No Other Name

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How does a Christian commit suicide?  How does a person who claims to know Jesus as her personal savior kill one’s self?  If I believe Jesus has overcome the world, shouldn’t suicide be impossible?  I can’t speak to anyone else’s situation but I know that, in February 2020, while I didn’t want to commit suicide; I felt I had no other alternative.

I’ve struggled with thoughts of suicide my entire life.  There were abuses at home and suicide seemed like a good way to make it end.  I endured terrible bullying at school and suicide was a way not only of making it stop but I was sure that, once I had killed myself, those bullying me would see the error of their ways.  Books were a way of escape for me during these years and I have never ceased being grateful to the authors who wrote stories of teenage girls making it through difficult times. 

The last time I ever thought of suicide, before my experience in 2020, happened about a year after my car accident.  I had lost everything and didn’t think I could face living every day brain damaged and in chronic pain.  I remember lying in bed with tears running down my face and praying to die.  I had a series of thoughts then and they started with, what if?  What if I did kill myself?  What if, when I found myself in the presence of God, it turned out He did have a plan for me?  What if my life wasn’t really over?  What if I didn’t kill myself?  Well then, if suicide was no longer as an option, the only thing I could do was get up, put cold water on my face, and take one day at a time.

My hope in Jesus got me through.  Even though there were times when I was so tired and I hurt so badly I did long for it to be over, I never seriously considered suicide.  Even when I faced various crises, even when I wondered if what I believed about Jesus was true, even when I considered whether or not He even existed, I never thought of suicide.  Through these crises, The Holy Spirit opened my eyes and I began a walk with Jesus that was more wonderful than anything I’d ever known.  I knew the joy and peace only Jesus could bring and yet, after seventeen years of walking with Him and learning of Him, I once more found myself considering suicide.  How did it happen?

It didn’t happen overnight.  I had endured years of pain and exhaustion.  There were times of revelation and refreshing from the Holy Spirit that made this life worth living, but there was no end to the pain and exhaustion.  I had other health issues.  One major one culminated in the surgery I’ve mentioned before.  But, before I had to have this surgery, I took a job.  It was for a small company-less than five employees-and it was wonderful.  My co-workers were kind and welcoming.  My boss was also kind, and flexible, and genuinely cared about taking care of the people who worked for him.  I had a quiet office to myself with a large window overlooking a dog park.  My boss was understanding, flexible, supported me through my surgery, and was equally supportive during my recovery.

A year after my surgery, the job ended.  The company was sold to another and I was kept on to help with both the wrapping up of the company I worked for and the transfer of information to the new company.  Operations transferred to an area outside of the boundaries I am comfortable driving on my own.  Making it to and from the job now meant I’d have to take the train.

I don’t ride the train.  I have equilibrium issues with my brain injury and the swaying motion of the train makes train travel a nightmare.  Even if I can secure a seat in the very front car, I am dizzy and nauseous after even a short train ride.  Then, there’s my physical problems.  I don’t know how many of you ride public transportation but those seats are not made for someone who has back problems.  And yet, that was where the job had gone and I had no choice.  No matter.  I could use ginger chews to help steady my stomach.  I would use topical analgesics and pain killers to endure the physical side of things.  The rides would be unpleasant but endurable.  Besides, what did I know?  Maybe this was a chance to step out in faith that God would finally heal me.  Together, we had this.  I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, right?

Wrong.  I lasted less than a month.  Those days are a bit of a blur memory wise but I do remember the agony.  I could not continue.  I was going to let down the boss who had been so kind to me.  Here was another situation where I could not meet expectations.  I was not strong enough and I obviously wasn’t smart enough because I couldn’t figure out a way to make it work.  More than that, it was clear God wasn’t stepping up to help me.  I was a failure.  And, even if I quit and found another job, I was bound to fail no matter where I went.  I would always carry my disability with me.  Not only this, but it was obvious God wasn’t helping me.  Somewhere, I had missed whatever His grand plan was so I had failed Him as well.  Whatever He’d been trying to tell me over the years, I hadn’t heard it.  If I needed proof that the life of a broken down, disabled, mentally deficient human being could not be used of God, here it was.  There really was only one alternative.

I was in a strange headspace.  I had no strong desire to die.  I didn’t really want to commit suicide but suicide felt inevitable.  While I had everything I needed to make it painless, I couldn’t go through with it because I didn’t want to hurt my family: especially my mother.  I didn’t want her to have to find me.  Before I did anything, I had to speak to my boss and tell him I could no longer ride the train.

