Bible Commentary - Word&Way

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Paul is sharing his personal story of how he found a new life within God's grace instead of endless rule-keeping and rituals. How does he tell it?

Over the next four Sundays we will be studying parts of the Apostle Paul's most comprehensive theological treatise, his letter to the church at Rome. So far as we know, Paul never visited the church at Rome, but his letter was so profound that it was circulated among all the churches.

A dictionary defines “integrity” as uprightness of character, proven virtue or honesty. The Apostle Paul defines integrity for all who claim to be God's people: “Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (5:1).

It was one of those traveling conversations on a flight for a couple of hours, seated by a stranger who asked, “So what do you do to make a living?”

How often have you, when faced with sadness or challenges, turned to Leviticus for inspiration and encouragement? When reading the Bible through in a year, did you get more excited about Leviticus than any other book?

I grew up in a family where it was a rule that you ate what was on your plate. Rules can vex a strong-willed child, but I understood that a rule was firm until the day we had liver.

History focuses on the tragedies and heroic events of people as they struggle against armies, vanquish ruthless oppressors and build empires. The story of Israel is not shaped by military and political success, but by the steadfast love of God and his grace.

No matter the subject, going against what has become “normal” for society invariably produces anxiety and pushback. We are studying the beginning of Jesus' public ministry which confronts not just social change, but produces a bitter rejection by the very people who should be elated that God's promise has arrived.

What do you mean when you talk about “good church people”? Jesus appeared in first century Palestine, where the line between “good church people” (code for God's chosen) and pagans was clearly defined.

We need epic good news as desperately as the generation to which Jesus was born. The desperation level in the first century must have been equal to that we know in our time.