There was once a time when the world knew not of its Savior. Yet there was hope because it had been foretold that a child would be born and called Emmanuel – God is with us. In Lent, we prepare for his coming anew. During this season, we discover for ourselves the call of salvation and the promise of eternal life.
Death approaches. What do you say to people? What will you do?
The Apostle Paul was on a mission. Christ revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus and commissioned him with a divine purpose to go and make disciples of all people. And to complete his mission, Paul went to Rome:
“I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” (Romans 1:15)
Although he was still some time away from making that journey – a journey that would ultimately result in his death – Paul wrote to the people in Rome about his purpose:
“Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:1 – 8)
We have hope because Christ died for us, lowly sinners. Why did he die? Because in dying Christ revealed his resurrection from death. Our hope, our faith, is that if we live like him and we die like him, we will rise like him:
“For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (Romans 6:5 – 9)
With Christ, we conquer death. Knowing this, Paul asks why anyone would continue to live a life of sin:
“When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:20 – 23)
God sent his Son to us so that we would know the truth of eternal life. And the road to salvation is clear because God is with us all the way:
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?…For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:31 – 32, 38 – 39)
And then Paul, thinking of others instead of himself, gives the people of Rome instructions on how to live a life that will win eternity (Romans 12:8 – 21):
“Let love be genuine.
Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
Love one another with brotherly affection.
Outdo one another in showing honor.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
Never be wise in your own sight.
Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’
To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
That is the lesson that Paul shared with the Romans as death approached. And it made him proud:
“In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished.” (Romans 15:17 – 18)
When Paul finally went to Rome, he was imprisoned multiple times, tortured frequently, and ultimately killed. His letter to the Romans remains with us as an inspiring and enduring missive to live by.
Because when death approached, Paul overcame evil with good. And behaved as a Christian.
These Gospel stories are re-imagined in the book series:
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