Lectionary Commentaries for July 11, 2010
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Luke 10:25-37

Marilyn Salmon

The lawyer asks good questions and gives good answers.

There is no need to assign the lawyer an adversarial role. In fact, the text suggests otherwise. He calls Jesus “teacher,” respectfully. And Jesus engages him as an equal, responding to the lawyer’s first question with a question. Jesus agrees with the answer. Jesus responds to the second question with a story followed by a question, and again the lawyer and Jesus are in agreement. It does not seem that Jesus takes the lawyer’s “test” as that of an antagonist.

The observation is important, because most interpretations read this well-known episode, recorded only in Luke, presuming a contentious relationship between Jesus and the lawyer. But Luke’s Jesus does not dismiss the Law or its teachers. When there are controversies over the Law, Jesus argues within the rubrics of legal debate, not against it.i I propose that we read this lection taking clues from the narrative world of Luke and this pericope in particular.

The Lawyer’s Questions
“What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (verse 25). According to the synoptic parallels, the questioner asks which is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:34-40) or which is the first (Mark 12:28-34). In Mark’s version, a scribe inquires, approves Jesus’ answer, and Jesus observes the scribe’s wisdom. Matthew’s version is brief, including only a lawyer’s question and Jesus’ answer. Luke’s version does not seek to order Torah commandments but rather inquires about the fundamental principal of all the commandments.

Jesus responds to the lawyer’s question with two questions. The NRSV appears to take the two questions as asking one: What is written in Torah? But the RSV gives a simple straightforward translation of the second question: How do you read? (See also NIV, KJV, NAB.) In other words, what is your interpretation of what is written? This makes better sense in the narrative. The lawyer cites a verse from Deuteronomy and one from Leviticus. Together they offer his interpretation of the scripture and his answer to his the question. Jesus agrees with the lawyer, saying, “Do this and you will live.” (Italics are mine.)

The lawyer follows up with a second question, also a very good one. If doing this, i.e., loving God and loving neighbor as oneself, is a matter of eternal life, then defining “neighbor” is important in this context. Torah Observance is living righteously, in “right relationship” with God. Legal discussions are occupied with questions seeking definition and meaning. The purpose of inquiry and debate is not to limit observance but to fulfill what God asks by doing righteousness.

Christians typically hear the lawyer’s desire to “justify himself” (verse 29) as self-righteousness, or depending on his own righteousness to earn salvation. This is understandable, but it is an unfortunate stereotype of the Law that does not reflect the experience of practitioners in the time of Jesus or any other time. As Luke tells the story, Jesus inhabits the world of Torah Observance and is quite at home within it. Jesus’ response to the lawyer’s second question is common within Torah interpretations. He tells a story.

The Story of the Righteous Neighbor
Listeners or readers in Jesus’ time or the gospel writer’s time or any century since understand that the parable shows us that our neighbor is the one we least expect to be a neighbor. The neighbor is the “other,” the one most despised or feared or not like us. Jesus shifts the question from the one the lawyer asks — who is my neighbor?–to ask what a righteous neighbor does. The lawyer does not object that Jesus’ story responds to a different question. Perhaps within Luke’s narrative, Jesus answers both questions.

How a listener enters this story affects how one experiences its meaning. If one takes the role of observer, then one most likely sees the drama at the expense of supposed legalistic priests and Levites who, like the lawyer, despised the Samaritan. A sermon that invites listeners to identify with the priest and Levite suggests they experience their own tendencies to allow categories of race or class or religion to define “otherness” rather than humanness. A sermon that invites listeners to identify with the Samaritan invites them to experience the truth the story tells, that a neighbor shows compassion to the “other.” These approaches may be effective, but an unfortunate effect, likely unintended, is to cast the Jews in the story (priest, Levite, lawyer) as “other” in Christian terms, by defining them as legalistic or racist or self-righteousness.

A few years ago, a sermon invited me to enter the story in the place of the half-dead person lying by the road. In this role, I am the recipient of life-saving compassion by an “other” rather than choosing whether or not to be a neighbor without regard to otherness. This experience of the story opened my eyes to an aspect of the narrative world of Luke I had not previously considered. Within this world, it seems a reasonable expectation Jesus would assume the lawyer hears the parable as the beaten-left-for-dead man lying by the road.

