Greetings once again friends! This is Episode 26 of the podcast. The title of this week’s episode is “Romans, Part III: Love Can Build a Bridge.”
Today’s episode is Part III of the six-part series, “Studies in Romans: Saved by Grace, Powered by Love.”
Last week we explored the Apostle Paul’s teaching on Righteousness by Faith. Today, we’ll move into the next few chapters where Paul gives clear, practical guidelines for the believers in Rome. The Christian life is not abstract theology unconnected with life, but it has practical implications that will affect how we choose to behave each day. It is not enough merely to know the gospel; we must let it transform our life and let God impact every aspect of our lives. (This paragraph adapted from the NLT Life Application Bible introduction to Romans.)
Let’s begin today with a quick review.
In the first two parts of this series we read Paul’s description of the sinful state of man. Because we are born into Adam’s flesh, every one of us is sinful and doomed to destruction. However, Paul also states that in Christ, God has forgiven us, and all are justified in His eyes. The righteousness of Christ is accounted to all who believe and accept God’s gracious gift of full justification. The covenant of salvation is complete when both parties are in agreement. God has already finished and made known his part–every descendant of Adam and Eve is already fully justified in the eyes of heaven, but each individual must consent to receive the freedom offered by the gospel for him/herself. God won’t insist on saving someone who simply does not want to be saved, but chooses instead to live for self, rejecting the offer of grace and forgiveness.
We finished last week with Paul’s summary statement, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand” (Romans 5:1-2).
Today we’ll talk about God as the “bridge builder” who spans the gap between himself and us.
There is an ancient legend among the Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest. The Klickitat people in SW Washington State tell stories of the Great Spirit “Tyhee Saghalie” and his two sons Pahto and Wy’east who settled in the beautiful country of the Cascade Mountains, both north and south of the Columbia River. Tyhee Saghalie built a huge land bridge across the river so the families of his sons could visit with each other.
In time, both Pahto and Wy’east fell in love with the same beautiful maiden, Loowit, but Loowit could not choose between the brothers. This resulted in a time of terrible warfare between the tribes. Entire villages and forests were destroyed, and the earth shook so violently that the bridge across the river chasm collapsed, creating an earthen dam, the remains of which can still be seen today near the town of Cascade Locks, about 40 miles east of Portland, Oregon.
In 1926, the Wauna Toll Bridge Company completed and opened a steel-framed, cantilever bridge at the site of the ancient landslide. The modern “Bridge of the Gods” is now owned and operated by the Port of Cascade Locks. I have crossed this bridge many times. My mother first told me of the Native American story, and pointed out the nearby mountain features known as the legendary Bridge of the Gods.
And oh, by the way, according the the Klickitat story-tellers, because the brothers Pahto and Wy’east couldn’t stop fighting, Tyhee Saghalie turned them into volcanic mountains. Pahto became Mt. Adams to the north of the river, and Wy’east became Mt. Hood to the south. The lovely Loowit became Mt. St. Helens, and until the great eruption on May 18, 1980 she was the most beautiful of all the volcanic peaks in the Cascade range.
Well, perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch to use this old Native American legend to illustrate the condition of all the human race in our separation from God, the Creator, and from each other. Wars and conflicts dominate the entire history of humanity. Someone said the history of civilization is the history of war with occasional outbreaks of peace. Alienation from others is the natural fruit of self-centered hearts and selfish motives. It seems that regardless of countless attempts to form a lasting peace for our world, the best we can accomplish is never good enough. Inevitable conflicts erupt like volcanoes, spewing devastation and death everywhere.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah wrote, “Your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear you” (Isaiah 59:1-2).
It’s quite obvious we need some bridges to restore the life-giving connections we all need—not only with each other, but also with God.
Sinful man (Adam) cannot bridge the gap. Our only hope for permanent restoration of relationships—both with God and our fellowman—must come from outside.
The Apostle Paul told the Roman believers just how God accomplished this for all of Adam’s race.
“When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. . . . When we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more having been reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation” (Romans 5:6-11).
A few verses later Paul adds, “Just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men” (Romans 5:18).
From all of this we can see that God is the Master Bridge-builder. Jesus told the Pharisee Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
When we accept God’s gracious invitation to join-up with him and his cause on earth, he gives us a new assignment for our new, eternal life that begins immediately.
“You are my witnesses,” says the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he. Before me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after me” (Isaiah 43:10).
Paul makes that assignment even more clear in 2 Corinthians 5. In verse 18 he states that we each have been given the “ministry of reconciliation.” A couple of verses later (verse 20) he narrows the role even more: “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors.”
We, then, are ambassadors—representatives—of the Kingdom of God even while we continue living in this present world. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of love, forgiveness, and acceptance. It is a kingdom of peace—both inner peace and in all our outward relationships insomuch as it is possible to “live at peace” with everyone around us. (See Romans 12:18). I’ll talk more about this in upcoming episodes of the podcast.
For now, let’s simply note that we are called to build bridges of understanding, bridges of peace, bridges of forbearance, and bridges of grace between ourselves and others, and to be the mediator of peace between others and God whenever we can.
To that end, Paul makes this amazing statement at the end of 2 Corinthians 5, “God made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (v.21).
How do we become the “righteousness of God”? By yielding our old sin-laden selves in exchange for the new life in Christ. In doing so, we then become the hands, the feet, the body of Christ on earth, commissioned with one task: work for the reconciliation of every soul with the Creator of all, and thus build up the eternal Kingdom of God.
Thank you so much for listening today! I pray you have been blessed.
I hope you can join me for next week’s episode. I’ll share Part IV of this special six-part series on the Book of Romans. Next week’s title is “Living for Jesus.” In that study we’ll explore somewhat more in depth what it means to be a “bridge builder,” following the example of Jesus who became “the bridge” to the Father for us.
Be sure to tune in, and invite someone else to listen with you! I’ll explore the next few chapters in Paul’s epistle where he writes about sharing our faith in our present world. I’m excited to share these incredible truths of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
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