Category: John Duncan

Romans 4:1-5, 13-17

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 12th, 2017.

When the apostle Paul wrote the Book of Romans he had never been to Rome. In spite of that unusual fact, he knew the Romans. The Romans included a unique mix of Roman citizens, non-citizens, Greeks, Jews, barbarians, educated and non-educated persons. Rome appeared to many as the center of the world.  Roman power, government, law, oppression, and the Roman penchant for keeping Romans happy with a supply of bread and entertainment known as the circuses kept the Romans in order and believing in the Roman ideal. “When in Rome do as the Romans do,” while a cute phrase for today’s culture, became a way of life for Romans. Put simply, you did not want to violate Roman law and protocol because to do so involved harsh consequences.

The church started, more than likely, near the Jewish synagogue. Church planters taught the Christian basics of Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and how to live as a Christian. The whole realm of Christianity appeared foreign to Roman officials and to next door neighbors. What was Christianity? Was it a form of Judaism with its special practices of feast days, Sabbath rites, and dietary restrictions (Romans 14)? Or was it a religion altogether different from Judaism? And, if the church started near the synagogue and many of the first Christians in Rome were Jews, who and what kind of person should the church welcome (Romans 14:1; 15:7). Whom to welcome into the church and how to relate to others who had become Christians created questions and even problems in the church. Never mind that the answer to such a question and problem should be simply solved both then and now, the reality of “other” people different than them stirred controversy and conflict in the church.

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Romans 5:12-19

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on March 5th, 2017.

In Paul’s Letter to the Romans he both invites and opens the door for all to know Christ in a personal way. The invitation comes through these words, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16-17, NIV). The open door arrives by means of additional words in Romans 5, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2, NIV).

It is interesting to note that Paul uses the word “peace” ten times in Romans, at the outset of his letter (Romans 1:7; 2:10: 3:17), in the middle (Romans 5:1; 8:6), and near the end (Romans 12:18; 14:17; 14:19; 15:13; 15:33; 16:20). Christ opens the door to peace (“access,” Romans 5:1-2). Paul urges Christian to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18). To follow Christ in the way of peace includes an emphasis upon the way “of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17, NIV). If the Romans in their world called for Roman peace, known as the pax Romana, and for a Roman kingdom of glory, honor and peace, and they did; then Paul called for a new kind of peace, Christ’s peace in human hearts, and a new way of the Spirit, God’s kingdom and his people seeking glory, honor, and peace through Christ. Genuine peace comes through Christ.

Romans 5:12-19 hinges on Romans 5:1-2, Christ as the door and because of Christ we have an open door to God by faith through grace (John 10:9 where Jesus said, “I am the door…” and Romans 5:1-2, literally, “a door of access” leads to the peace of Christ).

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2 Peter 1:16-21

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 26th, 2017.

If you read 1 Peter, you will find that Peter addresses the truth of the suffering Christ and God’s strength as the power to persevere under trials by faith. If you read 2 Peter you will find that Peter defends the truth of Christ, that is, he addresses false teachers who distort the truth of the gospel. In 2 Peter 1:16-21 Peter lays a foundation for the firmly established truth of the gospel. He also reminds Christians of the knowledge of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:12-14; 2:20).

General information provides background for 2 Peter. 2 Peter, although debated by scholars, appears as an authentic letter written by Peter himself. He supplies his own name in the opening (1:1), describes his presence at the Mount of Transfiguration (1:16-17), and declares this as his second letter written (3:1). Working out the complexity of Peter’s authentic authorship or a pseudonymous author, however, necessary for the preacher, does not diminish the content of 2 Peter. A thorough investigation of 2 Peter shows a number of different Greek words in 2 Peter as opposed to 1 Peter, but also shows 2 Peter’s strong resemblance to the Book of Jude.

If you decide on Peter as the authentic author of 2 Peter, then a date of publication appears around A.D. 67-68 (a few scholars say A. D 64). Near those dates, it makes sense that Peter wrote from Rome. These possibilities placed side by side provide three interesting insights into 2 Peter.

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1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23

This text is used for the Lectionary Year A on February 19th, 2017.

Paul writes to the church at Corinth from Ephesus while demonstrating his deep love for the church and his debt to God’s grace. Paul’s word to the church faces three critical challenges. First, the culture at Corinth presents an almost overwhelming challenge. Imagine walking through Corinth near the time of Paul’s writing around A.D. 54 or 55. The hustle and bustle marketplace in the city, people buying and selling, would grab your attention. Architecture would also catch your eye: the bema, a huge public platform used for legal proceedings (Acts 18:12-17) or the Temple of Octavia, a pagan temple dedicated to Caesar Augustus used for emperor worship or the famed temple of Aphrodite, goddess of love where temple prostitutes gathered and other temples such as the Temple of Apollo or the Temple of Asclepius, god of healing. The beautiful also served as a major trade route.

As a side note, during the reigns of the Roman emperors Tiberius, Gaius, and Claudius (A.D. 41-54) each one constructed many projects and new buildings. Outsiders to Corinth, though, knew that “to be a Corinthian” meant to live a life of immorality. The Temple of Aphrodite contributed to this label.

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