Article Review:

Theo Preiss' “Life in Christ and Social Ethics in the Epistle to Philemon
Life in Christ

Offered by DN.

      Theo Preiss, a pastor in the French Reformed Church, wrote a series of essays centering on the idea of the connection between juridical and participatory or mystical ideas in New Testament theology. These were gathered into one volume in Studies in Biblical Theology Series entitled Life in Christ. The second essay, “Life in Christ and Social Ethics in the Epistle to Philemon,” makes some special contributions to the discussion of our seminar. Its essential content is thus.

      When engaging the question of social ethic, the Christian must realize that no general program, however fine and practical, will ever realize what the gospel proclaims: the new heavens and the new earth where righteousness dwells. Only the gospel itself can penetrate to the personal center and permeate personal relations. It is to this human center that Paul speaks in the letter to Philemon.

      The Jewish idea of the shaliakh, “the messenger is as the one who sends him,” must be seen not only in Paul’s authority as apostle of Christ, but also now in Onesimus’ standing as the shaliakh of Paul. When with Paul Onesimus is the representative of Philemon and when with Philemon the representitive of Paul. Thus, “fraternity, unity in Christ, seizes upon the relation of slave and master, shatters it and fulfills it upon quite another plane” (p. 40). Because the “master” in whom we are “brothered” and incorporated is himself the slave of all, fraternity simultaneously shatters old relation of master and slave and fulfills it by making all slaves as their master. This is no mere program; it is the gospel penetrating to the human center.

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