September 15

September 15
By Pastor Jim Bangsund

ROMANS IN 5 BITES

BITE 2

Now you’re going to have to bear with me here.  I’ve stuck a number of strange-looking words into today’s readings, but there is a method in my madness and all will soon be revealed!

For in [the gospel] the righteousness (δικαιοσύνη) of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “He who through faith is righteous (δίκαιοϛ) shall live.”

Romans 1:17

Therefore, since we are justified (δικαιόω) by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. … While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Why, one will hardly die for a righteous (δίκαιοϛ) man—though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die.  But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we are now justified (δικαιόω) by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Romans 5:1,6-9

Yes, that’s a bit of Greek stuck in here and there, but don’t let it put you off.  You can read more Greek than you realize because most Greek letters are pretty much like the ones we use in English.  For instance, the first six letters of each of those Greek words above are “dikaio-.”

That means all those words are pretty much the same, except one is in the form of a noun (“righteousness”), another an adjective (“righteous”) and another a verb (“declare righteous” or “justify”).

So why is Paul throwing all these churchy words around at this point?  He’s doing so because they aren’t churchy words! — or at least they weren’t back then.  Paul was using “street Greek” — words which everyone would understand, at least back then.  That was his earnest goal, after all, to make the gospel understandable to folks in the street.  Like the word “redeemed,” which you may remember from an earlier devotional based on the Anglican Cathedral on the island of Zanzibar, “justification” was a word drawn from first century everyday life.

And, whereas “redemption” meant being set free from the slave market, “justification” is being set free in a courtroom setting.  When all was said and done — when prosecuting and defense attorneys had all had their say — the judge would finally make a declaration.  He would either declare the person guilty or would declare him innocent (“justify” him).  And once the judge declared a person “innocent” (“justified” him), that person was absolutely innocent in the eyes of the law — even if he or she had actually committed the crime!

And Paul looked at that and said, “I can use that.  That’s another way of describing what happened to me.  I have been ‘justified’ because of what Christ did on the cross.  Even though I am a sinner, God has ‘declared me righteous’ because of what Jesus did on the cross.”  Luther would later describe our situation as being simul iustus et peccator, that is, “at the same time saint and sinner.”  And so we are.

Heavenly Father, we gaze in wonder, as did both Paul and Luther, at what you have given us and made us in Christ.  Help us, now, to live thankfully as people given another chance, “at the same time saints and sinners,” because you have declared us righteous in your own eyes.  For we pray in Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

 


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