Lectionary Commentaries for July 6, 2014
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30

Stanley Saunders

Matthew persistently affirms that God’s empire, embodied in the proclamation and teaching of Jesus, brings both judgment and salvation, both healing and division. 

Jesus’ teachings in the two portions of this lectionary reading illumine the dynamics of this division, focusing especially on the failure of those who have witnessed Jesus’ ministry to respond (11:16-19) and on the success of his ministry among the most vulnerable (11:25-30; the lectionary skips 11:20-24, which announce judgment on the cities where Jesus has ministered).

Earlier in this chapter, in response to questions from the disciples of John the Baptizer, Jesus has clarified the nature of his ministry (11:2-6) and then offered a longer description of the ministry of John himself (11:7-18). John is “Elijah,” the eschatological forerunner, a rough figure whose proclamation, which has apparently focused especially on judgment, has provoked strong reactions, including violence.

While Jesus, like John, announces the advent of the empire of heaven, his ministry has not resembled the harsh, abrasive cast of John’s, which is probably why John’s disciples have come to ask Jesus if he is really the one coming or not (11:2-3). But whether the announcement of God’s presence and power is cast as judgment or as redemption, the response has been the same. Whether it was John or Jesus calling the tune, few have left the sidelines to join the dance, even in the cities of Galilee where Jesus has conducted most of his ministry (11:20-24).

Jesus compares those who are rejecting this proclamation to street urchins sitting in the marketplace and refusing to play each other’s games (11:16-19). Matthew typically uses the expression “this generation” not to designate his contemporaries alone, but those in any era whose lineage is more clearly related to Adam and Cain and their offspring — i.e., to those who are unfaithful, unrepentant, and ultimately violent in their defiance of God (e.g., Matthew 23:29-36). This is the same “generation” that mocked Noah’s preparations for the flood, turned to idols after God delivered them from Egyptian slavery, and repeatedly pursued their own imperial ambitions in the face of prophetic warnings.

One group of these children wants to play “wedding” but can’t get the others to dance when the tune is piped. The other group wants to play “funeral” but can’t get the others to mourn with them. Mourning and dancing coincide with the differing casts of John’s and Jesus’ ministries. Just as some refused to repent when challenged by John, so, too, they refuse to join the celebrations of Jesus — “a man, a glutton and a drunkard.” The children all just sit, hurling their bitter invectives against one another. This becomes the new game. Sound familiar?

Contemporary politics has made us very familiar indeed with the game of reducing complex issues to ideals and platitudes, picking a side, and yelling at one another. Regrettably, the contemporary church, especially the Protestant church, is often on the cutting edge of this game. We have a long history of division over ideals, doctrines, and the quest to preserve a pure tradition. And when we divide, many of us want to pat ourselves on the back for playing the game so well.

In this posturing, we forget that the game to which Jesus call us is about discerning, turning toward, and bearing witness to the work of God in the world. Jesus’ statement that “wisdom is justified by her deeds” directs us to pay closer attention to the results of our actions, even as we consider who Jesus is and what his ministry is about. Is he just a rebel, mostly interested in crossing social boundaries and breaking taboos? Is he a defender of tradition and right doctrine? Or do his actions demonstrate divine presence and power (11:4-5)? Does Jesus, even “at play,” reveal God at work?

Jesus’ prayer/sermon in 11:25-30 identifies those who are most likely to be attuned to God’s work in the world, the “babies” rather than the “wise and understanding” (11:25). Jesus mocks those who claim for themselves wisdom and intelligence — most immediately the leaders and elites who oppose Jesus, but really those of any age or generation whose “wisdom” blinds them to what God is really doing.

God’s revelation comes instead to the “infants” (or “simpleminded,” “stupid”), whose vulnerability and humility make it possible for them both to see and to respond faithfully to God’s presence and power. What does it mean to take Jesus’ yoke and to learn from him (11:29)? Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount offers the best answer: those who are blessed neither accept this world as the way things must be nor return in kind the violence they endure at the hands of the powerful.

We are most likely to experience God’s presence and power in the company of the humble and vulnerable, the people who are usually found at the margins of our congregations. They may be children or strangers, people who are not sure whether or how they fit. They may be poets or artists, who are trained to look at the world differently. Whoever they might be in any given congregation, they will always be people who see what others do not, and thus help the rest of us deal with our blinding arrogance and entitlement. They may be people whose lives challenge the ideals over which we argue and divide.

The empire of heaven, after all, is not an ideal, but a reality made known through real acts and experiences of judgment, repentance, and redemption. The church that banishes the marginal, the vulnerable, and the humiliated does not prevent itself from being subject to the judgment of God; to the contrary, it is precisely through their eyes and voices that we can most clearly discern God’s judgment and mercy, through which our ongoing repentance is made possible. Judgment is a tool God uses to open our eyes and ears, to draw us toward repentance — not to induce brokenness but to uncover and heal what is broken. 

First Reading

Commentary on Zechariah 9:9-12

Margaret Odell

This text is familiar to us from its use in the gospel accounts of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem; however, it presents a number of puzzles for the preacher to solve.

First, one might wonder why we are being taken back to Palm Sunday after Pentecost, during ordinary time, when the lectionary focuses on the life of the church with such themes as discipleship, vocation, and mission.

Not only is the text out of season, its apparent militarism would not, on first glance, sit well with these themes of Christian discipleship. The militarism is readily explained in light of Zion theology, which maintained that God’s presence kept Jerusalem and its king safe from enemies (Psalms 2, 46, 47, 48); even so, it remains difficult to see how to relate this theme to Christian discipleship and mission.

More puzzling still is the characterization of the rescued prisoners of 9:11 as “prisoners of hope” in the parallel line in 9:12. This unusual expression suggests that Zion’s inhabitants endure a spiritual and psychological form of captivity, not a literal one. Therein lies the problem: how can hope be a prison? Hope is a good thing, isn’t it? Yet this phrase provides an important key to solving the puzzle of Zechariah 9:9-12.

The hope holding Zion’s inhabitants captive is precisely the ancient militarist hopes of Zion theology. A closer look at how the text reconfigures this militarist tradition will show that it presents a new way to know God’s saving presence and therefore establishes a new basis for hope. The text thus turns out to be perfectly suited for reflection on life in ordinary time, as it encourages us to live out our resurrection faith by breaking free from our prisons of old expectations.

While it’s certainly possible that the reference to hope in Zech 9:12 builds on other prophetic promises of hope (Hosea 2:15; Isaiah 8:17; Jeremiah 31:17)1, it remains difficult to explain why Zion’s inhabitants would be considered its prisoners. The solution to this puzzle is that hope is not always necessarily a good thing. The term tiqveh is rare in the prophetic tradition; it is used far more frequently in the wisdom literature, where it is often associated with false expectations or humanly conceived prospects not rooted in trust in God (Proverbs 10:28; 11:7, 23).

In fact, the word is often used with the verb “to dry up” in a richly alliterative phrase that gets lost in translation (Psalm 9:18; Ezekiel 19:5; 37:11; Job 8:13; Proverbs 10:28; 11:23). We catch a glimpse of this desiccated hope in Ezekiel 37. When the exiles complain, “our hope is dried up, we are clean cut off” (Ezekiel 37:11), Ezekiel visualizes them as so many dry bones. These once hopeful people are so far gone it is absurd to ask if they can live again.

One may suggest that Zechariah 9–11 was written to address false hopes, or at least to recast outmoded ones. The superscription of Zechariah 9–11 identifies it as a massa’ (English “An Oracle”), a scribal re-interpretation of older prophetic revelation to provide new revelation for a new situation.2

While it remains an open question when this reinterpretation took place, it would have occurred either in the Persian or Hellenistic periods, well after the kingdom of Judah had ceased functioning as an autonomous, sovereign kingdom. One challenge these scribes would have faced was the lingering militarism of the older prophetic tradition. Much of Zechariah 9–11 consists of allusions older prophecies filled with mythic scenarios of the Divine Warrior coming to vanquish Israel’s enemies.

