Sunday 7th April

Read Psalm 51

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

We don’t have to go searching to find out the background to this Psalm, the title tells us.  It is about the time when Nathan the prophet came to David after he had committed adultery with Bathsheba.  The whole sorry saga is detailed in 2 Samuel 11 & 12.  Not only had he committed adultery with Bathsheba, but he had organised for her husband to be killed.  When Nathan came David had lived with that black deed for a year.  This Psalm sees David admitting his guilt and pouring his heart out in confession and repentance.

He starts pleading for mercy, pleading God’s great compassion, asking for his transgressions to be blotted out and his iniquity and sin to be washed away.  He knows that God sees and knows him through and through and he acknowledges what has become known as original sin, “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (v5).  Yet he says, “you desired faithfulness even in the womb” and “you taught me wisdom in that secret place” (v6) which indicates that God sows the truth in our hearts and demands our faith from the outset. He asks God to hide his face from his sin and create a pure heart within him, which if done would bring joy to his heart and he would teach others God’s ways.  Performing physical things such as offering sacrifices as some kind of resolution wouldn’t work because the only thing that God requires is “a broken and contrite heart” (v17).   It is a wonderful Psalm for getting right with God even be we adulterers or murders!!  Read it as a prayer and feel the grace of God in it.


Monday Romans 1:18-32

The apostle begins by saying that the wrath of God from heaven is revealed upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people because they are suppressing the truth by their wickedness.  Suppressing the truth is a nasty thing.  In court it is called perjury and is severely punished; after all when someone is called to bear witness they swear to “tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”.  Paul says that people twisted the truth about God because what may be known about Him in the creation, namely his eternal power and divine nature, they twisted.  Instead of honouring and glorifying him their minds became futile (Greek: aimless) and their hearts were darkened.  They went further, in their foolishness they declared that they were wise, and changed the glory of God into people or animals ending in idol worship (v23)

Because of this unrighteousness of mind God wasn’t going to play tug-o-war with them and so he ‘let go of the rope’ as it were, he ‘handed them over’ or ‘gave them up’ to the sinful desires of their hearts and the first thing they did was with their bodies.  The image of God that God had created was the pairing of men and women together so that they reflected God in their relationship together [‘let us make Man in our image, male and female created he them’ Genesis 1:26-28 ].  Instead of seeing this image as given by God, people praised themselves, as individuals, as gods, and began to degrade their bodies with each other, despoiling the male/female image (v26-27).

However this downhill slope didn’t stop there and because they refused to retain the knowledge of God in their hearts God gave them over to a depraved mind filled with every kind of wickedness and a big list is given in v29-31.  The result says Paul, is that although they know God’s righteous will that those who behave like this deserve their lives to be taken away, they carry on regardless and approve those like them.  What a mess.

Tuesday Romans 2: 1-16

In Chapter 1 Paul has been dealing with humanity in general but in Chapter 2 it is as though he is hearing some voices behind him saying, “That’s right, give it to ’em!”.  The voices are the Jews who felt themselves above the Gentiles as far as their knowledge of God was concerned and they were happy for Paul to lay into those wicked Gentiles.  However Paul turns round to them and tells them that they had better keep their mouths shut because they had no excuse because they were doing the same things.  Having the law of God did not make them righteous, it was doing it that was important, and they weren’t, so they would come under the same judgement of God that they wanted to pronounce on the Gentile peoples.

God is always amazingly forbearing of sinners (v4) but critics should realise that his patience is meant to lead people to repentance, in other words to give them time to change.  Because of their stubbornness and refusal to change they are just storing up for themselves the anger of God which will come on the day of judgement.  The apostle’s words are quite clear that it is deeds not words that are important and he tells all his listeners, “it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” (2:13-14).  Jesus, who knows the thoughts and intentions of everyone, will bear witness on the day of judgement and no-one will be able to hide or put their spin upon their behaviour.

Wednesday Romans 2:17-28

By verse 17 Paul no longer hints at those who want to ingratiate themselves by cheering on his condemnation of the Gentile world, he now addresses the Jews by name who were trying to teach the world  about righteousness while they themselves were unrighteous.  The truth of the matter was that their name was black amongst the Gentiles; they did not have a good name.

He deals with the matter of circumcision amongst the Jews and how they were proud to belong to the circumcised because it set them apart as being God’s specially chosen people.    Paul says that circumcision was fine if they obeyed the law but it meant nothing if they didn’t.  A person who didn’t obey the law was not a true Jew but anyone who kept the law was a Jew inwardly even though they were not circumcised in the flesh because true circumcision was a thing of the heart and of the Spirit of God.

