This autumn we begin an exciting series in Paul’s letter to the Romans; a letter described as “truly the purest Gospel” by the 16th Century Reformer Martin Luther, and as “the fullest, plainest and grandest statement of the gospel in the New Testament”, by the 20th Century preacher / commentator, John Stott.
It’s hard not to get excited by this letter, which encapsulates the heart of God’s saving plan for humanity in Jesus; a plan covering all nations and cultures. Despite our shared rejection of God’s rightful place as Creator and Lord; (“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”), God sent Jesus to die as the perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins and confirmed this by raising him from the dead. Now we may be justified (declared “Not guilty! ”) by God, because of, and only because of, our faith in Jesus. He has fully dealt with our sin and guilt. We may know the joy of having been justified and set free from both the penalty and power of sin.
This is what God does through Paul in this letter – he proclaims the Gospel – that Jesus Christ is the saving King. He calls for submission to Jesus the King in consequence. He demonstrates that the ‘immoral’ person, the ‘moral’ person and the ‘religious’ person and all deserving of God’s judgement because they are all under the power of sin. The good news is that through faith in Jesus, God’s power can equally save all from sin, making all right with God. He exposes the folly of trusting in Roman power and privilege -the kingdom of the world – rather than the kingdom of God. He exposes the folly of trusting in religious heritage and experience – the works of the law rather than faith. But, above all, he points to God’s faithfulness to his promises and shows how Gentile and Jewish Christians fit within God’s salvation story. Our hope is that through learning better how we fit within the salvation story of our God we too will more willingly submit to Jesus our king and to each other.
And that is the glory of the Gospel for us. God’s gift – his saving grace – is how God brings us into Abraham’s family. It is rooted in the facts of who Jesus is and what he did. And the fact that God kept his promises to Abraham – at the cost of His Son – should give us confidence that He will keep his promises to us. We can have full assurance that we are in the covenant community. Not only this, but we are filled with His Spirit and empowered to live a new life of service to God and others. Because our response as individuals to the Good News of Jesus Christ is to surrender, die to sin and to pledge allegiance to him as Lord. And then, as part of His family, to together be his holy people living faithfully through embodied acts of obedience. Knowing, even in the midst of life’s greatest trials and struggles, we are “more than conquerors” through God’s unbreakable love for us in Christ.
What a wonderful reminder of what God has done in Jesus and what a tremendous message of hope for those who don’t yet know Jesus for themselves!
Click HERE for an outline of the series – chapter 1-8.
Our purpose here isn’t to describe the many values which should describe all Christians and churches, but to highlight the things that are core to the personality of Wycliffe. Imagine describing Wycliffe to a friend over coffee or drawing a picture that captures the heart of Wycliffe. These values are the things that describe our culture and we want them to be visible in all that we do. They go deep because they express our particular calling from God as a community of his people in East Reading.
The Core Values notes for Bible group study leaders are as follows: