Bible blog 2279



We are no longer to be children to be tossed here and there by waves and carried off by every wind of teaching, by human sleight of hand, by skilled schemes of deception; rather by telling it as it is, in love, we should grow up into him who is the head, I mean Messiah. From him the whole body, articulated and knit together by every constituent joint, with every single part doing its job, grows and builds itself up in love.

Now this is my word and witness in the Master, that you must no longer walk in the ways of the gentiles, whose understanding is enfeebled. Their perception is darkened, so that they are estranged from the life of God through their indwelling ignorance and hardness of heart. Dead to decent feelings, they have given themselves over to excess, for all sorts of unclean business, out of greed. This is not how you learned Messiah! – if in fact you have listened to him and been educated in him, since truth is in Jesus.

An almost standard element in authentic letters of Paul is an attack on other ways of thinking and living. Here the author indulges in the usual sort of Jewish attack on Gentile morality, although unusually he attributes their excesses to greed rather than lust. And the linked criticism of false teaching leads him into his most assured description of how the body of messiah should function as a quasi organic unity built to work as a whole with crucial contributions from all its parts. Like the gentiles, believers have a basic motive, which in their case, is love.

It’s noticeable that the author rejects any individualistic view of moral behaviour. Excessive behaviour comes from a shared ignorance of truth, which expresses itself in ‘unclean business’; while right behaviour comes from a shared knowledge of truth in Jesus. This is sane and helpful; neither good nor evil actions are accidental products of individual will, but rather communally conditioned, learned habits of life. That’s why the Christian assembly is so important; it fosters holiness.

Again we should note the unfairness of this attack on Gentiles. Not all Gentiles suffered from indwelling ignorance and hard hearts. But the author, like Paul, was making a moral critique in the name of Jesus. He might be just as hostile to the morality, say, of 21st century Scotland. The Greek translated ‘truth’ is ‘aletheia’ which literally means ‘un-concealment” and carries the sense of revealed reality, which may be a fact or a moral quality such as love. The author reminds his readers that they will find this revealed reality in Jesus.

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