Lectionary Commentaries for July 16, 2023
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost

from WorkingPreacher.org


Commentary on Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23

John T. Carroll

Chapter 13 of Matthew features the third major discourse of Jesus in this Gospel. In a set of seven parables, Jesus reveals the character of the reign of God—the “reign [or realm] of the heavens,” in Matthew’s customary phrasing (my translation). The teaching session opens with a large crowd standing on the lake shore (verses 1-2) and concludes as Jesus, now addressing his disciples inside a house, pictures the reign of God with fish of every sort lying, again, on a lake shore (verse 48). Interspersed with these parables are explanations of two of them, the sower in verses 18-23 and the wheat and weeds in verse 36-43. Here Jesus invites the disciples to arrive at a deeper understanding not yet attained by the crowds.

Why parables?

The chapter offers two reflections on Jesus’ choice of the parable genre.

  1. If parables mystify the crowds, it is because they have closed themselves off to the way God’s realm works in the world. Meanwhile, the disciples, who are open to understanding, receive private tutoring that unpacks the parables’ meaning and message (verses 10-17).
  2. Jesus also opts to teach the crowds in parables because this way of making known previously concealed wisdom fulfills scripture (verses 34-35, quoting Psalm 78:2).

The first parable provides a window onto Jesus’ mission and the divergent responses his words and actions have been prompting. By extension and anticipation, it also shows what his disciples may expect in their future mission. The picture is mixed. Images of failure multiply, yet the outcome is ultimately one of success and fruitfulness—extravagantly so!

From failure to flourishing

Although Matthew sets this parable scene by the lakeside, the parable pictures an individual broadcasting seed (“sowing”) in and around a field. This mini-narrative unfolds in four steps, only the last of which bears promise and thus generates hope.

  1. A first seed group falls along the path and quickly disappears into the beaks of birds (verse 4). In the retelling of the parable for just the disciples, this seed group represents persons who hear but fail to understand the message of God’s reign—indeed, “the evil one” removes what had been sown (verse 19).

  2. A second seed group lands in rocky ground, where there is little dirt, and swiftly sprouts, only to wither under the scorching sun because nourishing roots are lacking (verses 5-6). In the parable’s explanation, the second seed group depicts persons who are receptive to the message and even delight in it, yet their initial enthusiasm does not survive the experience of adversity and persecution (verses 20-21).

  3. A third seed group finds its way to a patch of thorns, which prevent growth to maturity (verse 7). In the parable’s retelling, the thorns represent experiences that hinder persevering faithfulness: anxious concerns and acquisitive greed (verse 22), of the kind Jesus has cautioned against in the Sermon on the Mount (see 6:25-34).

  4. All is not lost, though! A fourth seed group, benefiting from its location in favorable soil, bears fruit, with yields of stunning proportion, as much as a hundredfold (ranging from 100 to 60 to 30). Matthew reverses the sequence in Mark’s rendition, which moves from small yield to large, 30 to 60 to 100 (Mark 4:8), but in both cases the outcome is an abundant harvest.

The parable rivets our attention on the activity of the sower and therefore on the good-news message of God’s reigning presence in the world. On the one hand, the repeated images of failure lend realism to the work we do as church and ring all too true in our time: many will not be receptive to the message we are called to speak, and some will not persist in faithful practice. Yet the parable also reassures Jesus’ first followers and Matthew’s readers—both ancient and contemporary—that if we persevere, even against the odds, what we do matters. What we say and how we embody the gospel in practice will make a difference in the world. What we do will bear fruit, whether in individual lives or in our faith communities or in the wider society. So: keep on keeping on!

Shifting the gaze: From sower to soil environment

But can more be said? After all, the tag Jesus appends to the parable invites active engagement: “Let anyone with ears listen!” (verse 9). In creative listening mode, what if we shift our gaze from the sower to the environmental conditions that foster or hinder growth? We may revisit the imagery of the parable and reimagine what it is asking of us today. In our own space and time, what do seed-devouring birds and lack of roots and suffocating thorns look like? What experiences engender discouragement and despair rather than hope? What leads some persons beyond the church’s walls to turn away even as they too seek meaning and purpose in their lives? What should we be doing, as cultivators of the soil from which faith may spring, to invite, encourage, and sustain the faithfulness—the hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for justice—to which Matthew’s readers are called?