With its allusion to Zephaniah 3:14 and Zechariah 2:10, Zechariah 9:9-12 is a case in point, since both of these older prophetic texts command Zion to rejoice over God’s dealings with the enemies. For Jews living under Persian or Hellenistic control, any continued expectation that God would rescue them militarily could indeed become a prison. Locked in past ways of seeing the world and God’s ways in it, they would be incapable of seeing divine activity in their current circumstances.

How to release these prisoners of hope from old expectations? In effect, the scribes employ the older traditions to open new paths to peace. As in Zephaniah 3:14 and Zechariah 2:10, the audience is commanded to rejoice because of what God has done for Zion and its inhabitants. But where the older texts speak of enemies, Zechariah speaks of conditions that make for peace. The king is not the agent of deliverance but one who has himself been humbled yet declared righteous (contrast NRSV “triumphant”) and therefore delivered or saved (contrast NRSV “victorious”).

The fact that he is delivered but not the deliverer may explain his entry into Zion on a donkey. Donkeys do appear once elsewhere as the preferred mode of royal transport (Genesis 49:11), but it’s also the case that donkeys don’t go to war, horses do. In addition, verse 10 indicates that God (read “I” instead of “he”) banishes weapons and implements of war — including warhorses — from Ephraim and Judah. While one may infer that the banished weapons belong to the enemies, the verse does not make that claim. God’s presence secures the king and the kingdom, though not by any visibly military means. The scribes have thus subtly recast motifs associated with military victory to emphasize new ways of being at peace in the world.

By reshaping the older military traditions, the scribes have also subtly redefined the basis for hope. One is reminded of the enigmatic statement to Zerubabel in Zechariah 4:6: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit.” Hope remains grounded in the conviction of God’s presence; but once the people are released from the prison of old expectations, they are free to discover God at work in new and unexpected ways.


1 Marvin Sweeney, The Twelve Prophets (Berit Olam, 2 vols.; Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 2000), 665.

2 Michael H. Floyd, Minor Prophets, part 2 (FOTL 22; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2000), 444-452.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67

Kathryn M. Schifferdecker

After two harrowing stories — the near-deaths of both Ishmael and Isaac — today we have a love story, a love story that has been foreshadowed already in the account of the sacrifice of Isaac. 

At the end of that account, there is a brief genealogy that includes the name of Rebekah (Genesis 22:20-24). Today, we meet Rebekah, a strong and courageous young woman.

In the intervening chapter (chapter 23), Sarah dies at the age of 127 and is buried. Coming as it does right after the story of the sacrifice of Isaac, the account of Sarah’s death is linked by the rabbis to that tale. That is, according to one rabbinic midrash, Sarah died when she heard what Abraham intended to do to their son! The story of Sarah’s death is also linked to what follows. The death of one generation moves to the promise of a new generation; but to fulfill that promise, Isaac needs a wife.

This is a long narrative, filled with many details. The lectionary appoints only a selected number of verses in order to keep the reading manageable. The preacher, though, may choose to expand the reading, to employ a readers’ theater telling of it, or to re-tell the story in the sermon.

There is humor here — Rebekah offers to draw water for the camels, but one camel can drink 20-30 gallons of water at a time, and there are 10 camels! She is not only beautiful, it seems, but exceedingly (freakishly?) strong. Laban may be appropriately hospitable and pious (24:29-31, 50), but it doesn’t hurt that he has first seen the gold jewelry that Abraham’s servant gave his sister (verse 30). (We know from the later Jacob cycle that Laban is no fool when it comes to wealth.) And when Rebekah, after her long journey, at last sets eyes on her intended, the Hebrew very plainly says that she falls off the camel (verse 64).

