Bible Experiment Romans
It’s been a while since I’ve been in this neighborhood. But man, oh how I dig it. So my Biblionomicron series is simple enough to understand if this is your first post. There was an atheist that was posting commentary on the Bible as he read each chapter and then told his thoughts about it. I figured, I’m a Christian, I should be able to do this too! And to that guy’s credit (he posted anonymously, and even though I reached out to him several times he never responded, and not only that, but he stopped posting a number of years ago) he definitely bit off a lot when he started this project. Geeze. Not exactly simple. Anyway, you get the idea. I read a book of the Bible and write at the very least, a thousand words.
I was starting to work on creating an ebook out of my interviews that I have done. And I might do that for this series once it’s done. That way so many more of you can not read it more efficiently. See what I did there? I’m blathering again. Let’s kick Romans off!
Romans is one of the most beloved books of the Bible for many people. So much theology and doctrine comes from Romans. It really is a foundational book for the early church and the church today for that matter. Roman’s Road anyone? Anyway. It really is a daunting book to try and cover in a thousand words. That’s why I’m not even going to try. But I will flip back over my notes and highlight a few key themes and passages that give the flavor of the entirety of Romans.
But the book kicks of with an enormous bang. Let me quote it for you, and then explain the explosion that happened right underneath your nose:
“Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for His name’s sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ”
RIGHT!?!? hahahha. You guys have no idea. Do you know Sam Harris? The renowned intellectual atheist who wrote the book The End of Faith, that blew the minds of Christians everywhere who collectively screamed YOU CANT DO THAT when he published it. Heheh. His podcast – the awakening – is actually a really great podcast and has caused me to really think and hone my idea of religion, spirituality, and God in a modern society. So yeah, I recommend it.
Where the heck was I?
Oh yes, yes… This opening of Romans would be like as if, Sam Harris woke up one morning and decided to tweet this out to America and to his million or so followers. It would shake the world. Explode heads. And make moderns collectively grab their heads and groan. If Sam Harris were to write it, it would be something like this:
“Sam, a witness to Christ Jesus, has seen the true awakening, and I am now set apart for sharing the mind blowing good news of the gospel of God. It’s clear to me now that the Old Testament foretold of Christ’s coming… and the messiah came, as prophesied, and we know he is God because of the miracles he performed, particularly his Resurrection from the dead, and I proclaim this truth that was given to us freely from God so that everyone on planet earth would know the amazing gift we have been given through the Jews, which is from the son of God, Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.”
See, if you know Sam Harris, and the amazing intellectual vitriol he slings at Christians (really all spiritual groups really) you would know something devastatingly intense would have to happen for him to say anything even this same ball park. Right? Well, that’s what happened with Paul saying these things. People hid from Paul. You mention Saul’s name (his name changed to Paul upon conversion) to a Christian in the year 33 – 34 AD, and that Christian is going to look for a bush to hide under. Actually, my analogy sucks. As far as I know, Sam Harris has never killed a Christian. Paul on the other hand? He had a warrant out for all Christians he could lay his hands on and kill. Literally, Paul is the guy that martyred the first Christian post Christ’s ascension… Stephen.
So Romans starts off with a serious mind job of a revelation. But if you were just picking it up and reading it on your own you’d be like… YAWN. And yet, a couple verses later Paul says this? “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” What the heck happened to jack so severely with this guy’s head? Well, that was all covered back in Acts 9 and beyond. Here, this will give you some context:
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?””
Hahaha. While still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. Brilliant. This guy was an animal. Like, I think I was being super polite when I likened Saul to Sam Harris. Totally. So quickly, the rest of Paul’s conversion story – basically God said to Saul… Dude, what are you doing?!? And Saul saw a bright light and went blind. And the guys who were with Saul were like, um… what? Because they heard the sound, but didn’t see anything. But when Saul opened his eyes he could see anything. So his friends helped him head to the nearest city.
MEANWHILE, elsewhere, God, who wanted to absolutely wreck Saul’s life – in a good way of course – went to a Godly man named Ananias in a vision. And God asked Ananias to head over and find Saul and to tell him the Gospel of God that is revealed to all people through Jesus… his death, his resurrection, and our forgiveness of sins through our belief in him. Right? What was Ananias’ response? Wait, let me tell you what my response would be if God showed up and told me to go jump on a podcast with Sam Harris and to tell him the good news of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Oh, don’t believe I haven’t thought about this… and what would I say?
“Nope. Send someone else. That man hates Christians. No. That man breathes fire and vitriol when it comes to the Bible and the gospel. No, no. Go find someone else that is stupid enough to take you up on this fools errand. Never mind the fact that I hate that guy. Do you know how much he has hurt the cause of Christians around the world? Are you kidding?! Why would I bring salvation to him in the form of the gospel on his podcast? He’ll eviscerate me. Nope. Not going.”
What did Ananias say to God in the vision? I’m sure it was much more Godly than my response to Sam Harris. Right?
“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
Hahahah… actually not to far off how I responded! hahaha. Nope. You are smoking crack God. But God responds to Ananias and says, ‘Go, for he is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the gentiles… and I will tell him how much he must suffer for my name.” And with that Paul was born and that ‘breathing fire and brimstone’ was turned towards sharing the gospel and writing much of the New Testament. But it’s important that you understand where these books came from. From a man that hated the people of the Way (as Christianity was called early on).
(And now that I am 1500 words in, I’ve finished the first couple verses. Hahahah. But without seeing his conversion for the miracle that it is, you completely miss the mind job that are his books.)
Here’s a pretty standard setup from Romans 3 – first Paul declares everyone lost in their sin and lost without God, and then he shows the path to salvation:
“There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”
And then a few verses later he shows the path to this impossibility:
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.”
What the heck does that mean? Basically everyone is dead in their sins. Dead and separated from God because God is perfect, and cannot be anywhere near sin. BUT! We have been made perfect through our faith in Christ, which God used as a propitiation (come on, that’s a great word. I dare you to use it tomorrow in casual conversation. Propitiation just means he paid for our debt, we are free and clear from what we owed because he paid the debt) of our sin through Christ’s blood… WHAT WHAT? WHY?!? Because God wanted to demonstrate his perfection… his righteousness. And not only that… we deserved to be stepped on and squashed by God before we were saved… but God stayed his judgement so that we might be saved. He gave us all a pass so that eventually all that would come to him might be saved.
So Paul started his career as a human, as a fire breathing Christian hating lunatic. But he ended his life as a scribe and communicator of the deep and significant details of God’s grace and mercy. Romans is a profound book that gives us a very rich and detailed description of the abundant love of God for all mankind. But don’t ever forget that it came from a man that was the most hateful to The Way on earth. More hateful than Sam Harris. More hateful than anyone ever. And yet, here we have this book, extolling the wonders of God, who, through Jesus, made a way for us to walk closely with Him daily… written by an ex-christian-murdering-lunatic-hate-spewing individual that had an amazing encounter with God that changed his life forever.