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The Logos Bible Software “Free book of the Month” for February 2018 is John Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (InterVarsity, 1978). John Stott was one of the major evangelical voices  in the twentieth century. David Brooks of the New York Times once described Stott as a kind of “pope of evangelicalism.”

Brooks said this in 2004 to distance evangelicalism from ” the made-for-TV, Elmer Gantry-style blowhards” who the media calls “evangelicals.” He concludes his essay by saying “you can’t understand this rising global movement [evangelicalism] if you don’t meet its authentic representatives. Not Falwell, but Stott.”

Stott edited the New Testament volumes of the Bible Speaks Today series and wrote several of the commentaries. These are light, devotional commentaries which are aimed at the layperson either a small group setting or a personal reading. There are occasional references to the Greek and a few references to other scholarship. Pastors will enjoy reading this series as well as they prepare to preach and teach Scripture. For only $1.99 more, you can add Stott’s The Message of Ephesians in the same Bible Speaks Today series. Logos is also offering the Michael Wilcock’s two-volume Psalms commentary (2001) in the same series for $4.99.

You can also enter to win a seven-volume Stott Collection from Logos. These offers are only good through February. so head over Logos’s Free Book of the Month site ASAP and get these free (or almost free) resources.

Once again the good folk at Logos are offering an excellent Free Book of the Month. This month Logos partners with P&R Publishing to offer John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (P&R, 2006) as a free addition to your Logos Library until the end of June. Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic TheologyThe book is a substantial 382 pages based on Frame’s lectures for the Institute of Theological Studies. William Edgar said this book “is at once vigorously orthodox and sweetly pastoral. We can be grateful for such a powerful and clear exposition of the whole range of theology.”

In addition to the Free Book of the Month, Logos is offering Brian Vickers, Justification by Grace through Faith: Finding Freedom from Legalism, Lawlessness, Pride, and Despair (P&R, 2013) for only $1.99. This book is part of the Explorations in Biblical Theology series (ed. by Robert Peterson). Tom Schreiner comments in his forward to the book, “sets justification in the context of the story line of the Bible. He doesn’t just give us an abstract and sterile explanation of the doctrine. We learn how justification fits with the biblical story and how it fits with our story.” Both of these books are great additions for people interested in the Reformed side of Christian theology.

As always, you can enter to win the rest of the Explorations in Biblical Theology series (11 vols., a 139.95 value) in the Logos library. Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

Verbum is offering the first two volumes of The Writings of Irenæus (including his most famous work, Against Heresies) for free Irenæus’s The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching for 99 cents. Verbum is part of the Faithlife family of companies, focusing on Catholic resources.  Verbum use your same Faithlife account, so these books are available to anyone with a Faithlife / Logos username and password.

 

Miller-ecclesiastesLogos Bible Software is offering a volume of the Believers Church Bible Commentary for free in August 2016. During this month you can add Ecclesiastes by Douglas B. Miller to your Logos library for free, and for $1.99 you can add Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld’s commentary on Ephesians (2002) in the same series.

According to Herald Press website, the Believers Church Bible Commentary  is a “cooperative project of Brethren in Christ Church, Brethren Church, Church of the Brethren, Mennonite Brethren Church, and Mennonite Church.”

Each volume illuminates the Scriptures; provides historical and cultural background; shares necessary theological, sociological, and ethical meanings; and, in general, makes “the rough places plain.” Critical issues are not avoided, but neither are they moved into the foreground as debates among scholars. The series aids in the interpretive process, but it does not attempt to supersede the authority of the Word and Spirit as discerned in the gathered church.

Douglas Miller is the Old Testament editor for the series and professor at Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas. He has published many articles on Ecclesiastes as well as a monograph, Symbol and Rhetoric in Ecclesiastes: The Place of hebel in Qohelet’s Work (Atlanta: SBL, 2002). Thomas R. Yoder Neufeld is Professor Emeritus at  Conrad Grebel University and wrote Killing Enmity: Violence and the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Academic, 2011).

Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

As always Logos is giving away a set of 26 volumes of the Believers Church Bible Commentary,  a $432.99 value. Enter early and often.