It’s a good story, filled with drama and humor. What does it say, though, about God and the life of faith? God does not speak directly in this story (in contrast to the previous two stories). God does not intervene in any obvious way in this domestic tale. And yet, the LORD, the God of Abraham, is invoked by Abraham himself, by his unnamed servant, and by Rebekah’s family. God’s will is discerned in prayer and by observation, and God’s hesed (steadfast love, covenant loyalty) is demonstrated through human action.

Let’s look at some details: The unnamed servant is worried that he will not find a suitable young woman for Isaac, one who will be willing to leave family and homeland to travel to a place she’s never seen before. So he does what he can; going to the city of his master’s kinsfolk, he stops by the village well and there he prays: “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love (hesed) to my master Abraham” (Gen 24:12). He asks for a sign: the young woman who not only gives him a drink but also offers to water his camels will be the one.

Even as he prays, Rebekah comes out to the well to draw water. We know from other biblical stories that the well is the place where future spouses meet (Jacob and Rachel, Moses and Zipporah). The same is true here, though Abraham’s servant stands in for Isaac. When he asks Rebekah for a drink, she immediately offers to water his camels, too. He watches in silence as she works, discerning whether or not she is the one (verse 21).

Abraham’s servant seems to decide that Rebekah is, indeed, the woman for Isaac. After she finishes her monumental task, he gives her gold jewelry and asks to stay at her father’s house. When he learns that she is of Abraham’s kin, he is even more certain, and he praises God for God’s faithfulness:

“Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love (hesed) and his faithfulness toward my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the way to the house of my master’s kin” (24:27).

After hearing the story, Rebekah’s family agrees with the servant’s assessment of the situation: “The thing comes from the LORD” (verse 50). And Rebekah herself does not hesitate to go. She is not only strong, but decisive (a characteristic that will continue in later stories about her). She, like Abraham before her, leaves home and family to travel to a land she has never seen. She is a model of generosity, strength, and courage.

Though unnamed, Abraham’s servant, too, is a central figure in this drama and a model of faithful action. Given a difficult task, he does what he can and he leaves the rest to God. He travels to the homeland of his master’s family; he takes his stand at a likely place to meet young women; and then he prays. Like Gideon in Judges 6, the servant asks for a sign. Then he watches and waits to discern God’s will. When the sign is fulfilled, the servant is quick to praise God for God’s faithfulness and God’s hesed. Finally, he bears witness to others of that divine faithfulness.

We could do worse than follow the example of Abraham’s servant when called to a particular task. Prepare. Pray. Wait. Watch for signs of God’s faithfulness. Then be quick to praise God and to witness to others of God’s faithfulness. Oh, and be generous. Generosity marks the actions of both Rebekah and the servant.

This story ends with the meeting of Rebekah and Isaac, and it is worth noting at least two things. First, the text says explicitly that Isaac loved Rebekah (verse 67). In the patriarchal culture of ancient Israel, love was not considered a necessary ingredient in a marriage, but it seems that God, too, is generous in this story, providing a wife for Isaac to love.

Finally, the text says, Isaac took Rebekah into his mother Sarah’s tent and he was “comforted after his mother’s death” (verse 67). In the shadow of death, or the threat of death (chapter 22), love is born, grief is quieted, and the promise of life begins anew. Rebekah, that strong young woman, will be the matriarch of a new generation, and God’s promises to Abraham (12:1-3) will be fulfilled.

God does not speak in this story. God does not intervene explicitly in this domestic affair, but it could be Isaac’s and Rebekah’s song that the psalmist gives voice to when he writes, “O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love (hesed) endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).


Commentary on Psalm 145:8-14

Walter C. Bouzard

This entry consists of two parts: one that the working preacher might proclaim and one that she should not bring with her into the pulpit.

Both parts are, however, are worth knowing.

