Remember our primer on mysteries in Paul’s writing? How a mystery in the ancient Mediterranean wasn’t something you call in a detective for, but rather a secret teaching revealed to initiates? And how Paul considers the gospel of Jesus Christ a mystery, a hidden knowledge from God into which he wants to initiate, if possible, every single human being? Yes? Okay, good. Because in his letter to the Colossians, Paul’s talking about the mystery of Christ again.
On the whole, this All the Paul study has surprised me. I expected to encounter more friction between me and Paul; I’ve never been quite the Paul enthusiast that some of my church peers are. In my thirty-ish-year history with his writing, at times certain passages have struck me as too authoritarian, while others have seemed too theologically nebulous, too Greek, borderline pantheistic. But in tackling All the Paul here, while I’ve had to grapple with a few passages, on the whole I’ve been able to take something valuable away from each passage, dig up some good stuff and share it with you. And then Paul starts talking about slavery.
Paul is heavy on the commands in this chapter. Continuing his exhortations to moral behavior from the last chapter, he uses fifteen imperative verbs in the space of thirty-three verses, and if we expand the category to include implied commands and participial phrases used to convey normative behavior, we get something like twenty-five instances. Bottom line: that’s a lot you gotta do.
This bar is so aggressively dark that I could not concentrate on the text while eating it. But to get to the text: in today’s chapter, Paul returns to the metaphor of the body that he hinted at in yesterday’s passage (3:6) and developed more fully in 1 Corinthians 12, as we’ve seen. He underscores the importance of growth within the body, and encourages his readers to higher standards of behavior as an expression of how they’ve come to know Christ.
Let’s talk about mysteries. I’m having trouble getting started today, and we’ve got to talk about something, so mysteries it is.
Confession: I’ve never seen an episode of The Walking Dead. You’d think I’d at least have read an issue of the comic or something, but no.
Let’s get Greek. This photo is the opening page of Ephesians 1 from my Greek/English Interlinear New Testament. This is what Paul’s original writing would have looked like if someone had added accent markings to his Greek, put spaces in between the words, and written word-by-word English translations under every line. If you’re curious what Paul’s original letter looked like, check out this page for a photo of an original Greek manuscript fragment.
Tick off another verse for the Sara Groves Watch. When I read Galatians 4:7, I could instantly hear the line from the bridge of her song “The Word,” “We are no longer slaves, we are daughters and sons.” And if I had to pick a summary statement for this chapter, it’d be verse seven here: “Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.” It’s about being children of God.