The Word of the Lord came to me.  A meeting of a Christian Women’s group popped up in my Facebook feed.  The location was close so driving would not be a problem and was in a neighborhood I was familiar with so there was no problem finding it.  I had a strong urge to go but it didn’t make any sense.  I tend to avoid women’s groups as I cannot join in conversations about husbands and kids.  But, I felt I was being told to go and I obeyed.  Besides, they were offering donuts so the morning wouldn’t be a total loss.

Those poor women.  They weren’t through their first worship song before I started to cry.  I continued to cry all through the opening worship and prayer time.  Ugly crying.  I was able to get it under control for the message though I sat there with tears streaming down my cheeks which I could do nothing to stop.  At least I’d graduated to silent crying.  I had about a half a box of Kleenex in my bag and I used every bit of it along with a good portion of the napkins reserved for donut consumption.  I barely remember the message.  What I do remember is the presence of The Holy Spirit all around me: holding me, loving me, and comforting me.  By the closing prayer, He had restored me and given me revelation. 

It wasn’t that I had failed God and now He was done with me.  He loved me.  Neither had He failed me.  I hadn’t ever asked Him what He was doing in the situation.  I had listened to what my boss said he needed and determined to meet that need no matter what.  I had agreed with him and expected God would strengthen me to do what I was sure I needed to do.  What I had done in heeding my boss’s words was hallow his name above that of God. 

We believers pray “Hallowed be thy name” whenever we pray the family prayer.  Do we ever take the time to consider what we are praying?  To hallow means to make holy, purify or consecrate, to venerate (hagiazo G37).  How do we do this?  If we are focusing on God alone, that means we listen to what He is saying to us in The Word Jesus, we listen to the words He has spoken through others recorded for us in scripture, and we listen to the words spoken to us in and by His Spirit.  By listening and obeying we venerate Him alone and are agreeing with the rest of the prayer: Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done.  When we listen and obey any other voice, even when the words are coming from someone we like and respect, or perhaps someone we love, we are repeating the folly of Adam and Eve. 

One thing I think we believers don’t pay enough attention to is the nature of the sin committed in the Garden of Eden.  It wasn’t to murder or steal or to do anything evil.  Rather it was a good thing.  To be as God, to know good and evil, surely that was a good thing to become.  All it required was listening to and obeying the serpent rather than God.  I have found our enemy has not had to change his tactics in all these eons. Why would he when they continue to work?

Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right unto a man, but its end is the way of death.”  These choices to listen to another voice seem like the right thing to do.  The trap I am particularly susceptible to falling into is when people need my help.  There’s often a “no one else can do it” attached to it and, before I know it, I’m sucked in.  But, how can it be a bad thing to help people?  It isn’t, of course, but the voice I choose to listen to means the difference between trying to live life in my own strength-which is quickly depleted-and living life from the very source of life; Jesus.  It is quenching the Spirit rather than abiding in the vine. 

I am convinced the secret to this life of abiding is listening.  I have to ignore my reflex reaction to run out and fix things and instead, “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).  I trust Him and, because I know He loves me, I know that I can cast all my cares upon Him (1 Peter 5:7).  I do cast everything on Him and then I wait and I listen.  When He speaks, I obey.

I’m not overly fond of clichés however I do feel as though I have a new lease on life.  I want to tell anyone who might be experiencing what I experienced and feeling as I felt that you are loved by God with a love you cannot begin to fathom.  Your life is of supreme importance.  If you are tired, come to Jesus.  If you are burdened, come to Jesus.  Listen to His voice alone.  Learn from Him.  You will find rest.

All scriptures are quoted from:

The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

Because He Lives

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Today, the Fourth of October, is the twenty-third anniversary of the car accident that left me differently-abled.  Since Post Day for the blog fell on Anniversary Day, I wanted to do something special.  I thought and thought and searched for the perfect words to say…what?  What do I know after twenty-three years of living differently-abled that will mean anything to anybody?

I recently read a quote by a spiritual leader whose writings I have read and admired in the past, something that made the quote so astonishing.  This leader was talking about us believers taking a carnal rather than a spiritual approach to our enemies and said our carnal approach could put us in a place where God cannot help us.  I don’t have the full context of this quote so perhaps I am interpreting these words in a way the writer never intended. However, I was struck by any leader saying we humans could end up in a place where God could not help us, regardless of the context.  I declare to you today such a statement is not true. I know Paul’s words are the truth: “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created things, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39). He is truly the One who keeps His promise never to leave nor forsake us and I know from experience we are never beyond His help.

