The apostle Paul often uses dichotomies. In other words, he divides people into two groups that do not overlap. It’s impossible for a person to be in both groups at the same time. Here’s a list of some dichotomies that are found in his epistles:
“in Adam” or “in Christ”
“under law” or “under grace”
“dead in sin” or “alive in Christ”
Many more could be listed, but for now let’s look at an example in
Ephesians 5:6-14 where Paul uses the dichotomy of “darkness” and “light.” He describes the judgment of God that comes on the disobedient (those who are darkness) and warns the believers (those who are light) not to be involved with them. In verse 8 he says very explicitly that the believers were once “darkness” but now are “light in the Lord.” Paul doesn’t leave room for some middle ground that is between darkness and light.
The next few verses describe how his readers should live in the light and how the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of righteousness, goodness and truth in the children of light. Paul warns them again in verse 11 not to have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but to expose them. Light exposes what is in darkness. He then adds a poetic passage in verse 14 describing how Christ will shine on them. Their light comes from Christ.
Paul uses dichotomies in his letters to help his readers understand some difficult theological concepts. In the next few weeks we will look at more examples. Soon you will be able to pick them out yourself and improve your own understanding.