As I look around, I see things that pose real challenges to faith. To name just a few intersecting concerns: intractable poverty and a wealth gap that seems to grow ever wider; structural racism, still denied by many persons of privilege; intensifying cultural polarization; continuing waves of gun violence; and systemic failures in governance at every level. Especially relevant in reflection upon a story that features soil conditions that lead to crop failure is global climate change, with its devastating effects felt most keenly by people who live in poverty. Whether visualized as beaten path, rocky ground, or thorny patch, these realities make faithful response to the claims of the gospel difficult for many among us. If we attend not only to the task of proclaiming the word but also to the hard work of cultivating nourishing conditions favorable to its reception, we may hear in this parable about sower, seeds, and soils a fresh word for our time.

First Reading

Commentary on Isaiah 55:10-13

Reed Carlson

It is not always easy to proclaim to a grieving congregation that God’s word will not return empty. A promise that God’s blessings never fail can feel naive and even evoke bitterness in churches that have lost beloved members or can remember seasons when their sanctuary was fuller and their programs busier. A preacher to such a community may feel tempted to omit the expectant words of Isaiah 55:10–13 in hopes of finding something more suitably sober and exhortative in the Epistle or Gospel. But the prophet who promises triumph to his community is no stranger to suffering and his message is not one of platitudes. Rather, utilizing both the rich imagery of creation and rhetorical innovations on familiar prophetic tropes, Isaiah 55:10–13 articulates a message that is as much a catalyst as it is a comfort.

Isaiah 55:10–13 compromise the final words of what is sometimes designated as “Second” or “Deutero-” Isaiah. While no formal divisions exist in the text itself, biblical scholars have long argued for several discrete sections of the book (for example, First Isaiah: chapters 1–39; Second: 40–55, and Third: 56–66). While there are still debates regarding how these divisions relate to the dating, authorship, and formation of the book, most scholars agree that several different hands were involved in writing and editing Isaiah and that these figures worked in different historical periods.1 Despite some lingering uncertainty regarding provenance, then, we can nevertheless read these four verses as a conclusion to the quasi “second act” of the book of Isaiah. This interpretive lens can, in turn, inform how we preach Isaiah 55:10–13.

As an overarching theme, Second Isaiah up to this point has been concerned with the problem of Judah’s exile in the sixth century BCE, but chapter 55 begins to broaden the scope to more general words of hope.2 Whether first articulated during the period of the Babylonian captivity or merely set there literarily, Second Isaiah’s oracles are directed to a people who have seen (or have been told) of the invasion of their homeland, the imprisonment of their king, and the destruction of their temple. Through the prophet, God has promised these refugees and their descendants, “comfort” (Isaiah 40:1), “redemption” (Isaiah 44:22), and a triumphant return from Mesopotamia to the land of their ancestors (Isaiah 52:7–12). Chapter 55 reiterates some of these promises (for example, verse 7b; verses 11–12), but it also includes a reflection on the nature of God’s word itself:

10. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

11. so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it (Isaiah 55:10–11).3

These two verses form an extended comparison: God’s word is like the rain and snow. At its most basic level, the comparison emphasizes certainty. When precipitation falls, it can be relied on to nourish life on earth. Likewise, we can trust that what God promises will come to pass.

Additionally, the use of creation imagery in the metaphor invites closer analysis. How might God’s promises come to pass? To begin, God’s word does not work in seclusion but through non-dominating collaboration with creation. Just as the rain and snow do not have unilateral agency in where they fall and in how the plants they water might grow, so also God’s creative word acts through God’s people and God’s people are co-creators with God. Lutheran biblical theologian Terence Fretheim connects these verses to God’s creative acts in Genesis 1, suggesting that God’s word is by nature relational.4 Commenting on the repeated refrain “Be fruitful and multiply (for example, Genesis 1:28), Fretheim observes that:

If creative power is an essential element in the imaging of God in the creation account, then human likeness to God in one respect consists in our procreative capacity… God remains involved in the process (see Psalm 139:13) but not in a micromanaging way so that human decisions and actions do not count or potentially random events cannot wreak havoc…5

Thus, while the prophet in Isaiah 55 reassures God’s people that they will, indeed, be liberated, the metaphor suggests also that they have a role to play in fulfilling that promise. Just as the farmers and the bakers must harvest and prepare the grain that the rain has grown, so also must God’s people make decisions that matter to those around them and affect creation itself.

