Paul not only warns the Romans of the dangers of sin. He has more to say about the offer of life governed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
We have spoken about Paul’s view of being enslaved to sin, which leads to death. The contrast to this pathway is characterized in several key terms in Paul’s teaching in today’s reading.
Paul calls for followers of Christ to “present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.” Righteousness is characterized by obedience to the teachings that brought them to recognize a path to life in Jesus Christ rather than the path to death in sin. The goal is sanctification and eternal life. Sanctification helps us realize all that we were created to be through righteousness. A sanctified life turns outward to live not for self but for God and neighbor. The final verse of this passage is the perfect summary: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul’s language in Romans can be challenging, but he presents us with a clear alternative to the path lived for self gratification, governed by passions and desires, which is the path of sin and death. The contrasting path of life lived under the gift of God’s grace in Jesus Christ is governed by obedience and righteousness, qualities that lead away from self by turning toward God and the grace of God’s gift in Jesus Christ. This is the path of life.
God, give us the will to choose the path of life offered in your son Jesus Christ and the courage to turn aside from the path of sin and death that constantly appeals to our passion and self-indulgence. Open before us the gift of grace and righteousness made clear in Jesus Christ so that we may claim the gift of eternal life. Amen.
The passages this week highlight several different themes. Abraham is put to the ultimate test. There is no denying how terrifying God’s request must have been, yet Abraham ultimately is commended for his faith. We will not face this same challenge, but are there things dear to our hearts that God is asking us to give up? The psalmist is in deep despair and weary from awaiting God’s deliverance, yet even now there is confidence. Paul continues to instruct the Romans about the necessity of living a new life, no longer being slaves to the desires of the flesh. Jesus teaches that when we receive those doing his work, we receive him. When we interact with pastors, missionaries, and even nursery workers, do we treat these servants as Jesus himself?
Read Genesis 22:1-14. What has this familiar story meant to you in your faith? How do you embody or struggle against this type of obedience and trust?
Read Psalm 13. When has your lament allowed you to move from anger with God to praise? How long did that process take?
Read Romans 6:12-23. How does the definition of death as a life cut off from God rather than a biological reality change your understanding of this passage? How might incorporating this definition of death change your life?
Read Matthew 10:40-42. Who is in your wider community of witnesses? How does their example prompt you to turn to others in service?
Respond by posting a prayer.