twenty first century are blind, for they do not realise that it is not merely about arguing about specific beliefs. They don’t realise that they are having to combat the living experiences of God that Christians have. It is impossible to explain away the changes that have taken place in my life on purely psychological grounds. It is impossible to explain away the many experiences of God that I have had on purely intellectual or rational grounds.

If only we did have such a thing as time travel then such silly atheists could travel back and watch and investigate the incredible works of Jesus while he was on earth, and then the things that happened to the early Christians as recorded in Acts. Seeing such simple and naïve people doing the impossible again and again would truly upset some of these carping critics. Sadly today most of them seem to lack the integrity that would go and investigate the millions of changed lives that can be observed in those who have encountered Jesus today. Travel the globe and you encounter millions of such people whose lives have been dramatically changed by encountering the living God and His Son Jesus Christ. Where are the other world religions that testify to such changes? Where are the millions of atheists who can testify to their lives being dramatically changed when the heard the good news of atheism, who found a new power source flowing in them that set them free from addictions and bad habits and bad behaviour when they received that good news. We can testify to such things because we have encountered the forgiveness, the love and power of the living God and we know that these are the things that have changed us.

Now for Paul it was a two-way street; it wasn’t merely about him, as an apostle, imparting something of a supernatural dimension to those Christians he encountered. Oh no! What he imparted had an effect on the lives of those Christians and they would thus bring forth ‘a harvest’ or a crop of fruits if you like. When Paul speaks about a harvest he surely means first of all a harvest of salvation of people coming to Christ and giving their lives to him and being born again. That is surely the first ‘harvest’ that he refers to. But there is also the fruit that comes forth in those lives and this goes back to what we were saying earlier.

The Christian faith is not static or passive, it is all about change. It is not about turning up at church once a week, it is about a radical life change that starts when we repent and surrender our lives to Christ and he forgives us and puts his Spirit within us. It is that power that changes us as we allow Him to work in us. Paul was able to write to the Galatians about the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ or the outworking or changes that the Holy Spirit brings in us when we come to Christ. He listed some of those fruits there: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal 5:22,23). There will be a steady growth of all these things in the true Christian – and a lot more. It is a life of change, the New Testament declares, a life of becoming more Christ-like. That can only come about as we submit ourselves to the Lord and He, by His Spirit, empowers us and brings about the work of change. That is what Christian leadership is all about – about bringing change to lives through the direction and power of God’s Holy Spirit. Hallelujah!

1. Humble Origins

Today we start a new series that will take us through Romans 1 & 2

Meditations in Romans : 1 :  Humble Origins but Divine Origins

Rom  1:1,2 Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God– the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures

Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt. For some of us who have been Christians a long time, ‘Romans’ is a familiar book, an important book in the canon of Scripture, and we know it well. I wrote verse by verse studies in Romans over ten year ago. It is a familiar book, but to avoid taking any of it for granted, I’d like to approach it completely fresh, as if I knew nothing about it, nothing about its background, as if someone had just handed it to me with no explanation. What would I find?

I would first observe that it seems to come in the form of a letter, from a person called Paul. A little bit later I see that he writes to people in Rome but that is not immediately obvious. To start with he is more desirous of saying things about himself. He doesn’t say where he is writing from (we believe Corinth) and he doesn’t date his letter (we believe it to be somewhere about AD57). But he immediately identifies himself with another historical figure – Christ Jesus, or Messiah Jesus: a servant of Christ Jesus.”

It’s an interesting way of describing Jesus because it’s like putting his role or title first, and we don’t usually do that with Jesus; we usually just call him Jesus Christ. It’s as if Paul wants to emphasise Jesus’ role or activity. When he came he came as the Christ (the Roman term) or Messiah (the Jewish term), the one sent by God to fulfil a task on behalf of the Godhead. It is as if Paul has Jesus’ servant role in mind when he uses this form of address about Jesus. Yes, he was God’s Son, but he came to earth to perform a task on behalf of heaven.

Now Paul puts his own role first in this letter. Paul identifies himself as one related to this historical figure, Jesus but his relationship is simply that of a servant or slave (the word used can mean either). When someone introduces themselves to us as, “I’m the PA to Sir. James….” this person is gaining their status by their role and their role is as a representative of Sir. James. But when Paul attaches himself to Jesus, it is in no grand way; he simply describes himself as Jesus’ servant: a servant of Christ Jesus.” A servant of a servant?

The immediate sense that we have, therefore, is that Paul (whoever he is, and we’d have to look elsewhere, especially in Acts, to see who he is and what his background is) is writing because he is Jesus’ servant and that he has something from Jesus to share. That’s the only reason a servant might be writing to us, to convey something from their master, certainly if that is how he starts out his letter, drawing his role to our attention. But there’s more to this. He doesn’t come as an ambassador, which might sound somewhat high flying; he comes as a servant, a more lowly figure. Now when you think about this, this adds greater weight to the letter, because the individual is not coming with his message but that of his master.

The strength of the letter comes because of the master, the originator of it, the one who has inspired it. So, if we were able to strip away all that we’ve previously heard or read about this letter, we’d be left with an immediate impression that here we have a letter written by this lowly servant on behalf of, and perhaps at the direction of, his master, Jesus (whose title suggests another servant).

Now of course Paul himself in another letter declared that All Scripture is God-breathed,” (2 Tim 3:16) or God-inspired, and so, looking back and realising that this letter is now acclaimed as part of the Scriptures, we may assume that it is inspired by God, that God put it on Paul’s heart to write and inspired what he wrote. The point I think I am making, is that we often forget that these writings have their origins in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ. Our belief, as Christians, is that Paul didn’t just have some bright idea and then wrote, but that asa servant’ of Jesus, he knew Jesus’ heart and responded to it and thus responded at that point in time.

John the Baptist, who we read of early in the Gospels, clearly came as a messenger from God with a God-given message. Now we have Paul, who doesn’t come with such blatant and obvious origins, but nevertheless comes as a divine messenger to us. He comes as a servant of the servant Son of God. Any status that he has comes from that role, as one who works for and serves Jesus. What he brings to us surely has its origins in the heart and mind of his master.

How easy it is to pick up a Bible and let it drop open and just read the words and then put it down – unmoved! Especially this is true when we have been tainted by the unbelief of liberal unbelieving theologians who have sought to take away any of the supernatural element from the holy Scriptures. For many people, these words on the page of the book or letter called Romans, could just be words that stay on the page – until we start reading and thinking about what is infront of us.

This is a man writing who claims to be a menial servant of the Messiah, the sent One of God. He writes because he IS a servant and writes to convey something of his master’s heart and his master is THE unique Son of God, Jesus Christ, who left all the glory of heaven and came and served his Father in the environment of earth before returning to heaven.  Yes, all right, that description is staggeringly more than we would know if this was the first time we had ever picked up the Bible – but it is the truth conveyed by the New Testament and if it the truth, then we should reverently hold this letter from Paul, wondering what he might be wanting to convey from his master. This simply says, come reverently to this letter, realise afresh the wonder of what we have here and take time to read it and reflect upon it, and then marvel.