The final two verses continue the use of creation imagery, this time to paint a picture of praise:

12. For you shall go out in joy
and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

13. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle,
and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial,
for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off (Isaiah 55:12–13).

The poetry elucidates what it looks and feels like when God’s word and God’s people work together in productive harmony: Creation itself rejoices because it has been transformed and can now thrive.

Against the backdrop of the Exile, the prophet’s promise is pervaded by somewhat dissonant feelings of grief and hope. Perhaps this is why many Jews read Isaiah 55:6–13 as part of the afternoon prayers on minor fast days. The slightly larger edit of that liturgy includes the call to repentance in verses 6–9 that the Revised Common Lectionary omits: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 5:6). The inclusion of that exhortation reminds us of our own creative potential when we collaborate with God’s word. One can thus imagine these verses as a prophecy not shouted with fanfare but rather as one that is whispered, perhaps with some trepidation, though not lacking in conviction. Isaiah 55:10–13 was and remains drops of life-giving hope for dry but fertile communities, both in antiquity and today.


  1. H. G. M. Williamson, “How Many Isaiahs Were There?,” Bible Odyssey, https://www.bibleodyssey.org/people/related-articles/how-many-isaiahs-were-there/.
  2. Bob Becking, “Babylonian Exile,” Bible Odyssey, https://www.bibleodyssey.org/places/main-articles/babylonian-exile/.
  3. All translations from the NRSVue
  4. Terence E. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology of Creation (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005), 34.
  5. Fretheim, God and World in the Old Testament, 50.

Alternate First Reading

Commentary on Genesis 25:19-34

Valerie Bridgeman

Genesis 25:19-34 continues the Abraham story through his progeny, now his grandson Jacob and all his relationships, which begins the “generations” of Isaac (25:19). Though historically referred to as “the Jacob cycle,” Genesis 25-36 provides readers with the complicated story of a number of family members—ambition, deceit, sorrow, death, birth, encounters with the divine, love, and enmity. The ancestral tales are important for those who follow them to know, in the colloquialism of the U.S. Deep South, “who their people are.” Family matters now and in the ancient Israelite world. And in this case, family continues the promise God made to Abraham. 

Before this portion of the text, we learn in verse 5 that Keturah, Abraham’s wife after Sarah, has six sons, who have become prolific in their progeny and, in verses 13-16 we learn that Ishmael has 12 sons already, who themselves are having children. In other words, Abraham has many sons, and his seed is spreading in the world. But the promise in Genesis 17 was to continue through the loins of a child yet unborn to Sarah. When Isaac is born, both parents are old, so it seemed unlikely. It is the continual tension of promise made and promise yet to be fulfilled that is the formulaic tension of the biblical texts. And, if the preacher wants to make the case, this is the continued tension in our lives. Infertility threatens family continuation, in the ancient text and now.

If the question of how the family will continue is paramount, so is the question of how the family will function. We enter this story after Isaac and Rebekah have been married 20 years. With no children, Isaac prays to God who closes and opens wombs (Genesis 20:18; 1 Samuel 1:5). Family is foundational, so a barren Rebekah is a problem. Rebekah apparently did not have an easy pregnancy, which led her to pray about the jostling within her womb. She learned she carried two nations, and that “the older will serve the younger” (25:23). This trope of the ascendent younger child shows up in the biblical texts several times, including with Isaac over Ishmael Genesis 17:18-19); Joseph over his elder brothers; and David over his elder brothers (1 Samuel 16), for example. Here the story also provides etymology for names and activities, explaining the strife between warring nation states, as in, “those boys have been fighting since before they were born.” The birth also provides us with etymology for the boys’ names. Jacob, who name means “heel” and “deceiver” or “supplanter,” depending on vowel pointing, and Esau the “hairy one,” are so named, we are told, because Jacob grabs his brother’s heel to make it from the womb and Esau is hairy. Esau will later be referred to as “Edom” because of the red stew (and because he was red when he was born). 

