ReTHINKING the Epistles: Romans - Sin, Faith, Righteousness and Election?

I love the movie Remember the Titans. If you haven’t seen it you should! The story is about a high school football team right after the desegregation of public schools. As you can imagine this was not a pretty situation. The greatest quote from the whole movie was said by Denzel Washington’s character. 
Anybody know what this place is? This is Gettysburg. This is where they fought the Battle of Gettysburg. Fifty thousand men died right here on this field, fightin' the same fight that we're still fightin' amongst ourselves today. This green field right here, painted red, bubblin' with the blood of young boys. Smoke and hot lead pourin' right through their bodies. Listen to their souls, men. I killed my brother with malice in my heart. Hatred destroyed my family. You listen, you take a lesson from the dead. If we don't come together right now on this hallowed ground, we too will be destroyed, just like they were. I don't care if you like each other right now, but you will respect each other. And maybe - I don't know, maybe we'll learn to play this game like men...

I’ve imagined the whole of Romans being Paul’s “Gettysburg” speech to the boys in the divided church.  

Remember your Sin, have Faith, receive Righteousness and know you’re elect.

The hardest and scariest word in Romans is Election. Many Baptist friends of mine gasp when the word comes up in a Bible study. Rest assured my friends, I think in context this may rest your weary soul.

CONTEXT: The church was divided, the Romans didn’t want to let the Jews back in.

Sin : Romans 3:9 “What then? Are we Jews1 any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin”

To “level the playing field,” Paul reminds both Jews and Gentiles they’re sinners! Possibly the Jews were being haughty (see chapt. 9:1-10) and this was upsetting the Roman believers. When we try to help our broken and divided churches of America, our depraved humanity is the best place to start.

Faith : Romans 3:28-29 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also.”

When I read Paul’s declarations of Faith alone Salvation, I imagine that the Romans were asking how they could possibly be part of the “people of God?” Paul’s second point of equality is how everyone is saved.

Righteousness: Romans 4:13 “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.”

My “gumbo translation” of Righteousness is, “the state of being freed from moral depravity.” Not only are all Jews and Greeks sinners, who are required to have faith, but also they both have a changed nature. Paul clearly states how a believer is changed in character. Paul in chapter 6 states that changed believers are to end their life of sin, and be filled by a pursuit of righteousness.

Election: Romans 9:11, “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God's purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls”

Election is a word very common to a Jew, but why did Paul say it? How would the Romans understand it?

The flow of Romans – We’re all sinners saved by faith in God and we are to have a changed character.

Paul’s use of election is for both Jew and Greek, because they have been elected to the Kingdom of God.  My “gumbo translation” of this section in Romans is that only those who are in the elect of God are the People of God. The Jews would understand this passage as election of the Jewish nation, as seen in the Old Testament. The Romans and Greeks would understand this passage as the “divine right of succession” for any king.

The Purpose of Election in context is to help both parties to understand that they are a part of the Kingdom of God, because God wants them! By bringing up the topic of election, this prevents any separation by “religious practice,” what we’d call denominationalism. This helps me to understand Paul’s passage of, “not by works.”

Does this “election” align with Jesus’ teachings?
                For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5:21)
                You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. (John 15:16)
                If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:19)
                (Many more passages: Matt. 22:14, 24:24, 24:31, Luke 18:7, John 5:21, John 6:37–39, 13:18)

Dr. Ken Easley’s one sentence summary of the whole Bible may help bring more light to these difficult passages.

“The Lord God is graciously building a kingdom of redeemed people for their joy and His glory.”  

How to discuss Election in Context:
1.     This is not a word to separate brothers, churches or believers.
2.     This is a word to help unify not divide!
3.     Realize that we’ll never fully grasp this word until Glory, therefore Stop fighting.
4.  Arguments over this topic should remain as "Battleship for Theologians." If you're not a theologian, then don't play, because it will only anger you!

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