I have to do this weekly assignment for one of my classes where I read an assigned passage of the bible over and over for 45-60 minutes and see how much I can pull out of it. I’ve never done this until I was forced to by a teacher, and I realized there are a lot of things I’m missing when I read. For the class we’re going through the book of Romans.
Romans is one of my favorite books of the bible, but I think it’s overly focused (especially by protestants) in comparison to other books. I think it’s probably taught, written about and read a lot for the same reasons I like it. It’s the “How to” manual for Christian faith written by a guy that is a dang good critical thinker. It’s a great book, and so is every other book in the bible.
Anyways, for class we read chapter one. I felt like sharing some things I noticed for the first time today in one of my favorite books in the bible. It took me an hour of reading and rereading this passage to start to see the words that were on the page. It’s a possibility that other people are as bad at reading the bible as I am.
To begin with, the first sentence in Romans is huge! Maybe it wasn’t like that in greek, but it makes me feel better about my abuse of comas and run on sentences. Also, at the end of verse 4 through 5 Paul says “Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations…”. We’re not apostles like Paul but we’re disciples of Jesus. So Jesus gave us grace and discipleship. Why? He gives us grace to bring about the obedience of faith. Why do I need obedience of faith? For the sake of his name among all nations. If I’m following with Paul, then Jesus gives me grace and makes me a disciple so that I have obedient faith so that the name of Jesus is represented well among all nations. Halfway through the first sentence of the book and I’ve already got enough to fill a lifetime. Grace according to the dictionary is free unmerited favor of God. So, God gives me his free unearned favor so that the name of Jesus is represented well among all nations? His end goal isn’t my joy, pleasure or happiness? It doesn’t seem like it, but the fact that I even get to be part of representing the name of Jesus is far beyond my qualifications. God could have represented Jesus well without humans being part of it. Instead he decided representing Jesus well would be part of our redemption. That blows my mind.
The second big thing I noticed was in the second part of chapter one. He is talking about “men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” To paraphrase this, ‘people, who by their failures ignore God’s ways’. If you say you don’t do this, then that means you’re super good at doing this. He goes on to say in v 21-22 that “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools”. The first 5 times I read this today I thought “Psh, silly pagan worshipers. Everyone knows Jesus is God and you’re suppose to honor and worship him”. Then I noticed it. These men who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness knew God and claimed to be wise. I started thinking of myself. They knew God, but they didn’t worship him as God or give thanks. It doesn’t say they didn’t worship, it says they didn’t worship him as God. Maybe they worshiped him as a someone to bless them, or as a far away guy who didn’t really know what he was doing, maybe they didn’t worship at all, I don’t know. It also says they didn’t thank him. How thankful are we? They knew God but instead of honoring him as God and thanking him they “became futile in their thinking”. Futile means incapable of producing any useful result; pointless. They were thinking for thinking’s sake. When I read this I wondered if Paul might have had a futuristic vision of me sitting in my theology class. I doubt it, but I would fit in very well with these ‘men who suppress truth by unrighteousness’. After these folks didn’t worship God as God, didn’t thank God, and thought about stuff for a while, their foolish hearts were darkened.
This is only 22 verses into the book of Romans, which I’ve read multiple times previously and I never knew any of this. If all of this is stuff you already knew, praise Jesus, you’re a better bible read than me. Now you can read the other 65 books of the bible and see what’s in them. If you’ve managed to perfectly understand and accomplish everything in the bible (you can’t), then hooray you’re God-like….go die on a cross like God. For the rest of us, maybe we should read more intentionally. It’s possible that I’m one of just a few who struggle with reading over important things in the bible, but I have a hunch that is not the case.