For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)
For the entire month ahead we’re going to focus on some key insights from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It is one of the places where Paul was clear and passionate about what God has done for the world in Jesus. It has been foundational within the Lutheran tradition and was one of the places where Martin Luther gained insights that changed history. And when John Wesley read Luther’s commentary on the book of Romans, he described his heart being warmed and Methodism was born as well. Almost all theology from within the Protestant tradition relies on the foundations laid by Paul in this book.
The above verse sets the stage for the letter. Paul has been converted from an anti-Christian persecutor to a Christian who is on fire for Jesus. Meeting Jesus has changed his life. When his trust moved from trusting what he could do himself to trusting what God has done in Christ, he was set free to be bold and adventurous for the sake of getting the gospel message out to others.
The insight that grounds the book of Romans is this: believing that God has granted new life in the death and resurrection of Jesus is salvific. It frees us from the burdens and bondage of being on our own. It sets before us a foundation on which we can live the new life that God desires for us all.
A key here is that biblically, “faith” equals “trust.” Because of the way Protestantism developed in parallel with the Enlightenment, we have emphasized knowledge and been more likely to think “faith” equals “agreeing with doctrine.” We have put more emphasis on the information and acknowledging the facts. While knowledge is an important part of being a Christian, at the heart of faith is not information but a relationship. The central issue is not, “Do I agree with the facts?” but rather, “Do I trust the God who has come to us in Jesus?”
Take time to reflect on your relationship with God. It may not be life-changing to believe God exists (facts) as much as to believe God can be trusted (faith).