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Diocese of Charleston Bible Study + June 29, 2016

Romans 5:10-16
Matthew 8:23-27

Romans 5:10-16 (NKJV)
Brethren, if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.

Matthew 8:23-27 (NKJV)
Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him. And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. Then His disciples came to Him and awoke Him, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" But He said to them, "Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?" Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. So the men marveled, saying, "Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?"

Commentary 

In today's epistle reading from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, the Apostle draws a comparison between Adam, our first human forefather, and Jesus Christ. In and through this comparison, he formulates an important doctrine which the Fathers of the Church, most famously St. Irenaeus of Lyons in the 2nd century, called 'recapitulation'. Recapitulation is a Latin word which literally means to 're-head' or 'head again'. The idea is that in the same way that our ancient ancestor, the first human, was the head of our entire race by being the forefather of us all, Christ has now become the head of a new humanity. Just as we were born once from our human parents, and inherited both our own traits, and the world that we live in from their generation, so also are we born again through Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and receive an inheritance in Christ of His likeness, and the world to come.

St. Paul begins by describing our first parent, Adam, whose name meant, essentially, 'human'. From the very beginning our first forefather sinned and rebelled against God. By doing so, he brought not only sin, but death, and every form of evil into God's previously good Creation. The entire human race since that time has continued to emulate Adam in his sin and rebellion, and so death has spread to all of humanity, and throughout all of the Creation, bringing chaos, evil, and destruction. This destruction is the consequence of human sin. To add to humanity's rebellion, in earlier times, they refashioned gods in their own image so that they could worship themselves. In later days, humanity has chosen rather to blame God for the evil in the world, claiming that it is His fault because He hasn't stopped humanity from doing what they've done to the world. This was true about human beings before they received God's Law, and despite God laying out a righteous way of life for human beings, it has continued to be true, as the truths revealed by God, rather than encouraging men and women down the path that leads to salvation, has given them more opportunities for rebellion and disobedience.

As the Apostle goes on to point out, God didn't wait for humanity to come to its senses. He did not wait for men and woman to repent and begin to follow His Law. He did not sit back and offer salvation only to those who might someday manage to keep all of His commandments. He did not abandon His Creation to death, destruction, and decay at the hands of sinful humanity. Rather, while sinful human beings were still raging against Him, while we still hated and were in the midst of our rebellion against God, He sent His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, into the world to offer Himself as a sacrifice for the life of the world, and for its salvation. As in Adam, our human race received a bad beginning, so in Christ we now receive a new beginning.

This new beginning, however, is both similar and dissimilar from the first beginning. It is different in that Adam's rebellion reproduced itself in his progeny through their imitation of him. We have all sinned, we have all brought our own death upon ourselves, and we have all sullied our internal and external worlds with wickedness and evil. However, just as God has acted in Christ without waiting for our repentance, so also His salvation of His Creation does not depend on our finding obedience. Rather, God has given us His Grace freely, transforming us. In Baptism, our old self, descended from Adam, sinful and disobedient, dies and we emerge as a new creation with a new nature in the likeness of Christ our savior.

However, just as the Creation was subjected to futility and decay by our sinfulness, so also God has seen fit that the Creation should be transformed into a new one, the world to come, His Kingdom, through our salvation. Christ is at work transforming humanity, and through humanity, the world. We as His people are given the privilege of having the opportunity to co-operate with His Grace, to work with Him in bringing about this transformation. The people of this world who are still lost without Christ will experience His love and forgiveness through us. Reconciliation and peace in this world will come through our efforts, working with Christ. Justice will come about in this world through Christians who live righteously in it without compromise.

Our salvation, as Christians, therefore, depends not on achieving perfect obedience to a list of rules, or otherwise earning it. Nor does it depend on us being 'good people' by the standards of this world. Our salvation depends on what we do with the Grace of God given to us freely. Will we co-operate with that Grace, through prayer and fasting working on our own transformation into children of God, or will we ignore and squander that Grace by continuing to live in rebellion against God, according to our own desires? Will we work with our Lord Jesus Christ to transform the kingdoms of this world into the Kingdom of God through love, peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation, or will we continue to view this world as the arena in which we follow our own greed, gluttony, and lusts to get what we want while we can? To co-operate with God's Grace will bring us life. To fight against God's Grace will bring about our destruction.

Questions to Ponder

  1. In today's epistle reading, St. Paul reminds us that Christ died for us, in order to reconcile us to God, while we were still enemies. God did not wait until we loved Him, or until we had finished repenting of our sins, or until we had become perfect. Rather, while we were still sinners, while we were still opposed to Him, while we were still ignoring His commandments and working to our own destruction, He sacrificed His Son in order to be reconciled to us. If this is how God has loved us, how are we called to love other people? Do you love people even if they don't love you? Even if they hate you? Even if they hurt you? Even if they want nothing to do with you?
  2. In today's Gospel reading, Christ demonstrates that He has power and authority over the sea, the source of the livelihood of most of His disciples, and questions why they were worried. Do worry and anxiety about what might happen in the future consume a large amount of your life? When you think about the future, or about current events in the world, are you often afraid? If it is true that Jesus is the one who is in control, what is there to fear?
  3. St. Paul today tells us that our salvation is not exactly the same as our condemnation. Each of us stands condemned for the sins that we have committed in our lives. We are all responsible for what we have done, and the consequence of what we have done is death. And not only our own death, but our sinfulness has changed the world around us and filled it with death. On the other hand, the salvation that comes in Christ, God gives to us freely. God is in the process of transforming this world into His Kingdom. Do you see your life as co-operating with God in this mission? Are you working through prayer and fasting and worship to repent of your sins and receive the renewing of your mind and spirit by Christ? Are you working to change the world around you, to undo what you've done wrong through seeking forgiveness and reconciliation, and make your world, as much as is in your power, to resemble Christ's Kingdom?

Questions or Comments? FrStephen@stgeorgecharleston.org

Note from the Author – No rights reserved. If you find anything good, or helpful, or worthwhile in these Bible studies from week to week, feel free to take and use it as you see fit. I do not need credit.


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