Thursday, October 26, 2017

This week's lesson (October 21-27): Justification by Faith

A thought experiment:

Read Romans 3:19-28, but . . .
  • instead of "law," read "lifestyle," 
  • and instead of "Jews" (whom we've picked on enough this quarter already), substitute whatever group of right-thinking, right-living people you fancy -- the kind of people, in other words, whom you wish attended your church. 
If you're the kind of person who makes your own granola, for instance, then imagine a church full of granola-making, sweater-knitting, organic-gardening, Prius-drivers who all voted for Bernie Sanders.

Got it?

Now imagine that a change in the real estate market suddenly brings in people who are their exact opposite -- that the granola-makers come to church, for instance, and discover they've been "invaded" by a bunch of BBQ-loving football fans who all drive pick-ups, and who all wear hats proclaiming it's time we "Make America Great Again."

Got it?

(And yes, if you like, then you can swap the two groups, i.e. have a church full of BBQ-lovers invaded by granola-makers; either way is fine.)

But with that in mind . . .
  • How do you think these two groups will get along?
  • And what would Romans 3:19-28 say to the members of both groups?

Two Books about Romans

Two books you might enjoy as you study this quarter's lessons:

John Brunt's Redemption in Romans. This was Brunt's companion-book to his Sabbath School lessons on Romans back in 2010; it's practical, scholarly, and an easy read.

N. T. Wright's Paul for Everyone (parts 1 & 2). Part of his commentary series on the New Testament, Wright is a little tougher reading than Brunt, but it's still practical (and a good survey of new approaches to Paul's writings).

Friday, October 20, 2017

This week's lesson (October 14-20): the Human Condition

I like Romans 1:18-32.

But Romans 2:1-29?

Not so much.

Mind you, I've nothing against them personally -- as I've said before, some of my best friends are Gentiles . . . but taken as a group, we all know what they are like:
  • Gossips.
  • Idolators.
  • Sexual predators.
Yes, they're everything Paul says they are in Romans 1:18-32 -- and while it may not be politically correct, somebody's got to say it!

Hearing those verses, as a matter of fact, reminds me of the time somebody was talking about The Wisdom of Solomon during the potluck  -- you know, the part where it talks about idolators and "their shameless uncleanness" . . .  and I'm not saying those Gentiles were glad to hear it.

But they needed to hear it!

That's why I don't have any problem with anything Paul says about them . . .

But why did he say all those bad things about us?

Sunday, October 08, 2017

This week's lesson (October 7-13): the Controversy

If you're reading this, then you're probably a Gentile.

Yes, one of those people.

When the Israelites left Egypt, in other words, we were the ones who came after them in chariots.

And when David fought the Philistines, we rooted for Goliath.

The destruction of Jerusalem?

That was us.

Ditto the "mixed multitude" who caused all that trouble during the Exodus.

In short, there's good reason why Jewish Christians thought people like us shouldn't join the church -- not so long as we remained Gentiles.

But if God opened the door to people like us . . .

Then maybe we should think twice before we shut the door behind us.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

This week's lesson (September 30 - October 6): the Apostle Paul in Rome

This is not my church.

Not any more.

Not since they took over.

And yes, I know I'm supposed to be grateful. If it wasn't for them, people tell me, our church would be in bad shape; that's because their numbers are growing (while ours are dwindling).

But they're so ignorant.

Their kids are so rowdy.

And you should see the food they bring to potlucks!

So you can understand why I'm skeptical about Paul's plan to visit our churches here in Rome. To be sure, he's one of us -- but if you want my honest opinion, he's just a little too close to them.

And no, it's not that I'm prejudiced; some of my best friends are Gentiles.

But I wish they knew their place -- knew it, and stayed in it.

Is that too much to ask?