Lectionary Commentaries for November 10, 2013
Twenty-Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 20:27-38

Richard Swanson

Jesus is having another argument. 

That is not unusual, especially not in Luke, where he has been arguing at least since he was nearly at the age of bar mitzvah and he stayed behind in the Temple to argue with the teachers. This argument, like all the others, is an argument about Torah. This also is not surprising since there is very little more important, or enjoyable, to argue about, particularly given that Luke has established Jesus as a Torah-observant Jew, concerned for the traditions of the ancestors.

His mother will have been pleased. She probably sang to him the lullaby that I know in Yiddish: “This is the best sehora/My baby will learn Torah.” (I first found this lullaby in Leon Uris’s Mila 18.) You know the argument is a Torah argument because the people who pose the argument begin by saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote for us…” With that, the contest is joined.

This contest, however, is different. In earlier arguments Jesus and his conversation partners go back and forth. They ask a question, and Jesus asks another. Sometimes they reply with yet another question, and Jesus sometimes even continues the questioning further. The extended discussion in chapter 10, which contains the parable of the Good Samaritan, is an excellent example of this. This contest is quite different, and the difference shows immediately.

For the first and only time (at least in the gospel of Luke) Jesus argues with Sadducees. And the Sadducees, despite all their accomplishments and activities, are identified not in terms of what they have done, or what they believe, but only in terms of what they deny. They are anti-resurrection, and this, as Jacob Jervell points out, puts them outside (as far as Luke is concerned) of the family of Israel (see his discussion of resurrection as an ancient identity marker for what became formative Judaism in his Apostelgeschichte). Of course, the Sadducees were Jewish, but some Pharisees (and some Christians like Luke) did not think so. And all because of the importance of resurrection.

Why would resurrection be so important to Pharisees and other Jews? Part of it is the matter of which books in the Bible are considered to be inspired by God. The Sadducees worked only with the Pentateuch, the Torah, while the Pharisees and others read also the Prophets and Psalms as scripture, and it was in those extra books that Pharisees found justification for trusting in a resurrection of the dead. But this sounds too simply like a denominational fight, a tempest in a theological teapot, and therefore hardly worth anyone’s time to report.

Far more important was the matter of the ultimate justice of the world. The Sadducees understood this world to be the only world in which God would act as a keeper of covenantal promises; Pharisees understood that God would keep promises and enact justice even (maybe even particularly) beyond the boundaries of this world, which was a good (and necessary) thing because Rome quite clearly controlled this one and was clearly not going to be paid back for its injustices.

This appears to matter for Luke both because he is telling the story of Jesus, who was killed by the Romans, and because he is telling his story (in the form we now possess) around the year 100 of the Common Era (CE). He is, therefore, telling his story of the Roman abuse of power to audiences who remember Rome’s crushing of the First Jewish Revolt (66-70 CE) and Rome’s destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.

Some ancient sources set the Jewish death toll in that defeat at around one million. That is surely too high, but the defeat was devastating, and I can understand why Luke would insist that it would take a general resurrection of the dead for accounts to be properly balanced. Rome held this world under its brutal power, and Luke was not willing (nor were the Pharisees, nor was Jesus) to let Rome have the last word when it came to God’s Creation and God’s promises.

In the scene from Luke 20, the Sadducees (those deniers of God’s ultimate justice) approach Jesus with a case meant to make resurrection look ridiculous. Jesus brushes them off with a theological shrug that simply rejects the premise of their case, and they vanish. In the next scene, some scribes (presumably Pharisees, surely believers in both justice and resurrection) appear and warmly approve of Jesus’ argumentative finesse, and with that, all questioning ends. Jesus has won the approval of those Jews who expect the most from God.

The terms of Jesus’ argument are worth a closer look. He has been handed a case involving the complexities of levirate marriage, that patriarchal institution that protected women by passing them from brother to brother. Jesus says that in the aeon to come, the aeon of resurrection and restitution, the whole institution of marriage will be unnecessary, and thus women will not be passed along as property. Why? Because, as Jesus says in Luke 20:36, in that aeon, people “are not able to die.” Why would that matter? It appears that Luke’s Jesus understands the aeon of resurrection and restitution to have set aside the entire patriarchal structure that makes the possessing of women as property possible or (perhaps) necessary because of our mortal weakness.

