Lectionary Commentaries for August 22, 2021
Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on John 6:56-69

Robert Hoch

Structurally, complaints or quarrels supply a punctuation mark between subsections of this text (for example, verses 42 and 52), which then signal the beginning of Jesus’ discourse. Using the complaint of verse 60 as a pivot, we get two subsections of Jesus’ discourse to the disciples:

  • Part I: Jesus responds to complaints about “this teaching” by pointing to the whole story from cross to resurrection and ascension. Many of the disciples turn back and leave-off following Jesus (verses 60-66);
  • Part II: Jesus asks whether The Twelve “wish” to remain with him; Peter shows that The Twelve have been reacting in receptive ways to Jesus’ teaching (remaining, hearing, knowing, and believing) and Jesus answers that confession with a reminder that though he called The Twelve, one among them would deny him (verses 67-71).

Between these two reactions, one type being receptive and the other not, John invites his readers to continue a journey that is far from complete.

Before, Jesus answered criticism from the religious leaders. Now, in verse 60, the complaining comes from those who have been following him. Those who decide to leave attribute their decision to “this teaching” (verse 60b). Jesus’ “feed on me” of verse 57 is, in fact, at the heart of the offense.

Because Jesus knows the secret thoughts of those around him, he is aware that his disciples are complaining about him. “Does this offend you?” (verse 61b), he asks. The question implies that, yes, this Jesus offends. However, the next question seems more open-ended: “Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?” What jumps out about this question is how it reverses language by now familiar to those of us living in this chapter: “comes/came down” appears in verses 33, 38a, 41, 42, 50, 51, and 58, and “sends/sent” appears in verses 29, 38, 39, 44, and 57. In an abrupt about-turn, Jesus speaks of himself “going up” and not being sent out but returning “to where he was before” (verse 62b).

What happened? Gail R. O’Day recalls John 1:50 as an analog: “‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under a fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the son of Man’” (verse 51).1 In other words, the decision to leave (or stay) is arguably premature without the full sweep of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and the gift of the Advocate.

While Jesus might be trying to sort through the nature of the difficulty mentioned in the complaint of verse 60, his explanation seems puzzling: “It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life” (verse 63). Why is that puzzling? How does the reader reconcile “the flesh is useless” with the previous saying: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life” (verse 54)? Aren’t the two sayings mutually exclusive?

Raymond E. Brown believes he may have found a clue in the story of Nicodemus: “The contrast between Spirit and flesh in [verse] 63 is the same contrast we found in [John] 3:6. Jesus is not speaking of eucharistic flesh but of flesh as he spoke of it in chapter three, namely, the natural principle in [human beings] which cannot give eternal life.”2 He goes on to contrast the bread from heaven as “real” or “true” (verses 32 and 55) with the manna which “your ancestors ate, and they died” (verse 58). The words Jesus speaks are in unity with the life-giving spirit of the real or true bread from heaven (verse 63). Human beings are born anew not by the will of the flesh or of the will of human beings, but by the will of God (John 1:13 and 3:8).

Maybe, by all this, John means election; even so, there is a decision and “many” of Jesus’ followers “turned back and no longer went about with him” (verse 66).

Jesus’ question to The Twelve: “Do you also wish to go away?” reminds the readers that the Book of Signs is presenting would-be followers of Jesus with a choice. According to Brown, the verb to want or wish may refer to a realized (see John 1:43; 5:35) or unrealized wish (see John 7:44; 16:19).3 Jesus gives the people the loaves and the fishes, as much as they wanted (verse 11). The disciples want to take Jesus into their boat, though it is not clear that this is realized or not realized (verse 21). Now, the question is do they, The Twelve, also wish to leave Jesus (verse 67)?

It strikes the reader as an ironic question, maybe anti-climactic. Why? The irony lies in that while Jesus elected them, evidently an act of divine providence (verse 70), The Twelve remain because they have made an informed (and human) decision (verse 69). Which wins? Divine election or human decision? It feels peculiar alongside the Synoptic tradition, in which Jesus welcomes Peter’s confession with a proclamation: “Upon this confession, I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Instead, Jesus speaks of future betrayal. O’Day tells us that the message here is to stay humble: “Election is no substitute for the decision of faith.”4 One might say the same thing about human decisions: they’re no substitute for election. The drama of belief and unbelief continues to be acted out in the world of the living.


