Meeting Times at 4th United Presbyterian Church

Cafe' Worship: 9:15 a.m. each Sunday in Gathering Hall (activities provided for children; coffee; snacks)
Adult Sunday School: 10 a.m.

Sunday Worship: 11 a.m.

Bible Study: each Thursday at 6 p.m.

Community Forum: last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. with meal (no community forum in November, 2011)

About the 4th United Presbyterian Bible Blog

Posts on this blog are from me, Rev. George H. Waters, one of the two organizing co-pastors of 4th United Presbyterian Church. Our other organizing pastor was Rev. Sonya McAuley-Allen, who is now pastor of a church in Charlotte, N.C. Since June of 2011, Rev. Elizabeth Peterson has been our parish associate pastor for new church development. The earliest posts are sermon notes from the few I have typed the last two years. Then, there is a series of notes posted on the book of Romans. After that, it varies from week to week, sometimes church news, sometimes reflections on a happening, a passage of scripture, or even some pictures. This blog is meant to open the conversation we have going on in our church to others in our community.

The picture below is of our church's sanctuary, built in 1913.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Romans 1:16-17 "For I am not ashamed . . . "

Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17: "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith: to the Jew first; and then to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, 'the righteous shall live by faith.'"

As Paul writes "for I am not ashamed of the Gospel," we remember what he had written in 1 Corinthians: "For the preaching of the cross is foolishness to those that are perishing, but the power of God to those who are being saved." 1 Cor. 1:18. Also, Paul writes to the Corinthians: "For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the proud." 1 Cor. 1:19. And, Paul adds in this previous letter: "For we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ, the power and the wisdom of God." 1 Cor. 1:23-24.

As we read these words from 1 Corinthians, they should help us understand what Paul means when he says, "For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." First, we might ask: "Why would he be ashamed?" The answer comes from 1 Corinthians: the message that Jesus who was executed on a cross is the Messiah of God is offensive to Jews who expected the Messiah to assume the throne of David; and crazy-sounding to Greeks who assume that any god-like figure is above suffering and death. But, Paul has experienced the presence of God in the Risen Lord Jesus who appeared to Paul on the Road to Damascus. See Acts 9. Paul who was a Jew had also thought it offensive that the disciples of Jesus were going around teaching that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. And, in his previous life - before Jesus appeared to him - Paul was arresting such trouble-makers and even surrendering them to be punished by stoning or death. So, yes, Paul knows from a Jewish perspective how offensive the message of Christ crucified can be to Jewish ears.

And, Paul is an educated citizen of the Roman Empire as well. He knows the customs of the Roman Empire, and the religions of the peoples. He knows that Greek and Roman religion consider the idea of a divine being who suffers like and with humans is unthinkable. So, that's why Paul makes clear to these Romans - who are likely very much influenced by Jewish and Roman customs and culture - that the Gospel which cuts against both Jewish and Roman culture is the very power of God to save both Jews and non-Jews (Greeks).

To make sure there is no confusion about the term "Greek," just remember that the Greek Empire was the last great empire in memory that gave way to the Roman Empire. Greek was the language spoken as the common language of the empire at Paul's time, even though the empire in Paul's day was known as the Roman Empire. When Paul refers to Greeks, he means "Gentiles" who are the non-Jewish peoples of the empire. Everywhere Paul travelled was part of the Roman Empire. Every person he encountered was basically a part of the Roman Empire. Some were citizens, some not; but all were in one way or another part of the Roman Empire.

But, the Roman Empire was able to succeed in establishing itself largely because of the past Greek Empire established by Alexander the Great who had spread Greek culture/language throughout Europe, Mideast and Asia.

Well, that was a lot to say when I only started out to comment on what Paul meant when he said: "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ." Next post I will comment on the rest of Romans 1:16-17, which begins to speak of the revelation of the Gospel "from faith to faith."

No comments:

Post a Comment