This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 9, 2017.
Philippians 2:5-11 is one of the most familiar and discussed texts of Scripture. These seven verses entertain theological issues such as the hypostatic union of Jesus, the kenotic formula, and the ontological and functional realities of the Trinity. Though these issues have their place, these are not really the matters Paul is addressing. The milieu of this passage is one of believers learning to live their life as a community. It is a text ethical in nature in which Paul stimulates the practice of humility and unity among the believers exhibiting Jesus as the supreme example. The preacher needs to be careful not to get entangled in doctrinal issues that could detract from the greater message.
Following his greeting to the community of Philippi (1:1–2), Paul prays for them to reach unity (1:3–11). Next, he presents his own life as an example (1:12–26; 4:9) and exhorts the church to live lives of humility and unity without (1:27–30) and within the congregation (2:1–4). To illustrate, Paul draws from what is most likely an early Christian hymn-poem that praises Christ’s story of incarnation, crucifixion, and exaltation (2:5–11), and urges the Philippians to pattern Christ’s life story to address their particular situation (2:12-18).
Paul exhorts them to have “the mind of Christ” (2:5). In their mutual relations, they should adopt the same attitude of love and humility that marked the Lord (2:5). But, isn’t it true that one thing is to be called to have “the mind of Christ,” and another to nurture such habit of mind individually and collectively? So, how can the Philippians be a people characterized by unity and humility? Paul intimates that the first step is to know well Christ’s story. This is the Gospel story of Christ leaving the glories of his preexistent, eternal state to undertake humanity through cross death.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on April 2, 2017.
Romans chapter 8 is the highpoint section in Paul’s most remarkable letter. Romans 8:6-11, along with the previous five verses (8:1-5) and subsequent six verses (8:12-17), conveys a series of dichotomies: flesh vs. the Spirit; death vs. life; the law of the Spirit of life vs. the law of sin and of death; death and resurrection; Spirit of God and children of God; spirit of slavery vs. Spirit of adoption. Verses 6-11 form a small part of a broader exposition Paul provides the contrast between flesh and Spirit. It is crucial for the preacher to understand Paul’s perception concerning these two forces and to avoid misrepresenting the metaphorical concepts he uses to convey his message.
Do we understand what Paul means by “flesh”? How should preachers interpret Paul today, particularly, in a world where we idolize attractive celebrities, vigorous athletes, carnal desires, while we are embarrassed by grotesqueness, physical atrophy, and the ailments of senility?
Is the Apostle’s understanding of “flesh” as trivial as that diffused by today’s secularized culture? Is Paul simply offering us the pitfalls of network television? Is he describing practical Christianity with the unreserved dismissal of the luxuries of a consumer-driven society? Perhaps this is what countless of faithful believers assume.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 26, 2017.
Paul has exhorted believers to shun sexual immorality, greed, or any kind of impurity for these are unfit to God’s people; besides, they provoke God’s wrath (5:3-6). So, they ought to disassociate themselves from disobedient people (v. 7). It is not clear to what degree believers should distance themselves from immoral and greedy people. Should they have no contact with them or simply not share in their immoral behaviors? In 5:8-14 he provides an additional motive for avoiding said misconducts and associations, which are discordant with their new identity. The pericope cuts off the reading before Paul’s more general advice regarding how believers ought to conduct their lives in a society influenced by evil (5:15-33), but the preacher should have them in mind.
According to Paul, believers now have a new existence. Once “darkness” characterized their lifestyle, now “light” does (v.8). It is clear that the source of their new existence is “in the Lord.” This recalls Jesus’ self-declaration of being “the light of the world,” where he uses darkness-light conversion metaphor (John 8:12; 12: 35-36). Similarly, in v.8 believers have a new life as “children of light” and should walk in a way that reveals the light they now are in Christ. Paul is setting the basis for his view that Christ-enlightened persons can have a transforming effect on darkened lives (vv. 11-14). Here Paul emphasizes his pre-conversion and post-conversion contrast (2:2-4, 11, 13).
This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 19, 2017.
This text contains an array of topics: peace with God, grace, hope, suffering, God’s love, and reconciliation. It consists of a 223-word passage that begins and ends asserting two facts: (1) justification by faith (5:1b) and (2) reconciliation with God (5:11b). It appears to be connected to a larger pericope (8:18-39) that ends with the avowal of victory and firm hope due to the assurance of “the love of God” (8:39).
Hitherto, Paul has addressed the topic of justification by faith, particularly, the need for it (1:18-3:20), and the ground of it in God’s work in Christ (3:21-4:25). Chapter 4 ends with the phrase “our justification” whereas chapter 5 begins with “Therefore, since we are justified.” It conveys that justification is an attained fact. In 5:1-11, Paul proceeds to examine its effects expressed in a new life of peace and hope, based on God’s love.
Paul asserts that the direct effect is “peace with God” (v.1b). What would “peace with God” mean to the countless voices worldwide suffering persecution and desperately crying out for peace? Does it mean the cessation of hostility and anguish? Is he alluding to Old Testament prophecies of God’s ultimate peace to be granted in the latter days as we read in Isaiah 52:7; 54:10; Ezekiel 34:25, 37:26? To be sure, the “peace” Paul speaks about cannot be threatened by suffering (5:3), not even the deadly persecution many Christians were experiencing under Nero’s reign. Paul seems to be focusing on the New Testament perspective of peace fulfilled “through our Lord Jesus Christ” (v.1b).