While we must avoid extracting verses from Paul’s epistles as if they were theological fortune cookies, an analysis of his systematic reasoning without reference to Covenant-literary structure is still prone to missing much of the meaning, beauty and wit.
The Apostle is notorious for his long sentences, but it seems that when they are understood as strands of “literary DNA” his logic is made plain. The veiled allusions he makes to the Old Testament and the ministry of Christ do not obscure his plain meanings at all, but anchor them in the unfathomable depths of the mind of God. Most pleasing is the fact that some of the most neglected, obscure and embarrassing members of the canon were in the room all the time, breathing down the necks of timid Bible scholars who hide themselves among the trees of Paul’s epistles as if they provided a safe space for respectable academics. The Bible Matrix renders them naked and ashamed.
a servant of Christ Jesus, (Delegation)
called to be an apostle, (Presentation)
set apart for the gospel of God, (Purification)
which he promised beforehand (Transformation)
through his prophets (Vindication)
in the holy Scriptures, (Representation)
- In the first stanza, Paul introduces himself and his mission, but he employs the process of the ascension (whole burnt) offering to imply that his “kingly” authority depends on his willingness to be a “priestly” living sacrifice. Paul is a true Jew.
concerning his Son, (Creation)
having come from the seed of David (circumcision) (Division)
according to the flesh, (Ascension)
according to the Spirit of holiness (baptism) (Conquest)
by resurrection from the dead, (Glorification)
- Paul now describes Jesus as not only the rightful king of Israel but also the heir to the world. The themes of Hierarchy include the Temple Veil (or Jesus’s flesh), the cutting of the sacrifice, and also the voluntary humility that precedes exaltation by God.
- Notice the contrast between Jesus’ earthly father at Division and His vindication by the heavenly Father at Conquest. This son of Man (Adam: earth) was the first true Son of God (heaven). This contrast between cultivation (childhood: listening/external law) and representation (adulthood: speaking/internal law) is the difference between the Abrahamic and New Covenant signs.
- The “Levitical” stanza works step-by-step through the Tabernacle, implying that these Gentiles – those included in this new “Melchizedekian” priesthood of all nations – were now the holy microcosmos by which God would restore all things through the preaching of the Gospel to every creature. His mention of their inclusion in the final line of stanza also echoes the festal pattern: they were the fulfillment of the Feast of Booths.
- The contrast between cultivation (circumcision of flesh) and representation (circumcision of heart) is apparent once again in the placement of grace and apostleship as fulfillments of the Bronze Altar and the Golden Table.
- The “Kingdom” stanza seems to highlight the “worship” thread of the Bible Matrix. Paul addresses the saints at this “word” stanza of the cycle, and he also mentions the city in which they dwell, tying together the themes of Pentecost and the cosmopolitan (bridal) nature of the kingdom of peace. In Christ, any city is a potential Zion (Jeremiah 29:7). At the center of the cycle, this also corresponds to the Peace Offering.
- The phrase “beloved of God” might be linked to the mention of David – whose name means “beloved” – in stanza 2. In Christ, by His Spirit, we are all Davids, over whom the Father testifies that we are sons in whom He is pleased (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Ephesians 1:6).
First indeed, (Sabbath)
I thank my God (Passover)
through Jesus Christ (Firstfruits)
is proclaimed (Atonement)
in all the world. (Booths)
- The theme at stanza 5 is united legal testimony, and apparently Paul has structured it as the fulfillment of Israel’s annual festal pattern. Wittingly or unwittingly, the stanza is also a microcosm not only of Paul’s personal journey and ministry, but also of first century history.
My witness indeed is God, (Creation)
whom I serve in my spirit, (Division)
in the gospel of his Son, (Ascension)
asking that at last I may succeed (Conquest)
by the will of God to come to you. (Glorification)
- The word “succeed” means literally “have a prosperous journey.” The stanza is the Covenantal “there-and-back-again” as represented in the journey of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. In literary terms, Paul is both Joshua and the High Priest, mediating on behalf of a new Israel. He approaches the throne of grace in the tent of meeting and returns to the people whom he wishes to gather under his wings to impart a blessing upon them.
- The final stanza seems to mirror (chiastically) the theme of the first, only now it is the Roman Christians who are the “offering” by means of Paul’s spiritual gift. “Strength” refers to the various “mighty men” of Scripture.
- The Glorification here is the fire of the Spirit, a Shekinah which dissolves all bonds and boundaries. Like Daniel’s friends, true saints walk among the coals of fire, but this is so that they might have fiery tongues with which to put their own city “under the ban” of the Gospel.
- As a Jew, Paul’s union with these Gentiles fulfilled the centuries-long mission of Israel, as pictured in Booths, the final feast of the year, also known as Ingathering.
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