Maybe when we read this text, we want to say that we would be with Peter and with The Twelve, and we would continue with Jesus. Rock-solid with Jesus. When the roll is called up yonder, we will be counted among the saints. Or perhaps when we read this text, we want to say that it’s okay to doubt, that it’s honest to doubt. After all, Peter who spoke so movingly a moment ago will a few chapters hence speak in a very different way.

Or maybe the belief or unbelief that we claim isn’t the point. Authenticity in the fellowship of believers seems to be important to John’s Jesus.  “What,” he asks his first two disciples, “are you looking for?” (John 1:38). He asks another, who has been sick for 38 years, “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6)? And at his betrayal, twice he asks, “Whom are you looking for?” (John 18:4, 7).

Who do you desire?

Do you love me, Peter?

“I am thirsty,” Jesus said. For wine?


  1. Gail R. O’Day, “John: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections” in The New Interpreter’s Bible: Luke and John, volume 8 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015), 518.
  2. Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John: Introduction, Translation, and Notes in The Anchor Bible (Garden City: Doubleday & Company Inc., 1966), 300.
  3. Brown, Gospel According to John, 252.
  4. O’Day, “John” in The New Interpreter’s Bible, 521.

First Reading

Commentary on Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

Stephen B. Reid

Covenant renewal happens even in the season of COVID-19. The pandemic disrupted institutions including congregations. COVID disturbance functions much like the wilderness that invites people to think about covenant after the pandemic ends. Joshua 24 echoes the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 19-20). Memory in Deuteronomy gestures to God’s providence that provokes a covenant renewal. Joshua 24 reflects the traditions, rhetorical devices and metaphors of theology found in the books of Deuteronomy and Exodus. 

Why does it have to be all? 

The passage accents the unity of the people. Just as Exodus 16 refers to all the congregation of Israel, Joshua 24 refers to all the people and notes several offices. Both stories in their own way want to make clear the unanimity of the decisions. The language of “all” percolates when social conflict manifests itself most acutely. We say “all” when we aspire to a unity that seems so elusive. Similarly, the term Israel represents a varied group.

Why Shechem?

Covenant renewal in the Bible often happens at major shrines: Sinai, Shechem and eventually Jerusalem. The Joshua speech occurs in a special place with a long tradition. Shechem carried weight as a religious center. Shechem is both a city of refuge and a Levitical city. (Joshua 20:7; 21:21) The other sites of covenant making are in places of note such as Egypt in captivity, Sinai, and now in the promised land, Shechem.  

History matters

Joshua begins with a prophetic formula, “thus says the LORD.” The formula tells the audience that these are no longer the words of Joshua but those of God. 

The covenant process often begins with a historical recital of obligation. The language of recital began long ago and far away, and accents the power of an ongoing relationship in a traditional society. The ancestors come from a faraway place. The reference to the first ancestors observed that they served other gods. The phrase “other gods” occurs in the book of Joshua but much more in the books of Deuteronomy and Jeremiah which understand that covenant renewal means forsaking other gods. The ancestors receive veneration, but this is a new covenant. The ancestors, like founders of countries, followed other gods, ideologies no longer perceived as valid.  

This section of the covenant renewal rhetoric rehearses past relational history. The promises are of progeny, land, freedom from Egypt, guidance in the wilderness, acquisition of the promised land. The history of God’s intervention into history on behalf of the children of Israel sets the stage for a confession of loyalty and obligation. 

The promises that make you a people of the covenant (Joshua 24:14-18)

The history recounted in verses 2-13 lays the foundation for the new section which begins with the call “now,” an interjection of urgency. The “then” of verses 2-13 emerges through the interjection “now” that begins verse 14. The divine advocacy “now” prompts the imperative “revere” or “fear.” The verbs “serve” and “revere” function as worldview-shaping verbs for the world of the Bible. The imperative to revere accompanies the commandment to serve. As such it contrasts the present generation and the ancestors such as Abraham. 

