Paul’s Ethics

Blog 1 Paul’s Ethics Frank Allen Leone

Rosner discusses moral and ethical problems confronting the fledgling Christian communities where Paul preached. The early church was struggling with many Jewish and Gentile issues which Paul faced throughout his ministry. These issues are classified by Rosner into three types of morale exhortation paraenesis (advice or counsel) is scattered throughout Paul’s letters. The first traditional paraenesis, these are moral issues dealing with holiness and love. Second situational paraenesis involves advice and exhortation of specific matters. Finally, the ecclesiastical paraenesis matters of the Church and the ministry.

Paul’s letters are generally divided into letters of belief or Christian conduct. Ethical issues are usually referred to the gospel. For Paul doctrine and ethical issues are inseparable. His aim was to teach how to ‘walk and please God’ (1 Thess 4:1). His principle purpose was to bring Gentiles into ‘allegiance and obedience to God’ (Rom 15:19). His main theme was to exhort the Churches to conduct there common life in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil 11: 22). In the early Church the Jewish people demanded loyalty to the Jewish faith. Paul says the Torah Law has no value for Christians in their life. According to Paul the law has ‘works of wrath’ (Rom 4:15), ‘increases sin’ (Rom 5:20), and ‘even kills’ (Rom 7:5). Paul and his Jewish background it is evident that the Old Testament did influence some of his ethical decisions.

Rosner discusses two case studies, Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 5. They are excellent examples of the three types of paraenesis. It is necessary to highlight Roman background during Paul’s ministry. In early 50CE Emperor Claudius expelled Jewish and Christians from the city of Rome. The gentiles that were left took over the leadership of the Roman Churches. Five years later Emperor Nero lifted the edict. When the Jewish leaders returned a leadership debate divided the old and new leaders of the Churches.

The first thing Paul does is spell out implications from the gospel on conduct of Christians. This divide is unnecessary. Additionally, he seeks the mercy of God on his approach. In Chapter 1 he calls for reasonable worship and mind renewal as opposed to the false and foolish worship and corrupted minds. In (Rom12: 2-21) the central demand for love is announced and tested out. Paul is writing with anger from prison trying to persuade the Jews and Christians to set aside their differences. His advice is to leave vengeance to God and overcome evil with good always looking at the way of the cross. In this case study all three paraenesis are found: traditional the church infighting, situational Paul’s advice to show love, finally, the ecclesiastical the Roman Church has to decide on their hierarchy.

1 Corinthians 5 the second case study. The Corinthian’s are tolerating an openly sexual morality. Paul is loud and vehement in his opposition. The offender is porniea or incest. The book of Leviticus says the relationship was with his father’s wife or his step-mother. The woman was a non-believer and did not receive any rebuke from Paul. This is an example of Paul’s persuasive style. Paul says he has no business to judge those on the outside of the Church. On the other hand, Paul rebukes the Corinthians for their inaction in this matter. Furthermore, they are to remove the offender from the Corinthian church. If they fail to remove the offender this will do harm to the Church. The main factor is not so much the incest but the exclusion of the offender from the community. In this case study all three paraenesis are found: traditional, the moral issue of incest, situational, the advice offered by Paul, finally, the ecclesiastical, the rebuke of the Church and the community.

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