I apologize that I am a day behind already! The readings for yesterday and today both come from Paul's letter to the Romans. Considered one of Paul's latest letters, the letter to the Romans contains the most extensive development of Paul's doctrine of justification. In Christian theology, justification refers to God's act of declaring a sinner righteous. We have been forgiven and justified (made righteous) through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the metaphor of the legal proceeding of a trial, with Paul himself acting as the prosecutor. As prosecutor, Paul demonstrates that "no one is righteous - all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." However, through Christ, we have been "justified by his grace as a gift." The major theological point that Paul is making is that we are forgiven and made holy in God's sight not because of our own righteousness (good works), but only by the grace of God freely given through his Son, Jesus Christ. We simply receive this gift by faith!
However, as today's reading from chapters 7-8 reminds us, the free gift of justification that we receive by faith does not mean that we are free to live as we choose. We will continue to struggle with sin in our lives and we will continue to experience suffering. Yet, in spite of our experiences of failure and persecution, there is nothing that can separate from the love of God which has been freely bestowed upon us through Christ.
In order to persevere in the midst of sin and suffering, we must live according to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit...
- Dwells in us (8:9)
- Gives us life (8:11)
- Transforms us (8:15)
- Confirms the truth of our idenity (8:16)
- Helps us in our weakness (8:26)
- Intercedes for us (8:26)
God has sent his Spirit into our hearts crying "Abba, Father," so that we might no longer live as slaves to sin, but as sons and daughters of the living God. Paul's use of the term "Abba" most likely stems from Jesus' use of the term in Mark 14:36. The term "Abba" was an intimate form of address similar to the modern word "daddy." The same God who has justified us by his grace has given us the gift of his Spirit to be us and to enable us to abide in his presence and love. As Paul so boldly proclaimed, "If God is for us, who can be against us?"