The writer links reverence and service with the language of sincerity and faithfulness. The hallmark of such behavior requires loyalty. Hence the instruction to remove or put away (other) gods. The other gods include those served by the ancestors. The gods served beyond the river did not liberate the community, therefore they have no standing according to Joshua. The passage links gods of the Mesopotamian ancestors to those of Egypt. Verse fourteen ends with the imperative to serve the LORD. 

The imperatives “serve” and “revere” require more than sheer adherence under threat. They require assent of the people, all Israel.  The NRSV “if you are unwilling” conveys a sense that “if this is evil or disastrous in your eyes.” For the world of Joshua, theological decisions mattered for the good and prosperity on the one hand or the evil and disaster on the other. 

Many negotiations have a place where the alternative to the deal is discussed. Here Joshua recognizes that it might strike the community as evil or disastrous in their eyes to serve the LORD. He chides them then to choose. The term “this day” indicates the time sensitive nature of the decision. 

The modern and postmodern consumer society is all about choice. As such the imperative “choose” resonates with us. The biblical world uses choice in a particular fashion. Here the choice is an expression of fealty. An ancient or feudal person of lesser status and wealth swears loyalty to a lord or patron who typically has greater status and or wealth. Three choices are given: the gods of the Mesopotamian ancestors or the gods of the Amorites who lived in the promised land. This gives way to the confession of Joshua that he and his family would serve the LORD. 

The community responds

The people respond and declare “we” will not forsake the LORD, the God of our deliverance. The language of “serve” returns in verse 16 but there it fuses with “not forsaking.” The language of forsake resonates with Psalm 22 and the cry of dereliction (Mark 15:34). The text fuses ancestral promise, the liberation from Egypt, guidance in the wilderness, and the possession of the land formerly of the Amorites. 

The covenant renewal of Joshua 24 resonates still. The passage concludes with a confession of loyalty rooted in God’s relentless advocacy for the full freedom of all the people. How does revering and serving the God of liberation and contesting other gods look in a post pandemic world?

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on 1 Kings 8:[1, 6, 10-11] 22-30, 41-43

Dora R. Mbuwayesango

This week’s reading presents us with another positive episode involving Solomon. We continue looking at Solomon as a person following in the footsteps of his father, David. David had wanted to build a house for God—a structure to house the presence of God which was reflected by the Ark of the Covenant. How Solomon came to be the one building the temple, and not his father, is reflected in 2 Samuel 7 where David offered to build “a house” for God. There God turned the tables and said that God would build a house for David instead, speaking symbolically about establishing an everlasting dynasty of the Davidic line. 

This meant that David’s bloodline would be the only legitimate family to provide a king to sit on the throne and reign over Israel. That Solomon was now on the throne was in fulfilment to that promise, and Solomon expressed that understanding in last week’s reading as he reflected that his current position as his father’s successor was not based on merit—he was not really equipped for the job. Solomon seems to have been so much aware of his inadequacies that even when he was asleep it was on his mind. Thus, in last week’s reading he asked God for a wise and understanding heart to govern the people well.  

This week’s reading focuses on some aspects of how Solomon used the divine wisdom and riches granted to him in last week’s reading. He not only built himself palaces but he successfully embarked on the project of building the permanent dwelling place which his father David had desired to do. Up to the time of David, the presence of God had been represented by the Ark of Covenant that had been a movable tent structure. David successfully moved the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, where Solomon built the magnificent Temple that is now housing the Ark of the Covenant. 

In last week’s reading, it was highlighted that Solomon and the rest of the Israelites were worshipping at Canaanite worship centers, which was not ideal because people might end up worshipping Canaanite gods rather than their own God. So, Solomon in building the Temple has removed that confusion inherent in worshipping at Canaanite centers: confusing their Israelite God with Canaanite Gods. Israel now has its own worship center at a place that the Israelite God has chosen. There is a series of narratives that show how God chose Jerusalem as the religious center for the people of Israel (1 Samuel 4-7 and 2 Samuel 6). 

After completion of the building of the Temple, Solomon leads the people in a dedication ceremony. The selected portions of this long chapter focus on some significant words in Solomon’s second prayer at the dedication of the Temple. Solomon is acutely aware that God who transcends creation cannot be contained in a building no matter how magnificent the building is as he rhetorically states: “But will God indeed dwell on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built!” 