But first, some of the general background: Psalm 145 is a hymn that lauds God for God’s acts in general, and for the LORD’s magnificent management of God’s world and of the many citizens who reside under God’s gracious care. In form, the psalm is an acrostic; each line commences with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In this instance, it seems likely that the psalmist intends to express the praise of God from first to last, or from “A to Z.”

The portion of the psalm assigned for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost are verses 8 to 14, the praise of God from chet (ch) to samek (s). To be more accurate, however, I should say that the praise almost spans those two poles. It turns out that the line that would begin with the letter nun (n) is missing from the Masoretic Text. That is, the line that the NRSV provides at the end of verse 13 as “The LORD is faithful in all his words, and gracious in all his deeds,” does not appear in the Hebrew text upon which many English translations are predicated, including the KJV.

The NRSV includes the passage however, as did the RSV before it, because the line does appear in the Syriac and the Septuagint (Greek) versions as well as Qumran’s 11QPsalm145. This evidence suggests, therefore, that the statement included in verse 13 was known in ancient Hebrew manuscripts including at least those ones known to those scholars who transmitted the Septuagint and 11QPsalm145. Consequently, the editors of some modern translations include the verse on grounds that a more original text was thereby recovered.1

Nevertheless, no small controversy exists over this practice by modern editors. Questions of canon, the authority of the Masoretic Text, and even whether or not the inserted verse is original are debated. On the latter point, it is true 11QPsalm145 differs from the Septuagint in that the former reads “God [elohim] is faithful,” as opposed to “The LORD [yhwh] is faithful.” The Qumran copy, moreover, inserts a refrain at the end of each verse, “Blessed be the LORD and blessed be his name forever and ever” (brwk yhwh wbrwk shmw l’‘wlm w’d), a circumstance that suggests the liturgical use of the psalm in the Qumran community.

By now the perspicacious preacher has figured out that the text critical remarks above are the part of this entry that should not be carted into the pulpit. But for the pastor who conducts pericope studies with her congregants (and how transformative it would be were that a description of every pastor!), the missing nun verse provides an excellent opportunity to help her people to think about the origins of our canon, the nature of the Bible as scripture, the history of transmission, the dangers of idolizing the Bible or a particular translation of it, the impossibility of discovering a flawless “original copy” of the Bible, and more.

Returning to the task of proclamation: Thirty years ago, Walter Brueggemann taught us that hymns such as Psalm 145 one are best understood as psalms of orientation, that is, songs sung when life is marked by balance and shalom.2 In this case, a blessing upon the LORD’s holy name (and thus upon the LORD) bracket the psalm (verses 1-2, 21) and surround the psalmist’s praise.

That is, the hymn’s structure provides an accent to a main theme of the psalm, namely the all-encompassing character of God’s majesty and goodness. God’s providential care encircles the psalmist (and us!) in ways that are at once unsearchable (verse 3) and yet celebrated from generation to generation (verse 4). The psalmist expresses his intention to meditate upon God’s majesty (verse 5b) and to declare God’s greatness (verse 6b), thus adding his voice to the choir of those of those praising the LORD from time out of mind.

To shape his praise, the psalmist reaches for traditional expressions to describe the LORD’s character, namely that God is gracious, merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.3 These formulaic expressions constitute what Brueggemann has elsewhere dubbed a ‘credo of adjectives’ that described the LORD’s character and the nature of Yahweh’s relationship with Israel.4 The way Israel did theology, Brueggemann asserts, “depends on and gathers together the claims of the verbal recitals that are much more concrete.”5

Speaking of the cluster of adjectives that occur in Exodus 34:6-7, Brueggemann asserts that they had behind them a “rich variety of verbal sentences that support and give credence to the adjectival claims.”6 Among these adjectives are those that characterize Yahweh as merciful (rachum), gracious (chanun), slow to anger (‘erek ‘appayim) possessing steadfast love (chesed), and faithful (‘emet).

