Lectionary Commentaries for November 2, 2014
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Gospel

Commentary on Matthew 23:1-12

Greg Carey

In Matthew 23 we encounter a sustained condemnation of the scribes and Pharisees, placed upon the very lips of Jesus.

This lectionary excerpt constitutes the first twelve of thirty-six or thirty-nine verses, depending on one’s analysis. Among other things, the passage presents us with a perennial question: What makes for authentic teaching? Jesus praises the content of his opponents’ teaching, but their conduct does not comport with their words.

Jesus almost surely did engage in controversy with the scribes, Pharisees, and other authorities, but this particular speech also reflects Matthew’s distinctive point of view. Matthew 23 apparently elaborates material we find in Q (Luke 11:39-52) and in Mark (12:37b-40). Discerning preachers will take note of Matthew’s situation and agenda before plunging too quickly into their own sermons.

Matthew’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus the unauthorized Jewish teacher. Chris Keith points out that Matthew portrays Jesus as a teacher of the law who lacks the literacy and scribal skills of other authorized teachers yet impresses audiences with compelling authority (Jesus Against the Scribal Elite: The Origins of the Conflict). After his unsuccessful appearance in the Nazareth synagogue (Matt 13:53-58), Matthew’s Jesus performs his teaching in public spaces outside the synagogues.

Yet Matthew’s Jesus interprets the law under his own authority. While Moses records God’s words on a mountain, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus ascends a mountain to pronounce his own interpretation of that law. Furthermore, Matthew’s Jesus insists that his followers observe the law faithfully: he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and his disciples had better exceed the righteousness of the experts (5:17-20). In Matthew Jesus teaches his disciples a distinctive way to fulfill the law, a teaching that invites conflict from other authorities.

One way to avoid anti-Judaism in our preaching is to find the deeper challenges that lie beneath Matthew’s specific language. Almost all interpreters believe Matthew’s Gospel emerged during a formative and conflicted moment in the emergence of rabbinic Judaism. With Jerusalem and its temple decimated, Jews began the process of imagining what it would mean to follow God without a central temple for pilgrimage and sacrifice.

During this period authoritative teachers of the Torah emerged. Matthew’s Gospel reflects conflicts between Jesus’ followers and their fellow Jews. One such conflict peeks through in Matthew 28:11-15, which reports a rumor that “has been spread among the Jews to this day” to the effect that, having stolen Jesus’ body, the disciples proclaimed a fraudulent resurrection. Matthew’s Gospel, then, involves a conflict regarding who has the authority to interpret Judaism in this new era — and Matthew promotes Jesus’ authority over other options.

The problem, of course, is that too many preachers contribute to anti-Jewish sentiment by condemning the scribes and Pharisees. Many who hear our sermons will assume that Matthew’s portrayal of Jesus’ opponents speaks for actual Jewish attitudes — both in the ancient world and in our own. Responsible preachers will not waste time condemning ancient Jewish movements that did in fact capture the loyalties of many people, and probably for good reasons. Instead, we will identify that deeper set of issues that underlies the conflict: What makes for authentic teaching? That question transcends ancient polemics. It presses beyond modern ones as well.

With its harsh and sustained polemic, Matthew 23 may strike congregations as a bit of a shock. But Matthew has prepared its audience for this speech by escalating the conflict between Jesus and various authorities. We have already seen that Jesus calls his followers to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees (5:17-20), and we know that he has engaged in other controversies throughout the Gospel. Things really intensify when Jesus enters Jerusalem and creates a disturbance in the temple.

At that point the chief priests and the scribes express consternation (21:14-15). On the next day the chief priests and elders challenge Jesus’ authority directly (21:23). (Notice how Matthew identifies several different groups as Jesus’ opponents.) Jesus then tells two parables, the Two Sons (21:28-32) and the Tenants (21:33-41), which the chief priests and the Pharisees take as an attack upon themselves (21:45).

Generations ago commentators routinely dismissed Matthew’s “clumsy” style of narration. Matthew links one controversy story to another with phrases like “And again” (22:1), “Then” (22:15), and “On that day” (22:23), along with participial phrases that indicate proximity between one story and another (21:45; 22:1, 15, 29, 34, 41).

