Greetings Grace Family,
After taking last month off writing an article for this newsletter (due mostly to writer’s block, but also because I really enjoyed Bishop Eaton’s article. I hope you did too!), I’m back! There were a number of topics I considered writing about this month like fear, or the history and purpose of why we do the things in our worship services that we do. But I decided to write about Romans. Not the residents of Rome, but Paul’s Epistle.
As long as I’ve been at Grace and teaching Bible study, I have mostly taught from the historical narrative books. Genesis, Exodus, the Samuels and Kings, even Acts from the New Testament, just to name a few. I find the historical books fascinating for many reasons and they are also fairly easy to follow. After finishing 2 Kings I decided to venture back into the NT and explore faith and theology with those who participate in Bible study. Studying Romans did present some challenges for both the teacher and students. One of those challenges is the density of Paul’s theological work and his writing style. One of the other challenges is studying a book that requires one to examine one’s theology. That may not seem like a big deal, but the truth is we humans tend to have a pretty simple understanding of topics like grace, righteousness and salvation. But these are deeply intellectual topics that can make one’s brain start to ache when exploring the endless layers of some of the key tenants of our Lutheran Doctrine.
It is not a criticism to say we tend to have a simple understanding of our doctrine. When presented with the reality that Jesus dies for our sins and as a result those who believe receive salvation and eternal life, it is like receiving the greatest gift ever! I do not have to know, necessarily how that gift was made or how it works in order to understand and appreciate its incredible value. If Jesus said it is true, that is good enough for me! Taking grace at face value does not diminish its blessings. I was perfectly happy with face value for many, many years of my life as a Christian.
When I started my education to become a pastor and began to explore the how’s and why’s of my faith I did not anticipate the depth of the change that it would create in my relationship with God and my worldview. Silly me! It was challenging for sure, but I am so grateful for the process and its results, results that continue to evolve. That is one of the beautiful things about this kind of study. The deeper I went the more I wanted to learn and grow! But the truth is it can be uncomfortable at times having deeply held beliefs challenged and it requires a great deal of thought. It also does not change the basic truth of saved by grace through faith.
So deciding to teach from Paul’s letter to the Romans, perhaps the most theological book in all of scripture, was accompanied by the concern that my fellow learners would quickly lose interest, thinking, “Why do I need to know how grace works if it does not add to its benefits?” I imagined I would be teaching a class of one (That one being Lindi because she would never want to hurt my feelings) after a couple chapters of rich Pauline theology. Well, I am happy to say that as of this writing and four chapters of Romans I have not lost any of the folks who regularly attend the study!
I hope one of the reasons for that is studying a book such as Romans, as hard as it is at times to understand, has resulted in what I experienced in seminary. That ‘going deeper’ has resulted in a closer relationship with Jesus and a greater appreciation for the Gospel. This is what I experienced throughout my education and what I continue to experience today as I am being transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2). It’s never to late to join our Bible study! You might just discover that below the surface the riches of God’s grace are infinite!
Yours In Christ,