September 10, 2012
Dear Pastors, Missionaries, Chaplains and Friends,
Steve here…I just returned home from visiting our Fellowship International personnel at their European Conference. I was their speaker for the week. I heard inspiring stories of God’s work in Poland, Italy, France and Bulgaria.
Marilyn and I also visited Fellowship International missionaries, Mario and Rose Bruno who have been church planting in Rome for 30 years. I had the joy of preaching at the church where the Bruno’s serve and had meals on two occasions with the families of two church leaders. I assure you…after five courses of delicious Italian food (Roman style) you feel satisfied.
Part of one day was spent visiting the ancient Forum in the centre of Rome. We toured the Coliseum and walked the Appian Way where the Apostle Paul walked. Mario showed us four locations in the Forum that had particular metaphorical significance in the New Testament.
While Jesus used the metaphor of the “Kingdom” in the Gospels; the New Testament writers used four metaphors more familiar to the Roman culture.
Roman rule was symbolized by an enormous “Court House” where multiple court cases would be tried in a massive marble edifice with honeycombed ceilings, marble floors and frescoes painted on the plaster walls. The Romans lived by clearly defined, codified laws. The New Testament writers used this “legal metaphor” to teach the truth about “justification”. Christians are justified by faith. A legal term that instructs that the faithful are made “just” because of Christ’s advocacy.
While walking through the Forum you can’t help but see a lot of temples. If you’re not careful you might trip over one. In the photo you see the temple to Saturn (left) and Vespasian (right). The New Testament writers use the “propitiation metaphor” because it was so familiar in Roman life and the ancient world. People sought to appease the pantheon of gods. The spirit of God directed the New Testament authors to teach that this work is not our work. We will never successfully appease our Heavenly Father. What we cannot do, God has done. We are favorably inclined toward our Heavenly Father because of Christ’s atonement, not our work. This was a new twist on a familiar ancient concept.
While in the Forum we walked past a few marketplaces. The “agoras” where the Apostle Paul used to sell his tents and evangelize. The photo is “Julius Caesar’s” marketplace, a place of business built on two levels where later his ashes were buried in the Temple of Venus (notice the columns). Romans came to this marketplace to purchase food, merchandise or even to buy a slave.
The New Testament writers use the “redemption metaphor” to teach that we have been redeemed (purchased) from our bondage and enslavement to sin and Jesus was the price tag!
On the fringes of the Forum, scattered among the ruins, were the palatial homes of the wealthy and also the apartment blocks of common Romans. By Paul’s day, the Roman family was in ruins. The photo pictures a common Roman residence where families lived. The New Testament writers use the “reconciliation metaphor” to give hope. People lived dysfunctionally, experiencing conflict in their relationships every day. However, followers of Christ have been adopted into God’s family through the Son’s work on the cross. Once estranged from our Heavenly Father like spiritual orphans, we are “one in Christ”. Praise His Name!
Jesus used the “Kingdom” metaphor, but, the New Testament authors used Roman institutions such as Law Courts (justification), Temples (propitiation), and Marketplaces (redemption) and their Homes (reconciliation) to describe the beauty of our salvation in Christ.
Our salvation could be described metaphorically in so many other ways in the twenty-first century. I trust you are encouraged today because you are a child of God. God is good…so good!
Have a blessed week.