The boys have very different personalities, and the preacher might find a way to speak of these differences positively—as in: masculinity takes on different expressions. Jacob prefers the tents and cooking (he made a mean stew!) and Esau prefers being an outdoorsman. It is not these preferences that distinguish them, but their character or the way they take advantage of one another (or the way Jacob takes advantage of Esau’s hunger and impatience). The conflict and/or lack of closeness between the twins become apparent as time passes. The challenge here is how the parents treated them. Jacob “loved” Esau because he loved meat (25:28) and Rebekah “loved” Jacob, no doubt because he stayed among the tents and around her. What happens when parents have a favorite child, and it shows? What happens between the children and between the parents? This approach might yield some reflection for the preacher.

It is easy to go after  Jacob for getting his brother’s birthright from Esau by using his skill as a cook to taunt Esau while he was hungry, with the words “sell me your birthright” (25:31). Esau couldn’t see/think/feel beyond his hunger. I am reminded of my mother saying to me, whenever I said I was “starving,” that it takes 40 days to die of starvation. It is likely after a day of hunting that Esau was hungry or “famished” as he claimed, but it wasn’t likely that it was worth giving up his future. He was shortsighted in the moment and his younger brother took advantage of his impetuousness. Esau could not see any value in an intangible birthright, in a covenant with God when the tangible and tasty stew was right before him. Here is a point to consider about human behavior and what we do when we don’t think beyond our desires in the moment. We have often heard of “delayed gratification,” but sometimes are just as quick to give up a better future for instant gratification. What he gave up was the role of patriarch for the family, the double portion of an inheritance, and the social security and status that comes with all of the above. He gave up an inheritance for which he would not have to work, but which was his by beating his twin brother out of the womb (see Deuteronomy 21:15-17). Jacob takes advantage of his brother’s weaknesses. It seems he knew them well. 

It will be years before the implications of Jacob’s actions bear fruit, but he knew the value of the birthright. Did he learn that while listening to his father regale him with stories while he was in the tents? Did he learn it in the cooking tents, listening to her mother and servants as they prepared to feed the family and servants? Had Rebekah told him about the word she had received about his ruling over his brother, before he was born? Did he hear the stories of God’s mercy toward the Abrahamic line and envision himself as the one to carry it forward? Did he know God had chosen him from the beginning and decided he needed to “help God out”? 

It would be easy to demonize either of the men, but what they are is complicated men in a lineage God has decided for God’s own reasons to bless. Jacob is neither evil nor perfectly virtuous. He is human. So is Esau. This observation does not excuse them; but it does help us reflect on the ways God’s work gets done through ordinary people. Esau, like Ishmael before him, would also amass great wealth and become a leader of nations. A preacher might want to widen the scope to “the rest of the story,” but it’s not necessary. There is plenty in this pericope on which to ponder about the ways God leads, provides, and grants blessings in our lives.


Commentary on Psalm 65:[1-8] 9-13

Scott Shauf

When one surveys Psalm 65 as a whole, what is most striking is the breadth of the psalm’s subject matter.¹

It begins with praise to God in Zion (verse 1), a setting which continues through verse 4. Even here the topics of praise are varied, including prayer being answered (verse 2), sins being forgiven (verse 3), and the blessedness of dwelling with God (verse 4). Verse 5 turns briefly to God’s mighty acts of deliverance but then quickly moves to “the ends of the earth” and “the farthest seas.” This global setting stays in view through verse 8, asserting God’s might with references to the mountains (verse 6), the seas and the “tumult of peoples” (verse 7), and the farthest points east and west (verse 8).

Verses 9-13 maintain the focus on the earth, but the emphasis moves from God’s might to God’s bounty in the harvest, which is described in lavishly descriptive language. This lavishness might well be said to be the unifying force throughout the psalm. The descriptions of the earth are almost mythical sounding throughout. This mythical quality, combined with the exclusively beneficent description of God’s dealings with humankind that pervade the psalm, gives the attentive reader or hearer an overwhelming sense of the life-giving presence of God.