The first four of these descriptors appear in verse 8 while the last finds attestation in the missing nun verse of the Qumran manuscript.7 The cumulative effect of these terms is the affirmation of Yahweh’s “intense solidarity with and commitment to those to whom Yahweh is bound” and that Yahweh’s life with Israel “is marked by a fundamental, inalienable loyalty.”8

The LORD’s long history with Israel, encapsulated in this credo of adjectives (to which we might also add the LORD’s goodness and compassion in verse 9), promise that life lived under this King will be one of security and benevolence. The royal language with which the psalm began (verse 1) expands in verses 11 to 13, the structural heart of the psalm. Life lived under the watchful diligent care of a LORD whose character and history of compassion are secure will be marked by both doxology and testimony.

The LORD’s works and, most of all, the LORD’s faithful ones (verse 10) bear witness to the character of a life lived under this King and in this eternal kingdom (verses 11-13). The content of that doxological testimony appears in verses 14 and following. This faithful and gracious LORD will see to it that, in his kingdom, those who are falling or bowed down (verse 14), those who hunger (vv. 15-16), those who seek justice and who cry out to the LORD (verses 17-19) will be cared for by the LORD who watches over all who love him (verse 20).

If ancient Israel could praise and bear witness to a God they knew well and whose history with them they could sum up with adjectives that pointed to stories of salvation, how much more might those who have seen this God crucified, risen, and ascended? On the latter point, the Christ whose being is bound up with the LORD of this psalm is elevated to a place where he sees and acts on behalf of all who love him.

And from that royal vantage point, he urges us to act as agents, embodying the LORD’s own gracious mercy. We cannot say, of course, that the kingdom about which this psalm sings and Jesus proclaimed has yet fully dawned. But that is the prayer of the church (“your kingdom come”) and the confident hope in which we live.


A similar situation pertains in the final verses of 1 Samuel 12 where a passage long known from Josephus but confirmed in Hebrew at Qumran has now been interposed into the text.

On psalms of orientation, see Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1984), 25-49.

See similar expressions at Exodus 34:6; 2 Chronicles 30:9; Nehemiah 9:17, 31; Psalms 86:15; 103:8; 111:4; 112:4; 116:5; Joel 2:13; Jonah. 4:2.

Walter Brueggemann, Theology of the Old Testament: Testimony, Dispute, Advocacy (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1997), 213–28.

Ibid., 216.


That verse commences with n’mn, a niphal participle of ‘mn from whence the adjective ‘mt is derived.

Brueggemann, Theology, 217.

Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 7:15-25a

Israel Kamudzandu

Like last week’s reading from Romans 6:12-23, this week’s lesson from Romans 7: 15-25a features Paul’s teaching on the tension and struggle between life in the Spirit and life in the flesh.

In Romans 6, Paul summons believers to be what they have become, children of God; yet in Romans 7, he introduces a tension between the indicative and the imperative. These two consecutive lectionary readings signify the difficulty of embracing a faithful life and living out of a Christian identity. In other words, the question Paul raises is this: How can a Christian live an obedient life that becomes an expression of living faith? (Romans 7:14).

This passage sounds like a lament, one in which Paul sees himself and offers believers an open door in terms of the tension experienced by believers who struggle to live a righteous life in this world. The present tense “I” in this passage is hyperbolic, that is, an inability on the part of a believer to do right and an involuntary compulsion to do wrong (7:15-20). The struggle that Paul depicts in 7:14-25a resonates with many people in today’s culture, let alone in the ancient early Christian Church. Preachers must not minimize the struggle between the spiritual life and the body passions for to do so would be to render Christian life romantic.

Pious Jews lived with a strict observance of the law and were haunted by the fear of breaking any of the rules. Paul’s language fits the portrayal of individuals who struggled with some enslavement to passion and human desires. Similarly, pious Christians trying to observe strict rules of Christian life will also be struggling with issue of the flesh and the issues of the spirit (7:16, 22-23).

