The ‘known’ world of the biblical authors was Tarshish (Spain/Portugal) to greater India. Rome was the greatest imperial capital of the West, and indeed their whole world. It achieved the height of earthly power, and got people to obey its commands through use of the cross as a spreader of death and despondency. The Lord Jesus flipped their ideology on its head. He transformed the cross into a functional tool of spreading life and hope.
This is his last called, and the last will be first, apostle’s message to Rome, which functions as a spiritual Sword of Damocles hovering above from the heavens.
Everything henceforth is KJV.
Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ: To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul is the least amongst the apostles (those sent forth), and thus the greatest. The Amharic word that has the most functional explanatory power is ማሙሽ (mamush). It is used of any random little boy on the street whose attention the speaker is seeking. Paul means ማሙሽ. Beyond measure he persecuted the church of God, and likewise beyond measure he became her bondservant.
He begins his banger of a letter with the resurrection of Jesus of Nazerth. There are some today who call themselves bishops and clergy who have no interest in ‘the Jesus event’ and the actionable response it requires. As an undergraduate student of Western Philosophy, and an appreciator of the school of American Transcendentalism (namely Thorough and Emerson), I tried to strip myself of every belief, yet failed to strip my heart of the resurrection. It convicted me, and the rest is history.
Kharees and shalom, grace and peace, are the dynamic duo that we call upon scores of times every liturgy according to the Ge’ez Rite. Grace is a free gift given to you by God, so that you too can freely give. Peace is the concept of completeness and wholeness in your life. A way of living trusting God to provide everything for you.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world. For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers; Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you. For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established; That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me. Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles. I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.
Paul extols the opportunities available for mutual encouragement when people link up face-to-face. What a rebuke to our plague reified world of 2020 and 2021. They didn’t have cellular phones, let alone video chatting software, in the 1st Century A.D. And yet there is something about the experience of a senior rebuking and commending a junior face-to-face that is irreplicable; like over half of psychology studies.
Hellenes (Greeks) and Barbaros (Barbarians) are synonyms for the wise and the foolish. For those with high-culture and those with low-culture. The high-brow and the low-brow. The subtle and the slapstick. New Yorker readers and BAP readers. And yet, Paul is in debt to serve them all.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Jews are first in line, then the Greeks. The Jews first received the Torah, and then the Greeks were offered it too. Salvation, deliverance, and rescue is not for one random sample population of humankind, but for all.
Consider Paul’s quotation of Habakkuk 2 an invitation to read it aloud in its entirety.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
Never confuse a creature with the creator. A student once demanded that every time a hymn is sung unto the creator, it also be sung unto a creature, and worse still, to do this for the sake of egalitarianism amongst the biological sexes. Nonsense on stilts. Our desires to supplant the creator with a creature is rooted in the fact that we can manipulate and control the latter and not the former. This lack of control breeds insecurity in our hearts. And insecurity, fear. And fear, a feeling of death.
For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.
This is a tremendous list and litany of evils. Globohomo is the big one people want to focus on. And without question, as this selection notes, the Bible and the Orthodox Church’s position is clear on the matter. But, how often do we consider whispering (gossiping) and disobedience to our parents? Have you ever seen large protests formed due to widespread disobedience to parents? Do we see these things as similarly distasteful? If not, we are in trouble, come dread day of YaHWeH.
It’s one thing to know the right thing, and not to do it. That’s really bad. But it’s a beast different in kind to campaign on behalf of something that you know is not the right thing. Do not sacramentalize sin.