Full Project – ETHICS IN THE NEW CREATION: A PERSPECTIVE FROM PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

Full Project – ETHICS IN THE NEW CREATION: A PERSPECTIVE FROM PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIANS

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ABSTRACT

Christianity places a very high premium on its conviction that the believer in Christ is free! Freedom in Christ is undoubtedly one of the most fundamental convic-tions of Christian faith and central to its proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, there often seems to be a disparity between the confession of this freedom and living it to the full. It seems that Christians are quick to proclaim freedom in a soteriological sense, but often most cautious to celebrate this free-dom on an ethical level. Can one honestly be at peace with a conviction stating: “We are free, but please, put it on hold for Christ’s sake!” If we are free in Christ, do we not honour Him precisely by living and celebrating this gift? All too often communities of faith do not celebrate their freedom, probably be-cause they, quite understandably, do not trust themselves with their freedom and fear succumbing to the flesh once more. Obviously, this in itself is quite understandable. One should not put one’s trust in oneself. But when this dis-trust is extended to include the Spirit of Christ within us, it is fundamentally wrong. All too often this fear of succumbing to the flesh is dealt with by revert-ing to some form of prescriptive ethic within which we feel ourselves to be safe – sometimes, tragically, even saved! Sadly, this reveals an underlying distrust that Christ and his Spirit will provide us with true freedom and help us live this freedom to the full. St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians is foundational for the church. It is a landmark document in the Christian library: a trend setting document as it were. It is, as will be argued, almost without a doubt the oldest of St. Paul’s letters and, for that matter, the oldest canonical book of the NT. It was born at the forefront of Christian expansion on the dividing line between being in Christ and being without Him. It was a time in which the newly born Church was wrestling with the question of what to do with its Jewish roots. At one end they were being challenged by Christians converted from paganism, who did not take a Jewish ethos for granted. At the other end there were converts from Judaism who found it difficult to cast off their old Jewish mould, and of whom some even in-sisted on retaining Torah as an ethical standard. Galatians could be seen as a literary watershed for the young Christian Movement trying to come to grips with the question of what ethos befits those in Christ. The fact that it was writ-ten by a born Jew and Roman citizen, who was acknowledged by no less than the “Jerusalem pillars” as the Apostle to the Gentiles, enhances the significance of the letter in defining the Christian ethic of freedom.

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