At the time of the car accident, I was not living a life in Jesus Christ. I believed in Him certainly but, sick of the rules and regulations and a Father God I could not please no matter what, I had walked away from trying to live a Christian life. I was miserable, of course, but God never once let go of me.  In fact, He was with me the moment I woke up in that car after the accident.  His presence urged me to get out of the car and He was with me every step of the mile and a half journey I had to take to find help.  He was with me as I went away from rather than towards town and He was with me when I found the men who, by a remarkable coincidence, had postponed their fishing trip a week and were thus close by to get me to help and save my life. 

I didn’t die in my car accident and I know that isn’t the outcome for many. I lost a family member in an accident a few short months after my own. What about death? Isn’t that a sign that God didn’t help? That is not a subject that can be addressed in the limited space I have today but let me quote again that neither death nor life…shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I can tell you He was with me through this experience as well and I can assert along with Paul that death and the grave do not have the final word (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). We can trust Jesus even in these circumstances. He is the Living One and he holds the keys of death and hell (Revelation 1:18). (Note: while these passages have the words grave and hell respectively, the Greek word in both places is the same-hades [G86]).

But what about consequences, I can hear some asking.  We make our own choices and God doesn’t spare us the consequences of our actions.  We suffer from our own choices and we suffer because of the choices of others.  I don’t disagree.  I do disagree-utterly-with the idea that the choices we or anyone else make somehow thwarts God.  For a beautiful story of what God can do when others mean evil toward us and our sufferings do not stem from anything we did, read the story of Joseph related in Genesis Chapters 37-48.  But, what about situations like mine where, while it was an accident, I can’t deny I made my own choices. I have already shared how I did not put myself in a situation where not even God could help me, but there have been life changing consequences from this accident. What can I now hope for? I find reassurance in a story from Paul’s life in Chapters 20-23 of the Book of Acts.

I do wonder if this story doesn’t start in Chapter 18.  The end of verse 18 says, “He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow.”  I’ve read various commentaries on just what this vow was and whether the cutting of the hair meant completion of the vow as such a completion usually meant the necessity of a sacrifice in Jerusalem.  I cannot say one way or another but this vow is something I can’t help but keep in mind as I read Chapters 20-23.  Paul is determined to get to Jerusalem for the Day of Pentecost (Acts 20:16) and nothing, not even the Holy Spirit Himself, is going to stop him. 

Paul states, “And see now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me.  But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself…” 

The Holy Spirit spoke to Paul through another as well.  Chapter 21 relates how a prophet named Agabus comes down from Judea, takes Paul’s belt, binds his own hands and feet and says, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, so shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles” (verses 10-11).  Those with Paul plead with him to change his mind but he will not be persuaded.  I have to laugh a little when I read verse 14: “So when he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.”  I do wonder just what they meant by that…

Paul goes to Jerusalem and everything happens exactly the way the Holy Spirit warned it would.  You can read the details of his time in Jerusalem and arrest through the rest of Chapter 21 and into Chapter 23.  And so…wouldn’t you think that disregarding warnings from THE HOLY SPIRIT would be a terrible sin?  Wouldn’t you think God would have no choice but to wash His hands of Paul and find someone else, someone more willing to be obedient?  Wouldn’t you think Paul’s choices had put him in a place where not even God could help him?

God doesn’t abandon him.  Verse 11 of Chapter 23 starts with “But”.  I always pay attention to the ‘buts’ I find in scripture and focus what came before.  Verse 10 says, “Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks.”  And then verse 11: “But…”

I spent some time between verses 10 and 11, imagining what Paul might be thinking and feeling.  He knew what to expect.  The Holy Spirit made clear what was going to happen if he chose to come to Jerusalem.  I wonder if Paul felt like a failure. I wonder if he was sure God would have to use someone else, someone less stubborn, more malleable.  I wonder if he had any hope of being used to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ ever again.  I wonder if he was overwhelmed with thoughts of “what if” and “if only”. I wonder all of this and then read verse 11: “BUT the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome.”