In the movie, Ever After, the prince arrives (too late) to rescue Danielle (the Cinderella character) from the villain who had bought her intending to make her a slave and a wife, in that order. Danielle, who had already freed herself through the skillful use of intellect and sword, asks the prince what he might be doing. He answers that he had come to rescue her. When my daughter was young, this was her favorite scene in her favorite movie. I just loved watching her watch the movie. I loved watching her learn that she also possessed the strength and intellect to stand up for herself. I also prayed as I watched that this strength would never be crushed.

In this scene from Luke’s story, Jesus prays with me, and waits with all faithful people for a world in which justice will not be a crude compromise or a commodity to be bought by those with expensive attorneys, a world in which life will rise out of the ashes of crushed hopes and dreams.

First Reading

Commentary on Job 19:23-27a

Steed Davidson

Reading Job from the perspective of the character evaluation given in James 5:11, other religious texts, and the popular imagination presents us with one version of Job.

Invariably, these versions of Job from outside of the book of Job bear a faint resemblance to the character encountered in the book.

Since most people only encounter the popular version of Job, preachers have an opportunity to broaden the perspective on Job with this reading. While the selected passage can easily reinforce the notion of the patient and understanding Job, preachers who reach beyond the limits of this passage can situate a fuller image of Job and therefore explore critical ideas of faith. Paying attention to Job as Wisdom Literature, a body of texts that challenge traditional thinking, is critical for interpreting this passage.

Chapter 19 occurs in the heart of the back-and-forth conversation between Job and his friends. Here, Job details the ways in which God’s actions have hurt him. His list represents an exhaustive description of Job shut out and shut down at every turn in his life (verses 10-19). A plea for understanding from his friends (verse 21) soon gives way to the realization that like God, Job’s friends stand as his persecutors (verse 22). To miss this charge that Job levels against both God and his friends would distort the reading of the chapter. To only pay attention to Job’s accusation against the friends and leave out his inclusion of God represents a misunderstanding of the book of Job. The firm stance that Job takes in the passage flows from his isolation and sense of unfair persecution.

In defense of his case, Job marshals the language of the court. He wishes for written and permanent evidence to document his case. The shift in the technology of writing between verse 23 and verse 24 from destructible book to more durable rock engraving shows the intensity of his desire to be heard both now and into the future. The protestation of his innocence and the unfairness of his treatment form the core of the words that Job wishes to regard for posterity. The grammatical form of the wish in verse 24 indicates the desire for a wish that may never be fulfilled. The book shows that Job recognizes that in taking God to task, the balance of power is stacked against Job (9:3-4, 13-22). Therefore, the permanent record forms one of Job’s legal refuges against God.

The second legal remedy that Job appeals to here lies in the figure of the redeemer (Hebrew go’el). Established to support vulnerable persons in the community, the go’el, a near relative, functions to protect individuals from undue physical and economic violence (Leviticus 25:25). While for most of the Old Testament the go’el is a human being (see Boaz in Ruth), Second Isaiah theologizes the function making God the go’el (Isaiah 41:14; 43:14; 44:6).1

With the “redeemer” as one of the attributes of God in mind, Christian readers can easily read verse 25 as an affirmation from Job that he will see God. Even more, the references to surviving beyond the corruptions of the flesh invoke the example of Jesus leading to the notion of Job standing in a post-resurrection encounter with the living Jesus. While the choice and placement of this verse in the libretto of Handel’s Messiah goes a long way in reinforcing post-resurrection interpretations, C. L. Seow points out that the Old Greek’s translation of 19:25b-26a as referring to “God’s raising of Job’s skin” marks a crucial start in the resurrection related interpretations of this verse. Early understandings of Job as seen in Old Greek appendix of 42:17 and the Testament of Job lay the groundwork for Christians as early as Clement of Rome to use 19:25-26 as a proof text of resurrection.2

Since the book of Job exists as more than what is written in the book itself, some preachers will be content to identify the go’el as God or even Jesus. However, the adversarial charges that Job lays out against God in the book make it quite unlikely that even in this notorious difficult verse to translate that Job wishes to see God as the one who vindicates him. The verses read consistent with the rest of the book if the go’el is understood as another divine being that can stand up to God. Norman Habel provides a solution that identifies the go’el as a different figure who after completing the task enables the vindicated Job the opportunity to see God. He translates 19:25-27:

I, I know my redeemer lives
And afterward he will rise on the dust –
After, that is, my skin is peeled off!
But from my flesh I would behold Eloah;
I, I would behold him.
My eyes would see him, not another’s –3

While preachers may find it difficult to engage the theological challenges of a plurality of divine beings and redemption from a source other than God, wisdom literature confronts us with these issues. To tame the voice of Job into theological orthodoxy remains too easy and deprives the faithful of the creative engagement with the issues that the book raises.