You can also get Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude as the Verbum Free book of the Month and Merton’s The Ascent to Truth: A Study of St. John of the Cross for 99 cents. Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment is still the Noet Free book of the Month

Pentacostalism-a-guide-for-the-perlexedOnce again Faithlife is offering a Free “Book of the Month” for your Logos library. For the month of July you can download a copy of Pentecostalism: A Guide for the Perplexed (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013), by Wolfgang Vondey from T&T Clark. If you are not aware of the Guide for the Perplexed series, you should be. These are handy little volumes which cover the essential issues of an issue, along the lines of the Oxford “Very Short Introduction” series. This is not a “for dummies” series: the volumes I have used are serious introductions to cmplex topics. Vondey is a “German-born Pentecostal theologian who currently serves as Reader in Contemporary Christianity and Pentecostal Studies at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, where he also directs the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies” (at least according to Wikipedia, he is.)

For a $1.99 more, you can supersize this free book and download a copy of T&T Clark Companion to Reformation Theology by David M. Whitford. Whitford is professor in the Religion department at Baylor University and contributed the A Guide for the Perplexed on Luther for T&T Clark. He contributes the first chapter in the volume, “Studying and Writing about the Reformation.” The rest of the chapters cover the following topics:

  • Chapter 2: Human Nature, the Fall, and the Will – Robert Kolb
  • Chapter 3: Revelation and Scripture – Ward Holder
  • Chapter 4: Justification – Carl Trueman
  • Chapter 5: Law and Gospel – Lubomir Batka & Anna Johnson
  • Chapter 6: Election – Chad Can Dixhoorn
  • Chapter 7: Sanctification, Works, and Social Justice – Carter Lindberg
  • Chapter 8: The Sacraments – Bryan Spinks
  • Chapter 9: The Church – Paul Avis
  • Chapter 10: Preaching and Worship – Anne Thayer
  • Chapter 11: Women, Marriage & Family – Karen Spierling
  • Chapter 12: Catechisms & Confessions of Faith – Karin Maag
  • Chapter 13: Church Discipline, Abuse, Corruption – Raymond Mentzer
  • Chapter 14: Eschatology, Antichrist, and Apocalypticism – Robin Bruce Barnes
  • Chapter 15: Political Theology – Volker Leppin
  • Chapter 16: Superstition, Magic & Witchcraft – Peter Maxwell-Stuart
  • Chapter 17: Radical Theology – Geoffrey Dipple
  • Chapter 18: Images and Iconography – Randall Zachman
  • Chapter 19: Martyrdom and Religious Violence – Haruko Ward

Part two of the book is entitled, “A Reformation ABC,” a mini-dictionary of important events and people for Reformation studies. I noticed the T&T Clark website has Whitford’s chapter as part one, the chapters as part 2 and the ABS as part three, Logos has only two parts (essays and ABCs). The content appears to be the same. At 471 pages, this is a great deal for $2.

As always, you can enter to win the three other volumes in addition to the free/almost free books in Logos’s T&T Clark Studies in Theological Systems (5 vols., $99 value). Enter early and often. Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

 

Once again the good folk at Logos are offering an excellent Free Book of the Month. For the month of December you can have a copy of Stephen Fowl’s excellent Ephesians Commentary in the NTL Library from Westminster John Knox Press. Fowl wrote the Philippians volume in Eerdmans Two Horizons series as well as a number of articles and monographs in the fielFowl Ephesiansd of theological readings of the New Testament. For example, his 2009 contribution to the Cascade Companion series, Theological Interpretation of Scripture.

The commentary was enthusiastically commended by Michael J. Gorman and Nijay Gupta reviewed the Ephesians volume soon after it was released, saying ” this is a solid reading of Ephesians overall from a master-exegete. I only wish it were more detailed and thorough! One will see many similarities and much agreement with Best and Lincoln.”

In addition to the Free Book of the Month, Logos is offering Luke Timothy Johnson’s Hebrews Commentary in the NTL series for only $1.99. Anything Johnson writes is worth reading, so this commentary on Hebrews for a mere $2 is a worthy addition to your Logos Library.