A first century audience, Jesus’ or Luke’s, would have known the Samaritan represented a despised “other.” But I think they also would have understood that the lawyer would not empathize with the priest or Levite. They represented differences within Judaism related to function, class, observance and biblical interpretation. The only character left through which to enter the story is the one who has no identity except life-threatening wounds. The lawyer understands Jesus’ point, according to the gospel narrative, that when you receive life-saving mercy, “otherness” ceases and we experience instead our common humanity. The lawyer perceives — and so do we — who your neighbor is and what it looks like to be a neighbor. Jesus’ final words, “go and do likewise” parallel the command following the lawyer’s first question, “do this and you will live.”

iJacob Jervell, “The Law in Luke-Acts,” Luke-Acts and the People of God: a New Look at Luke-Acts. Minneapolis, Augsburg, 1972.  See also Marilyn Salmon, Preaching Without Contempt: Overcoming Unintended Anti-Judaism. Minneapolis, Augsburg Fortress, 2006.

First Reading

Commentary on Deuteronomy 30:9-14

Steed Davidson

The single-minded focus on the law in the book of Deuteronomy can too easily be summed up into catch phrases.

Reducing the book to single statements can distract from the different perspectives on the law in the book. This passage contains two such perspectives. Including them in the same pericope for a lectionary reading on one level can present difficulties. On another level, the verses selected for this reading offer interesting interpretive possibilities.

The passage begins at an awkward place. In English translations verse 9 occurs in the middle of a sentence. While in the Hebrew verse 9 forms a natural break, the verse still depends upon the previous verses for its full meaning. This verse offers a list of areas where “prosperity” will occur. This contrasts with the curses for enemies in verse 7. This binary of curses-prosperity is a standard feature of chapters 27-28. However, unlike previous instances where failure to keep the law will lead to curses, the curses in verse 7 are directed to enemies. The context of chapters 30 presumes not merely the breaking of the law but restoration after the punishment of loss of the land as a consequence of breaking the law.

The relationship between the conditions and the consequences in verses 8-10 stand in ambiguous association that make starting the passage at verse 9 problematic. As it reads in the NRSV, the condition for obeying the Lord in verse 8 leads to the consequences of verse 9a. Similarly, the conditions of verse 10 result in the consequences of verse 9b. However, the “return” (tasub, translated as “again”) of verse 8 stands in relation to the “return” (yasub, translated as “again”) in verse 9b. This makes the consequence of once again obeying the Lord (verse 8), the Lord’s return to the state of the relationship with the ancestors (verse 9b). This raises the question as to whether the two clauses of verse 10 should be seen as conditional clauses with the consequences already outlined in verse 9b. If so, then the restoration of the ancestral relationship stands in the middle of a series of conditional clauses as the core promise of renewal.

Most translations read the passage as a promise of “prosperity.” The presence of hotirka (“excess”) at the start of verse 9 emphasizes the importance of the word in the verse. The threefold example of abundance — children, livestock, and crops — fills out this picture as well. However, whether such prosperity comes as a reward for obedience or as a result of divine restoration of a relationship remains ambiguous in the Hebrew. Translators make the determination on the relationship of prosperity to obedience. The repetition of the word “prosperity” in verse 9b in describing the ancestral relationship presumes that this relationship is marked by excess. Yet the Hebrew leads one to think that this relationship is more marked by divine pleasure in doing good for the people. The promise of excess (the concern of verse 9a) need not be confused or equated with good or even subsistence (the description of the ancestral relationship in verse 9b).

A clear shift occurs in this passage at verse 11. The specter of failure and punishment in verse 10 gives way to confidence that obedience is achievable. The plural “commandments” (verses 8, 10) contrast with the single “commandment” (verse 11). The written commandment of verse 10 appears not to be assumed in verse 14. Richard Nelson believes that 30:1-10, like other passages, belong to a later postexilic time. Therefore, he thinks that verses 11-14 represent an earlier layer of the book of Deuteronomy.1 The lack of inducements for obedience in verses 11-14 set it apart from the earlier section of the chapter. These verses give a vivid description of the divine commandment. They call for obedience based upon familiarity, availability, and ease of the commandment.

