Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

8.2.1 Introduction

Paul never composed a system of ethics. He mostly gave answers to concrete situations within the church. His imperatives are often situation dependent (Kant would almost say “hypothetical”) and must not be simply taken as categorical. The most meaning is found in the discourse with the Jewish law – this is however a primarily theological and only secondarily ethical topic. With regard to the general applicability of Pauline ethic:

  1. On the one hand: situation dependent instruction cannot simply be turned into a generalized commandment
  2. On the other hand: just because a rule is situation dependent does not mean you can simply write it off in all other situations.

(Wendland pg 84 -)


The primacy of love in Rom 13:8, 1 Kor 13 (between Chapters 12 and 14) is in exact agreement with Jesus double commandment to love in Matt 22:37-40. 


Love manifests in the church as being considerate of the weakest ones. 

  1. (Concrete Benchmark for love)Edification of the church.
  2. (Benchmark for individuals) Does it further the good? 1.Kor.6,12
  3. Does it have power over me? (Demonic power – being controlled by the powers of the world)

Love as consideration towards the weak ones in the church means, in concrete terms, the voluntary restriction of your own freedom (common example in situational ethics) for example consuming meat that was offered to idols (1 Cor 8).

And it gets enriched through the idea of relativizing everything relative:  

Ex: Women Ephesians 5:21 or 1 Cor 11)

Relativized by verse 21 “submit to one another” which was revolutionary in ancient time. 

Ex: Marriage 1 Cor 7:1 is probably a quote and not a commandment, but Charisma. 

Relativized by ωσ μη: “as if not” in verse 29

Ex: Slaves Col 3:22 – 

Relativized by –  verse 23: you serve your heavenly master not earthly masters and b) Gal 3:28 there is neither slave nor free


The decision of the Apostle to make the well-being of the church his highest criterion in conflict situation can easily be misunderstood as back-pedaling from Jesus’ freedom into a civil inconspicuousness. Both of these concepts lie very close together. However Paul relativizes all civil norms, even if he upholds them. A final reason for this foundational attitude is that the church is not meant to be valued as a civil club but as the body of Christ. 


When conflicts arise in the church, Paul does not ask “what is theologically correct?” (he knows this anyhow) but “what serves the church?”

This church centered ethic is a totally different approach to the questions we ask today about the theological correctness of a particular topic.