Matthew is not clumsy but intentional. This series of controversies pits Jesus against the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, the Pharisees, the Pharisees’ disciples, the Herodians, and the Sadducees, sometimes in teams. Matthew introduces Jesus’ invective at 23:1 with another transitional marker: “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples.” Jesus’ criticisms throughout chapter 23 constitute a final response to the pressure he’s been receiving throughout his stay in Jerusalem.

Looking beyond Jesus’ opponents in Matthew 23, we see something else. The criterion for authentic teaching amounts to a fit between content and conduct. True teaching, Jesus says, manifests itself at two levels.

First, authentic teachers live according to their own precepts. We might underestimate the remaining verses in Matthew 23 by limiting them to a critique of hypocrisy. After all, Jesus employs the term “hypocrite,” which connotes a stage actor in Greek, six times in chapter 23 and on several other occasions in Matthew.

Surely play acting lies in view. But there’s more. Jesus’ speech sends us back to Augustine’s classic criterion for faithful interpretation: Scripture’s purpose is that we should love God and love our neighbor. How often do we encounter teachers who espouse “correct” doctrine in hateful, demeaning ways? True teaching does not abuse other people.

Second, authentic teachers do not promote their own status. It’s not particularly common for professional teachers, whether pastors, professors, or others, to accept moves “down” the professional ladder. We all enjoy a prominent seat or desk from which to pontificate. We all like our name in the credits, on the cover, or on the sign. But Matthew identifies authentic teachers as servants who seek neither promotion nor acclaim. Few of us fit that bill.


First Reading

Commentary on Micah 3:5-12

Eric Mathis

It was Archbishop Desmond Tutu who said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor …

… If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”1

Indeed, many might side with Archbishop Tutu’s perspective and claim that it is, in fact, better to speak against injustice than it is to remain silent. The prophet Micah would certainly join the forces of those called to speak against injustice, and Micah 3:5-12 presents strong evidence supporting that claim.

Micah 3:5-12 can be divided into two sections. The first section is a harsh indictment against prophets (verses 5-8), while the second section is a broader condemnation of the elephants, per say (verses 9-12): rulers, priests, and prophets who have oppressed the innocent. In the first section, Micah lashes out with a specific attack on prophets who preference the wealthy over the poor. The preferential treatment, according to Micah, typically occurs in the form of delivering messages that please the wealthy and then delivering opposite messages to those who cannot fork out the cash. In these instances, the prophets aim to please people, not deliver the message of the Lord (verses 5-6).

At times, the method of receiving and delivering messages was the issue with prophets in Micah’s day. In other words, some prophets received a “word from the Lord” in a dream or vision, while others received a message by hearing the voice of the Lord audibly. The method of reception is of no concern to Micah here. Rather, he is concerned with the mode of delivering the message. Specifically, he is concerned with an ethical issue: prophets who prostitute themselves for what the people want.

Not only does Micah speak out against these prophets, but he also declares punishment. Night will set. Darkness will be more prominent than light, and the prophets who have “led God’s people astray” will stop hearing from the Lord. They will experience shame and their lips will be silenced. Broadly speaking, it is impossible for them to get away with falsehood. Consequences exist for their actions, and punishment will happen (verse 7).

Following his judgment against other prophets, Micah turns the conversation to validate the message he has just delivered (verse 8). He squares his own words in the biblical tradition, in other words, that tradition which pays attention to the voice of God. He is unique. He is filled with power, with justice, with might, and most importantly, the Spirit of the Lord.

After affirming himself, Micah turns once again with a clarion call that expresses outrage not only at prophets, but also rulers, priests, and every area of society (verse 9). Rulers are ruling for bribes; priests are teaching for a fee, and prophets are performing their duty for money. While they claim to do these duties in the name of the Lord (verse 11), Micah believes otherwise. Their statements “Surely the Lord is with us,” are merely pious ways of avoiding Micah’s harsh words to them. “They use part of their religious heritage in a perverse way to avoid accountability and to reject the words of one of God’s true prophets.”2 But, they can’t get away with this. Micah declares the whole of Jerusalem is perverted because of their poor leadership, and punishment is coming to everyone by way of God.