The use of spatial dimensions fills in the description of the nearness of the commandment. The assertions of verses 12-13 with their rhetorical questions expands on the appeal in verse 11 that the commandment is not “too far away.” The heavens and the sea function as markers of distance and the verbs “go up” and “crossover” convey the effort required to bridge these distances. The repetition of the removal of the need to question who will undertake the heroic efforts to bring the commandment near emphasizes the availability and ease of the commandment.

This repetition weakens the power of the word niple’t (literally “wonderful”) in verse 11. The twin concerns of hearing and doing the commandment remain at issue in these questions. Excuses of ignorance for failure to obey the command are thereby removed. Similarly, excuses of difficulty are undermined as everything that would require superhuman effort to perform the commandment has been removed from the ordinary person. These efforts of verses 12-13 appear to rest upon the Mesopotamian saying, “Who is tall enough to reach heaven, who is tall enough to encompass the earth”?2 They contrast strikingly with the fruitless question for wisdom in Proverbs 30:4 and Job 28:12-28.

Inasmuch as this passage asserts availability of the commandment, it sees successful obedience as a product of familiarity with the commandment. Reducing the plural commandments of the earlier chapter to a single “the word” (verse 14) indicates simplification of divine will. While the earlier chapter speaks of the commandment as written, this section views it in its oral form. In verse 14 the divine commandment exists “in your mouth and in your heart.” This may well be touching on memorization of the commandments as in 6:6-9 and 11:18-19. For a non-literate society techniques of recall would help familiarize persons with texts.

Ultimately, the ability to obey comes through internalizing the divine word. As the emblematic prophet of 18:18 and Jeremiah 1:9 receive God’s words in their mouth, so too all persons can hold the “word” in their mouth. Alongside this, the “word” resides in the hearts of all persons. This indicates that both memory and intellect affect the will and result in obedience. The emphasis on doing lies in verses 12-14. As verses 12-13 remove the stumbling blocks to obedience, verse 14 presents the enabling mechanism for obeying the divine commandments. While the qualities of the commandment make obedience both possible and desirable, the mouth and heart filled with the divine word suggests a will attuned to God serves as the ultimate predictor of obedience.

1Richard D. Nelson, Deuteronomy: A Commentary. Louisville, Ky.: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 346.
2Jeffrey H. Tigay. Deuteronomy. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1996), 286.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Amos 7:7-17

Samuel Giere

Far from wishy washy is the judgment of the Lord that comes from the mouth of Amos. Rather, it is clear, to the point, biting…and surprising as it comes to Israel, the Northern Kingdom, in a time of peace and prosperity.

Textual Horizons
In the midst of five visions,1 today’s pericope begins with Amos’ third vision.

The Lord, the Divine Builder, stands beside a wall with a plumb line. As this vision leads to the confrontation between Amos and Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, it may well be necessary to engage one’s imagination about the plumb line to get a fuller sense of the vision and its capacity to irritate.

An ancient bit of construction technology, the plumb bob is a heavy piece of lead2 in the shape of an inverted raindrop. The point of the plumb bob, necessarily in perfect line with the plumb line above, marks a perfect vertical drop between whence the line begins above and the ground below. Used by stonemasons and builders for centuries, the plumb bob in concert with the basic force of gravity provides a measure for a perfectly straight wall. From this comes the converse, when something is “out of plumb” it is crooked, imperfect, unsightly, and potentially dangerous.

Amos’ vision is of the Lord standing beside a wall that is in plumb. If it is the Lord who has built it, of course it is “in plumb.” Grabbing the attention of Amos, the Lord directs him to this instrument — the divine plumb line by which the Lord will measure how plumb the Lord’s people are. The result of the Lord’s measurement is that it is Israel that is out of plumb and therefore needs to be razed. Its high places abandoned, sanctuaries destroyed, and the Lord himself will rise against the royal house of Jeroboam with a sword. What is out of plumb by the Lord’s measure will be demolished.

