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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Friday, March 23, 2012
One of Paul's Epistles...
I hadn't really given it much thought, but when scripture describes the Apostle Paul as having travelled around the Mediterranean basin, preaching Christ - I sort of pictured it differently. I mean, Paul was, by his own testimony, the Apostle sent to the Gentiles, and given that his journeys were more often than not, taking him through the various Roman provinces that bordered the Aegean sea, I sort of envisioned Paul's ministry as something akin to a foreigner standing on the street corner pitching a new religion. I suppose my default opinion was that all of Paul's missionary encounters in the Gentile lands resembled (more or less) his experience at Athens (Where he preached directly to pagans).

But this image is very wrong. Historians such as Cicero, Strabo, Philo, Seneca and Josephus all bear witness that in this ("Gentile") region where Paul was preaching, Jewish populations could be found in each city. These outside witnesses lend credibility to what Luke affirms in the book of Acts, that when Paul came to such cities as Salamis, Antioch, Perga, Iconium - and even at Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus - he would seek out the local synagogue and preach Christ there on the Sabbath. Of course there would be Gentiles also in these synagogues, but those Jews who rejected the notion that Christ was the Messiah, quickly turned against Paul wherever he went.

In fact, most of the suffering that Paul endured in the Gentile lands, came about because the Jews in those cities had not only rejected the message of Christ, but gone so far as to incite the communities they lived in against Paul.

It is worth noting that it wouldn't take very long to polarize the Jewish community in each of these Gentile cities. After a few Sabbaths worth of teaching, I expect most of the Isrealites living in these communities would not only have heard Paul speak, but would have formed an opinion for or against his teaching. The same could be said of those Gentiles who were God fearers. Some would reject Paul's teaching concerning Christ, and some would receive it. In the case of the Jews, Paul's instruction given in the synagogue would find its way into every Jewish ear in a very short order as people who were not there for the instruction were brought up to speed (Remember, Paul's teaching was "turning the world upside down" according to the scriptures - so it is no stretch to imagine that the buzz in the Jewish community spread quickly and thoroughly). But the Gentile community was exponentially larger than the Jewish communities, and so while the buzz saturated the Jewish community in a few weeks, yet the same could not be said of the Gentile community. Thus Paul's message - preached to Jews in their synagogues, bled over to the Gentiles who eventually made up a much larger body of believers.

For all that, I think it is safe to say that Paul learned the hard way not only what sort of reception he could expect from the Jewish community, but also what sort of arguments they would bring against the gospel, and what was lacking in their theology to cause them to pursue those arguments. After ten years of preaching the gospel in the Gentile lands, Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. We should not marvel therefore that Paul not only anticipates what conclusions his readers will likely jump to, but he also anticipates why they will jump there, and so he makes a point of answering anticipated objections thoughtfully and thoroughly - a consideration we must bear in mind as we look into Paul's epistle to the Romans.

If you have a moment sometimes today - open your bible and skim over Paul's letter to the Romans. Note how Paul carefully qualifies each item he begins to teach, showing in every qualification that his teaching hasn't fallen out of the sky, but is in step with all that the OT scriptures teach. Maybe read over Luke's rendering of Paul's message to the church in Antioch (c.f. Acts 13:14-ff) to get a feel for how Paul typically presented Christ to people, reasoning from the OT to the Christ, and then reasoning from the Christ to the people of God. See how, towards the end of that message Paul begins to teach how Christ frees you from all the things the law could not - and see that as soon as Paul teaches that grace overcomes what the law could not, the Jews begin to reject him and set out to contradict the message he was preaching.

Paul is anticipating just this sort of reception - and so, like a carpenter building a house, Paul makes sure he digs deep before he lays in the foundation. That is what I want you to look for as you skim over the book of Romans - identify the "prep" work that Paul is doing prior to laying down those sacred doctrines that are the lifeblood to every living faith.

In one or more follow-up posts, I'd like to ask (and answer; if the Lord provides the grace to do so) why Paul bothers to tell us about Adam's sin, and our bondage, etc. Is it just information? Is Paul just reading off a shopping list of "Christian facts" - or are these facts bound together to answer a bigger question Paul is addressing?

I hope this will be a fun and edifying read.

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posted by Daniel @ 12:08 PM  
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