In Romans 16:17-20 Paul is compelled to issue a final warning: “Watch out for those who cause divisions beside the doctrine you’ve been taught…”
Paul and Jesus seemed to cause some division. . . with division.
It’s Super Bowl Sunday and don’t we love division?
Some love football because they love to see one team torment another team; they love the division. Some love football because they love teamwork; they love the communion. I suppose that we’re each a bit of both.
So, what’s ultimate: the division or the communion?
Parmenides (5th century B.C.) argued (perhaps proved) that if “What is” is, then “What is” is undivided and does not change. And yet common sense tells me I’m divided, and I do change, which according to Parmenides means that “I am what is not.”
The Hebrews revealed that God is “I am” and God does everything that’s anything. Common sense would tell me that I am, and I do . . .do what God does not do . . . that “do do” must be the work of “I am not,” or in other words, evil.
The Early Church taught that God is undivided and unchanging, yet always moving, a communion of three self-sacrificing persons and one substance called Love. And in him is Life. Eternal Life is communion.
Most would say, “No it’s division; Life is competition; the Survival of the Fittest.” Some argue that this is what it means to be a Christian: to get more knowledge of Good and evil, in order to make the right decisions, pass the test and win the game, while the losers lose forevermore. “It’s common sense,” they say. Maybe common sense is nonsense?
Paul writes “Watch out for those who cause divisions,” and then verse 20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan (The Great Divider) under your feet.”
How bizarre is it to argue that Paul is saying that there will be an endless division between those on whom God has mercy and those on whom he does not? And how bizarre that we have called the proclamation of this endless division, “the Gospel?”
With the last sentence of Romans, Paul offers a “doxology.” That’s glory given to God rather than men, glory to Jesus rather than me-sus. Romans 16:25: “The proclamation of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret in times eternal, but now disclosed… to all the peoples… to bring about the obedience of faith—to the only wise God be glory through Jesus Christ! Amen.”
I think we have such a hard time believing the Gospel (“God is Salvation,” Jesus) and giving glory to God, because something in each of us hates “mystery,” we hate surrendering control. Common sense is, basically, the opposite of mystery.
Mystery is not an absence of meaning; mystery is more meaning than one can comprehend. “The whole secret of mysticism is this:” wrote GK Chesterton, “that a man can understand everything, by the help of what he does not understand.”
Every little child is a mystic, for none understand their father, but if they trust their father, he might help them understand all things. Every little child is a mystic, except for those who think they created themselves or think they have already grown up.
“Mystery” is a Greek word that had tremendous connotations in the Gentile world. Jesus used the word once in reference to the parables of the Sower and the Seed. John uses it four times in the Apocalypse. And Paul uses it twenty times to describe three realities that are really one reality.
#1 The Mystery of Time and Eternity. I’ve repeatedly shared a diagram of six days of chronological time bathed in a seventh day, Eternity, to remind you of this mystery.
Common sense would tell you that you must write your own story. The mystery of time and eternity (the “times eternal”) reveals that your story is already written, and yet you can write it, live it, and dance it in communion with Jesus now, when and where eternity touches time.
#2 The Mystery of Good and Evil. I’ve repeatedly shared a painting of Jesus hanging like fruit on the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden, to remind you of this mystery.
Common sense would tell you that Good and evil are simply your choice. The mystery of Good and evil, is that the Good is God’s free choice and the evil is no choice but an arrogant illusion, in which you are trapped, in time.
#3 The Mystery of Christ. I’ve repeatedly shared a picture of Jesus, body broken and blood shed, hanging on a cross in a Garden on Calvary, at the edge of time and eternity.
Common sense would tell you to take the Good to make yourself Good. The Mystery is that when we take the Good, we make ourselves evil, and everything seems to die. And yet, even as we take the Good, the Good fore-gives his Life—Eternal Life, the Indestructible Seed (Heb. 7:16, 1 Peter 1:23).
Common sense would tell you that death is the absence of life, so that “what is” becomes “what is not.” But maybe death is division, and the Mystery is that “what is” and is undivided (God) descended into “what is not” and is divided (us) and remained undivided and eternal Love. He did pray, “May they be one, even as we are one. I in them and you in me.”
Common sense would tell you that the crucifixion of Christ was simply your choice, you’re accursed, and nothing could be worse. The Mystery is that the man on the tree is God’s Choice, you are his beloved, and nothing could be better—We thought God was divided and we were undivided; but we have been divided. “Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God is One. And you will love…”
You are not being tested to see what you will do, but that you might see what God has done, will do, and always does, regardless of how he is tested by you. You have put him to the test that you might see his undivided heart, surrender to Love, and say “Abba. Daddy.”
“When we cry, ‘Abba! father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:15 RSV).”
Look at the tree:
Common sense will tell you that you’re a bastard. The Mystery is that the Man on the tree is your Dad, and the Man on the tree is his Son, and the Man on the tree is you—being divided from division and undivided in Love.
This is the mystery kept secret in times eternal but now disclosed as the plan for the fulness of time, the mystery of Christ in you and all united in Christ.
Believe the Gospel and say: “Abba.”