Friday

21 February 2014

“There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to those who call on him.” (v. 12)


Background

Paul develops his argument by drawing on a long Old Testament tradition that in God's good time, Jews and Gentiles (non Jews) would worship God together (Isaiah 56:1-8). This would be a sign that the day of the Lord had come. For Paul, the evidence that the Holy Spirit is working among the Gentiles demonstrates clearly that this has now happened. The times have changed. We no longer live in the waiting time, when evil has free reign. We live in an in-between time, the dawning of the day of the Lord, when evil is conquered (though not yet destroyed). And we look forward to the fulfilment of God's time, when Christ will be all in all.

This good news needs to be shared (verses 14-15), so that no-one is able to say that they had not heard it. This impetus fuels the energy of Paul's mission, his passion to take the gospel to as many people as he can. Yet the message is not always properly heard. At this point Paul seems to reflect more generally on his mission to the Gentiles: some listened, others (the vast majority) turned a deaf ear. Luke's description of his preaching in Athens conveys this same point (Acts 17:32-33).

Paul turns back to the Old Testament to explore once again the hard question of why 'Israel' does not understand and accept this good news as a whole people. In the tradition of the prophets, citing Moses (Deuteronomy 32:21) and Isaiah (Isaiah 65:1-2), Paul rebukes his own people - once again, saying things as an insider that cannot appropriately be said outside the family. He holds together two distinct reasons for Israel's turn away from Christ. It is both their own responsibility and the outcome of God's choice, as outlined in the previous chapter, and Paul makes no attempt to reconcile these two causes.


To Ponder

  • Paul insists that there is "no distinction between Jew and Greek". In our society, which focuses as much on diversity as equality, how can we make sense of his claim?
  • "How are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?" (v. 14). In what ways can you proclaim Jesus as Lord more clearly in your own life?


Bible notes author: The Revd Caroline Wickens

 

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