As always, you can enter to win the rest of the NTL commentaries in the Logos library. Both of these books are excellent additions to your Logos library, so make sure to add them to your library before the end of the month.

Luke Timothy Johnson iPad

Luke Timothy Johnson, Hebrews, on the iPad

In addition to the Logos Free book, two other free books are on offer. Noet is the division of Faithlife focusing on classics; this month they are offering James Joyce’s Dubliners for free and Ulysses for 99 cents. Now you can finally follow Leopold Bloom around all day with the Logos Bible app.

Verbum is offering Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI’s The Blessing of Christmas for free and his Seek That Which Is Above: Meditations Through the Year for 99 cents. Verbum is part of the Faithlife family of companies, focusing on Catholic resources. Both Noet and Verbum use your same Faithlife account, so these books are available to anyone with a Faithlife / Logos username and password.

 

It can be argued that the material in Ephesians 4-6 and Colossians 3-4 reflect an early form of apostolic teaching or catechism material. The terms kerygma and didache are used to distinguish between two types of apostolic message.  Kerygma is the “preaching” material of the gospel for sinners (Christ’s death and resurrection), while didache is the teaching material aimed at the person that has already accepted this message and is concerned with the living out of that message in terms of ethical behavior.

didache-largeThis may imply some pre-existing documents that eventually are used in the production of the New Testament books, although these types of materials also circulated orally.  The kerygma material, for example, may include 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 or Phil 2:5-11.  But this is not to say that there was any single document called “kerygma” – the word simply refers to the material that was used in evangelism by various preachers in the early church.

The same applies to the term didache.  There would have been a core of teaching that Paul used in establishing churches and training leaders.  That material would have been generally the same in every church (i.e. qualifications for elders and deacons) but flexible enough to adapt to a slightly different cultural situation (the difference between the qualifications list in 1 Timothy and Titus, for example, show some adaptation for the situation on Crete where Titus was to appoint elders). By the end of the first century a short book of church practice known as Didache did circulate, although the contents are not quite the same as this collection of material.

This core of teaching is found as early as Acts 2:42, where we are told that the new converts were devoted to the daily instruction of the apostles. Since all of these converts in the early part of Acts are Jews, and likely observant Jews in Acts 2, the need for ethical instruction would have been less of a priority than instruction in the teachings of Jesus (i.e. doctrine – Christology (who was Jesus, what did he teach) and Eschatology (the Christ is returning very soon).  It is not unlikely that at this stage that the stories of Jesus’ acts and his teachings began to be passed from the Apostles to their disciples.

What are the implications that Paul might have used and adapted a kind of “standard teaching” in these two letters? Does this “early Christian standard” of ethics help us understand how the Church was teaching ethics in the first century?

Some bibliography: E.  G.  Selwyn, The First Epistle of St.  Peter, 363-466; Philip Carrington, The Primitive Christian Catechism; A. M. Hunter, Paul and his Predecessors; C. H. Dodd,  The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments;  Everett F.  Harrison, “Some Patterns of the New Testament Didache” BSac V119 #474 (Apr 62) 118-129; V. P. Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul, 68-111.

It can be argued that the material in Ephesians 4-6 and Colossians 3-4 reflect an early form of apostolic teaching or catechism material. The terms kerygma and didache are used to distinguish between two types of apostolic message.  Kerygma is the “preaching” material of the gospel for sinners (Christ’s death and resurrection), while didache is the teaching material aimed at the person that has already accepted this message and is concerned with the living out of that message in terms of ethical behavior.

didache-largeThis may imply some pre-existing documents that eventually are used in the production of the New Testament books, although these types of materials also circulated orally.  The kerygma material, for example, may include 1 Corinthians 15:3-5 or Phil 2:5-11.  But this is not to say that there was any single document called “kerygma” – the word simply refers to the material that was used in evangelism by various preachers in the early church.

The same applies to the term didache.  There would have been a core of teaching that Paul used in establishing churches and training leaders.  That material would have been generally the same in every church (i.e. qualifications for elders and deacons) but flexible enough to adapt to a slightly different cultural situation (the difference between the qualifications list in 1 Timothy and Titus, for example, show some adaptation for the situation on Crete where Titus was to appoint elders). By the end of the first century a short book of church practice known as Didache did circulate, although the contents are not quite the same as this collection of material.

