The apostle Paul wrote one of the most important letters the world has ever seen – the letter to the Christians in Rome. It’s the pinnacle of his theological reflections. Over the centuries, God has used it to change millions of lives.
So, it’s somewhat surprising to find a very painful and personal confession right in the middle of the whole thing. It seems like the kind of thing to share with your small group rather than stick in a letter that’s going who knows where.
It turns out Paul was struggling with sin.
It’s not a mildly disturbing, pesky problem. It’s a gut-wrenching, heart-rending problem, so much so that Paul called himself wretched.
What’s perhaps even more unbelievable is the response to Paul’s struggle. Judging from the message some churches in our country preach, we might expect the response to be, “God has asked me to step down from my ministry until I’ve successfully dealt with my sin problem.”
That’s what we might expect. But what is actually said is utterly different. What we read in Romans 8:1 seems scandalous by comparison. Paul blows past all the “get your life together” rhetoric and says this:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”Romans 8:1
I know. What about church discipline? What about holding leaders to a higher standard? What about doing the right thing?
Yep. Those are all important questions, and Paul deals with them in other places. But here, at Paul’s point of greatest need, God leads him straight into a head-on encounter with grace. Of course we need to look at life change.
But if God is in the process, it will always start with grace.
That’s just the way He is. It’s the way He wants us to be.