Epistle to the Romans
In the Epistle to the Romans, we see most eloquent expressions on the theme of “For to me to live is Christ.” Let us allow Saint Paul to speak for himself. That will be our way of dealing with all the Pauline Epistles. Our Christmas Letter is a Christ-centred, Messianic, Christian reading of the Letters of Saint Paul. In fact, we see in these Epistles the radiantly beautiful person of Jesus Christ at the heart of Saint Paul’s life and Gospel and in his way of dealing with all the problems of the first Christian communities. Every person, thing, theme, issue, teaching, opinion, judgment, way of thinking, conduct, feeling of the heart, impression – all such is linked to Jesus.
Paul is “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” (1: 1) The name of Paul is linked with that of Jesus in all his Epistles: in them the name of Jesus or Christ occurs three hundred and ninety-six times. Paul is a specialist on Jesus. He is a graduate of the university of Jesus, in the Gospel of Jesus, which he is now preaching to all recipients of his letters.
“Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ,” (1: 6) “beloved of God, called to be saints.” (1: 7) “I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also, for I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” (1:16) “God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.” (2:16) “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (5:1) “We also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (5:11) “The gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” (5:15) “They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” (5:17) “Might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (5:21) “So many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (6: 3, 4) “Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.” (6: 8) “Reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (6:11) “Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ.” (7:11) “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” (8: 2) “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (8:9) “And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” (8:10) “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” (8:11) “If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.” (8:17) “It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (8:34)
Then we find the extraordinarily beautiful expression of Saint Paul in those verses known to all the faithful: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:35, 39) That is his personal experience of Jesus Christ: he does not speak of any one else, for he has found and experienced Christ, remaining in faithful relationship with him, as we see in these verses, despite all persecutions and sufferings that scarred his life.
He continues in the Epistle to the Romans: “Christ is the end of the law.” (10: 4) “Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ.” (13:14) and lastly, this expression rounds off the whole collection of advice as he adds, “Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be like-minded one toward another according to Christ Jesus.” (15:5) “Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God.” (15: 7) The goal of all that is: “that ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (15: 6) Lastly comes the closing prayer: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, to God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” (16:25, 27)