The Temple is a powerful symbol of God’s presence among the people. It is a place for individual and corporate prayer. It is a place for God’s name to dwell. I imagine it as a place that is God’s postal address. This is a place where people have a tangible connection to God and God hears and responds to the supplications made at or towards that place. 

The Temple does not take the place of God, neither is it equivalent to God. It is not to be worshipped, but God is worshipped there. This is a place where individuals and the community will find divine forgiveness. In the portion that is skipped, Solomon highlights certain occasions for prayer that include; reconciliation between neighbors (31-32); national defeat in battle (33-34); drought (35-36); famine and various plagues (37-40); war (44-45), including when a foreigner comes to pray. The inclusion of foreigners at the Temple is interesting because of the exclusive nature of Israel pronounced in the Hebrew Bible and also because of the non-coercive nature of the inclusion. It is not a militant conversion of non-Israelites but an openness that welcomes foreigners in a sacred space.  

This depiction of the Temple in Solomon’s prayer invites us to think about how we view our worship spaces. Is the presence of God evident in our worship spaces? Is the purpose of the space clear to all who enter it? Is the nature of the God worshiped in the space evident? How is it a place where forgiveness and reconciliation occur? How welcoming are our spaces of worship to those who feel lost, to those we consider as outsiders? Can the prayers of those who do not think, act or pray like “us” feel validated and heard? What is important in our spaces, the space itself or the presence of God in it? Who or what is worshipped; God or the space itself?  Solomon at this stage had a clear sense, do we?


Commentary on Psalm 34:15-22

James K. Mead

With the concluding verses of Psalm 34, the author has returned to the subject matter with which he began, namely the suffering from which God delivered him (verse 4).1

Along the way, as we saw last Sunday, the psalmist explored the connection between worship and some of the wisdom principles for right relationships (verses 9-14). It may have been possible, however, to get the wrong impression from those general principles. The way the question in verse 12 is posed—”Which of you desires life, and covets many days to enjoy good?”—might suggest to us that if we simply uphold the standards of right speech and action listed in verses 13-14, we can count on a long and happy life.

In case we are tempted to follow that logic, the remainder of the psalm brings us back to reality. Today’s psalm lection is fraught with a sense of conflict between good and evil, intense affliction for the righteous, but also the hopeful assurance that the Lord is aware of such trouble and acts to rescue the sufferer. Among the many avenues for reflection available to us in this passage, the following three ideas stand out to me.

The reality of suffering for the righteous
The psalmist unflinchingly holds the traditional wisdom of verses 11-14 together with the fact of suffering for the righteous. Given the reputation of the Book of Proverbs as presenting a simplified view of obedience and blessing, we should notice that the object of oppression and trouble in verses 15-22 are not some group of pretend-worshipers or secret slackers who finally get what’s coming to them. If that were the case, then we could explain their sufferings and take refuge in our tidy theology of prosperity for the righteous.

However, this psalm won’t let us off the hook. Without disparaging the general truth of traditional wisdom, the author nevertheless states that the righteous do indeed suffer. They “cry” and experience “troubles” (verses 15, 17).2 They are “brokenhearted” and have “afflictions” (verses 18-19). It is also likely the case that these righteous ones are “socially marginal,” turning to Yahweh for help instead of to some other source within human society.3  Such a class reading may help to explain a source of their affliction, but the repetition of “righteous” points to a moral/spiritual cause of persecution as well. One thinks, in this regard, of the apostle’s encouragement of those who “suffer for doing what is right” (1 Peter 3:14; 4:15-16).

The reality of evil in the world
As obvious as this affirmation seems, I take the time and space to comment on the “conflict” theology present in the psalm. There are excellent biblical and theological reasons for shunning a world and life view that explains everything in terms of conflict. We live with the increasing potential for demonizing enemies and even average folks who simply disagree with us on politics and religion. A gospel mindset teaches that abundant life isn’t about identifying the “bad guys” in every situation or turning every issue into an ultimate battle between good and evil. That being said, the tone of opposition in our passage is confirmed by human experience.

Thus, in spite of the very real danger of oversimplification, Psalm 34 provides an eloquent Old Testament conversation partner for the New Testament epistle reading this Sunday (Ephesians 6:10-20), with its message of spiritual conflict. The psalmist’s reason for acknowledging such conflict is not to demonize evildoers but to maintain solidarity with the victims of evil. The believer leaves the judgment in the hands of the Lord (verse 16). While this passage is not a mandate to end the struggle for justice, the author prefers to trust the mysterious workings of providence, namely, that “evil brings death to the wicked” (verse 21a). Moreover, the passive sense of verse 21b (“those who hate the righteous will be condemned”) tends to remove personal vengeance from the disposition of justice.

The reality of divine rescue
In spite of the above painful realities, the psalmist nevertheless believes that God is actively present to bless and save the righteous sufferer. This theme is lifted up in manifold ways that all have a vivid, sensory, and personal expression: God’s “eyes” and “ears” which see and hear the plight of the needy (verses 15, 17); God’s “face” which is “against evildoers (verse 16); God’s nearness to and salvation of the “brokenhearted” (verse 18); God’s keeping “the bones” and redeeming “the life” of the righteous (verses 20, 22). Thus, Weiser writes, “The true happiness of a godly life consists in the nearness of God and in the living experience of his help and not in being spared suffering and affliction.”4  This notion dovetails nicely with the sense of “abiding” in the gospel lection for today, John 6:56-69.5

There is a challenge here of translating the truths of an ancient Hebrew worldview into modern Christian categories. To speak of rescue is not to advocate some type of “victorious Christian life.” We are clearly cautioned by the ultimate expression of Jesus as the perfectly righteous sufferer who does not experience God’s rescue on the cross but only from the grave. Even so, we do not have to suggest, with Derek Kidner, that verse 19b “urges the mind to look beyond death.”6

There will be moments in the here and now when the believer asks others to join her in thanking God for answers to prayer, deliverance from illness, provision for the journey, and so on. The cumulative effect of verses 15-22, therefore, is to assure the believer that whatever the outcome of any particular experience of persecution, grief, or pain, God’s nature as a rescuer offers hope and peace.7 And that truth makes possible the act of worship in the midst of suffering.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on Aug. 23, 2009.
  2. In verse 17a, the NRSV follows the Greek by clarifying that it is indeed “the righteous” who cry for help.  The Hebrew has no such noun, simply writing, “they cry . . .” The potential problem is that the immediately antecedent noun in verse 16 is “evildoers.” The Hebrew could imply that those crying out to God in verse 17 are repentant evildoers. In spite of the grammatical openness, such a reading goes against the grain of the whole passage, and verse 15 has just used “righteous” with another noun for “cry.” See W. VanGemeren, “Psalms” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Zondervan, 1991), 285.
  3. Walter Brueggemann, The Message of the Psalms (Augsburg, 1984), 134.
  4. A. Weiser, Psalms: A Commentary (Westminster, 1962), 299; italics his.
  5. J. Clinton McCann, “Psalms,” in The New Interpreter’s Bible (Abingdon, 1996), 816.
  6. Derek Kidner, Psalms 1-72 (InterVarsity Press, 1973), 141. Still, Kidner is right in seeing Christ’s resurrection as a fulfillment of this hope, given the New Testament’s citation of the psalm with respect to the cross (verse  20 in John 19:36). Patristic interpretation certainly went in this direction. See C. Blaising and C. Hardin, eds., Psalms 1-50, Ancient Christian Commentary (InterVarsity Press, 2008), 19: 266-269.
  7. See M. Gilmour, “Crass Casualty or Purposeful Pain? Psalm 34’s Influence on Peter’s First Letter,” Word and World 24 (2004):404-411.

Second Reading

Commentary on Ephesians 6:10-20

Richard Carlson

The scene is a dramatic one.

The military leader (be they a monarch, a general, or a rebel-trailblazer) stands before the assembled troops and delivers a rousing speech in anticipation of a coming battle. The troops are reminded of their heritage, promised honor as a result of their bravery, and assured that their valor, not their numbers, will prevail against the might of the enemies against whom they are contending.

Whether it be from Shakespeare’s Henry V or films such as Patton or Braveheart, the battlefield speech is geared to prepare, fortify, and motivate the troops to face the battle ahead of them with determination, courage, and perseverance. In many ways, Ephesians 6:10-20 functions as a rousing conclusion to the entire letter in which Christians are being called to arms for the battle in which they are pitted against all spiritual forces of evil.

Earlier in this letter (Ephesians 1:17-23), we were informed of God’s great power by which a cosmic victory over every rule, authority, power, and dominion was won in the resurrection and exaltation of Christ. This divine triumph includes God’s act of putting everything under the dominion of Christ both in this age and in the age to come. The church shares in this victory as the body of Christ and so experiences the fullness of Christ as Christians have been raised with Christ and are seated with him in the heavenly realms (1:22-23; 2:6-7).

Though the decisive battle has already been won by God and the ultimate divine victory is not in any doubt, the spiritual forces of evil have not gone gently into that good night. The devil, allied with all the evil powers of darkness, continues to scheme against God, to work its destructive, divisive ends, and to attack the saints of God (Ephesians 4:27; 6:11-12). Thus, this text stands as a climactic call to arms in order that Christians are properly equipped in preparation for the ensuing cosmic battle against all that stands against God, against the saving will and work God accomplished through Christ, and against the people of God in Christ.  

On the one hand, the use of such motivational, military language and imagery was reasonably common in the religious and philosophical writings of the era. On the other hand, its particular use here, including aspects of the armor, are likely drawn more directly from the book of Isaiah which refers to belt (11:5), breastplate (59:17), footwear (52:7), helmet (59:17), and sword (49:2).  

It is quite true that the militant, even combative, tone of this text can be rather off-putting to many contemporary preachers as well as their hearers. Nevertheless, this text is making several significant theological points which should not be overlooked:

  • First of all, in the armed struggle with evil, the saints of God are on the defensive, not the offensive. This text is not an “onward Christian soldiers” type of battle cry in which the church militant will usher in God’s kingdom by attacking and rooting out all the forces which stand in opposition to God. Rather, the call is for the saints to stand firm and withstand the attacks of evil (stressed four times in verses 11-14). 
  • Second, the text takes seriously that not only does evil exist, but forces of evil also target and seek to overthrow the people of God. Whether one regards evil as malevolent cosmic forces or systemic powers of racism, nationalism, and classism, the public witness of the community of faith makes it a target for attack.
  • Third, the resources needed for resistance and perseverance do not flow out of the community’s own strength, power, or innate abilities. Rather, the needed resources of resistance are given to the community by God, the Lord Jesus, and the Spirit.  

The text’s opening establishes this point, though most English translations do not fully communicate this. Most translations open verse 10 with the exhortation to “be strong,” but the imperative used here is in the passive voice, clearly indicating full reliance on the Lord for strength (thus “be made strong in the Lord”). The preparation for which the community is called involves the readiness for the gospel of peace (verse 15), the word of divine truth which is salvation for those who believe (Ephesians 1:13). It is not the word which slays but the divine revelation of the peace which unites humanity that had formerly been divided and alienated (3:4-6; 2:14-17).  

The equipment to be utilized are not instruments of destruction but the gear which builds up the community and equips the saints for ministry (Ephesians 4:12). To fasten the belt of truth involves speaking the truth in love as part of our growth into Christ (6:14; 4:15). Putting on the breastplate of righteousness recalls how our new self was created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (6:14; 4:24). Taking the shield of faith and the helmet of salvation evokes how we have been saved by grace through faith not as our human action but through the action of God as a pure gift (6:16-17; 2:8). 

Finally, prayer is a major resource for resistance worked in us by the Spirit (as is emphasized through its exhortative repetition in Ephesians 6:18-20). Persistence in prayer is a hallmark of trusting in God’s care and relying not on one’s own abilities but remaining open to the directives of the Spirit. The admonition to prayer for all the saints (6:18) reminds us how we are always intimately linked to one another as conscientious members of the body of Christ who continue to grow together in love (4:15-16).  

The conclusion of this text (verses 19-20) contains a bit of irony in that the one giving these instructions on preparation for battle is himself in chains as a captive. Indeed, he is also reliant on God’s troops for their prayers. So even the apostolic general is dependent on the Lord’s strength and on the community’s bonds to persevere for the proclamation of the gospel in face of all opposition.