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 C on February 7, 2016.
When my father got excited, he would rub his hands together. If our favorite football team scored, he would rub his hands together. If he got good news in his business, he would rub his hands together. Guess what? When I get really excited, I rub my hands together. Here’s what’s funny—I never set out to learn to rub my hands together like my dad. I never looked at him and said, “That’s cool. I really want to rub my hands together like my dad does.” Without thinking about it, I just started rubbing my hands together like he did. Because I hung around my father so much, I ended up picking up a lot of his habits. I did things the way I saw him do things.
In the day of Jesus, a disciple would choose a rabbi to follow and literally move in with the teacher while studying with him. Not only would the student learn Scriptures and theology, how to pray, and how to live faithfully, the student would learn everything from the rabbi. The student would literally take on the characteristics and mannerisms of the rabbi.