What would Paul have been if he had heeded the warnings of the Holy Spirit and bypassed Jerusalem?  I think the question is worth asking but the answer really is “it doesn’t matter.”  The wonderful lesson I glean from this story is our choices cannot thwart the plan of God.  God was with Paul through his imprisonments and the things that happened to him as he was transferred from one place of incarceration to another.  And we have his letters, some written during these times of imprisonment, like the Epistle to the Philippians which bubbles over with the Joy of The Lord.

There’s a phrase, “You made your bed: now lie in it.”  What breaks my heart is when I hear the disdain in this phrase echoed in the words of Believers.  We ought to know better because we see Jesus.  If God, who is love, could possibly have in His heart the idea of “you made your bed: now lie in it”, He never would have given the promises of the One to come throughout the entire Old Testament and would have never given Jesus.  This is what I know.  I know He loves me and I know there is nothing I can ever do to stop Him loving me.  I know there is no mistake I can make He cannot redeem.  I know He is with me in this mess I have made of my life and that He is making it all work for good and for His purposes.  I know because Jesus lives, and lives in me through His Spirit, I can face whatever this life might hold.

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow

Because He lives, all fear is gone

Because I know, He holds the future,

And life is worth the living just because He lives. 

All scriptures are quoted from:

The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

Seasons

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Seasons

You speak to me and bring forth Life
The hidden seed is quickening
My barren ground is thus transformed
As I burst forth in wondrous Spring

Summer comes with sudden storms
And brings intensifying heat
Both are necessary for
Without them fruit would not be sweet

Then comes the harvest time
The ripened fruit-it satisfies
Though what is reaped is bountiful
I anticipate darkening skies

My world turns dark and cold and gray
Impossible to bring forth fruit
But though it looks blanketed in death
Nothing quenches the Life in the Root

Seasons change-I know it’s time
I wait for fruit with burgeoning pride
But instead here comes the Husbandman
Branches are pruned and cast aside

My Father God, in You I trust
I cling to You through all this pain
I know You prune to increase fruit
Not one of these seasons are in vain

Bring me to that glorious day
When pruned and purged and purified
All I am images You
And You alone are glorified

Led as a Captive-Part Two

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Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

Hello Readers!  Welcome back to Renaissance Woman as, this week, I continue taking a look at Paul’s exuberant cry; “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere” (2 Corinthians 2:14, NIV).  In last week’s post, I considered what Paul might be picturing here, assuming he had in mind a Roman Triumph.  This week, I want to consider why he was so joyful at the thought of being led a captive in Christ’s Triumphal Procession.

Before I get to that, there are a few more aspects of the Roman Triumph I have to bear in mind.  One is, after Rome ceased to be a Republic and became an Empire ruled over by Emperors, the Triumphs were reserved for Emperors alone.  I also bear in mind that the Emperors were called by the full title “Saviour of the World”.  The problems this caused for Christians within the Roman world is a fascinating subject but one I’ll have to leave for another time.  I mention it because it is Jesus Christ who alone deserves to bear the title “Saviour of the World” and it is He who is honored in this procession. We then, are led captive in the procession of the One who is the True King of the Universe and Saviour of the World.   

There is one more aspect of Roman Triumphs I took a look at during this study and that is The Ovation.  The Ovation was a lesser form of Triumph during which the general being honored rode on horseback.  When I read that, I pictured The Horseman described in Revelation 19: “Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse.  And He who sat on Him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war…And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses” (Verses 11 & 14, NKJV).  Here too, there is a procession but there are none led as captives.  Here, the Followers of Jesus are depicted as a mighty army. 

Considering what Paul says about us being led as captives and then the picture of the army in Revelation, can both be true of us as believers?  I think so, especially when I consider the promises found in scripture.  Consider, for instance 2 Corinthians 3:18 which says, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (NKJV).  Consider also 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV).  The words that hold my attention are “being transformed” and “become”.  There are so many other verses that speak of renewing, being made, being transformed: the conviction I am left with is one of process.  We do not become like Jesus overnight.  There is a process and, to use Paul’s words, it begins by being led captive by God.    

But what a strange captivity!  As I meditated on this, I was reminded of the young men led into captivity when Nebuchadnezzar sacked Jerusalem.  They were captives, certainly, but were brought to Babylon and trained in the literature, laws, and culture of Babylon. They were sent to university, in other words. It is here I see some similarities to our captivity in Christ as our Christian life is not one of servitude but one of being taught of the Lord by His Spirit.  Our captivity has one major difference from those young men in Babylon as our captivity is not forced on us but rather one we choose.  We are not drug through the streets in chains but drawn after Him with gentle cords and bands of love (Hosea 11:4, NKJV).  His goodness leads us to metanoia (I never get tired quoting that!), our eyes are opened to the reality of Jesus, and we surrender our lives to Him.  It is a captivity we continue to choose every time we pray “Thy Will Be Done.”  It is a captivity we choose every time we take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ.