This core of teaching is found as early as Acts 2:42, where we are told that the new converts were devoted to the daily instruction of the apostles. Since all of these converts in the early part of Acts are Jews, and likely observant Jews in Acts 2, the need for ethical instruction would have been less of a priority than instruction in the teachings of Jesus (i.e. doctrine – Christology (who was Jesus, what did he teach) and Eschatology (the Christ is returning very soon).  It is not unlikely that at this stage that the stories of Jesus’ acts and his teachings began to be passed from the Apostles to their disciples.

What are the implications that Paul might have used and adapted a kind of “standard teaching” in these two letters? Does this “early Christian standard” of ethics help us understand how the Church was teaching ethics in the first century?

Some bibliography: E.  G.  Selwyn, The First Epistle of St.  Peter, 363-466; Philip Carrington, The Primitive Christian Catechism; A. M. Hunter, Paul and his Predecessors; C. H. Dodd,  The Apostolic Preaching and its Developments;  Everett F.  Harrison, “Some Patterns of the New Testament Didache” BSac V119 #474 (Apr 62) 118-129; V. P. Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul, 68-111.

Ephesians is one of the books in the Pauline collection which is frequently assumed to be pseudonymous.  Despite the fact that Paul refers to himself four times in the letter (1:1, 3:1, 4:1, and 6:19-22), the majority of scholarship in the last 150 years denies the authenticity of the letter. Rather than written by the “historical Paul,” the letter was created in the late first century, perhaps as a companion to the book of Acts.

P49 Verso

While there are many variations on this argument, many introductions to Paul reject the letter as authentic on the basis of vocabulary, style, and theology.  For many, the letter does not sound enough like Romans, Galatians, or 1-2 Corinthians to be accepted as authentic.  Usually the letter of Ephesians is thought to be a post-Pauline compendium of Paul’s theology.  It was written by a disciple of Paul (“Paul’s best disciple,” Brown, 620).  Sometimes the reconstruction of the circumstances are quite complex. For example, Goodspeed suggested that Onesimus returned to Philemon, was released from his slavery and eventually became the bishop of Ephesus. After Acts was published, there was a great deal of interest in Paul, so Onesimus gathered all the various letters Paul sent to the churches of Ephesus as an introduction to Paul’s theology.  As Brown says, this is interesting but “totally a guess.”

There are some differences between Ephesians and the other Pauline letters.  For example, the common Pauline term brethren is missing (except 6:23), and the letter never calls the Jewish people “Jews” in the epistle, even though the Jews are an important part of his argument.  More surprising is the fact that the verb “to justify” is not used, even though while it is common in Galatians and Romans and might have been useful in the argument of 2:11-22.

Does it matter if Paul did not write the letter himself?  If the letter contains the actual “voice of Paul” then the letter can be considered Pauline.  By way of analogy, in the study of the Gospels there is a great deal of discussion over the words of Jesus.  When I read the words of Jesus in my ESV Bible, can I know that these are the real words of the historical Jesus?  The answer which satisfies me is that the words of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels are true “voice of Jesus,” even though they are not the actual words Jesus’ words were originally spoken in Aramaic, translated to Greek and then to English for me to read!

In the same way, even if Ephesians was not written by Paul, the true “voice of Paul” can be found in the letter.  As it happens I think Paul did write Ephesians, albeit much later in his life during his Roman house arrest.  The letter was intended to go to all the house churches in Ephesus and there is no burning problem which Paul has to address (as in Galatians or Corinthians).  This explains why the letter is generic in terms of theology and practice.

Considering Ephesians to be an authentic Pauline letter may change the way we envision Paul’s  theology.  While Romans and Galatians are concerning with justification and the struggle to define the Church as something different than Judaism, Ephesians is a witness to the universal church which includes Jews and Gentiles in “one body.”  Unity of the church seems to be Paul’s main theme in the letter.  Rather than drawing lines, Paul is arguing for unity among those who are “in Christ.”

How might taking Ephesians seriously change the way we think about various elements of Pauline Theology?

