From the Pastor’s Desk-January 2020

His divine power has granted to us all the things that pertain to life and godliness,…Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election,…               (2 Peter 1:3-10)

My goodness, here it is 2020!  A new year.  A new decade.  Was it really twenty years ago that we celebrated the turn of a new millennium? 

Most of you know that for the past two years I have devoted my preaching to Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.  That may seem like an inordinately long time, especially in our age.  Yet I am convinced, as are many others down through the history of the church, that if we have a handle on Paul’s teaching in this epistle then we have a good handle on Christian theology as a whole. 

 The overarching theme of Romans is “justification by faith”.  Simply put, it answers the question. “How can I be right with God?”  The answer is, God sent his Son to die for us, and his sacrifice covers the price of our redemption when we trust in him.  Martin Luther’s realization of this sparked the Reformation and restored the church to its original foundation; it is this one central truth that should guide us in our understanding of the Christian faith today.

Paul writes in chapter 8, If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies. (vv. 31-33)   It’s clear to see the connection in these verses to the overarching theme of Romans.  Paul speaks of our complete acceptance in Christ.  Yet how often we live our lives with a sense of uncertainty, that we are somehow just not good enough, and because of that, we can never be sure if God really has our best interest in mind.  In and of ourselves, we aren’t good enough and never can be, but that misses the very point.  Christ is! 

Our adult Sunday school class has recently begun a study on the Epistle of James.  There have been some who have seen a conflict between Paul’s theology (justification by faith) and James’, who seems to advocate works.  (see James 2:14-18) That, I believe, is a simplistic and false dichotomy.  James is merely speaking of the practical and experiential outworking of our faith.  That is, what does the Christian life look like in everyday terms?

This is essentially what the Apostle Peter talks about in his opening chapter of 2 Peter.  In 1 Peter he writes, According to his great mercy, [God] has caused us to be born again to a living hope… (1 Pet. 1:3) He is writing to Christians.  Now in 2 Peter he begins by saying what it looks like to be a Christian.

New birth is just the beginning of the Christian life.  The Holy Spirit has breathed into us new life.  But, just as birth is only the beginning of physical life for a new baby, so too is spiritual birth only the beginning for the Christian life.  Life is a process of growth.  This is why Peter writes, “For this reason, make every effort to add to your faith virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, brotherly affection, and love.”  (2 Pet. 1:5-7) It is the increasing manifestation of these qualities that he lists that will confirm our relationship with Christ.  The operative word here is “increasing”.  What we’re talking about here is growing spiritually.

The amazing things is, Peter writes, God’s power has granted us all things that pertain to life and godliness.  Is there a correlation between the “all things” here and the “all things” Paul writes of in Romans 8:32?  I think so.  It is God’s intention to provide for all we need for our spiritual growth and maturity as he conforms us to the image of his Son.  What a marvelous provision!

Starting with the new year I will be preaching a series on living out the Christian faith as a follow up to the book of Romans. May we seek to grow in grace together, to the glory of God.

Pastor Tom Bridgman

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Grace Church Congregational

1055 Williams Street

Pittsfield, MA 01201