Job’s strident insistence of his innocence in this passage and other parts of the book stands as a remarkable example of self-certainty. While at times doubts appear in the book, strikingly Job remains certain about his innocence (9:15, 20, 28; 27:1-6; 34:5). The emphatic construction, the first pronoun plus the first person verb, stresses the knowledge of the go’el in verse 25 and the surety of his vision in verse 27. The catalogue of his innocence at times appears gratingly narcissistic (12:4; 29:2-25; 33:3). Job’s self-certainty stands against the confidence of his friends in the received traditions. Most persons of faith are socialized not to stand against tradition of any sort, particularly the traditions of the church and God, with one’s individual experience. Yet, ironically, those who dared to point to other paths, other ways of seeing and being, other modes of thinking have often been the ones to effect reform and progress in church and society.

Curious preachers should pay attention to the book of Job rather than to its tamer counterparts. In this book, Job does the unthinkable and stands up to God. Job’s stance consists not merely in the easy and all-too-common question as to why God sends natural disasters. Rather, Job raises the serious questions of who we understand God to be and how God relates to humans in the world.

For the most part, Job’s new experiences find the given answers inadequate to accommodate expanding ways of conceiving of God. It is not enough to say that Job questions God. Job interrogates the settled foundations of accepted theology and does so from the perspective of his expanded human experience. That the theological establishment amounted to the establishment in the ancient world allows William Safire to draw out broader implications of Job in his book The First Dissident: The Book of Job in Today’s Politics. Safire reads Job amidst the politics of revolt that characterized Vietnam War protests and Nixon era controversies; an era when the establishment was interrogated. Can Job’s daring claim to innocence, his insistence on his vindication from outside the establishment, and his belief that he will expose power be useful for today’s politics in church and society?

 Norman Whybray, Job. (A New Biblical Commentary; Sheffield Phoenix, 2008), 102.

C.L. Seow, Job 1-21: Interpretation and Commentary (Winona Lake, Wis.: Eerdmans, 2013), 793.

Norman Habel, The Book of Job: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1985), 293.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Haggai 1:15b-2:9

Steed Davidson

The small book of Haggai stands on par with other prophetic books in many respects. 

While we know little about the person named Haggai, the book boasts the successful completion of work on the temple in the restoration period. After effectively encouraging the dispirited, apathetic, and indifferent community to begin work on the dilapidated temple (Haggai 1:12), Haggai needs to offer further inspiration in response to the inevitable lag in enthusiasm once the enormity of the project is realized. This lection forms the heart of Haggai “pep talk” to all members of the community. However, Haggai as prophet is more than a mere cheerleader: it is a theological voice that helps the community understand the meaning of its major symbol.

The odd verse division that starts this passage serves as a helpful marker in its interpretation. The reader should immediately recognize the ambiguity of the date, the second year of Darius, in relation to the two surrounding events. Standing in the middle of the previous event, the commencement of the work on the temple (Haggai 1:14), and the new event, the oracle offering encouragement to continue, the date formula looks backwards and forwards. These two critical events hang together in the same year, just as the formulaic writing of the book binds them together as deeply contemporary events. Readers need to hear Haggai speaking in real time as opposed to either a generic time or abstract eschatological moment. Capturing Haggai in real time helps to sense how he responds to the felt needs of the community and moves them forward in their work.

The details of the community given in Haggai suggest either an asset the community already possesses or needs to possess. Shared leadership, collaboration between civic and religious leadership, inclusion in religious decisions, and overcoming of internal differences are aspects vital to the integration and self-identity of the community. Haggai pushes the need for the community to work together even further through the conversational question and answer style of the oracles. This pattern mirrors the communication between Haggai and God. The supplication formula present in the Hebrew of Haggai 2:2 seems out of place in prophetic literature where prophets as messengers are told what to say. Instead, God requests Haggai to speak, inviting him into an interaction.

