These One-to-One articles are all about helping you help others get into God’s word, a practical application of the approach found in David Helm’s One-to-One Bible Reading. Use these posts to prepare for a conversation over coffee, meeting for counselling, or an unplanned opportunity to share from the Bible.
In my ministry as a pastor, I schedule a lot of coffee meet-ups with men. I noticed after a while that these involved valuable conversations about people and what was going on in their lives, but I was not using these meetings to adequately engage men with the Scriptures in a planned and direct fashion. We were both missing out on an opportunity for something deeper.
So now, when I organize a meeting with a brother, my pattern is to have him read ahead on a passage that we'll talk though together.
I’ve used Romans 5:1-11 several times. It was helpful, especially with one brother, suffering tremendous loss, who struggled to connect how his pain intersected with his salvation. Romans 5 makes that link for us, which is why it’s a passage every Christian should know. Through these eleven verses we encounter doctrines fundamental to our understanding of the gospel. It’s deep, but also simple. Here it is, followed by three questions for your next Bible-reading meeting.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom 5:1–11)
In a word, salvation is about God! Romans 5:1–11 is a passage of profound theological depth, dealing with the doctrines of justification by faith, the wrath of God, and substitionary atonement. These are matters whose wonder we may search out for all of eternity. And yet the heart of the matter is plain: salvation is about “peace with God”, about being “reconciled to God”. This passage is as personal as it is theological. And we should not be surprised, since the Bible is itself the story of God reconciling sinners to himself. We were under the “wrath of God”. We were his enemies. But now we have “received reconciliation”. There’s now nothing between God and us except peace. So, as we read the Bible, and as we consider the depths of our salvation, let us remember salvation’s costly goal: the enjoyment of a relationship with God.
Given the problem of human sin, we should want to be clear on how it is that sinners can be reconciled to God. Three crucial phrases will answer this question. First, “we have been justified by faith”. Our main problem is a problem of guilt before God. It’s why we deserve his wrath. Justification means that our guilt has been removed so that we can be ‘just’ before God. This comes about through faith, and not through any works that we perform. Second, all of this comes about “through our Lord Jesus Christ”. That is, through his death. Ungodly people like us can be reconciled to God because “Christ died for the ungodly”. Third, this great work of salvation is made possible because through Christ “God shows his love for us”. Again, we see that at the heart of our salvation is God’s personal love for his people. If God did not love us, our reconciliation to him would not be possible, for he would not have sent Christ to die for our sins.
Salvation brings about rejoicing. Having obtained access into God’s grace, “we rejoice in hope of the glory of God”, we “rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ”. We also rejoice “in our sufferings”. This might not seem like the first passage we would open up for a person going through a great trial. There are other passages written for sufferers. We can think of Romans 8, 2 Corinthians 1, James 1, and 1 Peter 1. Yet, Romans 5:1–11 teaches us about how trials in life function for those who have peace with God. Our suffering is actually productive to produce endurance, character, and then hope. In other words, peace with God doesn’t mean that we have an altogether peaceful life. Life may be filled with even very great suffering. But that suffering is God’s instrument to strengthen our experience of his love through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Photo credit: Emily Poisel