In these opening chapters of the Roman letter Paul is intent on hammering home that being righteous was nothing to do with outward deeds or acts.  If we return to our illustration of water draining away in the bath, putting our finger in and spinning the water clockwise does not make our bath a ‘clockwise bath’ – it remains an anti-clockwise bath at heart whatever we do.  We shall come to that spiritual conclusion about our unrighteousness shortly in Paul’s arguments.

Thursday Romans 3:1-20

However, even in the midst of all he has been saying, Paul does not want to say that the law is useless, in fact he wants to hold it high even though many Jews had been unfaithful.  He says, “does their disobedience and unfaithfulness nullify God’s righteousness?”  Not at all, it is not the law that is wrong, it is people.   It is the law of God that shows up their unrighteousness but if the Jews had a special importance over the Gentiles it was that “they had been entrusted with the very words of God” (v2).

However it hadn’t given them any advantage because, as Paul had said, they were disobedient sinners and from verse 10 he quotes scripture after scripture from the Old Testament to prove that they were unrighteous sinners just like the Gentiles.  His message for the whole world was, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God”. (3:10-11).  What the law does is to silence every mouth and hold everyone accountable to God (v19).  And he concludes by telling his hearers that it is through the law that we become conscious of our sin and no-on will be declared righteous by works of the law.

Friday Romans 3: 21-26

All he has said seems to leave us in an impossible position – and indeed it does when no-one is righteous or can be righteous.  However verse 21 begins with a ‘but’, which someone has said is one of the divine ‘BUTs’ in the Bible because it tells of a way out of an impossible position.  The law tells us about righteousness but it doesn’t give it to us.

Let us look back to our illustration of the clockwise and anti-clockwise directions of water going down a hole.  In the Northern hemisphere it goes away anti-clockwise and even though we put our finger in the water and spin it clockwise we know that, when we stop, it will just revert to its anti-clockwise direction.  The finger might ‘show’ us what clockwise is like but it can’t ‘make’ the water clockwise.  This is the way with the law of God, it can show us what is right (what is the ‘right-wise’ way) but it can’t make us righteous, for naturally speaking, as v12 says, ‘no-one does good’.

What then is this new way whereby the righteousness of God might be made known?  Paul says the Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament testified to it, they pointed forward to Jesus and it is in him that this new righteousness is known.  He has it and the only way to ‘get it’ is to get into Him.  It is as though he came from the Southern hemisphere where everything went clockwise and arrived in the North where it didn’t and he planted his clockwise whirlpool in the Northern ocean.  He came from heaven where righteousness was, to Earth where it wasn’t, and manifested that righteousness, asking people to put their faith in him.

This righteousness is given freely not through the law but through faith in Jesus Christ and it is for all, Jew or Gentile.  In v23 the apostle says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God but they are justified freely by his grace.

Saturday Romans 3:21-26

We need to take more than one day to look at these verses because they are at the heart of Paul’s explanation of the gospel.  He has said that sinners are justified or made righteous through faith in Jesus but then we want to know, how?  If unrighteousness deserves the wrath of God – because it is anti-God – how can unrighteous people be made righteous?  The words Paul uses about this are, “it is through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus whom God presented as a sacrifice of atonement to be received by faith”. (v24,25).  That’s a chunk of theology and we need to look at two words, redemption and atonement (or sacrifice of atonement).

The word redemption (Gk apolutrosis) is a release by the payment of a price.  The lutron part of the word is the price whereby the release is granted.  It is similar to manumission whereby a slave was freed and granted liberty.  Then, in v25 he uses the next word, “God presented Christ as a ‘sacrifice of atonement’” (NIV Bible). The last words translate the single Greek word hilasterion or propitiation.   The strange history of this word is that it referred to the lid of the Ark of the Covenant in the Old Testament which was called the mercy seat.  The mercy seat was where the blood of the sacrifice on the day of atonement was placed.   The sacrifice ‘covered’ the sins of the people.  It wiped out the sin (expiated it) and propitiated the offended one (God).

It is not however that God was against this because Paul says that it was in fact God who presented Christ as this sacrifice and it was through that sacrifice that sinners were released (redeemed) from their sin, his life being the cost of that release given as an offering before God.

God had great forbearance of the sins of mankind over history but he showed his righteousness in this work of redemption so that he would be seen to be just (not turning a blind eye to unrighteousness) but also that sinners would be justified through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus.