Lectionary Commentaries for July 5, 2020
Fifth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


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

Jennifer T. Kaalund

In this text, although Jesus is referring to the generation of his time, it seems it could just as easily be addressed to our generation.

Jesus describes a generation that cannot recognize the truth that is right front of them. They thought that John the Baptist was a demon and considered Jesus to be “a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinner.” Interestingly, they describe Jesus by the company he keeps.  Jesus, on the other hand, compares them to children. They are oblivious, like children who are preoccupied with playing games. The Messiah, the one they have been waiting for, is right in front of them. Yet, they failed to see beyond the superficial appearances of the prophet and the Son of Man. In this text, it is clear that Jesus knows who he is, but can others see him for who he truly is? Chapter 11 begins with disciples of John coming to Jesus asking: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?” (11:3) It seems this question persists.

How many times have we been misunderstood? Characterized in ways that do not truly describe who we are? How frustrating is it for someone to assume they know something about you based on where you grew up or where you went to school, your gender identity or the color of your skin, a number of factors that simply do not capture the complexity of who you really are. While we often generalize based on a minimum amount of information, these characterizations can be inaccurate for an individual. This is called a stereotype. Stereotypes have multiple implications, ranging from violence to discrimination, however, their affective impact should also be considered. That is, it is disappointing and disheartening when someone does not see you for who you really are. In order to know someone, you must spend time with them and learn who they are.

The Gospel of Matthew is often referred to as the “teacher’s gospel.” Throughout the gospel, Jesus teaches. There is an emphasis on his teaching ministry. He leaves the disciples with the directive to go into the world and teach all nations. In order for them to teach others, they must first understand. Teaching facilitates truth becoming wisdom. Teaching reveals who Jesus really is. 

Wisdom clarifies our vision. When Jesus declares that wisdom is vindicated by her deeds, he is lifting up an important aspect of his Jewish heritage, the wisdom tradition. Wisdom grants us the ability to understand beyond our sensory perception. If wisdom is vindicated by her deeds, what are her deeds? Wisdom provides order to chaos. (Proverbs 8:27–31). She grants us humility (Psalm 11:12) and protects and guards us (Psalm 4:6). Wisdom is a life-giving gift that comes with the Lord’s favor. According to the book of James, godly wisdom “is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17). The results of wisdom are evident.

On the contrary, those who lack wisdom are fools. Fools are often considered playful and so Jesus comparing this generation to children playing in the marketplace highlights their lack of understanding. Wisdom must be sought (it is given to those who seek it); the verb implies the need to act. Though wisdom is often associated with advanced age and intellect, Jesus’ prayer makes clear that this generalization is not correct. The hidden things have been revealed to infants (the ones we would consider least likely to understand). Therefore, revelation is the vital ingredient. Revelation is an unfolding of truth. Truth is not always readily apparent. Therefore, Jesus’ unveiling is necessary for people to know him and to know God.

Wisdom beacons all to a feast she has prepared and warns against foolishness. She calls: “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight” (Proverbs 9:5-6). However, there is a cautionary tale because just as wisdom calls out to us, so too, does foolishness. We must choose. There are consequences for the choice we make. Jesus, likewise, extends an invitation when he tells the weary to “come.”

Jesus offers respite for the weary but what we may miss here is that Jesus is also highlighting the importance of instruction. Though we think of the yoke as equipment for an animal, the term was often used in rabbinic literature to refer to the task of obedience to the Torah.1 In order to obey the law, you must know the law. Jesus wants those who are burdened to learn from him; Jesus’ gentle instruction will enable you to find rest for your soul; to find wholeness and completion. Instructors are guides and Jesus’ guidance is not harsh or arrogant, and therefore obedience to the word should be easy. Jesus’ invitation is instructive. Wisdom enables self-reflection. Getting to know Jesus helps us to know ourselves better. Our pursuit of following Jesus is at the same time a pursuit of wisdom.

