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Philemon 1-7


Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier, and the church in your house: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
 
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you. (ESV)
Something To Do With Red
Philemon and Onesimus
15 February 2016
A few years ago there was a flourishing interest in the speculative Jewish philosophy called Cabala. Cabala means simply "tradition." It is based in medieval texts and has an almost animistic bent to it, as exemplified by the red string bracelets to ward off the "evil eye." Do you remember Madonna sporting a natty "red string" in public? This instantly made the "red string" chic. One wonders how the string would ward off the satanic? Is Satan really frightened off by the color red? Oh well, it's a nice color anyway. Cabala has now faded into the dark from whence it came; now only a faintly remembered fad.
 
So why was there all this interest in foolishness? People's interest in Cabala was piqued by the air of novelty and mystery which hovers around it like a persistent fog. Cabala, of course, claims to disclose the deep secrets that will make your life unendingly joyful and happy. Everyone is interested in knowing the mysterious key to life (just listen to any successful mass marketing advertising!). For us Christians there is a mystery, but it is not one which is unknowable, just not susceptible to our discovery. God must reveal the mystery of our salvation by grace through Christ.
 
The sixteenth century also saw a growing interest in Cabala among Christians. However, as Martin Luther recognized, this interest was looking for answers in all the wrong places. The mystery worth knowing is the peace of God that comes to us through Christ when the burden of the law is taken from our shoulders. This freedom is the true scriptural cabala. It is the tradition of the prophets and apostles that gives us Christ and it does have something to do with red; the blood of Christ which cleanses from all sin. From that red Satan will flee.

 

Martin Luther

"This is the proper task of the apostles: to illuminate the work and the glory of Christ and to strengthen and comfort troubled consciences. For the rest, when those who know no other righteousness than that of the law fail to hear what one ought to do or ought not to do, but hear only that Christ, the Son of God, has assumed our flesh and joined Himself to the accursed in order to bless all nations this way-they either understand none of this or understand it in a purely physical way. They are preoccupied with other thoughts and with fantastic imaginings. Therefore these things are nothing but riddles to them. Even for us, who have the first fruits of the Spirit (Rm 8:23), it is impossible to understand and to believe fully, because all this is so contradictory to human reason.
 
"In short, all evils were to flood over us, as they will flood over the wicked eternally. But Christ, who became guilty of all laws, curses, sins, and evils for us, stepped in between; He took upon Himself and abolished all our evils, which were supposed to oppress and torment us eternally. They overwhelmed Him once, for a brief time, and flooded in over His head, as in Ps. 88 the prophet laments in Christ's name when he says: 'Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.'  (Ps 88:7) and: 'Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me' (Ps 88:16). Being delivered in this way from these eternal terrors and torments by Christ, we shall enjoy eternal and indescribable peace and joy, provided that we believe this.
 
"These are the adorable mysteries of Scripture, the true cabala, which even Moses disclosed rather obscurely in a few places; which the prophets and apostles knew and handed down from hand to hand to their posterity; and in which, though it was still in the future, the prophets rejoiced more than we do, even though it has now been revealed."  
 
Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, 3.13
 
Prayer
Lord God, send Your Holy Spirit to make us eager students of the prophets and apostles that we might faithfully follow the tradition of Christ, whose blood cleanses us from all sin. Amen.
 
For all those who are being persecuted for the sake of Christ, that they would be kept steadfast against the onslaughts of Satan
 
For Steve Emshoff, who is recovering from pneumonia, that the Lord Jesus would grant him healing and a full recovery of strength
 
For those who are tempted by sexual sin, that God our Lord would lead them to faithful abstinence that they might extol godly marriage

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Isenheim Altarpiece (1515)

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