Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Romans 16: After the main course and dessert, an apres-diner

Romans is a three-course banquet of truth. The main course is God’s plan for universal salvation. Paul serves a large helping of Christian ethics for dessert, concludes with a sweet après-diner of gratitude for the saints in Paul’s life.

A family portrait emerges of the Lord’s People, hard-working, loving and loved, hospitable, suffering, hopeful saints, separated by geography, close-knit in Spirit, identity and mission. They are men and women (MANY of the latter, including leaders); anonymous then and famous now (Timothy), famous then and anonymous now (Erastus, public works director whose name was found engraved on the ruin of an arch); Jews and Gentiles; sisters, mothers, brothers in the family of the Lord; many, many “dear friends”; people who were jailed, risked their lives; house church worshippers; saints born in Christ before and after Paul. There is repeated praise for people who “worked very hard in the Lord.” Paul led a movement, not a social club. Self-identifying himself is Paul’s scribe, a fellow named Tertius. (His name means “Third” in Latin, and was the sometime childhood nickname of latterday scribe Guy Page III.)  Reading Romans 16, one sees the early fruits of Paul’s vision of the Kingdom, as described in Colossians 3: “Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

Paul, being Paul, cannot resist a final exhortation to unity (“watch out for those who cause divisions”) and restating one, last time his mission to lead Gentiles to Christ. In his closing phrase, he leads us in a prayer in which I hear the echo of eternity:

“To the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

P.S. - speaking of exhortations to unity - my brother Tim Steiner responded about yesterday's post on the subject. It's worth reprinting and rereading.

I have also had to work long and hard on this one, and won't "arrive" fully in this life, but i have been patiently taught some similar things by the Spirit.

One:  "Esteem others better than yourself."    Though you are sure that you are the best and brightest and most talented deep within the meditations of the flesh when is it happy with itself. fundamentally, and by the Spirit, make a conscious inventory of commendable traits in others that you yourself are weak on, and then admire them earnestly for those.  They are, in deed, better at you in those things, and it is a good thing you can do is give credit where it is due, and humble yourself to learn from it.

Two:  God in his infinite wisdom has given even natural graces to each of us at birth, and not the same graces to each individual.  If I look, I can honestly find, and easily, others, who have graces by nature that I may have to study and work to achieve for years or all my natural life to achieve a similitude of what they have by nature.  So that, even a heavily brain damaged individual to a man like me who admires intellect, can put me to shame and bring on true humility with either a natural grace of one kind or another, or a grace that came early due to the suffering of the individual, a suffering I have not had.

(Above natural graces, of course, come spiritual ones, and here Paul teaches on the Body of Christ, the Church, and the necessity and honor of every part.)

Such things the Lord has used to begin to teach me a true and proper value of myself and other folk around me.

Three:  If I recall, it was Mark Twain who said something like this,  "If we all awoke one morning to find that all people had been made the same; there were no more racial differences, gender differences, national differences, political differences, etc., still, by noon, we would have found 10,000 new reasons to hate and kill each other."  He is surely right.  This is the nature of the Fall, and the believing the lie that each and every one of us is a god unto himself.  What god will tolerate the will of any other who is contrary to his own will?  And so, the Battle begins afresh, day after day, moment by moment.  It is the curse of this Age, and if I have received the grace of Christ, it is now my duty to be a peacemaker even if I cannot accept wrong and sin and have to "wage peace" on the terms and by the Word of God for the rest of my earthly journey.  Tall order.  Only constantly abiding in the Spirit can begin to achieve it.

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