JESUS UNDER FIRE IN OUR POSTMODERN CULTURE

 

(From C.S. Lewis--ÓJesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or the LordÓ) Acts 4.12--ÓNo other nameÓ

Text: Romans 5.1-11 (vs. 9) ŇSince we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from GodŐs wrath through him!Ó

 

If we are to communicate the message of The Cross to postmodern men, we must understand two things: The Word (the Message) and The World (the Receptor). We must sketch two broad horizons: (1) Romans 5.9 in the context of Romans; and (2) Cultural indicators which make the reception of The Message of The Cross, Ňa stumbling blockÓ in the 1990's.

 

Powerful cultural indicators that shape the ears of our postmodern auditors: Denial of the Incarnation, the Atonement and the Resurrection as expressed in--

 

1. Powerful architects of the modern world: Copernicus, Darwin, Marx and Freud

2. Four results: Humanism (the loss of God); Secularism (the loss of shame); Pluralism (the loss of True Truth after Freud, cf. Sin, Guilt and Responsibility; Narcissism (the loss of meaning)

 

The Power of Romans to Transform the World:

 

In the summer of 386 A.D., a 33-year-old pagan by the name of Auscilius Augustine, known to the world as Augustine of Hippo, began a new life in Christ. The source of his conversion was his study of Romans 13.13-14, and his preaching and teaching from Romans changed the world.

 

In 1517, a 27-year-old monk with an earned doctorate in theology examined his spiritual loneliness and found light for his journey in the study of Augustine and the Roman Epistle. He found the source for overcoming his loneliness and despair. His name was Martin Luther.

 

Two hundred years later in the religious darkness of England, John WesleyŐs search for meaning and a place to belong was discovered, along with his brother, Charles, in the Gospel according to Romans. He saved England from a fate worse than the French Revolution. On the evening of May 24, 1738 at Alders Gate he read the preface to LutherŐs Commentary on Romans, and later launched the Evangelical Revival of the 18th century

 

In 1916, Dimitria Cornelescu was studying at the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Bucharest, Romania. He, too, found a sense of belonging by reading Romans. His newfound power was the source of his translation of the New Testament which has been the standard text adopted by the Bible Society and used to this day.

 

In his study in pre World War I liberalism, Karl BarthŐs Romerbrief fell like a bomb shell on the spiritual chaos of post World War I Germany. His search for new hope was found in Romans! He attacked the pillars of liberalism, the inevitability of progress, the perfectibility of man, the complete animality of man, and that nature is ultimate reality.

BarthŐs witness was the staple of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who died for his faith in the Dachau concentration camp in World War II. It led Helmut Thieliche to preach to large crowds every Thursday night in a bombed out church of Berlin. It was the source of the power that allowed the German U-boat captain by the name of Martin Nummular to seek an audience with Adolph Hitler and refused any longer to kill for the Third Reich. Hitler had him arrested and placed in solitary confinement with the order that no guard could guard him more than one time, Ňbecause his witness was too powerful.Ó He was too dangerous a witness!

 

The Powerful Structure of Romans: Justification and Righteousness

 

A. The Gospel and PaulŐs eagerness to share it (1.1-17)

B. The Wrath of God against all humanity (1.18 - 3.29)

C. The Grace of God made available by the Gospel (3.21 - 8.39)

D. GodŐs righteousness revealed.

E. GodŐs people united in Christ (5.1 - 6.25) -- note the place of Baptism

F. GodŐs Law and Christian Discipleship (7.1-25)

G. GodŐs Spirit in GodŐs children (8.1-39)

H. GodŐs plan for Jews and Gentiles (caps 9-11)

I. The Will of God for changed relationships (12.1 - 15.5-13)

J. The Providence of God in the ministry of Paul (15.16 - 16.27)

 

The Powerful Message from Romans:

 

A. Peace with God through The Cross (5.1-19)

B. Union with God through the Cross (5.20 - 6.25)

C. Freedom from the Law through The Cross

 

Our text, Romans 5.9, reveals the magnitude of God, the magnitude of manŐs problem, and the magnitude of GodŐs solution. Romans unfolds the Manifesto of The Gospel of Romans. Therefore, since we are justified, these are the consequences of The Cross:

 

The whole council of God is proclaimed.

ManŐs sin and lostness is affirmed.

ChristŐs death on the Cross is necessary to atone for our sins (the Peace Child).

ManŐs response in faith in Christ is a necessary condition of GodŐs acceptance.

The work of the Holy Spirit is essential for manŐs growth in holiness, the fusion of GodŐs Justice, Mercy, Love, Forgiveness and manŐs responsibility in the Gospel according to Romans.

 

Dr. James Strauss, Professor Emeritus

Lincoln Christian Seminary

Lincoln, IL 62656