Monday, January 17, 2011

Second Sunday in Epiphany: Rom. 8:35-9:5

The love of God in Christ compels us to love Him and to love His people, making His life present in this world. But this love is also the power of God in us and through us to bring reconciliation to the world. Epiphany is all about the revelation of this justice of God in the love of Christ (Rom. 1:17).

The Text:
The gospel of God revealed in Jesus means that God is for us and no opposition can trump His love (8:31-34). But this doesn’t mean that His people face no challenges or injustice. In fact, Paul recognizes that following Jesus is likely to get you condemned, with charges brought against you, but these cannot separate us from His love because Jesus is risen (8:34-35). Paul points to Psalm 44 where the psalmist remembers how God both delivered and saved His people (Ps. 44:1-8) and then also cast off His people and scattered them among enemy nations (Ps. 44:9-16). But the psalmist insists that he and his people have not forgotten God or broken covenant, though all these things have come upon them (Ps. 44:17-19). And here Paul quotes the psalmist saying that they are like “sheep for the slaughter” (Ps. 44:22) and therefore they cry out for redemption and deliverance (Ps. 44:23-26). But Paul puts this Jewish psalm in the mouth of Christians in Rome now facing the persecution of enemy Jews, and he insists that Christians are completely victorious because of Jesus (Rom. 8:37). This is because Paul is persuaded that they cannot be separated from the love of God in Christ; it is more powerful than any threat or enemy (Rom. 8:38-39). But it is this confidence that drives Paul to go on the offensive, to see his enemies as an opportunity to display the power and justice of God. Paul has such great sorrow and continual grief for his enemies that he could even wish to be “cursed” for them (Rom. 9:3). Paul longs to imitate and see the power of the love of God which was manifested when He did not spare His own Son (Rom. 8:32). In Christ, all “sheep for the slaughter” are united to the Lamb who was slain, and their love and sacrifice for the lost become God’s means of triumph over evil. What the Old Covenant was meant to teach has arrived in power in Jesus and His Spirit: love turns enemies into friends (Rom. 5:6-11).

Parish Life
Jesus said: "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn. 13:35). Our love and care for one another is to be consciously evangelistic and not clickish. The world delights in clicks as false forms of security, but the only safe place is in the love of God. We are still working to hit our stride with parish life, but the point is to organize centers of fellowship, Bible study, prayer, evangelism, and mercy.

Prayer for the Lost
Nothing reveals our hearts more honestly than our prayer. If the Holy Spirit were to bear witness in your conscience, what causes you great sorrow and continual grief in your heart (cf. Rom. 9:1-2)? There may be many things in a fallen world, but somewhere up near the top ought to be the enemies of the gospel and the hellish lives that unbelief always brings with it. Because this is crucial to any attempts at reconciliation and evangelism, the elders are working on scheduling regular days of fasting and prayer particularly for those who have left the faith, as well as more broadly for those who walk as enemies of the light (cf. Phil. 3:18).

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