Brit Hadashah Reflections 3
Hebraic understanding of the teaching letters of the Apostles
Romans 5 : 1 to 6 : 23
Considered to have been written from Corinth in about 56-57 C.E
“Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” says Paul. So having already established that Jew and Gentile are equal before God, (and knowing that there were difficulties between these two groups in the “ekklesia” at Rome), Paul reminded them that it is because of their faith that they enjoy peace with a holy God. That is why, he says, they should glory in the tribulations which beset them. Their ‘tribulations’ produce perseverance, character and hope. And even before they came to faith, Christ died for them to demonstrate His great love for them. Paul is saying that in response to the great love they have all received from God, as equals, they should then live harmoniously together (within the “ekklesia”), appreciating that they are all equal beneficiaries of God’s great love for them all, and they should extend that same love to each other..
Now, dear friends, out of this discourse there are many lessons for us today. The situation in the Rome “ekklesia”, with disputation amongst the brethren, is in evidence many times over throughout the Christian denominational scene in our modern world today. And that is Gentile believer to Gentile believer. To add a Hebraic dimension to this, when we include the Jewish people in the mix, the animosity is even more stark. In Rome, as in other diaspora “ekklesia”, it was the Jewish believers who were ‘bringing the light’. Paul, the Rabbi Sha’ul, being the chief evangelist! The worship of God mostly, if not always, took place in Jewish Synagogues. The Gentile believers were privileged to belong. Well may we ask how did that get turned on its head? The answer lies in the centuries of wanton neglect, by Christians, of the Hebraic roots of our faith.
As we come to the end of chapter 5 and begin chapter 6, Paul emphasizes the fact that when God gave us Torah (His instructions for living righteously) it became obvious that ‘mankind’ was aware of ‘chata’, sin, ‘missing the mark’. But in His love, mercy and abundant grace, God provided the way back to Himself. A way of ‘drawing near’ to Him, through sacrifices, which culminated in the once for all time sacrificial death of Yeshua. Grace is ‘unmerited favour’. So Paul asks “Should we continue in ‘chata’ that grace may abound?” Then the resounding “Certainly not!” Why? He gives us this astounding revelation. By the power of Almighty God, Yeshua was raised from the dead and moved from life to LIFE, a new life with the Father. And Paul declares here that the same power which raised Yeshua from the dead can change believers from life to LIFE, newness of life, living in praise to God and free from the binding shackles of sin. Life, which in the circumstances of the “ekklesia” in Rome would allow them to live together in harmony.
“Do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin” he says, “but present yourselves to God being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God”. How clear is that? Then Paul follows this with the often quoted, but misinterpreted, ‘eight words at the end of a sentence!’. NOT just “for you are not under law but under grace”. BUT, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, (where sin is ‘the master’ and that master has to be obeyed) for you are not under law (that law of sin and death) but under grace (which comes from a very different master)”. You are free to live without sin in your life. Then using the human example of servitude, wherein a person has an obligation to do whatever their master instructs, he says “You used to be slaves to sin, but now you have become slaves of righteousness!”
Paul then, using many words, in emphasis of the point he has been making, embarked on the rewards of behaviour. We are often times prone to think that once we are saved we are ‘under grace’ and our behaviour has no bearing on our destiny. And it is certainly true that the ‘grace of God’, extended to us in the form of the sacrificial death and resurrection of Yeshua, provides His unmerited gift of salvation to all who, in faith, believe. However, as Paul has stated clearly in this reading, our newly found faith DOES (or should) have a behavioural impact. Our “slavemaster” has changed! No longer do we engage in matters which are displeasing to a holy God, but now we direct our efforts in righteous living. For most of us that is a complete change in behaviour.
So Paul concludes “For the wages (that which we are paid for the work we DO) of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Moses put two alternatives to the Children of Israel in Deuteronomy 30:19. Paul has put them to the “ekklesia’ in Rome. This ‘reflection’ offers them to you today. Choose LIFE.