Posts Tagged ‘paul’

Philippians 3…the sequel

It’s not often that the daily lectionary reading gives us back to back passages. It happens, but not a lot. However, this is one of those rare times. Today’s reading comes from Philippians 3:12-16 and directly follows the reading that I explored yesterday.

Now, in yesterday’s reading (view the reflection here) Paul discusses how he considers all religious accomplishments as unimportant when compared with knowing Christ. He ends by saying I want to know Christ and become like him. This leads into the beginning of today’s reading when he says “Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal.” I have to admit that this passage can present a bit of a tricky situation. At first glance it seems to support the notion that we, somehow, manage to improve our selves or our standings. This can be a slippery slope. Is Paul suggesting the idea of works righteousness here?

As we look through the rest of the passage I think it could certainly be argued. He does use verbiage that indicates our own actions. “This one thing I do” (verse 13), “I press on” (verse 14), “hold fast to what we have obtained” (verse 16). As a Lutheran who adheres to the notion of grace alone this idea of self empowerment is troublesome.  Can Paul really be suggesting what it sounds like he’s suggesting? Or is this some sort of misunderstanding?

As I mentioned a moment ago, this is the point where the “first glance” of this passage needs a second look. In my opinion, the moment of “Lutheran ease” occurs in verse 12 and we need to spot it. “Because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”  All these things that Paul is striving to do are the result, or perhaps the response, to what Jesus has already done. He is not suggesting that we are able to make ourselves into Christ. Rather, he is saying that we should learn from Christ’s example and strive to become more like him. Personally I think this is talking about the process of sanctification, which I believe is lifelong. It is also something that we do not accomplish on our own, but only with the help of the Holy Spirit within our lives.  Paul hints at this idea in verse 15 when he says that God will reveal things to you. It is through the Holy Spirit that truths are revealed to us.

So what’s the take home? Fake it till you make it? Sometimes I wonder if that’s what we are supposed to do. I’ll admit it, sometimes the whole bondage of the will verse free will, or the whole justification by works verses works as a response debate makes my head spin. I understand where the debates come from but that’ doesn’t mean that they are easy to wrap my head around.

Perhaps I’ll show my Norwegian heritage and simply say…uff-da.

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My take on Paul’s take on the resurrection

Today’s lectionary reading is found in 1 Corinthians 15:20-28.

In this particular section of Paul’s writings, we see a brief discussion on how humanity joins with Jesus in the resurrection…at least in the end. Now, granted, there aren’t a lot of details here, but Paul does highlight what I consider to be important points about how this whole sin/humanity thing is connected.

And in a personal note, I find it personally uplifting today to read about the notion of personal resurrection following a lousy night’s sleep and an EARLY alarm to make it to town by 6:30 to join into the Men’s Bible study from my internship site. Good stuff, but a tired Scott.  Okay…personal note over.

As I read the opening verse of this particular passage, I’m left wondering just how Paul arrives at this statement. He’s talking to believers, so shouldn’t they know that Christ raised from the dead…oh and this is verse 20, just so we’re all on the same page. Though now as I think back to the class I took on Paul’s letter’s I remember that 1 Corinthians was written to dissuade the believers in Corinth away from some false teachers that have come through since Paul last visited. Perhaps some of them have presented the notion that there was no resurrection…that’s certainly a possibility and would make the presence of this verse make a little more sense in terms of context.

That being said, I find verse 21 to be key. Since death came through a human being…aka Adam and Eve in the garden… the resurrection of the dead also comes through a human being. Make no mistake, Paul fully buys into the humanity of Jesus. Verse 22, in which he names both Adam and Jesus is a key verse into the common (at least in theological circles) notion of calling Jesus “the second Adam.” This is an example of humanity going full circle. Sinfulness is a reality, but here we see that we join with Christ in his resurrection. This brings to mind a good point in what “eternity” might look like. We think of going to Heaven somewhere up in the clouds when we die, but here in this passage we see that we do, in fact, join in the resurrection. This is what we mean in the 3rd article of the Apostles Creed when we say “I believe in the resurrection of the body.” Not only do we profess that Christ rose again, but we also profess that through Him, we will rise as well.

Now that being said, this passage also raises yet another interesting debate. Verse 22. For as all die in Adam (due to the sinful nature…wages of sin is death and all that jazz), so all will be made alive in Christ. I just took a look at the Greek, which I am known to do from time to time for the purpose of clarification. The Greek does support the notion of “all.” Specifically the translation could read “all people live.”

Now, the debate in question refers to whether or not every single person is saved by Christ’s sacrifice. More specifically it raises the question of whether salvation is limited to professed believers or if, in fact, all of humanity is saved here. Though I didn’t read Rob Bell’s controversial book “Love Wins” it’s my understanding that this is the topic that he’s discussing in the book.

Now personally, I’m on the fence here. On one hand I think of the passage “I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.” To many, this passage indicates that Christ does a bit of sorting. Perhaps this idea is supported in the Creed when we hear “He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.” On the other hand, I’m also reminded of the passage “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” By saying the world, I can see a definite sort of inclusive-ness…namely that Jesus was big enough for the whole world.

Now, to clarify my own gray area (if that is in fact possible), yes I think Jesus was big enough. His sacrifice was big enough to wipe out all sin of/for all time. But am I convinced that everyone goes to Heaven…well, I’m still hazy there. Still in the mental wrestling match on that one. All I will say is that I’m glad that the responsibility of being the final judge does not fall on me. God can keep that one because I know I’d mess it up.

All that being said, I’m going to come back around to the discussion of 1 Corinthians again. The last bit of good news that really jumps at me is in verse 26. “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Death is an unknown that, admittedly, unnerves me. I’ve got questions about it. I’ve lost some people in my life and I wonder about their final fate…but I do take heart in knowing that Christ beats death…I don’t have to fear death, because whenever that day comes for me…I trust that Jesus has my back.

Today that’s enough.