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Monday, August 18, 2014

What things? What good?

Finish the verse:

"And we know all things work together for good for                       ..."  Romans 8:28

What'd you come up with?  It's one of our favorite verses in the Bible.  We'll pluck that baby right out and apply it to all kinds of situations.  Anytime we see stuff going wrong in anybody's life you can bet some well meaning well-wisher will trot this panacea out.

To paraphrase the great theologian Inigo Montoya, "You keep on using that [phrase], i do not think it means what you think it means."

Here's the verse in the Lexham translation:

"And we know all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose,"

So that's cool, who doesn't love God, right?  We're all called for some purpose, so sure, it's a panacea for every little inconvenience along the way, right?

You know me better than that by now.  Here's the thing.  Paul didn't right verses.  He wrote letters.  Those letters had a theme, the themes were broken into paragraphs and sentences.  And with Paul, that means run-on sentences which would give a grammarian a conniption and an aneurism and a stroke all at the same moment in time or all at once as some people say or as other people say, she would die, why i assume the grammarian is a woman, i don't know, i guess i just do that cuz most of the grammarians i've met were women.

The point is, you do yourself and the text a great disservice by lifting it out of context.  You lose the meaning.  The whole sentence is this:

"And we know all things work together for good for those who love God, for those who are called according to his purpose, because those whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed into the image of his Son, so that he should be the firstborn among many brothers."  

So the all things that Paul speaks of are not clearly defined by this sentence but they are by the paragraphs preceding it.  "For I consider that the sufferings of the present time..." Paul had been talking about the groaning of the present age and the hopes we have for the future and firstfruits of the Spirit.  All things can mean "All Things" but in the context, they mean especially our sufferings.  And the "good" he speaks of, what is that?  Well, it's right there, "his purpose".  What is his purpose?  To conform us into the image of his Son so that he will be the firstborn among many brothers.  He's making little Christs.  What is the image of his son?  To Love God as Jesus did.  To obey him even unto death.  To lay down your life for your friends.  To love your enemies.  To pray for those who persecute you.  To forgive as often as they ask for repentance.  To bear no grudge.  To love your neighbor as yourself or as Philippians concisely puts it, Jesus, "who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God something to be [held onto], but emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, by becoming in the likeness of people.  And being found in appearance like a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, that is, death on a cross."

Or as Isaiah, another man not afraid of grammarians, puts it, "He had no form and no majesty that we should see him, and no appearance that we should take pleasure in him.  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering, and acquainted with sickness, and like one from whom others hide their faces, he was despised, and we did not hold him in high regard.  However he was the one who lifted up our sicknesses, and he carried our pain, yet we ourselves assumed him stricken, struck down y God and afflicted.  But he was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon him, and y his wounds we were healed.  All of us have wandered about like sheep; we each have turned to his own way; and Yahweh let fall on him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was brought like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep is dumb before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth.  He was taken by restraint of justice, and who concerned himself with his generation?  For he was cut off from the land of the living; he received a blow because of the transgression of my people.  He made his grave with the wicked, and the rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.  Yet Yahweh was pleased to crush him, he made him sick.  If he places his life a guilt offering, he will see offspring.  He will prolong days, and the will of Yahweh will succeed in his hand.  From the trouble of his life he will see; he will be satisfied.  In his knowledge, the righteous one, my servant, shall declare many righteous and he is the one who will bear their iniquities.  Therefore, I will divide to him a portion among the many, and with the strong ones he will divide the bounty, because he poured his life out to death and was counted with the transgressors; and he was the one who bore the sin of many and will intercede for the transgressors."

So there you have it, both the "All Things" which have happened and must happen and the "Good" for which they are working.  Amen.

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