In a world where the truth is often presented as debatable and lies are painted as truth, we can become weary. The truth does matter. Truth is the beginning of wisdom. It is a starting point for us to live fruitful lives. There is always more to learn. We must seek wisdom, be open to instruction so that our paths may become clearer and so that we can live peaceably and find rest from our labor. Recall in Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus declares: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven … And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”2 As we learn and mature in our walk with Christ, we should grow in understanding the importance of knowing God and perhaps more importantly being known by God.


  1. Dennis C. Duling, “Matthew” in The HarperCollins Study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books (eds. Harold W. Attridge, et al.; New York: HarperCollins, 2006), 1687.
  2. The term ginosko – a form of this Greek term translated “to know” or “to perceive” is found 20 times in the Gospel of Matthew. I think this is related to the importance of the theme of teaching. What we know is a result of what we have been taught.

First Reading

Commentary on Zechariah 9:9-12

J. Blake Couey

Zechariah 9:9-12 is a post-exilic prophecy of hope, perhaps best known to Christians for its reuse in the New Testament.

It imagines the return of a triumphant but humble king to Jerusalem. These verses call contemporary readers to join God’s people from all ages in hoping and working for a more just world.

The return of the King

In 587 BCE, the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem. They destroyed the temple, deposed the Davidic ruler, and took many Jerusalemites into exile. Some seventy years later, descendants of the exiles began returning to their ancestral homeland. Hopes ran high for the restoration of Judean independence and the Davidic monarchy, as expressed in texts like Jeremiah 23:5–6 or Ezekiel 34:23–24. Those dreams never materialized. The foreign kings of Persia remained in charge for another 200 years, only to be replaced by Greek and then Roman rule.

The book of Zechariah engages these realities of post-exilic Jewish life. Chapters 1–8 reflect the decades immediately after the exiles’ return. Chapters 9–14 likely come from the next century, amidst growing frustration with Persian rule. A prayer recorded in Nehemiah, from the same time period, includes these words of lament: “Here we are, slaves to this day…. [The land’s] rich yield goes to the kings whom you have set over us because of our sins; they have power also over our bodies and over our livestock at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.” (Neh 9:36-37).

The words of comfort in Zechariah 9:9-12 thus emerge from long decades of yearning for restoration, as the experience of imperial subjugation became unbearable. They reflect the persistence of hope, even when its fulfillment seemed less and less likely. At a time of increasing expectation for an apocalyptic, otherworldly deliverance, these verses preserved the belief that a just, equitable political order could still be restored in this world.

“Humble and riding on a donkey”

According to Zechariah 9:9, the coming king is “triumphant and victorious,” entering the city as a conquering hero following the defeat of Israel and Judah’s longtime enemies (Zechariah 9:1-8). Paradoxically, this ruler is also described as “humble.” The text emphasizes that he rides a donkey, not a war-horse, by using three different words for the animal.1 We probably shouldn’t make too much of this point, since other biblical texts associate Davidic kings with mules or donkeys (Genesis 49:11; 2 Samuel 16:2; 1 Kings 1:38–39). A clearer denunciation of violence appears in Zechariah 9:10, which describes how the new ruler will destroy implements of war—including the war-horse— and “command peace to the nations,” in the process of establishing universal rule (compare Psalm 46:9; Isaiah 2:4).

For Christians, these verses from the Hebrew Bible are powerfully associated with the accounts of Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday (see Matt 21:4–5; John 12:15). Unfortunately, it’s easy to read the Gospel stories in a way that reinforces the popular stereotype of “gentle Jesus, meek and mild,” riding on a lowly donkey and receiving the praise of children. (The last detail comes from our hymnals, not the Bible!)

This sanitized reading is neither true to the Gospels nor Zechariah, for several reasons:

  • The Hebrew word ‘ani, translated “humble” in Zechariah 9:9, frequently refers to impoverished, socially vulnerable persons (Deuteronomy 15:11; Isaiah 10:2; Psalm 140:12). By using this word, Zechariah identifies his messianic king with the poor and oppressed.
  • According to the Synoptic Gospels, one of Jesus’s first actions in Jerusalem was the violent cleansing of the Temple (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46).
  • Finally, we must remember that Jesus was knowingly riding in Jerusalem to become the victim of Roman state-sponsored violence. If humility means keeping one’s head down and avoiding trouble, then it’s hardly an appropriate term for what Jesus (or Zechariah) had in mind.

As we ponder these ancient words today, protesters are marching in our streets, crying for justice and denouncing systemic racism. Zechariah’s anti-imperial proclamation—along with Jesus’s anti-imperial appropriation of it—calls us to listen humbly to voices demanding radical change. The text stands in judgment over a Christian culture that would rather maintain an inequitable peace than challenge unjust power structures. It critiques a Church that prefers individualistic humility over solidarity with the oppressed.

“Prisoners of hope”

The commitment to liberation becomes more concrete in Zechariah 9:11-12, as God promises to free Jerusalem’s prisoners. These verses recall another post-exilic prophecy: the description of God’s herald in Isaiah 62:1, who comes “to proclaim … release to the prisoners.” (That text is likewise connected to Jesus’s ministry in Luke 4:16-21.) Other biblical texts describe God’s commitment to freedom for prisoners, including Psalms 107:10 and 146:7; Isaiah 42:6-7.

Several details indicate that the prisoners in Zechariah are unjustly incarcerated:

  • They’re held captive in “the waterless pit” (Zechariah 9:11), which recalls the imprisonments of Joseph (Genesis 37:24) and Jeremiah (Jerermiah 38:6). Both men were innocent.
  • The poignant phrase “prisoners of hope” in Zechariah 9:12 suggests that they rightfully expect vindication.
  • In the same verse, God promises to “restore [them] double.” In biblical law, double restitution is commanded for victims of wrongdoing (Exodus 22:4, 7, 9).

Preaching or teaching about these verses is an opportunity to advocate for victims of unjust imprisonment today. In the United States, this includes immigrants in detention centers, who are frequently denied access to the bare necessities of life, or the disproportionate numbers of Black men in our prisons.2 And in light of the current pandemic, we should speak out against overcrowding and other factors that unjustly subject prisoners to increased risk of contracting COVID-19.


  1. The author of Matthew, who understood these verses as a prophecy of Jesus’s triumphal entry, took the poetic repetition literarily and depicted Jesus depicted riding on both a donkey and a colt (Matt 21:1–6)!

  2. See Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2nd ed.; New York: New Press, 2020).

Alternate First Reading

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

Amanda Benckhuysen

“This is the Lord’s doing. We have nothing to say about it” (Genesis 24:50).

These words of Laban and Bethuel in response to the story of Abraham’s servant capture the major preoccupation of this story—attending to the leading and activity of God.

There are certainly other things that may capture our attention in this story, things that may make us uncomfortable. For instance, given that Abraham’s kin are polytheists (Genesis 31), it seems likely that his interests in having Isaac marry family was motivated by ethnocentrism rather than religious concerns. Furthermore, the uncritical acceptance of a patriarchal culture leads Abraham’s servant and Bethuel and Laban to negotiate for Rebekah like she was a piece of property. Both of these ancient cultural practices may make it hard to appreciate this story today. And to some extent, it is right and good that we should be uncomfortable with these practices, because this is not what this story is affirming or celebrating. Instead, the focus is on what the Lord is doing and the attentiveness of those in the story to how God is at work.

The narrative includes all the elements typically found in a betrothal type-scene. A foreign man travels to a distant country to find a wife for himself or his master. Upon his arrival, he goes to a well outside the town where he happens upon a young woman. The scene concludes with the foreigner returning to the home of the young woman where arrangements are made for the betrothal.

Against the backdrop of these common elements are some rather striking features in Genesis 24. In particular, what stands out is the explicit trust and recognition of God’s leading in all of this. While not part of the lectionary selection, the story begins with Abraham commissioning his servant to find a woman from Abraham’s homeland and bring her to Canaan to be a wife for Isaac. The problem, however, is how will the servant accomplish such a weighty task? How will he find the right woman? And how will he know she is the right woman when he finds her? The answer? The angel of the Lord will go before the servant, guiding the servant’s way and even preparing the heart of the right woman so that she is willing to come back with him (Genesis 24:7).

As the servant starts on his way, he prays that the Lord would make him successful in this task, as if alerting God that he is ready and eager to attend to God’s guidance. This is particularly striking because we don’t actually know if Abraham’s servant is a god-fearer.

