Sunday 14th April

Read Psalm 52

If you don’t have a bible at home you can find the readings on a website such as or an app such as YouVersion

This Psalm has a definite story behind it which we can read in 1 Samuel 22.  It was the time when David was still a fugitive from King Saul, hiding and moving from place to place.  At one point he had gone quietly to see Ahimelek the priest but while he was there he was seen by Doeg, one of Saul’s servants who went and told Saul. The first verses are full of David’s anger and recrimination against Doeg and certainty that God will have judge him – “Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin” (v5).  It is certainly true that those who attack God’s people and don’t make Him their stronghold will have their comeuppance in due time whereas on the other side David likens his own experience to that of an olive tree flourishing in the house of God.  There is no proof that trees were planted inside the courtyard of the Jewish temple although it is true that in Egyptian and Phoenician temples trees were in abundance according to historians.  At any rate David sees himself and his whole life as being cared for like an olive tree in the garden of the living God.  What an interesting and worthwhile thought for Christian people to ponder.   We have a heavenly gardener who looks after us.


Monday Romans 3:27-31

If there is one thing that the gospel of faith in Jesus Christ does is that it forbids boasting.  Paul says that the law of God demands faith not works – he is going to spell that out in the next Chapter – but here he just wants to state, as clear as he can, how it is that a person is made presentable before God.  A person is justified or made righteous before God not by works but by their faith.

Of course, the result of this – which didn’t please his Jewish opponents – was that anybody, Jew or Gentile, could be justified before God.  The same open truth applies today also.  Because they have long since departed, I can tell the true story of two ladies who were on their way home from a neighbouring Church in one of my early charges.   As they talked, they didn’t know they were overheard by another lady walking behind but who later shared with the minister what she had heard.  The substance of the conversation was annoyance at the minister having ‘gone on’ about sinners in the service whilst they recounted their longstanding devotion to the Church over the years.  Hadn’t they been in the Sunday School, taught the little ones, been faithful members of the Guild, long term regulars in Church, given of their money and service, and the concluding words from one to the other was, “it makes you wonder what you go to Church for”. To which the other responded, “Aye, it makes you wonder”.  On hearing about this the minister’s sighed response was, “Aye, it makes you wonder”.

Paul’s unfolding of the true gospel is that great works are not the way to justification, they may be the result but they are not the cause.

Tuesday Romans 4:1-8

Paul now wants to prove that the law and promises of the Old Testament pointed towards the gospel of Jesus that he has proclaimed, and he begins with Abraham.  Abraham was the founder of the Jewish people and so he wants to bring him forward as a key witness to his argument.  He points to the fact that it was when Abraham believed God (Gen 15:6) that it was credited to him as righteousness.  The word that is used (Gk logizomai) means to credit or mark down as, and Paul points out that it was not works which Abraham did but his faith in God which was marked down as righteousness.  He also wants to show that if it was his works that justified Abraham then God would be his debtor, because works demand payment and so God would be obligated to justify him.  It would turn the relationship of man and God upside down – Man does something and so God pays him pays him for it.  No, no, not at all.

Next, he turns to David and says that he is in the same position as Abraham about justification and he quotes Psalm 32 where David says that that man is blessed whose sin the Lord will not count or mark down against him.  He has taken the two great figures of the Old Testament and shown that they were not made righteous because of their works but through faith in God.

The goodness of God towards us does not come about through our righteous works but because of his grace, his unmerited favour, towards us.  So many people still give way to the idea that the gates of heaven open to those who have paid the price of entry by their good deeds on Earth.  “I must have done something good” sings Maria in “the Sound of Music” about her blessings in the Trapp family; it is all about her.  “If you are a good boy, Santa will bring you presents” the misguided parent says to their child.  To all such ideas we must say, in line with the Apostle, “NO!”.  That is no gospel – and the thief on the cross would shout the Amen to that.  It is the goodness of God that brings justification to those who have faith in him. 

Wednesday Romans 4:9-25

Paul carries on and, to the shock of his Jewish hearers, says, “Is this blessedness only for the circumcised?”.  No, is his answer, and he is going to show why by looking at Abraham’s faith which was credited as righteousness.  He shows that his righteousness wasn’t credited to him after his circumcision but before and he received circumcision as a sign and seal of the righteousness he had by faith beforehand.  Paul then argues that if Abraham was made righteous before he became a ‘true Jew’ then this blessing is for Jew and Gentile alike.  Abraham is the father of all who follow him in faith be they circumcised or not.

Because this teaching is so contrary to what people were (and are), Paul spends more time on drawing out Abraham’s experience.  God promised him that he would become the father of many nations, even in face of the fact that both Abraham and Sarah were long past child-bearing age.  God wanted to show that amid their impotence he was able to do the impossible, and Abraham believed him.  Just as faith in God’s promises brought those promises into existence so similar faith in God’s Word for us brings God righteousness to us.  We are made right (justified) through faith in him.

