Romans for Spiritual Healing and Health
I've been promoting our summer Romans reading in conversations around the church. Doing this, I've met with some resistance. Maybe not resistance as much as fatigue . . . and maybe a little theological PTSD. I think some of us have experienced a little too much of a good thing in previous encounters with Romans. I have, too, and that with Paul in general. After seminary I didn't preach from Paul for five years. I needed a long saturation in the Gospels—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—and some extended time with the man under whom Paul studied, namely Jesus.
I think we're supposed to read Romans as church this summer. And I will preach from Romans as well. So this is a pastoral word to who have experienced, or might develop, Romans fatigue. This is also a pastoral word for all of us who may have other fatigues right now: news fatigue, violence fatigue, politics fatigue, racism fatigue, pandemic fatigue, social media fatigue.
Read Romans for spiritual healing and health.
That's the pastoral word. Read Romans for spiritual healing and health.
If your immediate response is, "I don't need spiritual healing," or if (like me) you sometimes grow weary of reading Paul's diagnosis of our spiritual malady, then chapters 1 through 3 of Romans is for us. In the first three chapters of the letter, St. Paul briefly describes the Gospel and its power (1:2-4, 16-17) and then he comprehensively explains why everyone needs the Gospel: the irreligious and the religious; the immoral and moral; the unchurched, dechurched, and the overchurched. Our universal need has a unique solution. And our complete inability to save ourselves has a competent, intelligent, and powerful Savior.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:23-26, ESV).
This passage is about a broken and restored relationship. This passage is about a lost and restored life. This passage is about the sinner's deliverance out of captivity to self-will and into the gift of love which is received in trusting surrender to God's will. In chapter 4, Paul shows us how this is consistent with the vision and content of the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e. the Old Testament). In chapters 5 through 8 he teaches us how this life is worked out practically and increasingly enjoyed. In chapters 9 through 11 Paul writes about the Gospel and its ongoing relevance for the Jewish people. In chapters 12 through 15 Paul teaches about spiritual maturity in the church and how the church relates to civil authority and the surrounding culture.
Romans offers a comprehensive vision for life in love with God and neighbor, a vision that leads us to faith in Christ and life in the Spirit. This is why it brings us health.
In closing, here is another bit of Paul to help us engage Romans. It's constant with everything he learned from Jesus. So let's ask Jesus to help us allow this inspired word to give us a vision to receive the inspired words of Romans so that, trusting Jesus, we can live more deeply rooted in the Kingdom of God and fruited by the Holy Spirit.
The aim of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5 NET).