Of course, punishment doesn’t happen when Micah expects it or how Micah expects it. The Babylonians demolished Jerusalem in the time of Jeremiah, but this destruction was delayed; it clearly wasn’t in Micah’s time. Furthermore, Jerusalem never found itself to be “a plowed field” or a “heap of ruins.” It might be said that because King Hezekiah heeded Micah’s words and repented, the Lord turned away the disaster. At least, this is how those heeding Jeremiah’s words interpreted Micah’s prediction (Jeremiah 26:18-19).3

What might all of this mean for us? To return to the opening quote from Desmond Tutu, in this passage, Micah was anything but neutral in a situation of injustice. When the elephant was stomping the tail of the mouse, Micah chose to advocate for those who were suffering evils because of the work of leaders. Micah chose to criticize the wrong doings of others who were bringing pain to the innocent. And in Micah’s case, speaking out was better than remaining silent.

Furthermore, Micah’s voice, when heard through the predicament of Jerusalem, its leaders, and its people, shows that not all suffering is punishment for sin. Sometimes suffering is a “consequence of victimization and abuse by the wicked and powerful.”4 Any analysis of a cultural system where suffering occurs should be examined in totality: from the top down as well as from the bottom up.

Finally, this passage illustrates that any of us who speak against injustice should always ask the question of timing. Are the time, the place, and the message we are delivering appropriate to the situation, the people, and their place in life? It is clear that some in leadership were abusing their power and doing so in the name of the Lord. Their timing, their message, and the situations to which they were speaking were misguided, indirect, and therefore damaging. But, wise and discerning prophets like Micah, have the option to take another path: to speak against wrong, but to do so by bringing the right message at the right time.


Notes:

1 Quoted in William P. Quigley, Ending Poverty As We Know It: Guaranteeing a Right to a Job at a Living Wage (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 2003), 8.

2 Daniel J. Simundson, “The Book of Micah: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible: Volume VII, ed. Leander E. Keck, Thomas G. Long, David L. Petersen, et al, The New Interpreter’s Bible: A Commentary in Twelve Volumes (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994), 560.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.


Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Joshua 3:7-17

Sara Koenig

In the first chapter of the book of Joshua, the title character is exhorted four times — in the space of eleven verses — to “be strong and courageous.” 

This exhortation to bravery does not just stand by itself; it comes with two clear reasons. First, in 1:6, God tells Joshua to be strong and courageous “because you will lead this people to inherit the land that I swore to their ancestors to give to them.”

The second reason why Joshua is to be strong and courageous is because God promises in verse 9, “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” These reasons are also promises that a future will be made secure, and that God will be present with Joshua in all the places he will go.  

The lectionary text gives an answer to a question that Joshua never asks, though perhaps he wondered it: “How do I know?” Abram asked that question of God in Gen 15:8, and people of faith ever since have continued to wonder. How can I know that the things God promises will come true? How can I trust that in the future God will do what God says? In the miracle of the parting of the waters and the experience of walking on dry land, Joshua, the people of Israel, and all of us today are given a concrete way to know God’s trustworthiness.  

Though the lectionary begins with verse 7, the first six verses provide a geographical and theological setting. Joshua and the people leave Shittim and camp at the Jordan River, before they cross over. Geographically, Shittim is only about six miles away from the river, if Abel Shittim is the site.  

But theologically, there is a more dramatic distance between the two. Shittim is where the Israelites were in Numbers 25, when so many of them worshiped the foreign god Baal of Peor. At the end of the book of Joshua, the people will make a covenant to only worship the Lord, and leaving Shittim is a start.  

The lectionary selection begins with the Lord speaking to Joshua, telling him that this is the day God will begin to make Joshua great. Four things stand out in verse 7. First, the word “begin” signals that Joshua’s greatness is a process, not a task that will be completed in a single moment. Second, Joshua does not become great by himself, but it is God who will make him great.  

Third, Joshua’s greatness is not an end unto itself, but the reason for it is clearly stated: so that the Israelites will know that God will be with him, as God was with Moses. Fourth is the implication that the people need to remember the past. How could they know that God was with Moses, unless they retell the stories, and recite the history? In order to move into the future, they cannot forget their past.  