The psalm begins by asserting the praise due to God in Zion (verse 1). In its literal sense, Zion refers to the Jerusalem temple mount, and then by extension to the temple itself. Given the references to God’s house and temple in verse 4, it may well be that the psalmist had in mind God’s special presence in the Jerusalem temple. On the other hand, the beginning of verse 4 might suggest a less literal meaning: “Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts.” That sounds more like the heavenly dwelling of God than the earthly temple.

Verse 2 also includes the statement, “To you all flesh shall come.” Given the difficulty of associating this expansive hope with the Jerusalem temple today, it makes sense for Christians reading this psalm to think of the heavenly Zion/temple when engaging the psalm in worship. After all, this move is made in the New Testament itself (see Hebrews 12:22), and there is a long tradition in Christian worship of associating Zion with heaven and the eschaton (as in the line from the spiritual, “Children of God, we are marching to Zion”).

Whichever Zion one thinks of, the relations of God to humans expressed in these verses are gracious and merciful. God is identified as the one who answers prayer (verse 2) and forgives transgressions even when they are overwhelming (verse 3). To live in God’s presence is to experience blessedness and goodness (verse 4, translating the Hebrew ‘ashrey as “blessed,” preferable to the NRSV’s “happy”). God is the God of salvation and deliverance (verse 5). God is the “hope of all the ends of the earth” (verse 5), which is no doubt the reason for all flesh coming to God (verse 2).

It is the reference to the ends of the earth in verse 5 that commences the broadening of the locus of God’s presence in the psalm. God is the hope not only of the ends of the earth, but also of “the farthest seas.” Verse 6 then asserts God’s establishment of the mountains, and verse 7 tells of God’s silencing of “the roaring of the seas” and “the tumult of the peoples.” The combination of using the verb “roaring” with the seas and the juxtaposition of the seas with the peoples gives the seas a personified animation. Commentators frequently note the echo here of the common ancient near-eastern theme of the victory of the gods over the chaotic seas. The chief difference here, as in the Genesis creation account (Genesis 1:6-10), is that God’s control over the seas is total; there is not even a will to resist on the part of the seas.

Just as the seas are personified in verse 7, so are the “gateways of the morning and the evening” in verse 8b. This is a reference to the farthest eastern and western points on the earth, hence a poetic expression for the ends of the earth already referred to in verse 5 and verse 8a. Whereas the roaring seas are silenced in verse 7, here the “gateways” are made to “shout for joy.” This continues the theme of God’s beneficence established at the beginning of the psalm, and it is this beneficence combined with the animated personification of nature that depicts God’s presence as powerful, gracious, and life-giving in the psalm. The dangerous features of nature are pacified, and the rest of nature comes to life with joyful exuberance.

The animated richness of nature provided by the divine presence dominates the psalm in verses 9-13. Verses 9-10 celebrate the gift of water, which provides people with grain, shapes the earth, and causes life to grow. For an ancient agrarian people living in a dry land, this blessing was no doubt better understood and more appreciated than it is for most Christians today. The personification trend continues in verse 11a, as the year is “crowned” with God’s bounty.

Verse 11b will strike many readers as curious: “your wagon tracks overflow with richness.” The exact nature of the symbolism here is debated–it perhaps pictures God riding across the earth in a chariot–but, whatever the case, the point is that where God goes, richness abounds. God’s presence is life and abundance. Verses 12-13 close the psalm with a series of further personifications: The pastures, hills, meadows, and valleys all clothe themselves with appropriate bounty, and they all “shout and sing together for joy.”

Psalm 65 thus depicts a world alive with the bounty and glory of God. While many scholars believe that its original use was for thanksgiving celebrations at harvest time, its possible applications today are many. With its wide-ranging portrayal of an undefiled, joyful creation, along with peoples delivered, at peace, and praising God, it provides a vision counter to what we tend to see in the world today.


  1. Commentary first published on this site on July 10, 2011.

Second Reading

Commentary on Romans 8:1-11

Mary Hinkle Shore

In Romans 7:15-25, Paul concludes that both the law and the individual’s will, while not bad in themselves, cannot bring about the freedom humans need in order to want what is right and to do it.  

