The Legacy of Paul the Apostle

 

 

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The Legacy of Paul the Apostle

by Dr Alex Tang

“Is Paul a follower of Jesus or the founder of Christianity?”

1.                   Paul in Acts 13-14, 15:1-41

1.1               Paul’s First Missionary Tour, c.A.D. 45-47

(1)                 Paul and Barnabas chosen to go to the Gentiles (Acts 13:2-3)

(2)                 Paul and Barnabas sail for Cyprus with John Mark (Acts 13:4-5)

(3)                 Conflict with Elymas; Sergius Paulus converted (Acts 13:7-12)

Sergius Paulus was the first Gentile convert who has totally no background in Judaism. Paul’s direct approach was the greatest innovative development of his first missionary journey.

(4)                 Apostles sail to Perga (Acts 13:13)

(5)                 John Mark returns to Jerusalem (Acts 13:13)

(6)                 At Antioch Paul preaches to Jews and Gentiles; persecution arises (Acts 13:14-52)

(7)                 Many Jews and Gentiles won at Iconium; persecution threatened (Acts 14:1-5)

(8)                 Cripple healed; attempt to worship apostles (Acts 14:6-18)

(9)                 Paul stoned, left for dead; goes to Derbe  (Acts 14:19-20)

(10)             Many converted at Derbe; apostles retrace steps, organising churches (Acts 14:21-23)

(11)             Apostles preach in Perga; sail to Antioch from Attalia (Acts 14:25-26)

(12)             Apostles return to Antioch; gave account of mission to Gentiles (Acts 14:26-28)

 

1.2               The Jerusalem Council Regarding Gentile Conduct, c. A.D. 49

(1)                 Men from Judea visit Antioch; they insist on circumcision and create dissension (Acts 15:1-2)

It was some time before Jewish Christians with their ancestral food restrictions and other social customs, learned to mix freely with the Gentile Christians. There was one awkward occasion when Peter, on a visit to Antioch, felt obliged to desist from sharing meals with Gentile Christians because a message from Jerusalem cams to him telling of the embarrassment which his free-and-easy ways were causing his fellows-disciples in Jerusalem. The public conflict between Paul and Peter occurs before Jerusalem Council (Gal 2: 11-21). This resulted in an organised counter mission program by the Judaisers to follow Paul into the churches of Galataia and Achaia to rectify Paul’s teachings. Paul wrote Galatians before the Jerusalem Council (The South Galatian Theory)

(2)                 Paul and Barnabas sent to meet leaders in Jerusalem (Acts 15:2-3)

(3)                 Council meets; Peter witnesses to God’s acceptance of Gentiles; Paul and Barnabas tell of God’s grace among Gentiles; James formulates decree to be passed on to Gentiles (Acts 15:4-29)

Gentiles believers need not be circumcised. However they need to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from meat of strangled animals and from blood.

Paul accepted the four cultural abstentions out of respect for the Jewish believers because Moses was widely read and preached, and these Gentile restraints would ease Jewish conscience and facilitate Jewish-Gentile intercourse.

John Newton wrote, “Paul was a reed in non-essentials, - an iron pillar in essentials”.

(4)                 Barsabas and Silas sent to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:22,27,32)

(5)                 The council’s decree given to the church at Antioch (Acts 15:30-34)

(6)                 Paul and Silas embark on missionary tour and deliver to the churches the Jerusalem decree. Paul’s Second Missionary Tour.

 

2.                   Paul’s Theology

Paul’s theology is a theology that arises out of conflict. He did not sit down and write a thesis on systemic theology. He deals with questions and conflicts from his various churches. The bulk of his theology can be deduced from 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Romans. We find our way into the heart of Paul’s theology and into the heart of the man himself”

1 Cor 2:2 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

2.1               Sin

2.1.1          Sin is connected with Adam; adam is a Hebrew word that means man, humanity. That is, sin is co-extensive with the human race and proper to the being of man as such, not an accident but a definition of human nature.

2.1.2          Sin is connected with idolatry, the most primitive of all sins. It is essentially a theological (rather than a moral) concept, a relation (or a lack of relation) with God. It exists wherever God is dispossessed of his place and his right. In this sense, both the Jews and the Gentiles are idolators. The root of idolatry (to press the point further) is pride, for the only way in which man can put himself on a level with his God, the being whom he worships, is by denying the true God and putting a non-god in his place. This makes him an idolator.

2.1.3          The consequences of sin are death. The more man seeks life in and for himself the more he turns his back on God, who is life. Again the story of Adam (man). By rebelling, seeking life by illicit means, Adam condemns himself to death. This man collectively, continues to do.

2.1.4          It follows that sin, like death, is a matter that concerns the whole person, not a part of him. It is the definition of human existence for this age.

2.2               Cosmos

2.2.1          Independently of man and objectively, the universe is perverted because it has come under the wrong direction: under wrong rulers. It is in bondage to corruption (Rom 8:21); the elements of the cosmos (Gal 4:3) and other powers have seized control. The enemy is at large and the war is not over (1 Cor 15:24,25). Man is subject to death; even Christians continue to be threatened by evil powers (Rom 8:38,39).

2.2.2          The disorder is anthropological as well as cosmos. The essence of it is that man lives within a closed circle of his own existence, seeking to control his own affairs in his own interests. Turning away from God and manufacturing deities according to his own choice he falls into foolishness and immoral behaviour. As a result, he abuses the good gifts of God, such as the Law.