In verse 9, Joshua speaks to all the Israelites, inviting them to come and “hear” God’s words, but the experience they will have will involve more than just one of their senses. They will hear, but they will also see the waters “stand up in a single heap” (3:13), and they will feel the ground under their feet as they cross over on dry ground (3:17).  

There is no mystery about the reason for this experience, for Joshua tells the Israelites in verse 10: “By this you will know that the living God is in your midst, and without fail he will drive out before you the Canaanites … ”All the dramatic events that occur are so that the people will know that God is with them and will give them victory. And the events are dramatic! 3:4 tells us that the people must keep a distance of 2000 cubits — about ¾ of a mile — from the ark.  

And even if it is not the crossing of the Reed Sea in Exodus 14, neither is it just some trickle. Joshua 3:15 tells us that the crossing happens at the time of the harvest, when the river is at flood stage. The Jordan River also drops significantly in elevation. Its headwaters are at Mount Hermon, 9000 feet above sea level, and it ends at the Dead Sea, 1400 feet below sea level, so the Jordan is one of the fastest flowing rivers of its size.  

The priests march ahead of the people bearing the ark, and as soon as their feet touch the water of the Jordan, it stops flowing, so that the people, spread out over a mile, cross over on dry ground.  

In the Persian period, the term “Beyond the River” becomes a technical imperial designation for the land of the Israelites (cf. Ezra 3:11). Again, this can be understood geographically, that the Israelites settle into the land that is west of the Jordan River. But again, there is also theology in this name that ought to be remembered each time it is repeated: they crossed over the river led by God, on their way to the land God had promised to their ancestors long ago.  

The purpose of the Israelites crossing the river is to fight and ultimately conquer the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. There is plenty of encouraging material in this text to preach on, but we ought not to ignore the aspect of the conquest. Another way to translate the Hebrew word ?abar, “to cross,” is “to pass by.” Even when we are not conquering people groups, as the Israelites did, there is a danger of “passing them by” in the sense of ignoring them.  

Today, we may not have the experience of seeing a rushing river stop and crossing through it on dry ground. But we have these stories that bear witness to the truth that God is among us, will do what God has promised to do, and will give us victory.


Psalm

Commentary on Psalm 43

W. H. Bellinger, Jr.

Most interpreters today treat Psalms 42 and 43 as one psalm because a number of Hebrew manuscripts present the psalms together in one text and because the psalms share vocabulary and themes.

The refrain in the two psalms (Psalms 42:5, 11; 43:5) is the clearest sign of their unity. The practice of separating the psalms may well have begun with the Greek translation and reflect a distinction between prayers of complaint and of petition. This treatment will consider Psalm 43 in the context of the full text, Psalm 42-43.

The text is a prayer in three parts moving from complaint to petition and ending in hope. The speaker is in crisis and engages in a dialogue with the self in the refrain as a way of articulating the significance of the crisis and of moving forward. The crisis may be sickness or it may be exile from the temple as the life-giving place of worship, of encounter with the living God. The psalm uses poetic imagery in ways that make the language adaptable for a variety of settings in life.

The psalm’s setting in life is complemented by the literary setting in the book of Psalms. The psalm begins Book II of the Psalter; its superscription indicates that the text begins a collection (Psalms 42-49) of Korahite psalms. Korah was the Levitical leader of a guild of psalmists (1 Chronicles 9:19; 2 Chronicles 20:19). Korahite psalms often exhibit a community emphasis and a community lament follows this opening psalm of Book II.

The emphasis of the psalm’s placement here seems to be exile from the temple and brings to mind the ancient Israelite community’s experience of exile and the longing for return to Zion or the temple as the defining place of worship. So it may be that a representative of the community voices the prayer of Psalm 42-43 in the crisis of exile.

The text’s opening stanza (Psalm 42:1-5) begins with the striking image of the deer thirsting for water when there is none. Just as water is necessary for life, so also is the divine presence. The speaker remembers powerful worship services of communion with God and yearns again for that life-giving reality. Tears rather than the nourishing divine presence mark life in the current crisis. The second stanza (Psalm 42:6-11) again remembers God, but in the context of the waves of the current crisis overwhelming the speaker. With verse 9, the text begins the transition to petition, the emphasis of the third stanza (Psalm 43).