So, too, Haggai initiates interaction with the people echoing their assessment of the state of the temple as the basis for encouraging their continued work (verse 3). Rather than simply hearing the words of Haggai, readers hear from the community thus foregrounding the critical role of the community. As Haggai offers encouragement, he singles out the leaders and the people using the same word in every instance. Unlike the often repeated “do not fear” of Isaiah (e.g., Isaiah 7:4; 35:4; 40:9 and Haggai 2:5), “take courage” (verse 4), echoing Haggai 1:13, reads here as Tim Meadowcroft sees it, as “be strong and effective.”1

Haggai rallies the community for the task of restoration of the temple precisely because the temple serves a critical function in the community. He adds the international impact of the temple to comments on the need for the temple given in chapter 1.Haggai sees God’s honor as the pressing argument for the restoration of the temple (1:4, 9) not merely because God needs a house to reflect such honor, but rather because the state of the building reflects the people and their relationship with God.

Haggai presses the point of divine honor further by opening up before the eyes of the community what the completed temple would mean for God’s role in the world. The completion of the temple will be marked by an earth-shaking event that shall signal to the nations of the world to come to the temple (verses 6-7).

Earthquakes and other natural occurrences appear in prophetic literature as signals of impending punishment (see Ezekiel 3:12; 38:19, Jeremiah 10:10, 22; 47:3); however, Haggai uses it to announce the inflow of global treasures into the temple. While the phrasing of verse 6 may sound eschatological, preachers should remember the strict dating system of the book in order to keep Haggai’s concerns within contemporary time. The plural form of “treasure” in Hebrew makes it unlikely as a referent to a single item or person, therefore ruling out a messianic association. The treasure of the nations appears as silver and gold in verse 8 and will contribute to the improved magnificence of the temple (Haggai 2:9).

Haggai’s words do more than offer a “build it and they will come” encouragement as seen in the movie Field of Dreams. Even more, Haggai is not offering the forced correlation popularized by the “prosperity gospel” between dedication to God and the guarantee of success. Instead, Haggai calls the people to acknowledge the centrality of the temple given their past and their future.

In recalling the past, Haggai reminds them of the security of the promises of God as seen in the exodus (the Hebrew verb used here is normally used in covenant making verse 5). Haggai’s preferred expression, “the Lord of hosts” (the archaic term “hosts” is better read as “armies”), reflects the confidence of the temple as the site of a powerful militaristic God. The book accounts for five percent of the uses of the term “Lord of hosts,” even though it comprises only two tenths of one percent of the Bible. When paired with Zechariah and Malachi, these three books are responsible for one-third of the occurrences of this expression in the Bible.2This concentrated use of “Lord of hosts” by books dealing with the restoration period and, in particular the temple, suggests a recall of the days when the temple was established during the Davidic monarchy. Its restoration reflects the honor of the people in past and current generations for God.

The future Haggai consists of the restored temple and God’s promise of prosperity (verse 9). This verse lays out a correlation between the temple and full flourishing (NRSV, “prosperity,” KJV “peace) that can too easily be interpreted as a causal relationship. The NRSV renders the Hebrew shalom as “prosperity.” And while a technically correct translation, this remains insufficient. In any event, preachers should avoid reading Haggai as motivating the restoration of the temple in order to receive wealth. The motivation that Haggai lays out consistently points to God’s activities. God performs the earth-shaking function (verse 6) that results in the arrival of the nations’ treasures (verse 7a). God fills the temple with glory and God provides prosperity (verse 7b).

The process of the restoration of the temple in Haggai resembles elements of the temple’s construction under Solomon — resources from other nations, finest construction material (1Kings 7:13-51). If Solomon takes the credit for a building of glory, the honor of its restoration belongs to God. Therefore, since in this passage God appears as the builder, the restored temple will surpass its previous state in magnificence.

The community, though, still needs to do its part in restoring the temple. The work of the people serves as an expression of God’s work among them. The people honor God through the temple precisely because they have experienced God’s promises in history in events like the exodus and the restoration to the land. Undoubtedly, benefits will be derived from a restored temple and Haggai appears to admit this. However, the motivation for the restoration of the temple remains God’s honor. Not satisfied with an incomplete project or half-hearted measures, Haggai pushes the community to offer its best to God.

 Tim Meadowcroft, Haggai (Readings: A New Biblical Commentary; Sheffield Phoenix, 2006), 157.

Ibid., 103.