Predictably, his journey takes him to a well outside the town of Nahor. There the servant prays again, this time detailing the sign by which God would lead the servant to the right woman. She will be kind and thoughtful, offering not only the servant a drink but his camels as well. The sign itself is nothing out of the ordinary. It was common for women to take on the responsibility for fetching water and watering the flock (Genesis. 29:1-12). Yet the servant is insistent (it is repeated twice), that Rebekah’s offer at the well is a sign from God and an indication of God’s leading. “Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken his steadfast love 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,” the servant proclaims (verse 27). And again, when relaying the whole story to Laban and Bethuel, the servant says, “Then I bowed my head and worshiped the Lord, and blessed the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son” (verse 48).

God led him. In Rebekah’s ordinary actions, the servant sees the extraordinary, the hand of God. Rebekah follows suit. Certain that Rebekah is the wife for Isaac, the servant sets out to leave the next morning. Laban and Rebekah’s mother urge the servant to stay around and give them time to get used to the idea of losing their sister and mother. But when the decision is put to Rebekah, she herself responds with clear and decisive action. She will go (verse 58).

The faith of Rebekah and Abraham’s servant are truly remarkable and inspiring. The challenge for us today, however, is how do we know we are discerning the voice of God correctly? How do we know it is the voice of God?

This is no small problem and has led to two opposite tendencies among Christians. The first is an agnosticism about God’s leading in our lives. Because we can’t know for sure, we function as if God is not a real agent active in our world or in our lives.

The second is to align too closely our own thoughts and impulses with the voice of God. In this case, we risk sanctioning our whims with divine approval and lend the authority of God to our human impulses. This is extremely dangerous and has the potential to cause significant harm.

So how do we navigate this? How do we become wise discerners in hearing God’s voice and determining God’s leading? For one thing, as Christians, we are blessed to have the Scriptures that teach us God’s character and God’s will. Whatever leading we discern from God, it ought to be consistent with what we see in Scripture.

This story, however, gives us another criterion for discerning the leading of God, that is, the community of faith. Every single person in this story seems to recognize the hand of God in this, from Abraham who commissioned his servant to go to the land of his kin to Bethuel and Laban who recognize that this is the Lord’s doing to Rebekah who acts with courage and faith to go with the servant to a home she knew not.

And perhaps this is the encouragement to be had from this story—to eschew both agnosticism and overconfidence about our ability to discern God’s leading in our lives and instead, lean heavily on the community of faith, past and present, to help us discern the voice of God. And when, with the community of faith, we do finally recognize God’s leading, may we, like Rebekah, respond with eager assent, “we will go.”


Commentary on Psalm 145:8-14

W. Dennis Tucker, Jr.

Psalm 145 invites us to consider the comprehensive sweep of God’s rule in the world.

Similar to other acrostic psalms in the Psalter (see also 25; 34; 37; 111; 112; and 119), each line in Psalm 145 begins with the subsequent letter in the Hebrew alphabet (aleph, beth, gimel, etc.). More than simply a mnemonic device, however, such a construction points to a careful and deliberate reflection on the topic at hand, for example, God’s rule in the world. To underscore the sweeping nature of God’s divine kingship, the Hebrew term kol (“all”) appears 17 times throughout the 21 verses. At times, it refers to God and God’s actions in the world (for example, verses 10, 13c, 13d, 17), while at other times, it refers to those who are the recipients of those actions (for example, verses 9a/b, 12a, 18a/b). The final verse announces that “all” flesh will bless God’s name (verse 21). From beginning to end, from aleph to tav, this psalm is relentless in its confession of the kingship of Yahweh.

In addition to the repeated use of “all,” a vocabulary of praise appears with considerable regularity. Its repetition in the first half of the psalm is striking (see verses 1b, 2a, 2b, 3a, 4a, 4b, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 10a, 10b, 11a, 11b, and 12a) and the psalm returns to this theme yet again in the final verse (verses 21a and 21b). The psalmist employs a variety of Hebrew terms across these 18 occurrences, each referring to praising or speaking/singing praise. Those involved in the act of confessing and praising include: the psalmist (verse 1b), the “generations” (verse 4a), Yahweh’s works (verse 10a), the “faithful people” (verse 10b), and every creature (verse 21b). While they appear unrelated, the frequency of “all” (kol) and the many and varied uses of terms from the vocabulary of praise reinforce the rhetorical thrust of Psalm 145: all of creation is enjoined to praise the Divine King (verse 21).