Strangely enough, it is only the final third of this demolishing that seems to prompt Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, to report to King Jeroboam II. Amaziah casts Amos as a conspirator bent on the king’s death and Israel’s fall. And in so doing, Amaziah betrays the need for the Lord’s plumb line. The center of Israel is misunderstood as Jeroboam,3 and the sanctuary as the king’s.4 

During the long reign of Jeroboam II of the house of Jehu there has been peace and prosperity in Israel;5  but at the same time Israel has forgotten its center. Israel has forgotten its builder.6

In an interesting piece of dramatic prose, we are brought near to the encounter between Amos and Amaziah. The priest of Bethel tells Amos to return to Judah from whence he came,7 so as not to bother any further the status quo of the North. He assumes that Amos is a professional prophet who could return to Judah and get his “bread” there.

Amos’ response gives much of what little is known of the prophet. “I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, ‘Go, prophesy to my people Israel.'”8 Amos was neither part of a guild nor any religious establishment. Part of his legitimacy as a prophet is that he comes from outside the establishment — a herdsman and a dresser of sycamore trees.

And then from this brief but powerful prose encounter between adversaries another word of the Lord…

In a structure of “you say…but the Lord says” the trajectory of Amos’ prophesy is that Israel’s peace and prosperity will be turned upside down. Amaziah’s meddling attempt to stop Amos’ prophesy returns as judgment upon his wife and children, his land, himself, and all of Israel. The result for Amaziah the priest is destruction, desolation, and impurity, and for Israel it is exile.

The power of Amos’ prophesy to disturb, as heard in his encounter with Amaziah, the priest, is met with its historical fulfillment in 721 BCE with the fall of the Northern Kingdom at the hands of the Assyria.

Preaching Horizons
In Amos’ two visions prior to the beginning of the pericope, Amos intercedes on behalf of Israel. “O Lord God, forgive… O Lord God, cease, I beg you! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!”9 Both times the Lord relents.

With this third vision of the Divine Builder with plumb line in hand, there is neither intercession from Amos nor relenting by the Lord. There is only judgment — clear, concise, biting judgment.
While we hear nothing from King Jeroboam II himself, what comes from the mouth of Amaziah,, the priest, is as clear as from Amos. Amos and his visions and words are a threat to the “goodness” of what Israel is — Jeroboam’s reign, his temple, his sanctuary, his land. This “goodness” is condemned throughout Amos as the perversion of justice and righteousness. Such an orientation in anything by the Lord is condemned and brings only death.

The flipside of the judgment of this passage is the plumb line — a gauge by which integrity of the structure is measured. The question is: what or who is the plumb line?

1The five visions begin at 7:1, 4, 7, 8:1, 9:1.
2The English plumb bob likely comes from the Latin word for lead, plumbum.
3Amos 7:10
4Amos 7:13
5Jeroboam II reigned in the Northern Kingdom for approximately forty years in the first half of the 8th century BCE. The brief report on his reign (2 Kings 14:23-29) is ambiguous. While it is reported that Jeroboam II was an instrument by which the Lord saved Israel during his reign (verse 27), it also reports that he did evil in the sight of the Lord by not breaking from the sins of Jeroboam I, the first king of Israel (verse 24).
6Cf. Leviticus 25:23
7Cf. Amos 1:1
8Amos 7:14-15
9Amos 7:2, 5


Commentary on Psalm 25:1-10

Craig A. Satterlee

A Response to the First Reading

In these difficult economic times, how much we want to hear Deuteronomy’s promise that God will make us abundantly prosperous in our undertakings and in the fruit of our bodies, livestock, and soil (30:9). No need for another stimulus package. A God-ensured economic recovery must surely be right around the corner. Yet, as a response to this reading, Psalm 25 leads us to pause and contemplate what it means to prosper in God.

Psalm 25:1-10 is not a heartfelt expression of gratitude for a windfall, but a heartfelt expression of trust in God. “The first ten verses of the psalm, which make up the present lection, constitute, at root, a theological reflection and heartfelt plea rising out of that reflection.”1  In fact, rather than a rousing chorus of “Happy Days Are Here Again,” these verses are an introit to lament and an expression of the trust that makes it possible to complain to God. The psalmist asks God for instruction on how to avoid shame and disgrace and then provides instruction of those who wait on the Lord.

