Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Centre of Renewed Humanity: Worship

The whole point of the long paragraph which begins in Romans 1:18 is that Gentiles are idolaters, and that therefore their humanity self destructs. Idolatry, Paul is saying, is seriously bad for the health of your humanity. The pagan world knows God, because in creation pagans can see his eternal power and deity; but they refuse to honour him as God or worship him, and turn instead to worship images of birds, animals and reptiles. As a result (since humans become like what they worship; this is a basic spiritual law), they cease to exhibit true and full humanity, reflecting the image of God. They exhibit, instead, all the signs of a humanity that is coming apart at the seams:

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless (Romans 1:29-31 NIV)."

Tom Wright, WSPRS, p.138.

"What then is the solution? God as called into being a new community...there is, then, a people that worships God in truth. This people is the true humanity, the people that Israel was supposed to be but had failed to be. Paul will zealously announce this one true God, and summon people to worship him, knowing that in so doing he is confronting pagan idolatry on the one hand and fulfilling the destiny of Israel on the other."
- Ibid, 138-139

Piper calls preachers to "labor to find language that is worthy of God." I think the statements bolded above are fantastic examples of powerful language. Describing idolatry in terms of a self destructive lifestyle and humanity coming apart at the seams both connects with contemporary cultural expressions and accurately describes what's going on in Romans 1.

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