The third stanza (Psalm 43) petitions God to act as a defense attorney in the face of dominating enemies who are bullying the petitioner. The call is for justice. The enemies appear to be those who see the crisis at hand and find the root cause in the life of the speaker. So while the enemies have not caused the crisis, they certainly have made it worse with their mocking of the one who is praying.

The contrast is with God who is the one who provides refuge. God’s light and truth (verse 3), in contrast to the darkness the enemies bring, prepare for arrival at the temple and encounter with the light of the divine presence found in the special sacred place of worship. This light elicits praise from the speaker, praise accompanied by the harp. The praise recounts God’s deliverance from the crisis at hand. The final word is not the chaos of the crisis but a word of hope and trust. The text concludes with petition to the God who comes to save, the God of hope affirmed in the final occurrence of the refrain (Psalm 43:5).

The concluding refrain continues the dialogue with the self, identified with the Hebrew term often translated “soul” (Psalms 42:1, 2, 5, 6, 11; 43:5). The etymology of the term has to do with the neck or breath or desire. Most commonly the term has to do with the person or self and so is at times translated with the pronoun “I” or “me.” Genesis 2:7 pronounces the man to be a living “soul,” a person or being.

People today often speak of having a soul, but the Hebrew Scriptures view a person as a soul — a living, breathing self with various dimensions (physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual). The Older Testament — and Psalm 42-43 — views the person in a holistic way. Some today speak of dividing up persons into mind, body, and soul or speak of the immortality of the soul possessed by a person, a soul that returns to immortality at death. Leaders of the church have at various times suggested that the task of the church is to save “souls” and ignore other dimensions of life. These views are not in line with the holistic view of life found in the Bible and in particular in the Older Testament.

Psalm 42-43 portrays the person at prayer in the midst of simultaneous despair and hope, not unlike the experience of Jesus during the crucifixion (“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:46). In the midst of the despair of the crisis, there is still God’s persistent love and trustworthiness. In this psalm, much of the hope is tied to liturgical realities.

The liturgical experience speaks to the self in the midst of the experience of exile and divine absence and that interaction makes it possible to move from exile to dialogue with God who is present in worship. The psalm concludes with a hope found in God who must quench the thirst of the one praying. The experience of exile, whether geographical or spiritual, yields to hope.

Many today experience seasons of crisis, and our culture suggests that we depend upon ourselves for help rather than upon God. The result is isolation and fear. The psalm’s journey toward hope rests in divine initiative. “The poet yearns to be surrounded by the believing and worshiping community: to participate in the worship services of the Temple and to celebrate with the people the presence of God in their midst.

This is not the kind of private piety or spiritual individualism that is often manifest in churches today.”1 God’s help in the context of the worshiping community brings full living. This honest text suggests that both despair and hope come in life and that both can lead one forward. The psalm moves beyond a private mourning to hope found in the worshiping community God has created. The psalm is an important word of good news in our culture of anxiety, isolation, and despair. The New Testament also speaks of thirst for God (Matthew 5:6) and of God as the one who quenches such thirst (John 4:14; 6:35; Revelation 21:6).

Psalm 42-43 was used on the Easter Sunday on which Augustine was baptized. The text’s water imagery and the divine quenching of thirst fit the occasion. Life is dependent upon God just as life is dependent upon water. Augustine said, “The thought of (God) stirs (the human being) so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you make us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you.”2


Notes:

1 Bernhard Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today, 3rd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox 2000) 66-67.

2 J. Clinton McCann, Jr., “The Book of Psalms,” New Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Leander E. Keck, et al (Nashville: Abingdon, 1996) 853-854.


Second Reading

Commentary on 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Amy L.B. Peeler

“Paul … found a Jew named Aquila … with his wife Priscilla … Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together — by trade they were tentmakers (Acts 18:1–3).”

Paul was not one to shy away from a hard day’s work. Numerous times throughout his letters he reminds his addressees that he worked while he was among them, not just with “preacherly” duties, but also in the “real world.” One of these expositions on hard work occurs in the second chapter of Thessalonians where Paul describes the exemplary conduct of a leader as he also reveals how the active God can transform normal work into something extraordinary.