To prosper in God is to adopt a stance in life that is embodied and embedded in prayer. “To you, O Lord, I lift my soul,” the psalmist declares (25:1). Anyone who has regularly sung Psalm 141 as part of Vespers or Evening Prayer will find in these simple words a profound description of prayer. To lift up one’s soul to God is shorthand for lifting up one’s hands in an outstretched position in prayer. The gesture signifies holding one’s conscious identity, one’s life, outstretched to God in sole and complete dependence upon God and God’s help. To pray, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul” (25:1) “is a psalmic synonym for ‘In you I trust’ (verse 2) … and ‘I wait for you’ (verses 3-5, 21).”2  To prosper in God is to own and acknowledge one’s utter dependence upon God.

Help and Instruction
The First Reading moves quickly from a promise of economic prosperity (Deuteronomy 30:9) to a subtle call to obey God, observe God’s commandments, and to turn to God with all one’s heart and soul (Deuteronomy 30:10). In like manner, Psalm 25 links God’s help and God’s instruction or guidance. The psalmist asks for both. The soul lifted up to the Lord and set squarely on God does not distinguish between God’s saving power and everlasting covenant and God’s teaching. In fact, the former comes in and through the latter. To prosper in God is to be open to and eager for God’s instruction. This sounds obvious and inviting. Yet, Jesus’ parable (Luke 10:25-37) reminds us that God’s ways may be difficult, counter-intuitive, even absurd. God’s paths may run counter to our best thinking and our understanding of God’s will. God’s truth will surely challenge and contradict what we understand it means to prosper. The psalm reminds us that God’s instruction comes from prayer rather than study, from God rather than human wisdom and human teachers. Though helpful, reason and common sense are insufficient. To prosper in God is to trust God enough to receive the help that comes with God’s teaching.

Bold and Selective Remembering
The psalmist demonstrates that prospering in God includes trusting God enough to boldly exhort God to selective remembering. The psalmist calls the Teacher to whom he looks for instruction and guidance to remember “your mercy” (25:6), to forget “my transgressions,” and to “remember me according to your steadfast love and for the sake of your goodness” (25:7). God is asked to remember God’s own goodness and love because they are from everlasting and to forget the psalmist’s youthful sin, which is in the past.

God is Gracious and Upright
We can receive God’s instruction and ask God to selectively remember because of who God is. “You are gracious and upright, O Lord,” the psalmist declares (25:8). God is compassionate and merciful. Then the psalmist elaborates. God teaches (as opposed to punishes or rejects) sinners in God’s way. God leads the lowly in justice. All God’s paths–which the psalmist has asked God to teach him (25:4)–are steadfast love and faithfulness (25:10). Faced with waiting, surrounded by enemies who are treacherous and seek to put to shame, burdened by one’s own sin, we can trust our gracious and upright God whose ways are steadfast love and faithfulness. Prospering in God comes from actively trusting in God and eagerly longing for God’s response.

Preaching Psalm 25:1-10
Even as our government and church seek a plan for fiscal prosperity, Psalm 25 provides a plan for prospering in God. The psalmist’s plan is to pray to God, actively acknowledging the utter dependence upon God, receiving the help that comes with God’s instruction, and exhorting God to selective remembering. This leads to prosperity akin to that of a Samaritan who upon seeing a neighbor in trouble was moved with pity. This kind of prosperity is only possible because of who God is, the gracious and upright Lord who, in the words of the reading from Deuteronomy, “will make you abundantly prosperous” (30:9). Proclaim how Christ is like that Good Samaritan to us and then how Christ will make us prosperous like him. Then invite the congregation to pray, depend, be taught, and exhort God to both remember and forget.

1Roger E. Van Harn and Brent A. Strawn (eds.), Psalms for Preaching and Worship: A Lectionary Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009), 109.
2James Luther Mays, Psalms, Interpretation, a Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1994), 124-125.

Second Reading

Commentary on Colossians 1:1-14

Karl Jacobson

As one of my teachers in seminary once said to me, There’s no such thing as a stupid question, only stupid people who ask questions.

Fairness in conversation: I absolutely had it coming. I was asking the kind of question a person asks in order make himself look good. People do this from time to time, and even more frequently we behave this way–asking a question in order to look smart or sensitive or perceptive; living our lives in a certain way in order to justify ourselves, either to ourselves or to someone else. Think of it as the spiritual equivalent of the Socratic Method gone horribly, sinfully wrong.

