During the “Fine Art Of Belly-Aching” series, we are inviting the people of Good Shepherd to begin their days in the Word and not in the world. I am devoting this space to reading prompts so that we can resource the same people we encourage.
This week’s readings reinforce last Sunday’s bottom line: God is too good to be fair. As a result, we will look at a number of different sections from the letters of Paul, all of which revolve around the idea of what we call “salvation by grace.”
Today: Romans 1:16-17
As you read these opening words of Paul’s “magnum opus,” the letter to the church at Rome, it’s great to remember at the outset that this letter was written to be READ ALOUD AND IN A GROUP rather than read silently and in private. Most of the people in the church in Rome could not read but they could hear! Church wide letters in that time were read by leader (usually one of the few people in a congregation who was literate) to the people. All that is why later in Romans Paul says “faith comes by hearing” (not by READING!).
Note also that Paul immediately says “we” in 1:5. Modern readers immediately assume that “we readers” are included in Paul’s opening “we.” Not so fast. Because look at 1:6: “and you also were among those Gentiles …” So there’s “we” Jews and “you” Gentiles – which, in fact, is the theme of the entire letter.
Paul’s introduction builds to his “retweet” of Habakkuk 2:4 in 1:16-17. Those words serve as a sort of table of contents for the rest of the book – the good news of Jesus is first for Jews, then for Gentiles, uniting all in a gospel built not on works buy on faith. Revealed to Habakkuk, retweeted by Paul, but delivered by Jesus.