Introduction.  Ephesians is a small book which makes a very large contribution to Pauline Theology. Yet one of the first problems one encounters with commentaries on Ephesians is a discussion of authorship. For many contemporary scholars, Ephesians is post-Pauline, perhaps written as a summary of Paul’s theology by a disciple of Paul.  This unknown disciple may (or may not) have been authorized by Paul to write the letter.  Commentaries on Ephesians often have lengthy, complicated surveys of the various options for authorship before settling on either the traditional view that Paul wrote the letter or some form of pseudonymity.

While I do not use Pauline authorship as a litmus-test for a good commentary on Ephesians, it is interesting that three of my choices support the traditional authorship, two do not. Hoehner observes that the scholarship is fairly evenly divided on the issue, although some prefer to remain agnostic on the issue. Others have changed their views over the years, in Lincoln’s case from Pauline authorship to non-Pauline.

Sometimes commentary series will include Ephesians with the other Prison Epistles, usually Colossians, in a single volume. The parallels between Ephesians and Colossians make this a convenient combination. This obviously reduces exegetical details, but also obscures the unique contribution of the letter to the Ephesians. I have given preference to single-volumes on Ephesians here, but there are a few combined commentaries which are also good. Brevity is not necessarily a bad thing in a commentary.

Harold Hoehner. Ephesians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2002). Hohner’s commentary on Ephesians is magisterial, demonstrating a mastery of the massive secondary literature on Ephesians. At 930 pages, this is the one of the most detailed modern commentaries on Ephesians available. His detailed examination of the Greek text is excellent, yet not overly technical. He steps through the text of the book phrase-by-phrase, with the Greek text provided without transliteration. He makes occasional text-critical observations in footnotes. The commentary has 130 pages of introduction, half of which concerns authorship (including 16 pages of bibliography on authorship alone!) This includes a chart with virtually every major commentary on Ephesians and New Testament introduction indicating whether they are for or against Pauline authorship (up to 2001). He supplements the commentary with a number of excursuses on technical details, particularly good are his comments on “Mystery” (pages 42–34) and “Slavery” (pages 800-4). Both include extensive bibliographies in the notes.

Ernest Best, Ephesians (ICC; T&T Clark, 2004). Best’s commentary on Ephesians is an excellent replacement to the classic ICC volume by T. K. Abbot (Ephesians and Colossians, available free at Google Books). Best is more or less agnostic on authorship, called the author AE (author of Ephesians). This exegetical comments on the Greek text are excellent, perhaps the best example of how a Greek text commentary ought to work. Best does not stop at reading the Greek, however, his comments draw out implications for the theology of the letter. T&T Clark published a Shorter Commentary on Ephesians which reduces the exegetical detail, this version of the commentary would be more helpful for the busy pastor.

Frank Thielman, Ephesians (BENTC; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 2010). Thielman is well-known for his book Paul and the Law and a New Testament theology from Zondervan, but this is his first exegetical commentary. He deals with the problem of authorship in only a few pages, finding pseudonymity too unusual in the early Christian community to be a viable option. The commentary follows the user-friendly design of the Baker series, offering exegetical comments on the Greek text with transliteration. Compared to other volumes in the BENTC, Thielman’s commentary has more syntactical detail. I particularly appreciate his use of Greco-Roman sources, especially in the “Household Code” section of the letter.

A. T. Lincoln, Ephesians (WBC; Dallas: Word, 1990). It is perhaps strange to say, but this commentary is the ‘classic” on this list. Lincoln thinks that Ephesians is a reinterpretation of Colossians (page lv), but also that Ephesians draws on other authentic letters of Paul (page lvi). The book was written by a follower of Paul who attempted to summarize Pauline theology for his generation. His assumptions are worked out in the commentary. In his comments on Eph 2:11-22, for example, he points out several parallels to Colossians and argues that Ephesians is an expansion or commentary on the earlier (Pauline) material. This kind of argument is found in the “Form / Structure / Setting” sections standard to the WBC series. The exegesis sections are structured by longer phrases and is not overly technical in matters of syntax. That sort of material is found in the notes on the translation of each pericope. What is most helpful is Lincoln’s frequent comments on the use of the LXX or Hebrew Bible as foundational for understanding the text.