All of the readings today, in one way or another, are about questions. The punch line of Deuteronomy is a pair of rhetorical questions about an apparently generic “commandment:” Who will go up to heaven for us and get it? and Who will cross beyond the sea for us to get it? Implied in these questions is the closeness and thus simplicity of the commandment, as if Deuteronomy is saying, “There may be no such thing as a stupid question, but that doesn’t mean you should ask questions stupidly, trying to make faithful relationship with God more complicated than it is.”

Amos has God asking the prophet the obvious question. God shows Amos a lengthy plumb line dangling a shiny brass plumb bob and asks: What’s this that I’m holding in my hand? And Amos says, “I want to say ˜Jesus, but this seems like a trick question, so I’ll go with ˜a plum bob.” Final answer.” Implied in this question is the reality that too often the obvious, clear, dangerous faults that we build into our lives go unnoticed or ignored. Amos is saying, “Because of stupid people God sometimes has to ask the obvious question in order to get the point across.”

Even the portion of Psalm 25 assigned for the day has something to do with a question. The first ten verses of the psalm are, at least in part, an introduction to another rhetorical question (sadly not a part of the reading): Who are they that fear the LORD? The explicit answer is given immediately, “those who are taught the way they should choose.” In other words, “Even stupid people can be taught to choose the right question.”

And of course the Luke reading is centered on a lawyer’s questions: What must I do to inherit eternal life? and Who is my neighbor?; and a return question from Jesus, “What do you think genius?”*

While Colossians 1:1-14 does not develop around an explicitly stated question it, too, is an introduction of sorts to the implicit question that drives the letter: Will you hold fast to the true word of the Gospel, or will you be seduced by religious fads and philosophical deceits? (Cf. Colossians 1:23; 2:8.)

This first portion of Colossians 1 is full of striking and familiar epistolary vocabulary: faith, love and hope (Colossians 1:4-5; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 5:8 and 1 Corinthians 13:13); patience, joyfulness, and endurance (Colossians 1:11; cf. Galatians 5:22; Romans 2:7; 2 Corinthians 1:6); “the word of the truth, the gospel” (Colossians 1:5; Ephesians 1:13), “spiritual wisdom” (Colossians 1:9 ;1 Corinthians 2:13), “redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:14; Ephesians 1:7), etc.

But two others pieces in this passage struck me as particularly provocative. First, is the idea of bearing fruit. Second, is the way in which Colossians 1:1-14 makes its argument.

Bearing Fruit
Twice in these fourteen verses the verb to “bear fruit” (karpophoreo) is used. There are several kinds of fruit to be borne in the New Testament, fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), of the light (Ephesians 5:9), of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11). In Colossians the fruit in question is first the fruit of belief (1:6) and second the fruit of good works which are the result of growing in the knowledge of God (1:10), which one might read simply as another way of describing the fruit “of belief” which apprehends the word of truth, which is the gospel.

While there are numerous fruit-bearing references in the New Testament this particular compound verb is not terribly common, occurring here two times (1:6, 10), twice in Romans (7:4, 5), and in each of the Synoptic Gospels in the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:23; Mark 4:20, 28; Luke 8:15). Romans 7 is, like Colossians, a description of the transformative power of the Gospel:
4you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit (karpophoresomen) for God. 5While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit (karpophoresai) for death.”

What is described, proclaimed, in Colossians is not “as may appear at first blush”primarily a call to action or right behavior, but a description of the reality of the life that is enabled (Colossians 1:12) by the gospel. Like Romans, Colossians 1:1-14 envisions, presents, and thus gifts the life of the believer:
13He has rescued us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Double Secret Reverse Proclamation
What we have in Colossians 1:1-14 is a rhetorical reversal. The gospel is not proclaimed in order to equip and elicit a response, rather, the fruits of the Christian life are declared (not exhorted but declared) in order to proclaim the gospel in reverse. What has already been proclaimed is reclaimed in order to praise the Colossians’ faithful living, faithful living which is only possible because faith has been quickened by the word which has already been preached and presumably heard and, by the power of the Spirit, received through faith. This may be confusing. This is something of a mystery. This may well elicit the occasional stupid question or foolish effort. But above all it is “the word of the truth of the gospel.” Let those whose ears have heard, hear again.

*A loose rendering of “What does the Law teach you?” and “How do you read and apply this teaching?”