Here is also our warfare and it takes place on the battlefield of our mind.  However, just as our captivity is a strange captivity, so is our warfare.  It’s backwards because our General is already victorious.  He does not fight battles in order to become so.  He is the one who, through His death, resurrection, and ascension, utterly crushed the head of the serpent and destroyed the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).  Yet this victory must be worked out in us because there are strongholds, arguments, and high things that exalt themselves against the knowledge of God.  Foremost among these is that great lie that was spoken in the Garden of Eden: you shall be as God.  I did not realize when, in the awe and wonder of seeing who Jesus is I wanted nothing more than He should come and live in me, that war was being declared.  My Self was already crowned ruler of my life.  Self was my center and it believed it could be God apart from Him.  It resisted the rule of Jesus and battles ensued.

I think the best description of this warfare is in Romans 7: “For what I am doing, I do not understand.  For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice….Oh wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God-through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Verses 15-19, 24-25a, NKJV)

Paul goes on to say in Chapter Eight that, “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Verse 37, NKJV).  This is true in Jesus right now and this is how I conduct my warfare.  I do not engage in battle at all but declare the battle is won.  Jesus Christ is victor now and unto the Ages of Ages.  I take up my cross daily realizing that it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me and there is nothing I will face that is too much for Him.  I listen for His voice and choose to be obedient to it, no matter how difficult doing so might be.  I surrender myself and go where He bids me go and stay where and when He bids me stay. 

Thanks be to God who always leads us as captives in Christ’s Triumphal Procession!  It can be painful because, as the captives in those Roman Triumphs of old, we know we will be jeered at by the spectators.  But, we also know He is using us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Him everywhere. We can go forward lifting our hearts in songs of praise knowing our lives are hid in His.  We rejoice that the enmity of our carnal minds is defeated because the Spirit of the Living God lives in us.  We think it not strange that fiery trials come upon us because we know that when His glory is revealed, we will also be glad with exceeding joy (1 Peter 4: 12-13).  Indeed, we already rejoice because we know that, while we do not yet know what we shall be, we know that when He is revealed we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).  We shout for joy because, even as we are led captives, we are the Children of God!

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!  Amen!

References:

NIV Journal The Word Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973/2016

The Holy Bible, New King James Version, Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, Tennessee, 1979/1982

Dando-Collins, Stephen, Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion, St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, 2010, Pages 81-83

Guhl, E. & W. Koner, The Romans: Life and Customs, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Pages 290-295

Matyszak, Philip, Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual, Thames and Hudson, London, UK, 2009, Page 183

“The Savior of the World” (John 4:42) on JSTOR   

Led as a Captive

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Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

I have a NIV Journal the Word Bible which I find eminently useful.  The margins are wide and lined so I have plenty of space to note where the same Greek word has been translated by different English words or where the same English words in a passage are, in fact, different Greek words.  I recently opened it to 2 Corinthians 2 and read verse 14: “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere”.  I was struck with the thought: “I bet Paul is referencing a Roman Triumph”.

There is always the chance he was not.  Most armies had some sort of celebration when returning triumphant from the battlefield.  There is a celebration recorded in 1 Samuel 18:  “Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments.  So the woman sang as they dance and said; “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens thousands” (verses 6 & 7).  The great carved scenes in Egypt portray the triumphant Pharaoh and captives in chains.  I am not prepared to say unequivocally that Paul is referencing specifically the Roman Triumph.

And yet, Paul was a Roman citizen (Acts 16:37-38, 25-28).  Unger’s Bible Dictionary states, “The character of a Roman citizen superseded all others before the law and in the general opinion of society, and placed him amid the aristocracy of any provisional town” and refers to Tarsus, the city of Paul’s birthplace, as “no mean city”.  As Paul, or Saul as he was then, would probably have been thirteen when he went to Jerusalem to take up his studies, I can’t say with any certainty that he would have ever visited Rome and seen a Triumph for himself.  However, Paul was extremely well read, showing familiarity with Greek authors (Acts 17:28), so I have no doubt he’d have been familiar with the details of a Roman Triumph.  Both The Passion Translation and The Archeological Study Bible suggest Paul was alluding to the Roman Triumph in their commentaries on this particular scripture.

