Lectionary Commentaries for June 28, 2020
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Matthew 10:40-42

Elisabeth Johnson

Our text comes at the end of Matthew 10, the second major section of Jesus’ teaching after the Sermon on the Mount.1

The chapters in between (8-9) narrate various episodes in Jesus’ ministry of teaching, healing, casting out demons, and raising the dead. At the end of chapter 9, Jesus looks at the crowds and has compassion on them because they are “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (9:36). So he tells his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (9:37-38).

Jesus evidently intends his disciples to be the answer to their own prayer, for at the beginning of chapter 10, he is sending them out, giving them “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness” (10:1). Jesus instructs the twelve to “go only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and to “proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons” (10:5-8).

The disciples are to act as envoys of Jesus, extending his ministry, proclaiming the same good news and performing the same works of healing that he is doing. Jesus’ further instructions make clear that the disciples are also to share in his poverty and homelessness, taking with them no money or extra clothing, and depending solely on the hospitality of others for shelter and sustenance (10:8b-13).

They will not be welcomed everywhere (10:14-15), and they can expect to experience the same hostility Jesus often does, for he is sending them out “like sheep into the midst of wolves” (10:16). They can expect to encounter persecution and trials (10:17-23), for “a disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master” (10:24-25). They need also be prepared for painful division within families, and to be willing to put Jesus’ mission above family loyalties (10:34-38). For all of this risk and suffering, Jesus promises, “those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (10:39).

Welcome rewards

Matthew, of course, is not only recalling Jesus’ instructions to his first disciples; he is also speaking to his own community of disciples a few generations later. There is still need to send out laborers into the harvest, to send missionaries out beyond the community into a perilous world. And those sent will still need to depend on the hospitality of others. Jesus says of those who enact such hospitality, “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me” (10:40).

In the ancient world identity was tied to family and community. It was understood that in showing hospitality, one welcomed not just an individual, but implicitly, the community who sent the person and all that they represent. Therefore, welcoming a disciple of Jesus would mean receiving the very presence of Jesus himself and of the one who sent him, God the Father.

Jesus continues: “Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous” (10:41). The words “prophet” and “righteous” in Matthew often refer to the prophets and faithful servants of biblical history (e.g., 11:13; 13:17; 23:29), but can also refer to contemporary prophets (7:15-20) and righteous ones (13:43, 39; 25:37, 46). It is not clear whether Matthew is referring to two distinct roles within the community, or whether these are simply alternative ways of describing those sent out as missionaries.

What are the “prophet’s reward” and the “reward of the righteous” of which Jesus speaks? Elsewhere in Matthew the prophets receive persecution (5:12), rejection (13:57), and death (23:30-35, 37), and yet those who are persecuted are told, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (5:12). Similarly, the righteous are promised that they “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (13:43).

Finally, Jesus says, “and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple — truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward” (10:42). “Little ones” (mikros) often refers to children, but Matthew uses it to refer to Jesus’ disciples, especially those who are young in faith or particularly vulnerable (cf. 18:6, 10). The statement about giving a cup of cold water to one of these little ones points ahead to the parable of the judgment in Matthew 25. Here the Son of Man says to the righteous, “I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink” (25:35), and “truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (25:40). The word translated “least of these” is elachistos, superlative of mikros. The righteous who attend to the needs of the “littlest ones” are told: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (25:34).

The word “reward” (misthos) in Matthew 10 carries connotations of something earned, but this word is not used in the parable of judgment. Here Jesus says to the righteous, “Come, inherit the kingdom prepared for you…” An inheritance is pure gift. Those who welcome and care for the needs of “little ones” welcome and care for Jesus himself. To receive Jesus is to receive the one who sent him, and to become heirs to all that the Father has to give.

The sent church

Sent by God, Jesus sends his disciples to participate in his mission of proclaiming in word and deed the good news of God’s kingdom drawing near. Matthew assumes that the church is a “sent” church, a missionary church (Matthew 28:18-20). There is simply no other way to be the church! This understanding is being recovered in our own day with the missional church movement. There is growing awareness that mission is not just a program of the church; it is (or ought to be) the defining purpose of everything the church does.

An approach to preaching Matthew 10:40-42 might be to focus a congregation’s attention on what it means to be sent. Perhaps not all are sent to be wandering missionaries, depending on others for shelter and sustenance, but that doesn’t mean we are off the hook. The entire baptized are sent into the world to tell and embody the good news of Jesus Christ. All are sent to bear Christ to others with humility and vulnerability, being willing to risk rejection.

