A few days ago, I shared some … unique allegorical insights from an early 2nd century Christian work, entitled The Epistle of Barnabas. Today, I wanted to share something positive and uplifting from that old letter. In the decades immediately following the death of the apostles, it was apparently common to frame the issue of salvation and allegiance to Christ as “the two ways to live.”
One very early Christian text, which may have been in circulation before the Apostle John even wrote the Book of Revelation, discusses these “two ways,” and remarks, “There are two ways, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two ways,” (Didache 1.1). In The Epistle of Barnabas, the author went into great detail and contrasted the way of salvation and the way of continued rebellion and allegiance to Satan. It’s excellent stuff, and it’ll still preach today …
The way of light
Here is what the letter reads (Barnabas 19). The author describes what a faithful, believing life in submission and allegiance to Christ as Lord actually looks like:
Therefore, the way of light is this: if anyone desires to travel along the way to the appointed place, let him be diligent in his works. Therefore the knowledge which was given to us to walk in it is as follows.
You shall love the one who made you, fear the one who created you, and glorify the one who redeemed you from death. You shall be sincere in heart and rich in spirit. You shall not be joined with those who walk in the way of death. You shall hate everyone who is not pleasing to God. You shall hate all hypocrisy. You shall never forsake the commandments of the Lord.
You shall not exalt yourself, but shall be humble in all things. You shall not take glory upon yourself. You shall not plot an evil plan against your neighbor. You shall not permit arrogance in your soul.
You shall not commit sexual immorality, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not corrupt children. The word of God shall not go out from you with anyone impure. You shall not show favoritism. when correcting someone concerning sin. You shall be gentle. You shall be quiet. You shall tremble at the words which you have heard. You shall not bear a grudge against your brother.
Do not be double minded, whether it will happen or not. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain. You shall love your neighbor more than your own life. You shall not murder a child by abortion, and again, you shall not kill the just-born one. Do not withhold your hand from your son or from your daughter, but you shall teach them from youth the fear of God.
You shall not yearn after the things of your neighbor. You shall not be greedy, you shall not be joined by your soul with the haughty, but be associated with the humble and righteous. The activity that happens to you accept it as good, knowing that nothing takes place without God.
You will be neither double-minded nor glib of tongue. You will be subject to your master as a copy of God, in modesty and fear. Do not command your male slave or female slave in bitterness, who are hoping in the same God, lest they cease to fear the God over you both, because he does not come to call with partiality, but to whom the Spirit prepares.
You shall share in all things with your neighbor and you shall not say it is your own. For if you are sharers in the incorruptible, how much more in the corruptible? You shall not be quick to speak, for the mouth is a snare of death. To the degree that you are able, you shall be pure for the sake of your soul.
Do not reach out your hand first to receive, only to pull back from giving. You shall love as the apple of your eye everyone who speaks the word of the Lord to you. You shall remember the day of judgment night and day, and you shall seek out every day the presence of the saints, either by laboring in word and going out to encourage and striving to save a soul by the word, or with your hands doing work as a ransom for your sins.
You shall not hesitate to give nor grumble while giving, but you will come to know who is the good paymaster of the reward. You shall guard what you have received, neither adding to nor taking away from. You shall utterly detest the evil one. You shall judge justly.
You shall not cause division, but make peace by bringing together those who fight. You shall make confession for your sins. You shall not come to prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of light.
The way of darkness
But, what about the other path? The letter continues (Barnabas 20):
But the way of the Black One is crooked and filled with cursing, for it is the way of eternal death with punishment, in which are the things which destroy their soul: idolatry, arrogance, arrogance in an influential position, hypocrisy, acts of duplicity, adultery, murder, robbery, pride, transgression, deceit, malice, stubbornness, use of potions, magic, greediness, lack of fear of God; persecutors of the good, hating the truth, loving the lie, not knowing the reward of righteousness, not joining the good, not judging righteously, not being concerned about the widow and orphan, not caring in the fear of God but for what is evil, from whom gentleness and endurance are inseparably removed, loving what is worthless, pursuing reward, not having mercy on the poor, not toiling for the downtrodden, prone to slander, not knowing the one who made them, murderers of children, corrupters of the creatures of God, rejectors of the needy ones, oppressors of the afflicted, defenders of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, people steeped in sin.
This is good stuff. It’s still convicting today. Some things never change.
Both excerpts were quoted from The Apostolic Fathers in English, translated Rick Brannan (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012).