I recently purchased an album called "The 50 Most Essential Pieces of Classical Music". While I'm sure there are many who would argue what makes the cut in that list, I began to think (while listening to some essential classical) about the 50 most Essential Bible passages.
Of course, that's a highly subjective list. And what makes a Bible "passage"? A verse? More than one verse, but less than a chapter? What makes a passage essential? A mention of Christ? Law and gospel? And 50? Is that limiting or too expansive?
In the coming weeks, I think I will try to list what are my 50 essential Bible passages and give some details. I encourage you to try to do the same, even if you don't write them down- ponder them in your heart.
1. Romans 8:31-39 (All of Romans 8 is fantastic, rhetorically, theologically, fantastic. Seriously, I read it and weep!)
323334What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
373839No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What's not to like about this passage? The heart and soul of this passage is that God, the one Triune God, is the one who saves... us and all people. Anything in this life that seeks to separate us from that salvation cannot, because God is the beginning and the end. And, indeed, though the old Satanic foe does seek to work us woe (A Mighty Fortress), when God is for us, who can be against us? To even begin to hold this passage in our hearts is the essence of true faith and what we strive for through our hope in the Spirit.
Someone in my congregation recently commented that this must be my favorite Bible passage because I refer to it all the time. It's not my favorite so much because I like what it says (though I do), but because my life of faith is, daily, to try to hold this passage in my heart. I want to believe this, but when I stop and consider what I do all the time: I am afraid, I get nervous and I feel (slightly) overwhelmed by my weakness. I can't even say I sin boldly. I long to sin boldly. I long to embrace the out-loud living to which this Romans passage points.
The hope in this passage is that my timidity does not separate me from God's love. Neither would boldness in service, bravery in preaching, firmness in conviction. I believe this; may God forgive my unbelief.