Susan Reads Right

Blond, Blonde, Girl, Grass, Outdoors

“The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1: 17) Susan scratched her hair under the shaded area in her back yard. “What does that mean? Surely Paul isn’t saying that all we have to do is believe Jesus will save us and He will.” She heard some twigs break. “Who is there?”

A tall brown haired boy came from behind a tree. “It’s just me.”

“Hi Jack. You scared me.”

“Sorry just trying to be a friendly neighbor. What are you up to?”

“Oh, I’m trying to understand this verse.” She looked up into his brown eyes. “Why did you have to tell me to read this?”

“What is wrong?”

“Jack. I’m Catholic. My family is Catholic. We believe the Bible but our priest says we must also do good works to be saved, not just believe.”

“Ok. Well you see what it says. The righteous shall live by faith.”

“Yes, but is there more?”

“You have the Bible in your lap. What are the surrounding verses?”

Susan moved her hair behind her ears. “‘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. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’ That is verse sixteen and the whole of seventeen. The rest talks about God’s wrath.”

“And before that?” Jack sat next to her rock and looked over her shoulder.

“It talks about Paul, that he belongs to God and Jesus. It says the gospel is about God’s Son, that he was promised before hand by the prophets in the Old Testament, Jesus was descended from David and shown to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead. He says that through Jesus we have ‘grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the saints.’ Then he talks about how he wants to see the Roman church and preach the gospel there.”

‘That is the context of the passage. You can only interpret the Bible in its context, not just what you want it to mean.”

“Ok. But this phrase ‘obedience of faith’. Doesn’t it mean that you have to be obedient too.”

“Sure we have to be obedient. But we are saved through faith. Not obedience.”

“I don’t understand.” Susan put her hands on her head and thrust them down on her lap. “I thought we were saved by faith plus works.”

“Susan. If we were saved by obedience, Jesus wouldn’t have had to die.”

“Aren’t we at least a little good, and earn a little of it?”

“Well. let’s look at the part where it talks about God’s wrath. Why is God’s wrath revealed?”

Susan cleared her throat, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,  in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” She cleared her throat again. “That is verses eighteen through twenty. Does that mean God doesn’t believe in atheists?”

They both laughed. Jack finally gained his composure. “Well this passage definitely applies to them, but I think he is talking about mankind in general. Everyone knows there is a God but they suppress the truth in unrighteousness and worship themselves and other things. Then, as the rest of the passage says, God gives them over to evil desires, homosexuality, and all kinds of evil stuff.”

“Is anybody good?” Susan looked to him in tears.

“The passage keeps going through chapter two to show that even the Jews are not good. Then in chapter three verses ten through twenty Paul gives his concluding statement. Could you read it for me?”

“As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.’ Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” Susan cleared her throat. “So no one is good.”

“That is why we can’t earn our salvation. We can’t do good works to please God. But God did something so you and I wont have to go to Hell.” He placed his strong hand on her shoulder. “Do you want to read verses twenty-one through twenty-six?”

“Do you mind reading it? My throat is a little dry.” She placed the Bible in front of Jack’s face.

“I don’t mind.” Jack placed his index finger under the line. “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,  and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

“What is a propitiation?”

“That means a blood sacrifice that appeases wrath. We sinned against God. God has to punish sin, so He sent Jesus to pay our fine so Jesus can legally dismiss our case and God can be declared just. All God commands is our repentant faith.”

“Is that why it says obedience of faith?”

“Yes, God wants faith that results in obedience. God wants us to turn from sin to Him and trust in Jesus; sacrifice on the cross.”

“Is that why it says the just shall live from faith to faith?”

“Yes, Paul says in verse twenty-seven that it is accepted by faith so that no one will boast. Then in chapter four Paul gives the illustration of Abraham believing God and it being counted to him as righteousness before he even was circumcised.”

“Wow.”

“Reading the Bible is an awesome thing. It must be read in context to understand it, and when we take the time to understand what is written, it changes our way of thinking to God’s way of thinking.”

Susan turned to Jack and cried on his shoulder. “Thank you so much.”

“There is actually more I could have shown you.”

“Really?”

“Yeah what I showed you now was just chapter and book context. I could have told you Paul was actually quoting a prophet named Habakkuk.”

“I have a little more time. Please tell me about it.”

“Paul was quoting a prophet named Habakkuk who was dealing with the evil of Israel. Habakkuk asked God what He was going to do about it, and God said that he was going to send a more evil nation named Babylon to put them into captivity. This really upset Habakkuk so he asked God why God would so such a thing. He ended his prayer with saying he would trust God no matter the answer. Then God says, ‘Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith.’ That is Habakkuk two verse four. The kind of faith God wants is a faith that trusts in God no matter the situation in good and in bad. This kind of faith produces obedience to God even in grim circumstances.”

“I want that. I want that kind of faith.”

“If you turn from your sin, trust in Jesus, and cry out to God to be saved. He will give you that kind of faith.”

Susan thrust her hands into Jack’s. “Please pray with me.”

“My pleasure.” Jack bowed his head. “Dear God. Thank you for showing Susan how to read her Bible today. I’m glad you got to show her that she is not a good person like the rest of us. Please help her to repent of her sin and trust in Jesus. It’s in Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”

“Dear God. I’m sorry for my sin. Thank you for showing me how to read your Word. Please cleanse me, and make me new. I trust in Jesus’ propitiation for my sin. Please give me the faith that will help me trust in you no matter what. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.” Susan sobbed. “Thank you.”

“I’m glad I came to see you.”

“Best Bible study ever.”

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