I think it’s important at this point to emphasise who the faith was in because many use the word in a floating sense with many objects – i.e. faith in their own ability to do something, faith in their family and friends, faith in their country or in humanity.  Sometimes the common phrase “other faiths” would be better put as “faith in others”.  The faith Christian people have is faith in the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, no-one else, no other faith justifies.  If it is Jesus who justifies then, like the thief on the cross, it is to him that we must put our faith.

Thursday Romans 5:1-5

Chapter 5 begins with the word, “therefore”, which means that the apostle is going to look at some of the consequences of being made right with God.  The first thing he says is that we have peace with God.  Two book titles spring to mind which place well what chapters 4 and 5 of Romans are all about, the first by John Blanchard is “Right with God”, and the second by Billy Graham is “Peace with God”.  In chapter 4 Paul has shown how people are justified or ‘made right’ with God and it is not by good works but through faith in him who set Jesus forth as a sacrifice for sins.  In chapter 5 Paul tells us that through the work of Christ we have peace with God.  Following this he says that we boast of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory which is a way of saying that heaven awaits, but then he adds words about suffering.  We want to say, “hold on a minute Paul, should it not be roses all the way?”.  No, he says, we glory in our sufferings because of what they do in our lives, they bring us perseverance, character and hope.

Imagine a down-and-out tramp sitting on the kerb being told he has a place in the luxurious five-star hotel just behind him (PS the Manager has paid for him).  He enters the grand lobby but is told he must get rid of his shabby clothes, go to his en-suite bathroom and get washed and scrubbed clean, put on the new fresh clothes before entering the grand dining room for the great welcoming feast.  That is what sufferings do for us, they ‘scrub us clean’ and prepare us for heaven.  James says in his letter, “ Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”.  Sorry if that seems a bit of a downer, but rejoice, think of where you are now – with God’s Spirit in this life – and where you will be after, in God’s family home in glory!

This is also the first place in the letter that the Holy Spirit is mentioned (v5), because through faith God pours his Holy Spirit into our hearts and that shows the testimony to God’s love for us.

Friday Romans 5:6-11

In verses 6-8 the apostle expands on the love of God for us by comparing the death of Christ with someone who is prepared to give his life for someone, the astounding thing being that while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Because this is true we shall not come under the wrath of God judging us for our sins.  He says we were enemies of God which is obviously true because sin is antagonism against God, it is resistance against the life and creative works of God, it says to God, “Not you, ME!”.  However, we are justified (or made righteous) before God because of the death of Christ and he explains this by using a Greek word (katallasso) usually translated reconcile – “we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (v10).  Katallasso (reconcile) has roots in the money market being used in the exchange of coins and came to be used of other forms of exchange.  What Paul says is that in the death of his Son God was exchanging our position with Christ’s, our condemnation was taken by Christ and his righteous life was given to us.  The early fathers used to speak of a ‘wonderful exchange’.

Imagine arriving in a foreign country where your money was useless, it wasn’t guaranteed by the central bank of that country, or by the King or ruler of that country.  You could do nothing in that country, however imagine someone coming along and saying, “Give me your coins and I will give you mine”, coins of the new country; you would then be able to go around that country and buy whatever you needed.  Your beneficial friend had taken your currency and exchanged it for his.  That is the situation that is ours though faith in Christ, we have accepted the grace he gives. Exchanging it for our sin.  George Bennard put it in his old Hymn, “The Old Rugged Cross” the chorus of which ends, “So I will cling to the old rugged cross and exchange it some day for a crown”.  A wonderful exchange indeed.

Saturday Romans 5:12-14

Paul now enters an argument based on the exchange idea and he puts two people at either side of this exchange, Adam and Christ.  He begins by saying that through Adam, the progenitor of us all, sin came into the world.  His audience would be familiar with the Genesis story where God said to Adam, “in the day you eat thereof you will surely die” and Paul said that happened and all mankind died.  To understand how all mankind were complicit in the fall we ought to go back to Genesis and see that the fall included both Adam and Eve who, together, were the image of God.  The image was marred in Man (generic, inclusive) so that none can point to another as at fault.

Paul wants to bring the law in here and says that it is true that, prior to Moses, God’s law was not given, but did that mean there was no sin then?  If I don’t know the law how can I break it?  But sin isn’t just an individual thing, it affects the whole body, it wasn’t just Adam and Eve of the Genesis story but the whole of humanity too.  A poison may enter the body through one place but the whole body becomes ill because of it and in Paul’s argument, death spread everywhere even though the sin of the first generation wasn’t repeated, but it grew worse as the early chapters of Genesis tell, “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time”. (Gen 6:5).  How terrible and when the law came sin just increased but Paul is going to show that the condemnation was going to be exchanged for justification and it was going to come about as a gift not through any work of Man.