July 15, 2015
We are continuing with our readings through Romans with Mrs. Eddy’s references from Science and Health.
Paul is amazing to me. He has given a glorious meaning to theological terms that we usually think of negatively. Here is part of a testimony from a 1910 Christian Science Sentinel about the true meaning of predestination, a topic in Romans 8 & 9:
I wish I could enumerate the many wonderful proofs of the power of Truth to reduce all error to the nothingness from which it sprang. One of my old opinions to which I held in a sort of unconscious way, was the doctrine of predestination, and my thought was not wholly cleared up until last winter. In going over one of the Lesson-Sermons, the eighth chapter of Romans brought back the thought, and for a few minutes it seemed to be a stumbling-block; but as I read the context, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” like a flash of light came the thought, Why, that proves clearly that only good was predestined, and not both good and evil, and that I now believed in the doctrine of predestination in the truest way. I not only believed that good alone is predestined, but I knew it. To me, it is wonderful and beautiful that through spiritual discernment we can prove this truth, and reject all false beliefs.
In chapter 9, Paul outlines the plan of salvation in the Bible, beginning with Abraham’s faith and including Pharaoh. Gentiles were included because in Paul’s argument, the “seed of Abraham” was not descendants in the flesh. It was Abraham’s seed of faith which would call all people. None of us is ever excluded by God because we each have a remnant, a seed, remaining to be nurtured and grown by God’s grace. It occurs to me that this outlook explains why Paul could be such a good missionary — because he saw that Christ-seed in everyone.
The Message gives a great paraphrase for the stumblingstone in Romans 9:32:
Careful! I’ve put a huge stone on the road to Mount Zion,a stone you can’t get around.But the stone is me! If you’re looking for me,you’ll find me on the way, not in the way.
Many companies and schools (and countries) have “diversity and inclusion” talks, and Paul gives a similar discussion in Romans 11:17 using an analogy about an olive tree grafted with wild branches. What a contemporary topic!
The term “first fruits” appears in Romans 8:23, 11:16, and 16:5, as well as elsewhere in Paul’s writings and in James and in Revelation. It is not a term that I understood metaphysically, so I looked up the definition in Strong’s which was: “the first-fruits, the earliest crop of the year, hence also for example, the earliest converts in a district; there is evidence in rendering in some passages sacrifice, gift.”
Romans 11:16 reads as follows in the New Revised Standard Version: “If the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; and if the root is holy, then the branches also are holy.”
The annotations had a footnote to Numbers 15:18 where the first dough is offered in worship, and this sacrificed dough purified the whole lump.
Here is the Aramaic translation: “But if the first fruits are holy, so is the substance. And if the root is holy, so are the branches.”
So after walking through these references, I really love what Paul is telling us — that if Christ is the first fruit and holy, then we are of the same substance and also holy. If the root is the Christ-Truth, then all of us, all the branches, are the true man. In other words, Paul took his understanding of Jesus Christ and applied it to himself, his life, and mankind.
Sorry for such a long email today, but I have been very inspired by my trip to Rome!