21 May, 2023
This week we conclude our journey into Romans by looking at chapter 6. Last week we focused on an opportunity to look forward as to where and how we here at Murrumbeena can be the sharers of the Good News. This means that we missed the second Romans reading for this time. Romans 5:1-11 helps to lead us into our reading for today, so please take some time to read it before coming to worship.
Remember this is Paul speaking, and Paul speaks very densely at times. It takes time, re-reading and considerable thought to get understanding from Paul.
Romans 5:1–11 is a hinge. It summarizes Paul’s argument in Romans 1–4, and at the same time, it introduces Romans 5–8 (and beyond). One thing distinctively stands out: Paul’s language of reconciliation and peace. This is largely lacking both in Romans 1–4 and Romans 5–8 (after 5:11). The gospel of God’s reconciliation according to Paul calls for human responses in the form of communal life and a ministry of reconciliation. As Robert Jewett notes, “‘Peace with God’ has comprehensive implications that include a harmonious relationship with God as well as the rest of God’s creation, including one’s fellow humans.” (Robert Jewett, Romans: A Short Commentary)
In chapter 6 Paul begins with the question “Should we continue in sin in order that grace may increase? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it?” (6:1-2) The question in 6:1 is one possible conclusion that might follow Romans 5:12-21. If the increase of sin corresponds to the abundance of grace, we might wonder if we should “continue in sin”. Paul strongly rejects this idea. Believers cannot intentionally remain in sin, because such behaviour totally abandons their identity as one united with Christ (6:3-4). Believers have already “died to sin” (6:2), and they are “alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11). Paul’s rhetoric persuades the audience to live a new (or renewed) life in Christ.
When Paul writes the words he does in Romans 6, he is himself exploring and working out what Jesus means to him and to the world. It is as if we are party to a process in Paul’s mind as he works through his own theology and as Paul does so, so too can we. This is an insight into our faith: we are part of a continually evolving understanding of what we believe. Faith is always in process as the world changes and our experience of the world, and God, changes. It is a good place to be.
It is perhaps a time for us to work out what it is we believe in this place and time. Paul’s words offer us a moment to reflect on our relationship with God, with the cross, with sin. It is from here we can go forward and go live in the world today recognising that the world is important to God.