The apostle Paul writes this letter to an emerging Christian congregation in the capital of the Roman Empire. This congregation probably meets in someone’s home and is composed not only of Gentiles but also of Jews. Paul never visits this congregation; but since they are new in the faith, he writes this letter to introduce himself as a leader of the movement and to explain carefully the gospel from beginning to end.
Paul explains to this faith community that salvation cannot be earned by obeying the law. We are made just before God by believing in our hearts in the resurrected Jesus. Our salvation comes by proclaiming with our mouths that Jesus is Lord.
Notice that Paul highlights the resurrection of Jesus as a crucial component of the Christian faith. It is not enough to believe in Jesus as a prophet or as a great teacher. We must believe in the core of the gospel: God conquered death by raising Jesus from the dead.
This faith is not a mere concept; it goes from the heart to the mouth to proclaim that Jesus is Lord. For believers in Paul’s time, proclaiming Jesus as Lord could be considered a treasonous act, as this kind of declaration stood against the authority of the government.
Paul wants to make clear that Jesus did everything necessary to attain our salvation. There are no sacrifices left to be made, no works to be completed. God invites us to respond in faith and in action.
Loving God, I commit myself to follow Jesus and to live this faith in a way that gives witness to the Lord I follow. Amen.
As we begin the season of Lent, the readings provide several images of how we might prepare our hearts. Deuteronomy focuses on gratitude with a recitation of the history of God’s faithfulness. The people are instructed to offer their gifts to God as a response to God’s generosity. The psalmist focuses on faithfulness. If we put our confidence in God, God will protect and sustain us. In Romans, Paul emphasizes faith. Our confession of faith from the mouth should come from the heart, and this heart confession saves us. The story of the temptation of Jesus admonishes us to know biblical truth. The devil tempts Jesus with half-truths—even scriptural quotes—but Jesus counters with correct understanding of God’s word and God’s character.
Read Deuteronomy 26:1-11. We no longer offer physical sacrifices to God. How do you give the “first fruits” of your labor to God in thanksgiving?
Read Psalm 91:2, 9-16. Recall a time you have felt abandoned or insecure. How did God respond to your call?
Read Romans 10:8b-13. Paul learned to see those he once despised as his equals in Christ. Whom does God call you to learn to love?
Read Luke 4:1-13. How do you follow Jesus’ example to use scripture to resist temptation?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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