What God Is Really Like (16:5)

We have earlier discussed the meaning of Romans 3:25-26 at some length. Forgive me for putting in my own translation. I just can’t find one that does it right, in my opinion:

For God showed Him publicly dying as a means of reconciliation [at-one-ment]. This was to demonstrate God’s own righteousness . . . to show that He Himself is righteous and not as His enemies have made Him out to be. And because He is righteous and trustworthy, He sets right everyone who trusts in Jesus (Maxwell).

Paul confessed with shame that formerly he had misrepresented God. He had believed Satan’s lies to the extent that he used force, even stoning, to compel people to obey (based in part on 1 Timothy 1:12-16). But after Paul accepted the good news, he devoted the rest of his life to telling the truth. Who has written more eloquently about freedom, about love, and about trust than Paul? Who else has so clearly assured us that all God asks of us is trust (Rom 1:16-17), that we are not under law, but under grace (Rom 6:14-15), and that there is no need to be afraid of God (Rom 8:15)? Paul had learned the truth about God that sets His children free.

You may remember Jesus’ words: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32, Williams. For Jesus, in John, “the truth” is always the truth about His Father (John 1:17-18; 14:9). You see, if God were the kind of person Satan has made Him out to be, there would be no freedom. There would only be the bondage of fear (Rom 8:15). But Paul had learned the truth, and now he took it everywhere he could. He took it to the Galatians. And when he brought them the truth, he also brought them freedom. They loved it at first. Then they turned away from it. He urged them: “This is the freedom with which Christ has made us free. So keep on standing in it, and stop letting your necks be fastened in the yoke of slavery again.” Gal 5:1, Williams.

There was a time in Paul’s life when he himself was satisfied with the obedience that resulted from law and from fear. He thought it was the right thing to do, what the sovereign God preferred. But once Paul discovered the good news, the truth, he realized that God does not want the obedience that springs from law and from fear. He wants the obedience of faith; the obedience that comes from free people who agree with God that this is the right thing to do. They agree so fully, they don’t even need to be told to do so. They do what is right because they agree that it is right.

Notice Paul’s understanding of his commission in Romans 1. He begins the book by saying, “I have been called to make known God’s good news about Him and about His Son” (based on Romans 1:1). Then he goes on with these words: “Jesus Christ our Lord, through whom I have received grace and a commission for His Name’s sake to win men to the obedience that springs from faith. . . .” Rom 1:4-5, Weymouth. Not the obedience that springs from law, but the obedience that springs from faith. What produces this obedience that springs from faith? Isn’t it the good news about our God, the kind of person He is, that leads us to a willingness to listen (the definition of obedience)? Isn’t it how highly He values our freedom, and how infinitely worthy He is of our love and trust, that leads us to loyalty? “Here are they who keep God’s commandments and maintain their loyalty to Him and to His Son” (based on Revelation 14:12).

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