Pause for thought
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It’s not too much of a stretch to assert that you are probably able to read this as a direct result of the effect of Paul’s letter to Roman christians in 58AD.

Unlike his other letters, Paul was writing to a church that he himself had no part in establishing. Also unlike his other letters, he was not addressing some immediate threat or crisis within the church.

Although today we treat this letter as sacred scripture, Paul would have no idea that giving his testimony and explaining his understanding of the gospel would still be used by christians all over the world for inspiration and instruction thousands of years later. Paul just wrote a letter, one side of a conversation, almost as if we were listening to one side of a telephone conversation. We can assume that he was responding to questions or remarks that are lost to us today.

He was writing to christians in Rome — at the time the greatest and most pagan city in the world. It is obvious from his other writings that he really wanted to go there and evangelize — check out Acts 19:21 and Romans 15:24 — but he had doubts if he would ever do so. Of course, we now know (see for example his letters to Timothy) that he did end up in Rome, but in prison, and was eventually martyred for his faith there.

But in his letter to the Roman church Paul essentially gives us a distillation of what he would have preached and taught in the Forum and Synagogues. The first few paragraphs are taken up with greetings and salutations, but by verses 16 and 17 Paul is ready to lay out the very heart of the gospel of Jesus he is preaching.

‘For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”’ [Romans 1:16-17 NLT]

That last quote, from Habakkuk 2:4, “…the just shall live by faith…” [KJV] is what clutched the heart and mind of Martin Luther and revealed that salvation was a free gift of God that was claimed by believing and relying on it. This reformed the understanding of the church leading to the Judea-Christian basis for much of Western civilization today.

Note that faith unlocks the power of the gospel. This is the power of salvation — in Greek “soteria”.

This word in Greek has several meanings which would have been in Paul’s mind as he wrote.

It means salvation from physical peril, in the sense that the soul has eternal security no matter the physical circumstances.

It means protection from infection by the ways and customs of the pagan world, in much the same way as we might get a vaccination against the flu (although Paul could never have made that association!).

It means salvation from being lost — the saved person is always on the road to a final glorious destination.

It is salvation from sin — in the sense that we now have the power and capability of refusing the power of sin over us. As Paul would say, we are no longer sin’s slaves.

It means salvation from the just wrath of God — although we know we are condemned, we are saved from the just consequences of that sin because of this gospel.

This is indeed the “power of God at work”!

So, if faith is the key to unlocking this power, what did Paul mean by faith?

At its simplest, the word Paul uses for faith is loyalty. Loyalty is the resolve not to change sides despite inducements to do so. The charms of this world are no match for the rewards for the loyal believer.

Faith means the conviction that something is true. In 1 Corinthians 15:17 Paul addresses this directly:

“And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.” [NLT]

But in his most characteristic way Paul uses faith to mean total acceptance and absolute trust. He means betting your life that what Jesus said and did was absolutely true and can be trusted.

God has already done all the hard work to reconcile us with Him. The key to taking advantage of that enormously good news (Gospel) and unlocking its power is our faith.

The old proverb says that seeing is believing, but in the case of the gospel believing is seeing! Keep on believing!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at

Friday May 19th, 2023
Friday May 5th, 2023