Saturday, June 13, 2020

The Story of God | Bible Project Romans Reconciliation Theme

Emmaus City God's Multi-Ethnic Family The Bible Project Story of God Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

Bible Project | God's Multi-Ethnic Family: People rescued together by Jesus and brought into a right relationship with God and each other

To complement the message from this past weekend, If God Is for Us: Walking the Romans Road w/ Jesus TogetherI'm including a video and the manuscript for an Animated Explanation of Romans 1-4: God's Multi-Ethnic Family via The Bible Project.

Bible Project Illustration and Manuscript for Romans 1-4: God's Multi-Ethnic Family

Produced by Tim Mackie and Jon Collins

Paul's letter to the Romans – it's one of the longest and most significant things that this man ever wrote. As you may remember Paul, he was formerly known as Saul of Tarsus. He was a Jewish Rabbi. He belonged to this group known as the Pharisees. And he was super passionate and devout to the Jewish Torah of Moses and to the Jewish practices and traditions of his people. And from his point of view, Jesus and his whole movement of followers were a threat to the stability and security and safety of God's people. And so he later had a radical encounter with the risen Jesus himself and he became one of his followers surprisingly. And so his name was changed to Paul and he was even commissioned as an apostle, like an official representative of Jesus. 

So Paul went about as a missionary, telling people about Jesus all over the ancient Roman world. And people would become followers of Jesus and form into these Jesus communities or churches as he called them. And as time went on he would write letters to these churches to help foster their faith or address problems that were coming up or to answer their questions and so on. The letter to the Romans is one of these.

We also know from the book of Acts – you should check out Acts 18:1-2 – that the church in Rome consisted of both Jewish Christian followers of Jesus, but also non-Jewish or Gentile Christians. And a number of years before Paul wrote this letter, the Roman emperor, a guy named Claudius, he had all the Jewish people expelled and run out of Rome for about five years until he died. And so then five years later, all those Jews – including Christian Jews were allowed to come back to Rome and return. But when they did, they came back to their church community and realized that it had become very non-Jewish in their customs and practices and the way they taught. And so you can imagine there are all these tensions that arise. So should non-Jewish followers of Jesus celebrate the Sabbath? Should they eat according to the Jewish kosher dietary laws? Should they be circumcised? And so on. 

Emmaus City God's Multi-Ethnic Family The Bible Project Story of God Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

So he says right at the beginning and the end of the letter he wants this church to become unified as one whole family of people in Jesus, and for a clear reason. He wants this church to become a staging ground so they can send him as a missionary to go even further west, past Rome, all the way to Spain. And the letter is long and it has one connected flow of thought, but it's broken up into four really clear movements of thought.

So in the first main movement – chapters 1-4 – Paul makes some foundational points that he's going to develop throughout the whole rest of the letter. In chapter 1 he starts telling a story about the non-Jewish world – the Gentiles – and he says that all humanity has become trapped in this spiral of sin and selfishness. He argues that the human heart and mind has turned inward on itself because of idolatry, which is giving ultimate allegiance and devotion to created things that are not the one true God. And it results, Paul says, in this distortion of our humanity. And so, he concludes that all nations are in need of God's grace and God's mercy in chapter 1.

In chapter 2, he says the Jewish people might respond and say, well, good thing for us. We've been shown God's grace and mercy. He rescued us out of Egpyt. He showed us how to become true humans by giving us the Torah at Mount Sinai. He gave us these practices about Sabbath and eating kosher and about circumcision. But Paul stops and he says, "Not so fast." He says the people of Israel, if you read the story of the Scriptures, they've proven themselves to be just as bad and corrupt as the human race through hypocrisy and rebellion. And so even the Jewish people themselves, his own people, are just as broken and sinful as the rest of humanity.

Emmaus City God's Multi-Ethnic Family The Bible Project Story of God Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

And so he draws his conclusion in chapter 3. He says that all humanity – it doesn't matter whether you're Jew or Gentile – all humanity is trapped in the brokenness of sin and rebellion and selfishness. And so the resolution to this huge human mess – it comes to its high point here at the end of chapter 3 in this crucial paragraph. It's very dense. Paul unpacks the significance of Jesus, his death, his resurrection, and the good news. He says that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah whose death on the cross was a sacrifice where he took into himself all of the pain and the sin and results of all of humanity's evil so that through him all sin could be put to death and paid for, dealt with once and for all. And it's by trusting in Jesus' death and resurrection that was for us – that's how we find life and forgiveness and we come into right relationship with God – what Paul calls God justifying sinners. And so he rounds off this first movement of thought by saying that God's purposes for all humanity have been fulfilled through Jesus, the Jewish Messiah. However, God's purpose was not for everyone to have to become Jewish or obey the Torah and follow Jewish practices. 

Rather, God's goal, Paul says, was to create a huge family, a big multi-ethnic family of all kinds of different people who are saved by the Jewish Messiah and brought into a family that's in right relationship with God. Now this was a really scandalous idea. You have a crucified Messiah remaking the family of God's people, including people from all nations. This is not a popular idea for other Jewish people in Paul's day. And so Paul makes super clear at the end of chapter 3, "I'm not contradicting the Scriptures or the Torah. This new family around Jesus is what the story of the Torah is all about." And that's where he closes this first movement in chapter 4. He turns to the story of Abraham in the book of Genesis. And he says, "Before the Torah was ever given, Jewish practices, or anything, God promised Abraham that he would become the Father of a whole family of nations and that family would receive God's blessings – not by obeying the Torah or keeping the Sabbath or something like that – but just by being like Abraham, simply by placing trust and faith in God's promises. And so Paul concludes that it's trust, it's faith in God's promises – that's what marks the family of God's covenant people. And so it's trust in Jesus, the one in whom all of God's promises have come true.

Emmaus City God's Multi-Ethnic Family The Bible Project Story of God Worcester MA Soma Acts 29 3DM Christian Reformed Church Multi-ethnic Network of Missional Communities

So let's wrap up all of Paul's ideas here in the first movement of Romans. All humans need to be saved by God's grace. We're a hopeless mess. And salvation comes through trusting in Jesus, the Messiah, his death and resurrection. We're not saved by obeying the Torah or following Jewish practices. And so through this we learn that God's purpose was always to have this huge multi-ethnic family that keeps spreading and spreading throughout the whole world as the good news of Jesus travels further and further.

Now Paul's going to go into the rest of the letter to develop how Jesus' death and resurrection made them not just a new family, but actually brand new humans who are empowered by God's Spirit. He's going to talk about how God still has a plan for his people of Israel and how this family, this multi-ethnic family, is to learn together how to live in peace and forgiveness. 

Recent posts on overviews of the Story of God found in the Bible:

The Story of God, the World, and You | Our World Belongs to God | Creation, Crisis, Covenant, Christ, Church, (New) Creation | Jesus as the "True and Better" One | The Messiah | The Covenants | Heaven and Earth | God's Holiness | God's Multi-Ethnic Family | Hell | Sacrifice and Atonement | The Law | The Gospel According to Mark | What the Son of God Said About the Word of God | The Gospel of the Kingdom | The God Who Loves Kindness, Justice, and Righteousness | The 3D Gospel for Guilt, Shame, and Fear Cultures

Rev. Mike "Sully" Sullivan

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