What would happen if we stopped expecting people to come on their own initiative through our church doors, and instead took seriously our calling to bring the gospel to them? What would happen if we truly believed that we bear the presence of Christ to every person we encounter, in every home, workplace, or neighborhood we enter? What would happen if we saw every conversation as an opportunity to speak words of grace, every interaction as an opportunity to embody Christ’s love for the neighbor?

Recently a friend told of an interaction with a bagger at her local grocery store. She had been talking with this woman off and on for a year, and upon learning that she no longer worked on Sundays, invited her to come to her church, to their casual, outdoor, come-as-you-are service. Much to my friend’s surprise, the woman responded by giving her a hug!

We may not always receive such a positive response when we take the risk of reaching out, yet we may be surprised at how ready many are to receive our most humble efforts. Lest we forget what we have to offer, we have Jesus’ promise: “Whoever welcomes you welcomes me.”


  1. Commentary first published on this site on June 26, 2011.

First Reading

Commentary on Jeremiah 28:5-9

Charles L. Aaron, Jr.

We should not oversimplify the scene in this passage. To our after-the-fact eyes, it looks straightforward.

One prophet, Jeremiah, tells the people the truth. The other prophet, Hananiah, tells the people what they want to hear. One appears to us as the brave preacher who endures scorn for speaking the word the Lord gave him. The other appears to us as the soothing charlatan over whom everybody fawns because he offers near-term hope.

We cannot know what went on in Hananiah’s head. Did he honestly believe that he preached a word from God? Did he succumb to the temptation to preach the popular word? Did he convince himself that the voice in his own head was the word from God? We preachers can judge Hananiah only if we have never softened the message we knew we should preach. If we have lapped up the praise of our people for a sermon that tapped danced around the sermon we knew we should preach, we cannot judge Hananiah.

What gives the passage its vital importance for contemporary communities of faith comes as one looks at those who listened to both Hananiah and Jeremiah. Each prophet interprets the events of history differently. The scene happens after the initial attack on Jerusalem in 597 BCE by the Babylonians, but before the devastation of 587. The people do not know what to think or to do. Hananiah offers a word that sounds like hope. He advises resistance, trusting that Judah can shake off the attack of the Babylonians. The sense of defeat will last only two years.

The contemporary reader can see the appeal of the message. Doesn’t trust in God mean that God will take our side? Won’t God fight for us against our enemies? How many sermons on the David and Goliath passage have we heard in which every member of the congregation stands in David’s shoes? God will bring victory over the many Goliaths in the lives of the audience. Don’t such sermons bring a pat on the back for the preacher? Hananiah gives the people a plan and inspires them to resist the encroachment of the Babylonians. His message sounds strong and energizing.

Jeremiah tells the people to accept what has happened. He tells them to prepare for a long time of exile. Verse 6 indicates he does not want this outcome, but he thinks he brings a realistic word. His famous words in the next chapter sound expectant to our ears, “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce” (verse 5). Those words sound like planning for future prosperity to us. They sound like taking responsibility and embracing life. To the original audience, they sounded like resignation. When we hear them, we should add to the words “build houses” the phrase “in the last place you want to live.” Jeremiah counseled accepting defeat and making the best of it. He carried out the sign act of wearing a yoke to symbolize the relationship between Judah and Babylon.

Jeremiah believed that God would act again, but not soon. He taught the people to make the best of a bad situation, but not to try to get out of it. That message does not get the blood pumping. That message sounds passive and even weak. It sounds like co-dependency. We now know, of course, that Jeremiah, not Hananiah, spoke the word that came from the Lord.

Even with our hindsight about this particular passage in the life of Judah, we do not always know which prophet speaks the truth today. Jeremiah sets out the criteria for true prophecy: which prophet accurately predicts what will happen? The problem comes in realizing that the people couldn’t just simply wait to see what would happen in two years. They needed to decide whose advice to follow. Do they practice acceptance, and wait for God to act later? Do they plan for resistance? They had to make a choice now.