Commentary on Psalm 17:1-9

Eric Mathis

Honesty is a core component of living in relationship with others.

Whether the good, the bad, the best, or the worst, telling the truth to ourselves and to those with whom we are closest establishes the foundation for the reciprocity that is necessary in any relationship of substance.

An Honest, Open Plea
In Psalm 17, we encounter David, the Psalmist, who is in a worrisome state. Psalm 17 is his earnest plea that, if nothing else, can be described as open, honest communication between himself and YHWH. In this plea, the Psalmist hides nothing. Rather, the Psalmist candidly describes the pressures and attacks coming from enemies who are actively threatening to destroy the Psalmist’s life (verse 9).

In verses one and two, with trembling lips, the Psalmist makes an adamant plea for YHWH to pay attention. The plea becomes even stronger in verses 6 through 9, when the Psalmist begs God, “the savior of all those who seek refuge from their adversaries” to act. The Psalmist wants God to do something, namely, to provide deliverance, protection, and vindication from the wicked ones who surround the Psalmist’s life.

The pleas of the Psalmist in verses 1-2 and 6-9 serve as bookends for the Psalmist’s strong declaration of faithfulness to the ways of YHWH (verse 3-5). In other words, in the midst of agony, the Psalmist asserts that he has not followed the ways of the wicked but has lived a life characterized by righteousness. So, YHWH is invited to take a look by fully inspecting the Psalmist’s life for evidence of transgressions. The Psalmist even gives YHWH permission to do this at night, in the dark, when one’s real thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors are perhaps most difficult to hide. The Psalmist is completely confident that YHWH will find nothing but positive evidence, specifically, an unwavering adherence to the paths and ways of the Lord.

An Active, Living Relationship
The tri-partite structure found in Psalm 17:1-9, then, is this: a petition for attention, a declaration of individual faithfulness, and a plea for YHWH to act.1 As a whole, the structure and the language of this Psalm suggest two things. First, that the relationship between the Psalmist and YHWH is an active, not a passive, relationship. The Psalmist asks YHWH to listen actively, provides evidence of personal action as demonstrated through faithfulness to YHWH, and finally, makes an appeal for YHWH to act on the Psalmist’s behalf. Implicitly, this structure outlines a mutual give and take relationship between the Psalmist and YHWH. Both parties expected, perhaps even required, a certain reciprocity any healthy relationship would possess in order for each person to faithfully live life together.

Second, the structure of the Psalm, but particularly the language, suggests the relationship between the Psalmist and YHWH is deeply rooted in vulnerability and honest communication between two living beings. This is first evident in the Psalmist’s honest complaint about his sitz em leben, which appears to be anything but fortunate. More noticeable, however, is the Psalmist’s vivid use of bodily imagery. In this Psalm, God’s ears are asked to hear a cry from the Psalmist’s lips (verse 1). God’s eyes are asked to look at the Psalmist’s heart. God’s lips are invited to request testimony from others regarding the paths the Psalmist’s feet has trod.

And, in perhaps the most intimate request of this passage, the Psalmist petitions God to provide protection as the “apple of the eye” and “in the shadow of your wings” (verse 9). This imagery repeats itself throughout all of Psalm 17, providing a subtle, albeit strong and consistent reminder that YHWH is not like false idols and gods made out of wood or stone. Rather, YHWH is a living God who remains actively involved in the world.

Following the Psalmist’s Example
With its earnest plea, Psalm 71 reminds us that we can bear our deepest burdens and worries to God with confidence, just as the Psalmist has done. And, like the Psalmist, we can ask God to protect us from those things that might harm.

Psalm 17 also reminds us that our relationship with God is intended to be mutual and substantive, not individualistic and trite. As the Psalmist has demonstrated, this relationship is best expressed not when we view God as a celestial Santa Claus to whom we turn for help when we are in trouble, but when we maintain our part of a mutual and familiar covenant: to claim God as our own and to walk in the ways of God whether we find ourselves in good, bad, better, or even the worst of situations.

Of course, we have no choice but to participate in this relationship confidently. Here, the Psalmist has provided yet another wonderful example. We voice our pleas and petitions to the God who will answer (verse 6) and who will show steadfast love (verse 7), as God has done, is doing, and will continue to do for all those who seek refuge in the arms of God.

1John Goldingay, “Psalm 17,” in Psalms, Volume 1: 1-41, ed. Tremper Longman, III, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 247.