The lectionary text invites the reader to consider the fullness of the kingdom of God in verses 11-13, but the presence of the verses that appear immediately before and those that follow (verses 8-10, 14) serve as a reminder that conversation about the kingdom of God cannot be divorced from conversation about the character of God. It is the latter that makes possible our inclusion in the former. 

In verses 8-9, the psalmist appropriates familiar language, that of Yahweh’s self-revelation found in Exodus 34:6-7. The robust theological confession is matched by its careful poetic structure. Regrettably, the assonantal nature of the opening confession in Psalm 145:8a is lost in translation. The Hebrew reads, hanun werahum YHWH, “Gracious and merciful is YHWH.” The repetition in sound reinforces the close coupling of these qualities within the character of this God. This King is marked by hanun werahum, grace and mercy, and we are the beneficiaries. The second line in verse 8 celebrates the long suffering of Yahweh and his great hesed—both terms together stress the unrelenting solidarity of this God towards his people. 

In Exodus 34, this confession follows the scene of the golden calf and the giving of new law tablets to the community gathered at Sinai. While the appropriation of the Exodus 34 language has been decoupled from its specific place in the narrative of Israel, the force of its confession and the object of its confession in Psalm 145 remain squarely in view—with perhaps one exception. Following the same rehearsal of divine attributes (verse 8), the psalmist extends that confession to suggest that Yahweh is “good to all and that his compassion is over all of his works” (verse 9). That which defined a God encountered on the side of a mountain has now become descriptive of the Divine King who encounters “all” even as he rules over all (verse 13). 

By concluding with verse 14, the lectionary reading leads the worshiper to reflect again upon the character of the one whose kingdom “endures throughout all generations.” To confess that God is king (verse 1) is to believe in God’s preferential concern for the poor and the vulnerable—for “all” of them. The psalmist confesses God’s concern for “all” those who are falling down and “all” those who are “bowed down” (NRSV; NIV). The latter term comes from the root kapap, “to bow down,” but as a passive participle in this instance, perhaps we would do better to render it as ”those who have been bowed down,” as those whose station in life can be attributed to the deleterious actions of another (see also Psalm 146:8). The good news, the gospel, of this psalm and all of Scripture is that this King always stands with those who are falling down and those who are being forced down (see also Matthew 11:28-30). For those who find themselves falling down, they will be “held up” (samek) and supported by this King and those who have been forced down by another will be lifted up by this God. A similar confession is found in Psalm 113:7, where God “raises the poor from the dust and lifts up the needy from the ash heap.” The image is striking: the one who has all the power willingly expends it upon those who have none. How could we do other than live in unrelenting praise of such a God?

The confession made here in verse 14 is not an isolated instance or a singular expression of divine concern, but rather a culminating claim focused on the very nature of this Divine King. From beginning to end, this “theology of the poor” permeates the Psalter, and for those of us who read these texts and seek to preach them faithfully, we cannot escape this claim—nor should we. Such a claim is rooted in the very character of God and emblematic of the nature of his kingdom.

Verses 11-14 function as the heart of the psalm, both literally and figuratively. Four times the word “kingdom” (malkut) is employed, with the latter two instances (verse 13) offering a descriptive assessment of the enduring nature of this kingdom. The first two references, however, shift the focus to the “all”—and the necessity of testimony about the kingdom. People are to “speak of the glory of [God’s] kingdom” and they are to make known to “all” people “the glorious splendor” of God’s kingdom (verses 11a and 12b). To know this God and to live in this kingdom is to be a people marked by testimony and confession. To declare God as king, to be recipients of his hanun werahum, is to take on the role of witness.

Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 7:15-25a

Kyle Fever

Romans 7 has played a crucial role in Christian anthropology.1

Whether one derives from this passage the Lutheran simul, that we are and always will be both fundamentally saint and sinner, or some other variation that expresses ongoing human struggle with sin, the main thing most people take from this passage relates to human identity vis-à-vis sin.

In this regard, the present text, as the lectionary delineates it, can be quite misleading if left on its own. This is one of the times that the pastor or preacher needs to be careful to bring the larger context into view. Without this, it would be very easy to read, interpret, and preach this passage as saying something defining about human identity: that we are resigned to a life of struggle with no end, in spite of the exclamation, “But thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” This can often lead to the foregone conclusion that we are stuck in sin, which is actually okay because there is grace. The statement in verse 25b often wins the day (even though not in the lectionary delineation, it should be included): “So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Before letting this verse have the final word on the passage, or simply fitting this passage into a more or less developed theological anthropology, there are a couple points that introduce more complexity and possibility for thought and discussion.

First, Paul has just objected to the “we’re consigned to sin, but that’s okay because there is grace” mentality in Romans 6. Romans 7 should probably not be interpreted in any way that results in Paul “rebuild(ing) what (he) destroyed” as he puts it in Galatians 2:18. It doesn’t compute for Paul to take up such space in this letter to argue that the baptized are transferred from the realm of Sin, and then turn around to say that we’re still stuck in it. Whatever say Romans 7 has on anthropology, what Paul says in Romans 6 must be given weight.

Second, there continues to be a good deal of debate over the identity of the “I” in this infamous section of Romans. This should bring about at least a little more thought as to what we think Paul is saying here if, as is the case for many, one’s interpretation, teaching, and preaching are shaped by one’s understanding of the “I.” Making things more complicated, one’s understanding of the “I” often issues from one’s ideas about anthropology, whether “Biblical” or not. It is worth considering that Paul might just be rewriting how his audience (and we) understands the “I” — in accord not with old human experience, but in Christ, as he does elsewhere (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Galatians 2:19-20).

There are several options for how to understand the “I.” Many people interpret the “I” as Paul speaking of himself. Even then, however, there is debate whether Paul is referring to his current identity in Christ, or to his pre-Christian life. There are also important factors that suggest the “I” is a generic description of the identity and experience of the old humanity, or even representative of Israel.

It’s important to recognize that, more than only describing the “I” in relation to sin, this passage also says something about the law. In fact, one could make a case that Paul seems less to be trying to give a definite systematic theology about the human condition, as he is trying to say something about the inability of the law to remedy the problem of sin. Of course the human “I” (however understood) is involved in this equation, but the leading edge seems first to be the issue of the law. This is confirmed when one reads Romans 7, not as an isolated discourse on the human condition, but in context with Romans 6 and 8.

As soon as Paul completes the statement in Romans 7:25, he moves on to say in 8:1-3:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in human flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.

Read in context, Romans 8:1-3 help us see what Paul is getting at in Romans 7 — the inability of the law and the articulation of a different simul —  the simultaneous release from sinful humanity and fulfillment of the law’s good (!) requirement. If anything, then, Romans 7 is not a final destination, defining our ongoing condition to which we’re consigned for the duration of our human lives, but the human condition and struggle from which those in Christ have been set free.

In addition to Romans 8, in Romans 5 and 6, Paul had just made a strong case that those baptized in Christ have “died” to their Adamic humanity and been united with Christ (6:1-14). Those baptized “no longer live in Sin” and are no longer enslaved to sin and injustice (“unrighteousness”). There has been a real “transfer” of existence and identity, from one “Lord” to another, from one mode of existence to another, affected not by the law but by the Spirit of the living Christ.

Given the contextual surroundings, Romans 7:15-25 describes the human situation from which God has delivered humanity in and through Jesus Christ. This passage says less about the human struggle in Sin and more about human identity in Christ.

In Christ the “I” is no longer divided but united; no longer frustrated but fulfilled; no longer at odds with God’s will, but in conformity to it. God has done all this. All human systems (“law”) have been and will be incapable of achieving this. It is only the Spirit through Christ that delivers humanity. Thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!


  1. Commentary first published on this site on July 9, 2017.