bible blog 2017

Owe nothing to anyone except love of one another, since the person who loves another has done all that the Jewish Law requires. For “You shall not commit adultery, kill, steal, covet” and the rest are summed up in this command, “You shall love your neigbour as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbour, so love does all that the Law requires.

walk-in-lightBesides this, you are aware of this decisive moment, that it is high time to awake from sleep, for our rescue is nearer now than when we first believed. Night is almost spent, day is at hand. So let’s take off the habits of darkness and clothe ourselves with the armour of light, walking decently clad, as in daylight, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sex and immodesty, not in quarrels and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Messiah and do not plan to satisfy your flesh and blood desires.

There are two elements here; love and the “turn of the ages”.

If indeed, as The Acts narrates, Paul was a disciple of Rabbi Gamaliel, he would have learned that although all the commandments of God are equally important, the command to love the neighbour as oneself precludes all the forms of harm to the neighbour forbidden by the “ten words”. He does however recommend love in a graceful way when he makes it the one debt we should we glad to owe. We are in debt to our neighbour just because she exists and not only because she may have been kind to us. This love is no mere emotion, but the desire to do our neighbour some good, and it therefore rules out trying to do her any harm. Love is wonderful and practical.

AS regards the “turn of the ages” Paul uses the Greek word “kairos” which I have translated “decisive moment”, the time when the present evil age passes away and the “age to come” of justice, peace and goodness, arrives. I think Paul did believe in this eschatological shift as a part of the divine plan, but saw its arrival as involving human behaviour, such as the Gentiles turning to Israel’s God and the abandonment by Christians of “undercover” behaviour such as promiscuity or backbiting. “Living in the light” is one of his key trems of ethical encouragement. It means to live as if nothing is hidden.He uses the metaphor of clothing to describe good and bad behaviour; we wear our bad and good habits.George Herbert the English parson poet described prayer as “man well dressed”. In a similar way Paul’s image represents a serious grace of the human person. He even (elsewehere) depicts our flesh and blood self as a covering, a tent,  which will one day be destroyed so that we can be covered with a new house “not made with hands”. Here he dares to say that in the midst of this life, but in the power of the new age, we can “put on Jesus Messiah” so that our flesh and blood self and its desires can be forgotten.Silhouette of Man Walking in Tunnel. Light at End of Tunnel

I think we should interpret all Paul’s ethical instruction in thelight of this phrase. All his pastoral teachings are in effect commands to “put on” Jesus Messiah. It seems to be the case that the human Jesus of the gospels is missing from Paul’s  letters, but here, in the person of the member of the Jesus Assembly, he strides forth, visible to all.

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