Second Reading

Commentary on 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17

Mariam Kamell

A worried, upset congregation leaves no one at ease

Once rumors get going of what one leader said, or a special few’s interpretation of how events really transpired, or any other sort of disturbance sweeps through a church causing confusion and fracture, it is difficult and absolutely essential to put them to rest in a decisive manner.

In the case of 2 Thessalonians 2, rumors have spread through this church concerning Paul’s teaching about the end times and these rumors are causing significant distress. The texts chosen here frame the chapter and the discussion in an enlightening way. Rather than becoming distracted by detailed maps of the end times and time frames for the rapture, this frame technique allows us to see Paul’s purpose in the chapter, stated in verses 2 and 15: encouragement that they “not become easily unsettled or alarmed,” but instead that they “stand firm and hold fast to the teachings” he gave them in person.

The term translated by the NIV as “unsettled” has the basic meaning of “shaken,” a violent movement like an earthquake. The shaking can be figurative, such as in Matt. 24:29, where the hosts of heaven will be deposed and all will be overturned, or more literally, as in the simile of Rev. 6:13 of figs falling from the tree when “shaken” by a strong wind. It may be worth noting that Tacitus described AD 51, around the time of this letter, as an “ominous” year filled with earthquakes. They knew what it was to be “shaken.” What is occurring in this church is not a mild questioning about how things might work out but an earthquake of theological doubt that is leaving vast destruction in its wake. Likewise, the word for being “alarmed” is the fear caused by surprise. Having begun in one direction based on the teaching of Paul while he was with them, they have been surprised by this new teaching and their fear is that of having had their foundation pulled out from underneath them. They are paralyzed, scared, uncertain what to believe and, from that, how to act.

This new teaching about the end times may not seem all that concerning to those of us who have been waiting for Christ’s return for 2000 years and have heard many explanations, but for this young congregation, this new teaching has shaken them and left each person trying to figure out how they ought to act: should they work or should they wait? Should they provide for those who aren’t working or should they make them work? Have they already been perfected, and if so, why does everything appear to be the same, themselves included? Paul does spend some time attempting to correct the teaching that had gone so clearly wrong, but the significance of this frame is that he spends more time and effort encouraging this congregation to not fear and to stand firm.

And this makes me wonder at how churches generally handle teaching about the end times. For some churches and preachers, it becomes a fascination bordering on an obsession, but the teaching of “escape” through the rapture leaves people paralyzed about how they ought to live in the world now while they wait. In a sense, life can become a mere holding cell, a waiting pattern till they can escape and go to heaven. But Paul’s focus is to remind them instead of all the things that need to happen first, so they ought to trust God and continue on doing good rather than obsessing about the end.

On the other hand, Paul didn’t avoid teaching about the end, for to him it was a source of encouragement. As he taught the Thessalonians, there is and there will be greater and greater opposition and persecution, but Christians do not need to live in fear! Much of the rhetoric in circles obsessed with end times prophecies is dominated by fear of what is going on now, and much of the rhetoric in circles that avoid discussing the end times is dominated by what we have to do by our own efforts. For Paul, all is grace. Christians can be confident, encouraged people because we know that we are held as first fruits by God’s choice, preserved through the Spirit. In Paul’s paradigm there is neither room for pride in our efforts to improve the world, nor despair at the state of the world around us. For Paul, all of this talk about the end is to encourage us in our security in Christ and draw us ever further in the Spirit’s sanctifying work. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 is a brilliantly Trinitarian verse of encouragement to this end, and that, it seems to me, is Paul’s greater emphasis. No matter how strong the opposition, we are secure in the Trinity, set free to live according to the Spirit’s sanctifying work.

Ultimately, it is the prayer in 2:16 and 17 that should receive the most attention from the preacher or teacher, as it resonates with the consistent prayer of Paul: a focus on the love and grace of God in Christ, which encourages us in hope and strengthens us in every good deed and word. This sort of prayer functions as benediction, encouragement, and inspiration. The holistic picture of “every good deed and word” sums up the entirety of life lived: thoughts, emotions, and actions, all brought forth by the strengthening of the Spirit through the encouragement of the love of God. Paul’s confidence in them rests not in them but in the God they all worship, and to that end he encourages them not to be shaken or startled out of this confidence, but instead to grow in faithfulness.