If we change the context from war and invasion to injustice, we can see the dilemma Jeremiah sets up for us. Martin Luther King, Jr. entitled one of his books, Why We Can’t Wait. The title referred to the advice of comfortable people who told King and the rest of the civil rights warriors that racial justice would happen in time. The advice reflected the complacent stance that King and others were trying to rush too fast. Jeremiah counsels waiting, settling in uncomfortably to Babylonian power. Simply accepting and adjusting to the status quo can come at too high a price. Sometimes the Christian response means not accepting the status quo, not acquiescing to events as they stand.

Yet, in certain situations, learning to build a house in the last place you want to live requires courage and faith. A single parent raising children after the death of a spouse, the adjustment to a handicapping condition that will never respond to treatment, a sudden drop in income that market forces will not fix.

Jeremiah’s stance can give the preacher material to discuss the times when acceptance becomes the faithful response to circumstances. Recognizing those circumstances requires wisdom, discernment, and ignoring the voice in our head that tells us what we want to hear. When do we settle in and accept what life has given us? When do we resist and throw off the shackles of the life we don’t want or deserve?

In some contemporary situations, Hananiah’s advice to resist is the more faithful response. In other situations, Jeremiah’s counsel of acceptance becomes the word from the Lord. Jeremiah and Hananiah set those choices before us. We do not read a simple passage in this text.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 22:1-14

Amanda Benckhuysen

What do we do with this text? It’s horrifying—that Abraham would plan to kill his son as an act of faith and that God would command it.

I confess as I was reading this text again, I kept going back to the Hebrew, wondering if perhaps we have been reading it wrong, if there is another way of translating verse 2. There isn’t. The text is surprisingly unambiguous. “Take your son, your only son, whom you love, that is, Isaac, and go (lek-leka) to the land of Moriah and offer him up there as a burnt offering.” I don’t which is worse—that God tells Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, or that Abraham seemingly complies without protest.

Compounding the ethical problem is the practical one. Isaac is the long-awaited child of the promise and at this point, he is the only one left in Abraham’s household through whom God’s covenant promises could be realized. Lot chose to separate from Abraham and his family and strike out on his own. God said no to Abraham’s servant, Eliezer. Though with some protest, Abraham complied with God’s insistence that Ishmael be sent away. And now this. The final hope that Abraham and Sarah have for “a great name” is to be snuffed out at God’s command. To the human mind, this is incomprehensible. And no words I write are likely to lift the fog.

However, let me make some observations that might help us hold our horror in tension with what is really beautiful in this text.

A lot has happened between Genesis 12 when Abraham was first called out of Haran and this narrative here which functions as a book-end to the stories that focus on his life. From various clues in the text, it would seem that the narrator intends us to read Genesis 22 with this entire history in mind. For instance, “after these things” in verse 1 sets up the story against the backdrop of things that are recounted in previous chapters. The command in verse 2 to lek-leka, go to the place I will say to you has literary resonances with Genesis 12:1 where Abraham is also commanded by God to lek-leka. And in verse 3, the seemingly trivial detail of Abraham’s early rising connects this narrative with the preceding chapter when he sent Hagar and Ishmael away (Genesis 21:14). This story, then, is the climax of all of the events that have preceded it.

Throughout the narratives of Abraham’s life, the pressing question is that of progeny. How will Abraham produce a son when Sarah is barren? As readers, we are relieved when Sarah gives birth to Isaac and God affirms that this is the one through whom his promises will be realized.

This primary theme, however, is complimented and complicated by a sub-theme, that is, the wavering faith of Abraham. In Genesis 12:4, Abraham responds to God without hesitation, packing up and going to the land that God would show him. And in Genesis 15:6, Abraham believed the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness.

At other times, however, Abraham acts in ways that suggest doubt. Twice, out of fear, he tries to pass off his wife as his sister and Sarah ends up in the bedroom of the local ruler (Genesis 12:10-20, 20:1-18). So worried about producing an heir, he sleeps with a woman other than his wife (albeit at Sarah’s bidding). He laughs when God tells him that Sarah would bear a child and that she would become the mother of nations (Gen. 17:17). Throughout, there are indications that Abraham still doesn’t quite trust God to accomplish what he promised, or believe that God is a god of his word.

So God asks Abraham to demonstrate his faith by trusting God with his hopes, his future, his deepest longings, his only son whom he loves. Genesis 22:1 describes it as a test, signaling to the reader that God had no intention of going through with it. The messenger of the Lord stays Abraham’s hand, preventing him from killing his son. God never wanted child sacrifice after all. Rather, he wanted Abraham to face his own conflicted and divided loyalties.

