Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Orange Standard Article 3 ~ July 2009

" I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jews first, and also to the Greek.
For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith, for the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness, because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them." Romans 1:16.

St Paul describes his conversion to Christ; the effect it had on him and how as an apostle, witnessing for and writing about Him his whole life had been dedicated to His service. Described as Man in Christ Paul's commitment was the reason for, and the cause of, what happened to him in a life of incredible experiences. He speaks of a few of them - jailed at Phillipi; chased for his life at Thessalonica; smuggled out of Berea; facing the verbal onslaughts of scholars at Athens; refused hearings by Jews and Gentiles in Corinth. In all that happened to him he never doubted his vocation to "preach Christ", to declare the good news that God was in Christ personally reconciling the world unto Himself. To Paul Christ is the answer to the needs of everyone. God in human form He is the saviour and lord of mankind.

Paul lived in another time of religious and political uncertainty. Many people lived fearfully, their uncertainties made worse by their leaders who often spoke in contrary terms to cause bewilderment among them. Paul knew that their problems caused them to echo the words of Seneca who said: "We need a hand let down to lift us up."

Paul told them that Jesus was that hand, the one who would rescue them from their distresses, personal and collective. The good news is that He came to free them from the chains that bound them, preventing them for enjoying the quality of life available to everyone who has faith in God. Salvation is release from the bondage of sin which is defined in the Shorter Catechism of the Presbyterian Church:

"Sin is any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God."

Paul spoke of the sin that separates people from God and the faith in the person and work of Christ that would end that estrangement. He lived and died for them so that by His atonement for sin an at-one-ness with God is theirs.

Paul saw the primary characteristics of the Christian as loyalty to Christ and honesty in their dealings with other people. And these were to be real and recognisable qualities in all acquainted with them. The statement of faith must be shown in the character and conduct of the believer.

"Faith is the act of trust by which one being, a sinner, commits himself to another being a saviour". Horace Bushell. But Paul also speaks of the consequences to those who refuse Christ. He uses "Wrath of God" in describing his thinking on how God reacts to those who will not have Him in their lives (cp Romans 1: 16-23)

"Sin is rebellion against God. Arising from their corruption of the human heart, it is the cause of our separation from God, and the reason for us deserving of God's wrath." William Barclay.

To emphasis the love of God is to do what is right and proper for God is love but as one preacher put it:

"The notion of judgement is falling more and more into disuse. It plays hardly any role in the public discussion on the nature of Christianity."

And that elicits the response:

"A Christianity in which judgement has no place is not the religion of Jesus. He showed that sin if persisted in, has consequences for the sinner."

God's wrath is itself an expression of His love. He hates sin for it deprives people of the fullness of life for which they are created.

St Augustine prayed:
"Oh God, you have made us for yourself and we cannot rest until we rest in you".


Rev. Canon Dr. S.E. Long

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