In these two chapters, we see what is described as the way of death and the conclusion of the Didache’s first part. Of first importance is the wording used to define the way of death. Like the way of life, the way of (represented by the Greek, δε) death is not the way to death. Unrighteousness is not a result of evil works. Evil works are the fruit of one’s unrighteousness. Evil works are, according to the author(s), evidence that a person is dead in (not by) his or her trespasses. Someone who is dead walks according to the works mentioned here, whereas someone who has been made alive walks in the works mentioned previously.
The list of fruits produced in the life of a person who is dead in his or her trespasses or who already stands condemned (cf. John 3:18) consists of “murder, adultery, lust, promiscuity, theft, idolatry, magical arts, witchcraft, robbery, false testimony, hypocrisy, duplicity, treachery, pride, malice, stubbornness, greed, foul language, jealousy, arrogance, pride, boasting, persecution, hatred of the truth, love of lies, not having good judgment, inclined to evil rather than good, not gentle or patient, loving worthless things, seeking to be rewarded, not having mercy on the poor, not working for the downtrodden, not recognizing God, murdering children (including abortion), corrupting God’s creation, turning away from the needy, oppressing the afflicted, advocating for the rich, and judging the poor unjustly.” These bad fruits are the fruits contrary to those described as the way of life. This list reflects what we see in Biblical passages like Matthew 15:19, Romans 1:29, Psalm 4:2, and Isaiah 1:23.
Notice the last line of chapter 5, “May you be delivered, my children, from all these things.” By way of induction, we recognize the doctrines that we have already seen present in this document. The author(s) recognizes that the person is unable to deliver himself from these things or choose to overcome these things. He or she must “be delivered.” The Gospel is not a self-betterment program. Salvation is not by works. The author(s) of this document recognizes that people cannot simply stop sinning or doing the works of the flesh as described here. As a result, he (or they) speaks about sin with much grace, understanding that, unless God delivers a person from sin, no one can stop sinning.
In the conclusion of this part of the Didache, the author(s) warns people about false teachers who will teach something different, contrary to the Law of God. He (or they) also writes, “For if you can bear the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you cannot, do as much as you can.” This statement is an allusion to 1 John 2:1. In fact, chapters 5-6 read much like 1-3 John, even having some stylistic similarities. This is an interesting note, especially considering the date of the Didache in either the 60s or 100s AD. Again, we see that the earliest church under the apostles and the apostolic fathers believed strongly in salvation by grace alone and in the sovereignty and providence of God, not only in salvation and over history but also in one’s sanctification. This document is strong evidence that the 16th Century reformers were truly returning to the sources of the faith.
The author(s) recognizes that God is the one who allots to each a measure of faith (cf. Romans 12:3) and that each one is only able to walk out the faith according to the degree of faith that God gives to each one according to His own will. This is a statement of ability, indicated by the words “if you can.” Similarly, if a person cannot, then he or she should do as much as he or she is enabled to do by the Holy Spirit.
The author(s), here, does not burden a person past his or her degree of faith because it is not profitable to do so. This document elevates the sovereignty and providence of God even in the work of sanctification- not a person’s works. So, if a Christian sins, we know that he or she has an advocate- Jesus Christ. If a person walks in sin, however, the evidence shows that he or she has not received the life of Christ and is in need of the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
The author(s) ends this chapter by encouraging new Christians and young churches to keep the traditions the best that they can and not to eat food sacrificed to idols, which is reflective of Acts 15:29, and so participate in the worship of dead (false) gods.