In Romans 7:24, after Paul had established the limits even of a law-shaped imagination, Paul had inquired, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” Romans 8:1-11 clarifies the means of rescue. The clarification begins with a bit of wordplay. The Greek, katakrima (“condemnation” in the New Revised Standard Version) is the pronouncement of  punishment upon a guilty party. As such, the word could be translated, “death sentence.”1 For those who are in Christ Jesus, there is no death sentence; rescue from “this body of death” is assured for them. Instead of humanity, sin–that power that has been vying with God for control of humanity and indeed, all creation–has received the death sentence (see also 8:3).

Several verses of this lectionary reading offer a contrast between life in the flesh and life in the Spirit. Do not see here a rejection on Paul’s part of flesh-and-blood existence. Paul is not opposed to the material world and bodily existence (see also Paul’s reference to life for “your mortal bodies” in 8:11). In Paul’s thought, flesh is not the meat on our bones but rather everything predisposed toward sin. By “the flesh,” he means any human faculty which sin has been able to commandeer.  

Fleshly existence and outlook is bad, not in that it is material, but in that it is (by definition) controlled by sin. Likewise, an existence and outlook shaped by the Spirit is good, not because it is immaterial (it is not), but because it flows from God. Paul describes the Spirit as: (1) the Spirit of God (8:9), (2) the Spirit of Christ (8:9), and (3) the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead (8:10). All of these point to the same Spirit, who is the means by which human beings access Christ’s victory over sin and death for life presently and eternally. 

In 8:5-7, Paul contrasts the outlook inspired by the flesh versus that inspired by the Spirit. The New English Translation Bible translates phronēma in Romans 8:6 and 7 as outlook, noting that “the Greek term does not refer to one’s mind, but to one’s outlook or mindset.”2 As those know, who have exhorted someone to “look on the bright side” only to discover that their conversation partner does not see a bright side, an outlook can rarely be summoned by force of will. Readers of these verses will notice that Paul does not exhort an outlook here but describes differences between two of them. The second of these—the outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit—belongs to those whose life flows from the Spirit of God. The outlook, like the Spirit itself, is a gift. Paul’s purpose in these verses is to assure his readers that they have the Spirit; they are in Christ and he is in them. 

No fewer than five times in eleven verses, Paul assures his hearers that they are not subject to sin, death or the flesh. Paul speaks of his audience’s present and future circumstances in the following ways. 

  1. Paul announces that “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death” (8:2). 
  2. Paul describes himself and his readers as those who “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (8:4; see also Romans 6:4). 
  3. In 8:9, after Paul has described the hostility of “the flesh” toward God, Paul declares, “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you.” 
  4. In 8:10, Paul uses a condition of fact to say, “If Christ is in you (and Christ is), though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.” 
  5. Again in 8:11, the conditional clause is one of certainty, “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwell in you (and it does) …, the one who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also …”Paul’s shift to the future tense leads some commentators to believe Paul refers here to the future resurrection of the bodies of those who have died in Christ, but the emphasis need not be exclusively on the last day. In the rest of the chapter, the immediate future is Paul’s concern.

In the remainder of chapter 8, Paul will name hallmarks of life in the Spirit. Among them are the assurance of adoption as God’s own children, the experience of eager longing for a future assured but not seen, and the promise of the Spirit’s intercession with sighs too deep for words. 

Sermons that seek to stay within the confines of this week’s reading might focus on the wonder of the Spirit of the risen Christ dwelling within the community of the baptized. Like the fourth evangelist, the apostle Paul offers assurances that Jesus has not left his own orphaned (see also John 14:18). Rather the Spirit “makes a home (oikéō) among you (plural)” (see also 8:9 and 8:11).

God has not abandoned the gentiles or God’s people, Israel, to the power of sin or the reality of death. Whatever we do next, and whatever powers against God assail us (and they will, according to Romans 8:12 and following), we live in the assurance that God, not sin, rules in and among us, and that God, as Rachel Held Evans has said, knows the way out of the grave.3


1. katakrima (κατάκριμα) in Bauer, et al., Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., rev. and ed. by Frederick Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).

2. Translation note at Romans 8:6, New English Translation Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).

3. Emma Koop Liechty, “Rachel Held Evans on ‘Keeping the Church Weird,’” July 6, 2017. URL: https://anabaptistworld.org/rachel-held-evans-keeping-church-weird/. Accessed 4/10/23.