The test serves its purpose and leaves an indelible mark on both God and Abraham. Abraham now knows, in the profoundest of ways, that life with God is a gift, and God’s blessing is freely bestowed. He need not do anything – God will provide—generously, bountifully, wondrously. All he has to do is look up him to see that God has been there all along, guiding his steps, directing his paths, and making a future for him.

But God now knows something too. God learns that Abraham fears him. This is the first time the narrator describes Abraham’s demeanor toward God in this way. Prior to this, the text depicts Abraham as listening to and obeying God. But in Genesis 21:12, God experiences from Abraham more—respect, awe, and a healthy dose of fear and trembling appropriate to a divine-human relationship.

Something changes between Abraham and God that day. Abraham learns to trust and fear God. And God proves that God can be trusted. In the history of God’s relationship with human beings, God would demonstrate this time and again. In the end, God’s commitment to fulfilling his promises to Abraham and bringing about his redemptive purposes would end up costing God dearly. For while Abraham’s son is spared, God would give his own son to up to death. This too was an act of provision on God’s part—a provision that would ultimately fulfill what God started in Abraham, that is, the restoration of blessing to the nations and to the world.

Because Christ died, our relationship with God has forever been changed. Whatever sin, whatever guilt, whatever brokenness we carry, Christ has dealt with and abolished it in the cross. This story invites us then, to a posture of fear and awe as well as profound gratitude for God’s faithfulness to his covenant promises and the redemption we have through him.


Commentary on Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Paul K.-K. Cho

At the heart of Psalm 89 is the shattering of the world, to which the psalm gives articulation and to whose unraveling the entire Psalter is devoted.1

And the proper interpretation of Psalm 89, arguably of the entire Psalter, and even of the Christian hope in Christ Jesus rests, in part, on the full appreciation of this trauma: The faithful and mighty God (89:1-2) who made an eternal covenant with David (89:3-4) has renounced that covenant (89:39) and hidden himself (89:46).

God and King

Psalm 89 celebrates God’s love and faithfulness (89:1-2) and equally God’s election of David, the divine promise to establish his kingdom forever (89:3-4), and these two constitute the foundational facts on which the cosmos, according to our psalm, rests. For God “rules the raging of the sea” (89:9, NRSV) and “crushed Rahab like a carcass” (89:10) to ensure that forces of chaos and death do not again return to earth; and David shares in God’s cosmic authority over evil, which God gave him, saying: “I will set his hand on the sea / and his right hand on the rivers” (89:25).

The embedded diarchy of God and David, anchored in the love and faithfulness of the one God, ensures the endurance of David’s throne and, what’s more, the flourishing of the world. Because the God who made a covenant with David loves and is faithful, David’s throne stands secure forever. And because God and David reign together in might, all is right in the world.

The shattering of the world

The events of 587 BCE shatter the world in which God and king are in control. In 587, as is well known, the Babylonians destroyed the House of God, put a violent end to the House of David, and devastated the people. The final third of Psalm 89 (89:38-51) laments this catastrophe and raises pointed questions concerning the theological and political foundations on which the world supposedly rests.

Psalm 89:38-51, at first brush, appears to focus on the relationship between God and David: “But now you have spurned and rejected him; / you are full of wrath against your anointed” (89:38, see also 89:39-45, 49-51). But we misread the psalm if we focus only on the God-David connection. David is a cipher for the orderliness of historical existence in toto and the earthly representative of God’s cosmic sovereignty.

God’s rejection of David points to the divine betrayal of creation, and the demise of David’s kingship suggests a like end to God’s kingship. In short, the experience of death and chaos — in the case of Psalm 89, of 587 and afterward — places under question the validity of the theological claim that God loves, is faithful, and rules over creation in power, for the final authority. Hence, the ultimate responsibility, for life and order rests with God.

How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever?
How long will your wrath burn like fire? (89:46)

After trauma

The psalm provides no easy answer to the difficult questions it raises. Rather, the trauma of 587 is allowed to rupture the very structure of the psalm. Consider the chasm that separates verse 37 from verse 38. Furthermore, as the conclusion of Book III of the Psalter, Psalm 89 also represents a rupture in the Book of Psalms around which the entire Psalter turns. That is to say, the shattering of the world at the heart of Psalm 89 is the trauma at the core of the Psalter itself.

