This is one of those letters that the scholars are not absolutely certain was written by Shaul. I am not sure why they think that. The reason given is that the writing style is different from other letters he has written. It seems strange to me that this would not be considered one of his because he states at the end he is signing in his own handwriting, which he has done on other letters (1 Corinthians, Galatians, 2 Thessalonians, and Philemon). However, many times letters were either dictated or notes left for a scribe to complete, in which case there would be a difference between the style of a dictated letter, and one that was completed by someone else, based on notes.
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This letter was written during the time Shaul was a prisoner in Rome, around 62 A.D., and addresses an issue the congregation was having with the Gnostics, who were turning their faith away from trust to needing special knowledge, and repeats not only the reasons for faith, but he goes further to instruct them on how to live a godly life, even to how to form proper familial relationships.
Shaul starts off reminding them of the power of God and the Messiah, and how they were introduced to the Gospel he preached to them about faith.
Shaul spends a brief time (in Chapter 2) telling them that they should not allow themselves to be turned away from the truth of Messiah by either of the philosophies they were being told about. One was the need for special knowledge, secret codes and such that is the system called Gnosticism. The other was the idea of performance-based salvation, which was the old argument of legalistic observance vs. faith-based obedience.
I see this same problem in Christianity today, as well as in Judaism (to a lesser degree): the need to know exactly when, what every little statement means (I mean, no one will ever know what the 666 means. I really believe when the antichrist is in charge, we won’t need to see his number- we’ll know that the world is being led by a demon. The need to know is not something that God requires of us; instead, it is the need to trust that he is in charge is all we really need to know- that and what he tells us to do in the Torah.
If you ask me, those who are all about the “proper” calendar, and numerology, and astrology, etc. are concentrating on minutia, and in some way, substituting the event as more important than the one the event is about. If I am celebrating the Holy Days based on the Jewish calendar I bought on Amazon, but somewhere there is a more accurate calendar that says I am a day off, here or there, I seriously doubt that I will go to hell for that.
The need to follow the “correct” calendar, to not worship anything not in the Torah, to refuse to worship anything created, to reject all man-made traditions Carte Blanc, is (as I have stated in my ministry many times) what I believe to be a modern form of the legalistic approach to worship that Shaul is arguing against in many of his letters to Gentiles who are being confused by both Jews and Gentiles regarding the proper form of worship.
He spends the majority of this letter reminding them that they were spiritually circumcised when they accepted Yeshua, and that their faith is what saves them. Their old ways of sin were put to death when they were reborn in the Messiah. He reiterates that they must do away with foul language, sexual immorality, lust, greed, and other sins of the flesh.
And, if we chance assuming that the issues he mentions are mentioned because he heard that they were problems being experienced within that congregation, then we can see that there was a lot to fix in this group of believers.
He states that all are one in the body of the Messiah- there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, free nor slave, etc. Of course, he is speaking figuratively here, talking about our spiritual selves. There will always be differences between people who are believers in the Messiah, Yeshua. The point is that we are not to hold onto any of the old biases or prejudices that we did before we were saved.
He gives one of my favorite verses in his admonitions on submission to each other, in that in Chapter 3, verse 23 he is telling slaves to do what they are told not because their master is watching; rather, they should do everything for the Lord, and not just for men, because that way they will receive an inheritance from God.
Even though he is addressing slaves, this is good advice for all of us.
Shaul ends with the usual greetings to everyone, and if he didn’t write this letter, I have to assume since he spent the time to sign it himself, he must have (at least) proofread it.
The next letters we will review are to the Thessalonians, and since both letters are fairly short, I will cover them both in the same lesson.
Until then, l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!