The Maturing Faith

Romans 8:18-25

“I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  NRSV

In Sunday School, before the quarantine, we were studying the seven undisputed letters of Paul in the order they were written. One of our objectives is to study the maturation of Paul’s thought as his faith in God, as a follower of Jesus, developed over is ministry.

Romans is Paul’s last letter. The contrast between Romans and I Thessalonians, Paul’s first letter, is quite striking. In Romans, Paul gives a thoughtful summary of his understanding of Christ Jesus’ purpose as the one sent by God to redeem the world.

In this reading from Romans, Paul has grown to understand that Jesus’ ministry is about far more than a “me and my Jesus” relationship. God is all about redeeming the whole of creation from the bondage of decay, from a “survival of the fittest” or “dog eat dog” approach to life. Redemption for Paul is about restoring the created order to a peaceful, mutually beneficial way of being. In other words, Paul grew to understand and believe his own scriptures as found in the prophecy of Isaiah 11:6-10,

“The wolf shall live with the lamb,
the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together,
and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze,
their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp,
and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain;
for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.”

Faith is a journey that takes us to a deeper relationship with God and a wider understanding of our role within the whole created order.

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