Today’s readings.. (2 Samuel 14), (Jeremiah 18), (Romans 1), (Romans 2)
    The first 2 chapters of Romans, which we started reading today, contain some of the most personally challenging thoughts in the Bible.  In its 16 chapters Paul gives a comprehensive overview of the Gospel.  We were struck by the alternative translation (given in a footnote in the ESV) to v.17.  The text reads (taking it in context from v.16) “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes … for in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” 
    The alternative translation of “from faith to faith” is given as, “beginning and ending in faith.”  Can the word ‘faith’ become too familiar to us?  We read last week in Matthew 18 the words of Jesus, “Truly I say unto you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom …” [v.3]   We are given a picture of the need for child-like trust. God looks to see us accept his gospel by faith – and then to see that faith grow through the experience of putting it to use day after day in all the small, but important things in life, for the gospel provides us with a conviction of the meaning of life and as that conviction grows our hearts start to fill with a sense of joy and gladness.  “The righteous shall live by faith.” – and the truly righteous intend to be faithful to the end.
    Paul had not been to Rome when he wrote this letter and he writes, “I long to see you … that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, yours and mine.” [v.11,12] Are we doing this?  When we have the opportunity to come together, far easier now than in Paul’s day, what do we talk about?  Does it include the reasons why our convictions are unshakable in this ever more godless world?  Do we strengthen the faith of those who might be faltering?
    We live in a world that is full of distractions – and trivialities – we must not take faith for granted, some seem to have done this – and suddenly it has evaporated, it turns out it had no foundation.  What did Paul say about Abraham, the outstanding man of faith, in his letter to the Hebrews?  “He was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” [11 v.10]     Paul warns the Romans not to “presume on the riches of his (God’s) kindness and forbearance and patience” don’t you know, “that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? …. He will render to each one according to his works, to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life” [v.4,6,7]   May this be the “ending” which our faith will achieve.