The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 10/27

Posted on | October 27, 2015 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 10/27

Scripture reading: I Corinthians 4:6–16

 The Triumphal Procession

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads

us in triumphal procession. (II Corinthians 2:14)

 

When a Roman general won a great victory in battle, the city of Rome would welcome him home by putting on a “triumphal procession,” a victory parade somewhat similar to those ticker-tape celebrations thrown in New York City when the Yankees win the World Series. These victory processions in ancient Rome were multi-sensory experiences full of sounds, sights and smells. Typically they looked something like this:

,. Government officials (the mayor, senators, public officials) would lead the parade.

,. Trumpeters and other musicians came next, making loud noise and fanfare.

,. Priests from pagan temples would follow with censers, creating a sweet aroma.

,. Next, wagons came carrying the spoils and plunder of war (gold, silk, works of art, etc.).

,. Dressed in their military finest, the victorious army came next. Legion after legion marching proudly through the streets would cause the crowds to cheer with delight.

,. Finally the victorious general himself came riding in his chariot, dressed in purple, wearing a victory crown and holding a scepter with the Roman eagle on top.

,. At the end of the procession came the prisoners of war, dressed in rags. The crowd would boo and hiss as they passed, often headed to the arena, likely be killed for the entertainment of the masses.

In II Corinthians 2:14 Paul is using this picture of a Roman victory parade to make a spiritual application. Jesus Christ also has a triumphal procession, and we are in it! General Jesus has won a great victory and now is displaying his trophies of war for all the world to see. However, in this text Paul fails to mention where we are in the parade! There are only two options.

Many evangelicals like to pretend that we are among the victorious soldiers. We won! The parade is in our honor and the crowd is friendly, cheering for us. The spoils of

war are for our enjoyment. Such an interpretation fits nicely into the prosperity gospel that teaches salvation is all about our personal health, wealth and happiness.

However, a closer reading of the New Testament gives a radically different under- standing. The key to interpreting Paul’s  meaning  is  found  in  I  Corinthians  4:9: For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men.

Paul understood the Gospel better than most evangelicals today. Once we were enemies of Christ but his grace conquered our souls. Now we are put on display as trophies of grace for all the world to see. As we follow our Lord, we are called to forsake all and lay down our lives for others, even as he did. But here is the best part: Thanks be to God! Finally, we’ve learned that defeat means victory, weakness means power, loss means gain, and death means life!

Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.

Force me to render up my sword, and I shall conqueror be.

I sink in life’s alarms when by myself I stand;

Imprison me within thine arms, and strong shall be my hand. (George Matheson, 1890)

 

Let me learn by paradox that the way down is the way up, that to be low is to be high, that the broken heart is the healed heart . . . that to have nothing is to possess all, that to bear the cross is to wear the crown . . . that the valley is the place of vision.   —from the Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan Prayers

 point to ponder God wants to put you on display to the world as a trophy of grace.

prayer focus Thank the Lord for conquering your soul and leading you to your death. (!)

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