Peter T. O’Brien, Ephesians (PNTC; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1999). O’Brien has written major commentaries on each of the Prison Epistles for different series (NIGTC, WBC) and has contributed much to the study of Paul in recent years. His introduction to Ephesians is more brief than others on this list, but it is quite efficient. He defends a traditional view of Pauline authorship, pointing out that the problems created by pseudonymity are quite difficult, perhaps more so than the problems associated with Pauline authorship. The body of the commentary is based on the English text with Greek commentary relegated to the footnotes, as is the style of the Pillar series. This makes for a readable commentary which will be very helpful for the busy pastor or student preparing to preach the text of Ephesians.

Conclusion. Once again, there are a few good commentaries I was forced to omit to keep it to five.  This give you (the reader) a chance to let me know what you have found useful in your preaching and teaching.  I left off Clint Arnold’s commentary (Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) simply because I have not used it yet (see Nijay Gupta’s comments here).  This list is “light” in the New Perspective on Paul (is there anything reflecting that view on Ephesians?), and the oldest commentary I list is from 1990 – what “classic” should the student of Ephesians have on their shelf?

 

Index for the Top Five Commentary Series

 

Introduction to Series on Commentaries

On Using Commentaries 

Matthew        Mark        Luke        John        Acts
Romans        1 Corinthians         2 Corinthians
Galatians         Ephesians        Philippians        Colossians
1-2 Thessalonians        Pastoral Epistles         Philemon
Hebrews        James         1 Peter         2 Peter & Jude 
Letters of John         Revelation

Conclusion:  Last Thoughts on New Testament Commentaries

Paul describes himself in 3:1 as “Paul the Prisoner of Christ Jesus.”  Traditionally wrote Ephesians while he was under house arrest in Rome.  While house arrest was not exactly the same as being cast in the deepest dungeon in Rome, he was restricted from doing the kind of ministry he would have liked.  In addition, Paul’s appeal to Caesar may in fact go very badly and he could be executed.

The reader of Ephesians may have had some questions about Paul’s argument to this point.  If Jesus has in fact destroyed the authority of the principalities and powers, why is Paul in prison?  How could a “triumphant gospel” be reconciled with Paul’s current shame of house arrest?  If the power of Satan has indeed been broken, how could Paul, as God’s apostle to the Gentiles, find himself treated in this shameful way?

Paul’s answer is to simply point out that despite the fact that he is Rome’s prisoner, the gospel itself is not in prison.  He is in exactly the place where God wants him to be.  In fact, as Timothy Gombis points out in his Drama of Ephesians, God often uses the weak to accomplish his plan so as to highlight the fact that it is God’s victory, not ours (111-2).  Paul himself says in 1 Corinthians that God chooses the foolish things of the world to confound the wise.  If the gospel spreads throughout the Roman Empire, it will be by the power of God, not the power of Paul the Prisoner.

There are a number of words in this section which describe Paul’s Gospel in apocalyptic terms.  The fact that his gospel is a “mystery” which must be revealed may very well be allusions to apocalyptic literature like Daniel. There are several examples in that book of visions which need to be “unveiled” for the reader.  It is as if God is fulling a curtain back to in order to reveal what is going on behind the scenes.  In apocalyptic literature, the one who is reading the book cannot make sense of the vision until an interpreter makes the meaning of the vision clear.

Paul is describing himself as the one who is revealing the plan of God for the present age.  Specifically, God is creating a new person, a “body of Christ” which is made up of both Jew and Gentile without distinction.  There is no racial, class, or gender distinctions in this new body, nor does anyone have an advantage if they are Jewish, male, or free.  Even if a person is a Roman citizen with wealth and prestige, there is no advantage in the body of Christ.

Like the great apocalyptic texts of the Hebrew Bible, Ephesians 3:1-13 declares that God has a plan to redeem the world.  That plan was made in eternity past and God will most certainly bring that plan to completion.  Something as minor as the Roman Empire cannot possibly hope to hinder the Gospel!  I think that this is the sort of message which American Christians need to hear, since no modern “empire” can hope to hinder the gospel.

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