- Paul taught that salvation came equally to Jew and gentile, and that gentiles did not have to convert to Judaism in order to be followers of Christ. That meant that it was not important – or even relevant – for gentiles to keep the Jewish Law in order to be saved. On the contrary, salvation came apart from the law. Some of Paul’s Christian opponents objected to this “lawless” Gospel, and claimed that it encouraged followers of Jesus to behave lawlessly. In response, Paul insisted on the importance of moral behavior before God. Gentiles did not need to observe practices reserved for the Jewish people – circumcision, kosher food laws, keeping sabbath. But as followers of Jesus they were of course to live godly lives. In particular, people were to love their neighbor as themselves – the chief commandment of the law for Paul. But what else must they do? Paul understood that God had provided a number of guidelines of behavior, in the Jewish Scriptures, the teachings of Jesus, and one’s own conscience. (Bart Ehrman)
Why are ethics important to Paul if a person is made right with God through the death and resurrection of Jesus? If a person is saved apart from following the law (Rom 3:28; Gal 2:16), why keep the law? There was a public confrontation between Peter and Paul over whether Jews and gentiles could eat together. To start, Paul is not saying you are justified by faith without doing good works, but without doing works of the law. If you could be right with God by being a good obedient Jew, Jesus did not have to die.
In Philippians 3 Paul says with respect to righteousness before the law he was blameless in his former life. But, he was still enslaved by sin. Only Christ could break this stranglehold. What Paul is referring to is gentiles don’t need to keep kosher, get circumcised, keep the festivals – Jewish stuff. Paul thought the moral part of the law outlined what God wanted people to do, but didn’t give them the power to do it because they were enslaved to sin.
The Judicial Model we talked about last time is we broke the law, the penalty was death, Christ paid the penalty, the resurrection shows the payment was accepted, and we appropriate this benefit through trusting in the death/resurrection. The ethics is God so loved you he sacrificed his son, and Christ so loved you he sacrificed himself, so out of gratitude you obey what God tells you to do morally – you become ethical.
The Participationist Model from last time says we are mystically united with Jesus through baptism. In 1 Cor 6 there is the problem of men visiting prostitutes and bragging, or at least making it known. Paul’s answer is men shouldn’t “become one” with prostitutes because believers are unified with Christ and so this precludes other illicit unions because they would bring Christ into connection with the illicit.
Paul quotes Jesus’s ethical teachings as authoritative: eg, don’t get a divorce; pay your preacher, etc. While Paul didn’t think the ritual and kosher laws applied to gentiles, the moral laws apply to everyone. Paul and Jesus both argued loving others fulfilled the law (Gal 5:14; Rom 13:8-10), all the other laws being summed up with love of neighbor. Love as fulfilling the law presupposes one ought to fulfill the law.
Paul thinks there is a difference between laws that make Jews Jewish and laws that are for everyone. In 1 Cor 12-14 Paul does not seem to be concerned with the universal love of Jesus with the good Samaritan but love within the Christian community and how Christians are to behave to one another. Love or agape is acting out of concern for another’s well being. There is no hierarchy in Paul’s churches, each person receiving a different spiritual gift at baptism, just that the Spirit would guide the church. When Paul talks about love of neighbor, he means this to counter members of the church who were using their gifts to raise their status and show off. Gifts are to be used for others, love, not for yourself. Love means putting your neighbor before yourself and sacrificing yourself for them, and in this you are fulfilling the law. Baptized Christians are free from sin and can keep the moral law because they are empowered by God’s spirit.
There is the question of nature. Paul says both men and women are equal in Christ, but that women should wear head coverings in church (1 Cor 11). Paul’s reasoning is that women by nature have longer hair, natural head coverings, and it’s shameful for men to have long hair, so no unnatural coverings needed!
Great stuff from prof Ehrman again. I’m still having a little trouble seeing the death and resurrection of Christ defeating the stranglehold of sin under Ehrman’s reading, especially with remarks like this in Paul:
- 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that the good does not dwell within me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do the good lies close at hand, but not the ability. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells within me (Romans 7:15-20)
In what way has sin been defeated in the above passage?
- JUST 2 LECTURES LEFT FROM PROF EHRMAN, NOW COMPARING AND CONTRASTING THE HISTORICAL JESUS AND PAUL. I’LL TRY TO COVER BOTH OF THESE LECTURES IN ONE POST NEXT TIME!
For My Scriptures Study Index SEE