Psalm 89 presents the trauma and, in response, offers no resolution. More fittingly, it raises the darkest of theological questions. From within the tragedy of exile, the psalmist cannot see God and complains: “Will you hide yourself forever?” (89:46a). And, in conclusion, he seems to give himself over to despair: “Who can escape the power of Sheol?” (89:51b). Psalm 89 does not provide an answer to its own questions. Rather, it recognizes the reality and power of trauma and remains, as so many victims of traumatic events are, dumb, mute, and utterly confounded.

Now, though no immediate resolution to the experience of trauma can be found in Psalm 89, that is not to say that there is no engagement or effort to respond. No, the entire Psalter, at some level, is an effort to respond to the theological crisis of 587.

As has been noted by many commentators, Books I-III of the Psalter (Psalms 1-89) can be read as recounting the rise and fall of the Davidic monarchy. In brief, Psalm 2 represents the divine adoption of David’s household and the beginning of the Davidic monarchy as God’s chosen representative on earth. Many subsequent psalms, by means of their superscriptions, reference events in David’s life as recounted in Samuel. For example, Psalm 18 refers to David’s escape from Saul’s murderous intent, and Psalm 51 to David’s adultery with Bathsheba. Palm 72, which concludes Book II, marks perhaps David’s dying prayer for Solomon. Even after the death of David, a son of David continues to occupy the throne.

Now, as we discussed, Psalm 89 references the end of the Davidic monarchy and, simultaneously, raises a theological question: Does the end of the Davidic kingship signify the end of the kingship of God, who guaranteed that David will be king forever? God bound divine kingship to human kingship in an eternal covenant. So does God shares in the shameful fate of the human king?

Book IV-V (Psalm 90-150) provides a complex response to the theological crisis raised by Psalm 89. The response, in broad strokes, is twofold. One, Books IV-V emphasize that God was, is, and will be king forever. This response can be seen most clearly in Psalms 93-100, the “Yhwh is king” psalms, so-called because of the repeated claim: “Yhwh is king” (93:1; 96:10; 97:1; 99:1; cf. 95:3; 98:6; 99:4). These psalms claim that, even after the demise of the Davidic monarchy, God remains king.

Two, David is not again referred to as “king” in Books IV-V. The implication is that David’s kingship can and did come to an end in 587 independent of God’s kingship. David, it should be noted, does reappear in Books IV-V, beginning in Psalm 101, right after the “Yhwh is king” psalms (Psalms 101, 103, 108-110, 138-145). He appears, however, not as king, but as cantor. He no longer leads the army into battle but rather the faithful throng in praise of God the King. Thus, David declares, “I will sing of loyalty and justice; / to you, O LORD, I will sing,” (101:1) and, “I will exalt you, my God, the King” (145:1a, my translation).

In sum, the trauma of Psalm 89, which is the trauma of the Psalter, requires the deployment of the resources of all the psalms to resolve. This speaks to the seriousness of trauma, especially of the trauma of 587, which shook the core of Israel’s sense of self, history, and God. And the seriousness with which the psalmic tradition handles trauma advises us from looking for easy answers to life’s deep problems and encourages, rather, patience and humility. It advises hope in God, who is, was, and will be king.

Christ the King

For Christian readers of the Psalm, it should be noted that the New Testament writers found a related but distinct resolution to the problem Psalm 89 raises, the link between divine and human kingship and its subsequent rupture. In conversation with other early Jewish traditions, the New Testament writers proclaim, on various occasions, that Christ Jesus is the Davidic king (see, for example, Acts 2:29-36; Rom 1:3). The Davidic king who was elected and rejected endures in Christ Jesus, who himself was rejected unto death to rise on the third day. Thus, the church too can sing:

I will sing of your steadfast love, O LORD, forever;
With my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations. (89:1)


  1. Commentary first published on this site on July 2, 2017.



Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 6:12-23

Israel Kamudzandu

This reading is a continuation of Romans 6:1-11, where we discussed theological themes of sin and death in relation to Paul’s teachings on the sacrament of baptism and eschatology.1

Verses 12-23 orient readers toward living a new life because justification is probably the beginning of what we may call Christian life, which is followed by sanctification. However we understand justification, one thing that stands clear is that Paul understands a new walk with Christ as the work of grace in which resurrection power propels believers to live worthy lives.

