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Who sanitised the Saviour? ::

Don’t put Jesus in the washing machine, warns Grant Retief, as he considers Paul’s continuing passion for the gospel in Romans 1…
Source: Perspective Vo8 No1 © Perspective 2000

Familiarity can be a terrible thing. One can see it best, perhaps with siblings. Children can say and do almost anything to their siblings. This unchained behaviour that all of us who have siblings know, is because of familiarity. Familiarity leads to bossiness. Familiarity leads to bullying. It is familiarity that causes a high percentage of sibling rivalry.
I heard a story the other day of sibling familiarity that really outdoes any of my own shameful antics when I was growing up. An elder sister put her brother into the washing machine! An outraged mother found and rescued the little guy a while later.

We can do the same thing with Jesus. We can shove him into the washing machine. That is, we become too familiar with him and the gospel. We hear it regularly, we believe it and have been recipients of its power – but we take it for granted. We have ceased to be amazed by it, and it simply seems to wash over us these days.

It’s a great danger. It wasn’t like that for the apostle Paul. Reading Romans 1 again, I was struck by the urgency and passion, which seemed to grip him. Not only was he obsessed with the gospel [v16], but also he was consumed by a desire to share it with the Roman church. Verse 15 is striking: “ . . . . I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome.” [see also v11-12]

It is interesting that Paul feels so strongly about preaching the gospel – but it seems absurd, at first thought, that he wants to preach the gospel to this particular church. This church that he describes in verse 7 as ‘loved by God’. this church whose faith is being reported ‘all over the world’ in verse 8. This church who Paul would derive encouragement from because of their faith [verse 12].

This passage begs the question, ‘Why is it that Paul wants to tell the gospel to the church at Rome if they are a gospel church?’
One would expect Paul’s great Opus Magnus to be to a church that didn’t know the gospel. A church void of gospel teaching. It comes as a surprise that this church is a solidly grounded, gospel preaching church and yet it needs to hear the gospel from Paul. An offensive thought for some.

The answer to this conundrum is chapter 16 verse 25: “Now to him who is able to establish you by my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ . . .”
The great reason that the church at Rome – and the church at home – needs to hear the gospel is that it is the gospel that establishes us. Not only does it save us [1v16], it also establishes us. There is not one message for Christians and another for non-Christians. The same message grows one group and saves another. People are still offended when we tell them that they need to hear the gospel. Especially if they’ve been Christians for a long time.

Preachers still give in to the temptation to go on to ‘deeper things’ and subtly move away from the message of Romans 1:16-17. The challenge that I face as a young minister is to not get tired of the gospel. To keep preaching the gospel. To not think that the gospel can be outgrown by anyone. To remember that regardless of what problems people have in their homes and lives – it is the gospel they need to hear most, for it is the gospel that will grow them.
The gospel that will remind them. It is the gospel they need to turn back to when life’s storms come their way, when a loved-one dies, when they fail and feel guilty, when they feel jaded and cannot go on. What else can bring hope, joy, security, peace and freedom? What else do we have to say to people? I pray that I won’t put Jesus into the washing machine. How are you doing?

Grant Retief

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