In this, we are reminded of God’s steadfast love for his people. We rejoice that our redemption in Christ is so plentiful that it covers the sins of our past, present, and future. For, we are a people who have received the gift of God’s grace in Christ, who has redeemed us from all our iniquities, and he is the God who hears our cries, answers our prayers, sustains us moment by moment, and gives us hope, even in the depths of woe.
God also strengthens his church through the obedience of faith, an expression Paul used to begin this letter and now to conclude to it. It is the obedience to believe the gospel as well as to live it. Or, as one commentator describes it, “obedience always involves faith, and faith always involves obedience.” He who enabled and empowered us to believe so also enables and empowers us to live obedient lives. We shall not be defined by sin and the decay of death but life through the faith God gives: “May we be rich in faith, be strong in faith, live by faith, walk by faith, experience the joy of faith, do the work of faith, hope through faith.” And so, God strengthens his church through the obedience of faith.
In love, let us learn to respect the convictions of one another. Some are ready to enjoy all the liberty the gospel gives. Some are not, and “whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. This calls for sanctified patience with one another. As one commentator puts it, “For a Christian not a single decision and action can be good which he does not think he can justify on the ground of his Christian conviction and his liberty before God in Christ.” Or to put it simply, “If the way you live isn’t consistent with what you believe, then it’s wrong” (Rom. 14:23, MSG).
The bulk of Paul’s first epistle, chapter after chapter, deals with the problems of a dysfunctional church. And then, once he seemingly addressed every issue, he does something that may seem elementary: He preaches the gospel. Actually, to be precise, he reminds them of it. They have heard it before, but, like every church, they need it again.
In an age which has a low view of the church, this may sound startling. Yet, it is to the church that Christ has given his commission, commands, and keys. It is in and through the church that God matures, his children with his promises and presence.
It is, however, an encouragement to remember that we who have been called to follow Jesus, who have been called to the feast that is ours in Christ, have been called to forgiveness, a forgiveness that we know only by the mercy of God.
Let us glorify Christ remembering that He says to everyone who by God’s grace have believed in Him: “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.”
With a heart for God, do not hate your brother but be reconciled. We who are forgiven should seek forgiveness. With a heart for God, do not lust but flee it, pursuing “righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). For in Christ we have been saved from hearts of hate and lust and given hearts for God.