It may be appropriate at this point to bring in a dialogue between conservative and liberal Christianity. The former is a form of Christianity that is strict in terms of making believers live by the biblical principles, even if it means messing with their human rights that are in most cases dictated by the desires of the flesh. The latter is a form of Christianity whereby flexibility is allowed and growth is given chance because humanity is always under the pressure of the flesh and the spirit is always in conflict with the human body (see Galatians 5: 16-26).

Theoretically, the apostle Paul makes readers ponder on the differences between religion and spirituality, and this may be taken by some as a conversation around ethics or religion and ethics of spirituality, of which the human being is always caught in between. Theologically, Paul teaches that believers must at some point grow from being religious to becoming spiritual for that is the work of grace and sanctification.

The solution is resolved when Paul motivates believers to grow within the fruits of baptism and to “become what you now can become,” which means that one has to grow and mature spiritually. Spiritual maturity is indeed a struggle for many believers, and preachers need to educate people on ways they can grow spiritually.

Like the apostle Paul, preachers must exhort believers to live out their faith in concrete ways, and this can be done when people aspire to live in love because love is the vitality of faith and love accomplishes Christ’s saving work. Love is indeed the description of the Christian life, and while we cannot fully grasp the meaning of being in mystical union with Christ, Paul exhorts us to live out this mystery in love. Becoming what we have become in baptism means to live beyond religiosity.

Three Pauline teachings are clear in this passage. First, Paul is not concerned with issues of sin and guilt, but he is advocating for freedom from the power of sin, that is, believers can make a conscious effort on whether they should sin or not. Secondly, Paul is not concerned with growth to perfection but with an awareness of the once and for all saving act of justification done by God through Jesus Christ. The Christ event launched humanity into the ocean of grace and no one will ever take that away from believers. Third, the gift of grace and salvation calls believers to live in obedience as a verification of the work done by Jesus Christ.

While it is hard in North America to discuss issues of faith, spirituality, and Jesus Christ, in the Global South, believers are intrigued and invigorated by knowing that “In Christ, In the Spirit, and With Christ,” are part of what it means to live the eschatological act of salvation. These theological truths are what grounds Christianity in Third World nations, and they were grounds of Christian boasting even in the ancient Christian faith communities. Without these three, it becomes difficult for preachers to teach about the complementarity between faith and baptism. Everything boils down to the fact that the lordship of Jesus Christ summons believers to live ethical, Christ oriented lives.

In this chapter, the premises are given in verses 1-11 and 12-123 in the sense that freedom from the power of sin is grounded in the sacrament of baptism and salvation of which the effects are manifested in service to others and to the world. Resisting sin and victory over it depends on our realization that Jesus Christ is Lord of all and Christ imparts grace to us during and after baptism. Becoming what you have become in baptism signals new growth and one has to experience the results in real life of faith.

Metaphorically, Paul speaks the language of members, meaning parts of our bodies that do not function in autonomous ways but always subjected to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Christian existence and all our bodies belong then to the realm of the power of resurrection and our existence is not exempted from challenges, sicknesses, and powers of this world. The mortal body is still the bull’s eye for the devil, but because of resurrection believing humanity is always under the protection of the risen Lord.

As believers then, we are called to be slaves to righteousness, meaning that we only have one master and by conversion that master is God. Maybe, African-Americans and colonized nations have hard time with the language of slavery because our consciousness is marked with years of enslavement and dehumanization. In any case, verse 17 points believers to a shifting paradigm, that is our allegiance as former slaves is no longer to masters but to a God who loves us unconditionally.

The change is irreversible, and the freedom launches us into the righteousness of God. Righteousness leads to increased spirituality and holiness both of heart and with each other. Freedom for obedience then means that our faith is secure and that we continue to go through a journey of sanctification in which believers are gradually transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ.

The results of living a righteous life are that we begin to experience eternal life even while we are still on earth. Many Christians still ask weather one can live a holy life and whether people can experience eternal life whilst on earth. I leave that to others to decide, but from Paul’s theology, believers are privileged to experience the glimpses of eternal life (2 Corinthians 5:3). As believers, we probably think of these results as wages given to workers in whatever field they labor.

In Romans 6:23, Paul reminds us that the “gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” That is when we labor for God with faith, what we get is indeed more than wages for we cannot measure it with earthly standards but it is far more beyond us. It can only be called the gift of grace — that we are given what we do not deserve and that gift is eternal life. Christians must ask themselves who they serve and whose they are in all what they do.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on June 29, 2014.