In Paul’s terms, one cannot have righteousness by simply observing the law, let alone Christian rules. Rather, righteousness must be accepted as a gift from God alone and human beings cannot boast in their observance of the law (see Romans 3:27, 4:2), but every Christian believer must operate under the framework of the spirit. The human mind is always threatened by the flesh and is made a prisoner if not a victim. Therefore, there is need for a ransom, and only God can do this. The anguished individual in this text cries out, “Wretched person that I am!” And this is a person needing deliverance from the body destined for death (7:24; 8:10).

The apostle’s “Thanks be to God,” seems to be the implied answer to the lament of the persona in 7:24. Christians must be reminded of the victory they have in Jesus Christ and a belief in this victory is the response of faith that Paul talks about in all his theological reflections. Paul treats this victory in Romans 8:1-17 where he teaches about the perspective of the Spirit that is always in conflict with the fleshy (8:5-7).

It is worth noting that Paul does not minimize the presence of the flesh in his life and neither should 21st-century Christians. Although we have come to believe in Jesus Christ, we still have the propensity to sin because our natural selves pull us towards things we do not want to do (7:21). Both sin and evil dwell in the believer, and it is one’s responsibility to live a faith-accountable life. Paul certainly believes that the human body can be used for both good and evil and with God’s spirit, the body cannot be subjected to sin because the power of the Holy Spirit is always at work to direct a person’s path. In some cases, we need to recognize that the tension we experience between flesh and the spirit allow us to live well balanced lives; tension breeds questions and theology is always about raising new questions.

The lessons we can draw from this chapter are several. First, as believers, we must avoid sinning and be led by the indwelling Spirit, which opens tremendous doors for all believers. In other words, a compromise is not an option because once one becomes a Christian, the mind and everything in him or her are controlled by the Spirit. The question we should wrestle with is this: What does it mean to be a Christian? The answer from this passage is that our mindset and attitude must be godly and everybody whose mind is controlled by the Spirit delights exceedingly in Jesus Christ.

Secondly, if God dwells in us, then we must allow him to control our lives and this means that we have a union/relationship with Jesus Christ. Thirdly, if we sin, the same Spirit of God who resurrected Jesus from the dead will indeed give our mortal bodies new life. Finally, we have to remember that there is no discipleship without a relationship with the Spirit of God and for believers to enjoy eternal life, they must be transformed in their thinking, attitude, and way of life.

This set of notes will not be complete without mentioning the Apostle Paul’s overarching theological thinking. In chapter 7, we encounter a theocentric, or God-centered, and an eschatological, or future-oriented, Paul. Paul emphasizes four main theological lessons for every Christian. First, he redirects our thinking to the importance of vindication that is the death, resurrection, and the second coming of Jesus when God will display His faithfulness to all the promises made to humanity.

The theme of universalism is built into Romans 7, and in it we recognize that God in Jesus Christ acted for all people, nations, sexes, genders, and races. Paul recognizes that human beings live with a dualistic worldview or of good and evil, and as an eschatological thinking theologian, he reminds Christians that the current era is under sin but the future era is under God. The last theme of imminence or the expectation that Jesus Christ will come any time to complete God’s work is one that is not welcomed much in North American Christianity because it threatens people’s comfort and materialism; this theme is embedded in chapter seven, especially verses 24-25 (see also 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-5:11).

Teachers and preachers must lift these themes of vindication (God will accomplish all His purposes), universalism (all human beings and existence and all creation is under God’s control), dualism (God’s purposes will not defeated but will eventually come to pass), and imminence (second or soon impending coming of Jesus Christ, and God will then accomplish His creation purposes).

In light of this chapter, Christians may want to ask the following: What does mean for us as we practice ministry in the 21st century? In other words, how can we live intentional lives, lives that matter in God’s purposes now and in the future resurrection? Answering this question will center Christian believers into authentic Christian life.