Since it is a possibility, what word picture could Paul be painting by comparing believers to captives in a Triumphal procession?  What exactly did a Roman Triumph consist of?

Firstly, they were far more frequent during Rome’s Republic than during its Empire when only Emperors could hold them.  They were the highest honor awarded to a military commander but were thought to be the pinnacle of a political career as well.  There were rigorous criteria that had to be met before a Triumph could take place.  Philip Matyszak writes, “The most important of these are: 1: At least 5,000 enemy combatants must have perished in battle.  2: The battle must have brought the campaign to an end.  3: The campaign must have enhanced the majesty of the Roman empire”.

The senate had to vote to allow a Triumph and, once the afore mentioned criteria had been verified and a Triumph granted; Rome prepared for a party.  Streets and squares were festively adorned, temples were opened, decorated with flowers, and incense burned on the alters.  The commander gathered with his troops in the Campus Martius near the temples of Bellona and Apollo and then were met at the Porta Triumphalis-a gate used only for triumphal processions-by the senate, the city magistrates, and numerous citizens who took the lead of the procession, while lictors opened a way through the crowd.  Trumpet fanfares heralded the approach of the triumphant general.  The spectators would not see him yet.

The Military Commander or Emperor in later years would have sent on ahead the booty captured for the state and this consisted of armour, standards arranged as trophies, models of the cities or ships taken from the enemy, pictures of battles, tablets with the deeds of the victor inscribed on them, statues personifying the rivers and towns of the subjected country-all of which followed the city dignitaries and tibicines (flute-players) and would be carried by crowned soldiers at the points of long lances or on portable stands, or would be trundled through the streets on wheeled carts.  There would also be art, valuables like plate and vases, and gold and silver coins. 

There was human booty as well.  The survivors of the conquered army came in chains and were jeered at by the crowds and not just the surviving fighters: kings, princes, and other nobles were paraded through the streets.  The procession also contained sacrificial oxen who had their horns gilded accompanied by the priests, and then there were more singers, musicians, and dancers.

Finally, came the triumphant general himself.  He would be in a turret-like triumphal chariot with his male offspring accompanying him on horseback.  He would have a crown of gold and either have a laurel crown held over his head or be holding a branch of laurel taken from a grove planted by the emperor which would be planted again after the Triumph.  After the general came more musicians and representative cohorts of his triumphant legions. 

This would be a spectacular site, to be sure, but what could Paul mean by saying God leads us captive in Christ’s Triumphal Procession?  Captives did not fare well in a Roman Triumph.  Some were sold into slavery, some went to fight in the amphitheater, some were destined to imprisonment in the Mamertine prison, and some were strangled inside that prison at the foot of the Capitoline Mount.  There are a few instances of some (like the British King Caratacus) who were allowed to live out their days in Rome but still; it wasn’t a happy thing to be a captive in a Triumphal Procession.  Better to be one of the conquering army, marching in the Triumph of our great general to the cheers and accolades of all the inhabitants of the city.

Yet, Paul says we are led captive in Christ’s triumphal procession.  There is joy in Paul.  It can’t be missed.  He delights in doors being opened for him to teach in Troas but how he was troubled in his spirit because he could not find Titus there and so continued to Macedonia.  Then comes that cry, “But thanks be to God…!” (2 Corinthians 2:12-14).  What, if anything at all, can be gleaned from this passage?

God-willing, I will share what I have found next week.  Until then, the blessings of the Lord be upon you.

Amen.

References:

Archeological Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2005

NIV Journal The Word Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1973/2016

The Passion Translation, Broadstreet Publishing Group, LLC, 2018

Dando-Collins, Stephen, Legions of Rome: The Definitive History of Every Imperial Roman Legion, St. Martin’s Press, New York, New York, 2010, Pages 81-83

Guhl, E. & W. Koner, The Romans: Life and Customs, Konecky & Konecky, Old Saybrook, Connecticut, Pages 290-295

Matyszak, Philip, Legionary: The Roman Soldier’s Unofficial Manual, Thames & Hudson Ltd. London, 2009, Pages 183-185

Unger, Merrill R., Unger’s Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, Moody Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1957/1982, Page 831

Travels Through Greco-Roman Antiquity :: The Roman Triumph (villanova.edu)

The Roman Triumph – Spectacles in the Roman World (bccampus.ca)