Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Some Words from Anders Nygren about Romans 2

In his Commentary on Romans, Anders Nygren (I think he is a Swedish Biblical Scholar), says of Romans 2:12-16:

"Many have felt that Paul's proclamation of justification by faith is irreconciliable with and just exclude all thought of judgment, especially any judgment of the works of men. . . But this suggestion rests on a misunderstanding of the apostle's thought. For him, as for the rest of the New Testament, the last judgment is an inescapable fact, which nothing can put in question. It is only in the judgment that the creative and redemptive work of God comes to completion. And, even that judgment belongs to the work of Christ. See also 2 Cor. 5:10.

"For Paul there is no contradiction between justification by faith and judgment. The former does not make the latter unnecessary for the Christian's account. By justification by faith God has not abolished the judgment of the works of men. Justification does not mean carte blanche for the Christian, so that God no longer asks as to his or her works.

"But does not Paul mean that man is to be judged according to his faith or unbelief? Such a question also rests on a misunderstanding of Paul. For him faith is not something which man offers in lieu of works. To think that is to remain in the legalistic position, merely substituting one requirement for another."

Commentary on Romans, Anders Nyrgen, Fortress Press, Philadelphia, 1949, pp. 127-128.

Now, if you are beginning to wonder what faith means, what the Gospel does for human beings . . . if you are beginning to wonder, then you are beginning to read this part of the Bible with an open heart and mind. These first two chapters of Romans are meant to unsettle all of our human points of view, and really lead us into a state of "unknowing," so that we might begin to listen for a living Word from God. Along these lines, I want to include a reflection in the next post of how I am reading this second chapter of Romans. It has led me to ask about the structure of my understanding of God's revelation in Jesus and the structure of my "faith." I have come to the conclusion that I share so much of the structure of the "false preaching" I have criticized in interpreting chapter 2 of Romans that I need to read this letter as if reading it for the first time. Like Moses when he saw the bush burning and didn't know why, this letter seems to be burning before my eyes, but is not consumed. I wait to hear a new word. My old understandings are being burned up, and so I am starting to listen to a new word, a word not contained in the written words, but spoken through those written words, by the living Word of God, Jesus. I thought these words from Romans were words that I understood and could handle and interpret. But, these are words in God's hands, that cannot be taken out of God's hands, and either God will reveal their meaning or else we won't ever understand these words. The Bible is not a tool in our hands; but a tool in God's hands. We need to give it back to God and wait on him and quit thinking we "have the Word of God all neatly tied up in a book." There ain't nothing neat or tied up about these words in Romans! It was formed by the Spirit of the God who created the world and who raised Jesus from the dead. It will be understood only when that same Spirit breathes God's judgment and grace on us as we read and wait and seek understanding.

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