Thursday, I gave you PT 1 of my Good Life update. I ended with a recap on the Book of Acts of the Apostles, which comes directly after the Gospels in the New Testament. You can read that HERE.
Background. The Bible is ordered in two parts: Old Testament and New Testament. The New Testament includes the four Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are eye-witness accounts of disciples written down as letters for other people close in time to Jesus’ existence on earth. Gospel means Good News. The good news is that Jesus is here.
After the four Gospels is the Book of Acts of the Apostles (Acts). A disciple is a student (here, a student of Jesus). An Apostle is a student sent to spread a message (here the good news about Jesus). The book of Acts introduces some main characters and specifically introduces Paul. (Check out the link above for a quick summary of who Paul is and why he matters).
A little bit more about Paul: he was not a disciple of Jesus but of another Jewish teacher. Paul’s teacher was apparently a well-known fellow who taught Paul well. When Paul had his encounter on the road and converted to being a Christian, he was taught directly by the disciples about Jesus.
Now, on to the book of Romans. In Acts we learned that Paul traveled to Rome and set up a church there. This book in our Bible is a letter that he wrote to those believers there after he had moved on and traveled elsewhere. The letter reminds them what they believe and why.
While reading Romans, I found that Paul gives us an instruction manual on how to live a Good Life. First, Paul answers the question, “Why Jesus?” Then he answers the question of “What next after Jesus?” I’d recommend reading the book for yourself because the chapters combined are a step-by-step process on how to live a Good Life.
I found it so relevant to my search for the Good Life that I thought it’d be great to share it with you. Here we go. In Chapters 1 through 7, Paul outlines the problem of sin and God’s anger at sin, and his solution for it.
The Problem of Sin. Paul tells us that people sin and that God “shows his anger from heaven against all sinful, wicked people…” (Romans 1:18 NLT). God allows us to live in our sins for as long as we want. He also tells us that God is just and that his justice requires that we die. (ch1 v 32).
Paul tells us that God does not have favorites which means judgment is for everyone.(ch2 v11) The Jews have Mosaic law (basically the 10 commandments), and when they don’t live up to it, they will be judged. (ch2 v12) Non-Jewish people who don’t have the commands are still judged because we instinctively understand the laws . (ch2 v14) Philosophers call this a natural law argument.
Paul tells us we’ll all be judged because we all do things wrong. We are not perfect and cannot achieve perfection. We all sin, and it doesn’t matter whether we are Jewish or otherwise, we will be judged. (ch2) Paul points out that in our sin, we are specifically rejecting God.
Pause. For many years, I wondered how Jesus’ blood saved me and why it mattered. You may be wondering too. First, Jesus’ death mattered because of the problem of sin. Adam and Eve sinned, and we became cursed. Because, we all sin, we all can’t make it into heaven because of our sin. God gave the world Mosaic Law which gave us a way of behaving. We had one rule and ten commands. We couldn’t follow them.
To fix the problem once and for all, God told us about Jesus. Then he gave us Jesus. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, and whose blood was shed on the cross. We learn about this in the Gospels. The Jewish people were waiting on him for hundreds of years. We learn this in the book of Acts and other letters from Paul.
Second, Jesus’ sacrifice fixes the problem of sin in a way that is both simple and difficult. In Mosaic law, God gave a method of exchange – sacrifice for sin. Jesus was from God and of God; this means his blood was so powerful that it was a good enough exchange for all people for all time. That’s the simple answer. You can find detailed and more complete answers in Bought With Blood which you can find on Amazon HERE.
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God’s answer to Sin. In chapter one, Paul referenced Christ then he dropped it (ch1 v8-17) only to pick it back up here. He tells us that God is merciful to us and faithfully sent a solution to the problem of sin. That solution is Jesus Christ.
Paul reminds us that God promised, through the prophets, a method of being made right. (ch3 v21) Jesus Christ was the sacrifice. (ch3 v25) Even though humans reject God, God does not also reject us in return. (ch3 v3)
Paul tells us, “our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith.” (ch3 v 27) Jesus is the sacrifice for our sin, we must only believe that he was the sacrifice for our sin, then we get forgiven. (ch3 v 23-25) Not only people who were alive and came after Jesus but also the people who came before and after. (ch3 v 25-26)
It’s a big leap, right? Yes, I know. We have a choice – believe that God provided an answer or believe that God left us hanging. If God left us hanging, there’s no reason for right or wrong. But if there is a God and Paul is right about God’s methods and standards, we’re pretty screwed if we don’t believe.
Faith matters. Faith matters because we are made righteous through our faith in God and in Jesus. It’s not possible for humans to follow all the commandments, all the time; that’s why we need faith. Faith makes us righteous. (ch4 v5) We can’t do enough good works to match off our sins. Paul seems to be saying there’s no giant cosmic scale, the universe isn’t watching us. And if there were (for argument’s sake), we can never balance the scale.
Paul says that when we have faith “we have peace with God” (ch5 v1) This implies that when we do not believe in Jesus, or God, and while we’re rejecting them, we are at war with them. But, believing gives us joy because we can see God loves us, and we gain hope because Jesus. (ch5 v 3-5)
We don’t need to follow the law. Paul tells us that we can’t measure up by following the law but that we should work towards it anyway. He tells us that when we’re baptized we’re joined with Christ in death and we now get to live new lives. (ch6 v1-6) “When we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.” Romans 6:7 NLT.
He tells us we are slaves “of whatever [we] choose to obey.” (ch6 v 16) This means if we obey our desire to sin, we are slaves to it. But if we choose to obey Jesus then we are slaves to him. This is not some weird, creepy thing. Jesus gave us instructions to love each other and to do good towards each other.
Paul tells us because we’re reborn with Jesus when we’re baptized, then we’re not slaves to the law (trying to balance the good-bad scale), and we are not slaves to our desires (sinful nature). (ch 7 v1-6) This doesn’t mean that we don’t wrestle with our desires. He tells us “there is another power within me that is at war with my mind.” Romans 7:23 NLT. We want to do what God wants us to do, but we argue with our desire to do want we want. It’s like that old cartoons with the devil and angel on the shoulder.
Conclusion. This is a quick summary of the first 7 chapters. Paul has answered the question – why does Jesus matter? If you have read the Gospels and the book of Acts before this, his letter to Romans pulls it all together.
In the next chapters, Paul tells us what to do about it, if we believe in Jesus. That’s where living the Good Life comes in – part three of this update is about the next chapters.
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