Paul’s first word in this passage is “remember” which encourages a review of Paul’s past interactions with the Thessalonians. Previously adherents of the various Greco-Roman religions (1:9), the Thessalonians heard the good news from Paul, and when they did so, God met them with demonstrations of power through the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 1:5). This was especially encouraging for Paul who had arrived via Philippi where he had experienced persecution (1 Thessalonians 12:2) at the hands of the local magicians and magistrates (Acts 17:14-21).

Unfortunately trouble again followed close at his heels, this time from the leading Jews of the area, who Luke tells us are jealous because of Paul’s missionary success (Acts 17:5). After an uproar, Paul and Silas escaped under the cover of darkness and went to the city of Berea, about 50 miles to the southwest. Although he wanted to return to the Thessalonians, Paul was unable so he sent Timothy, whose report of their enduring faith and love prompted the writing of this letter (3:6).

Despite the good news from the community, the enemies of Paul still pose a real threat. Hence, the charge that Paul is a “man who has upset the world” (Acts 17:6) echoes in the background. Was he worried that the tempter might tempt them (3:5) to question Paul and therefore question the gospel he brought? To forestall this, he extolls his character. Beginning with the first main sentence in the letter, Paul reminds them of “what kind of men we proved to be among you” (1:5), and his character takes center stage in the verses preceding this passage. He eliminates any possible negative motivation — error, impurity, deceit, flattery, glory, or power — as he establishes his character in two particular ways.

First, he was not a burden to them. Possibly wanting to avoid a negative association with traveling sophists, those who taught morally ambivalent rhetoric and at times became rich from it, Paul asserts that he does not teach for a fee but provides for himself. A common theme for Paul throughout his writings, he notes that as an apostle he could accept a fee (1 Corinthians 9:12, 14, 18), but he has chosen not to do so (2 Thessalonians 3:7–10; 1 Corinthians 4:11-12, 14–15; 2 Corinthians 11:8–9).

This keeps Paul unbound to the symbiotic system of patronage so vital to the functioning of first century society. He can travel where he wants and say what needs to be said without upsetting the patron-client dynamic. Moreover, since it seems the Thessalonians have a tendency toward laziness (1 Thessalonians 4:11–12; 2 Thessalonians 3:10-12), Paul may have been particularly concerned to show them the example of continuing hard work even in light of the immanent eschaton.

Paul’s method is a good reminder for ministers today of the possible messy entailments of being paid for proclaiming the word of God. Nevertheless, his example certainly cannot be used as an excuse to demand that preachers teach for free. As Paul says with the Lord’s support, those who proclaim the gospel should be supported by it (1 Corinthians 9:14). He even encourages the Thessalonians to appreciate and esteem those who labor among them (1 Thessalonians 5:12), which surely has financial ramifications. His decision not to be a financial burden to his communities promotes the use of wisdom when accepting funds, but does not prohibit the reception of funds altogether.

Second, Paul defends his character with his assertions that he is not bringing his own message, but God’s. Paul proclaims his deep thanksgiving that when the Thessalonians heard him they perceived this truth (verse 13). Hence, his blameless conduct points to something greater. It provides evidence of the transformation the message he is bringing has affected in his own life. His greatest desire is that they never lose sight of the truth of what God was saying to them for which Paul only served as the messenger.

Paul has reminded the Thessalonians of his work. He was like a father to each of them, encouraging, exhorting, and testifying to them so that they might live worthy lives (2:11–12). Like a father would do, he was preaching the word of God and also laboring (presumably as a tent maker) so that he wouldn’t be a financial burden to them, his children in the faith. With this energetic lifestyle, he is embodying and demonstrating an analogous characteristic of God. While Paul has been at work among them, God has also been at work in them (2:13), calling them to be members of the kingdom and participants in his glory (2:12).

Because God has brought them from death to life (1:9), from inactivity to activity, they, too, have a work to perform. They have already demonstrated a working faith, a laboring love, and an enduring hope (1:2), and now Paul is calling them to be his imitators (2:14), persisting in both spiritual and mundane work. For once you have become a member of God’s kingdom, all of your life falls under his authority and contributes to his glory. Invigorated by the active God, everything from making tents to evangelism can serve the needs of the believing community and the kingdom of the God in whom the community members believe.