2.3               The Law

2.3.1 The Law- covenantal nomism. (1) God has chosen Israel and (2) given the law. The law implies (3) God’s promise to maintain the election and (4) the requirement to obey. (5) God rewards obedience and punishes transgression.(6) The law provides for means of atonement, and atonement results in (7) maintenance or  re-establishment of the covenant relationship. (8) All those who are maintained in the covenant by obedience, atonement and God’s mercy belong to the group which will be saved. An important interpretation of the first and last point is that election and ultimately salvation are considered to be by God’s mercy rather than human achievement [Paul and Palestinian Judaism].

2.4               Messianic Affliction and the Cross

2.4.1          Unfortunately man perverted the law by making it legalistic. The Law is good in itself but sin has taken advantage of it, corrupted it, and made out of it another law, a different law (Rom 7: especially 10-13, 21-23)

2.4.2          Grace. mercy, love constitutes the motive that has let God now to do that which the Law, weak through the fresh could not do.

2.4.3          Moses and the prophets predicted 3 events: Firstly that the Christ would suffer, secondly that he would be the first to rise from the dead, and thirdly he would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.

2.4.4          Jesus Messiah is another Adam, firstborn from the dead and elder brother of the family of the resurrected.

2 Cor 5:21

 

Him who knew no sin                                         we

he made                                                              might become

sin                                                                       God’s righteousness

on our behalf                                                      in him

 

2.4.5          The one innocent and righteous person suffered on behalf of others who were not innocent or righteous but in such a way that hey entered into his suffering (Rom 6:3-11). Jesus thus became the new Adam, founder of new humanity. Their relationship to him  is described in the fundamental Pauline phrase in Christ. Union with Christ is described in terms of faith and baptism, and the actualisation of faith and baptism in death to sin. Thus Paul found the Judaic concept of the Messiah affliction in the cross

2.5               Justification by Faith

2.5.1          Forensic righteousness.

The meaning of the righteousness of God. In the Greek worldview, ‘righteousness’ is an idea or ideal against which an individual can be measured. E.g. ‘Justice must be satisfied’. In Hebrew thought ‘righteousness is more relational – ‘righteousness’ as the meeting of obligations laid upon an individual by the relationship of which he or she is part of. A classic example is 1 Sam.24: 17: King Saul was unrighteous in that he failed in his duty as king to his subject; David was more righteous because he refused to lift his hand in violence against God’s anointed. It was a relationship of mutual obligation. Paul understood that God’s righteousness was to be understood as God’s activity in drawing individuals into and sustaining them within a relationship as ‘the power of God for salvation’.

2.5.2          Romans 4:4-5 (Reformation principle of justification by faith)

4 Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.  5 However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

2.5.3          There is no abuse of justice for God to justify the wicked. This is where the law court metaphor breaks down. In a law court, there is strictly speaking no place for forgiveness. The law must take its due process. In the Hebrew understanding of mutual obligation between partners, there is.

2.5.4          Paul’s doctrine of atonement is not substitution (Jesus died and the sinner went scot-free). Rather Paul taught that Christ’s death as a representative death, the death of all, of sinful flesh. His gospel is not that the trusting sinners escaped death but rather that they shared in Christ’s death. Justification is not a once and for all act of God. It is rather the initial acceptance by God into restored relationship. But thereafter the relationship cannot be sustained without God continuing to exercise his justifying righteousness with a view to the final act of judgement and acquittal. Put another way, the justified do not become sinless. They continue to sin. Consequently, without God’s continuing exercise of his justifying righteousness, the salvation will be aborted. Martin Luther “sinner and justified at one and the same time.”

2.6               In Christ

Paul taught little about the life of Jesus. He emphases on the resurrection of that is the pivotal point of his whole belief. That Jesus has risen from the dead was the proof and authentication of his whole theology.

2.6.1          Deissmann, in Christ = “the most intimate possible fellowship of the Christian with the living spiritual Christ”. Christ being conceived as a kind of atmosphere in which Christians lived.

2.6.2          The phrase en Christo occurs 83 times in the Pauline corpus ( 61 if we exclude Ephesians and the Pastorals).

2.6.3          The condition of ‘in Christ’ was brought about by being brought ‘into Christ’ and sustained by being ‘with Christ’.

2.6.4          Being in Christ is not any kind of mystical removal from the real world of everyday. On the contrary, it becomes the starting point and base camp for a different motivated and directed life. In Adam (a life dominated by sin and death), in Christ (an obedience enabled and enhanced by grace). Participation in Christ means a change of lordship, from the lordship of law (abused by sin) to the lordship of grace (embodied in Christ).

2.7               Eschatology

Adam/death   Christ/life
old creation/(world)   new creation

                                                                                 

            Revised eschatological  schema

    midpoint      

     endpoint

 

  cross/resurrection      parousia

           

 

                                                                                                                 

 

2.8               The Church. 1 Thess 5:11-15

11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 12 Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.

This paragraph shows all have responsibility for ministry, especially pastoral ministry, but some more so than others do. Another example in 1 Cor 16:15. the household of Stephanas were neither appointed from above nor elected from below. They set themselves for ministry to the saints. They saw a need, some work to be done and set about doing it, without waiting for orders, authorisation or request.

In the Pauline epistles, and presumably in the Pauline churches, there is no systemically ordered ministry; but we can observe (1) a concern for mutual service, which expresses itself under three headings: the word (prophecy and teach), doing practical services (diakonia), discipline; and (2)   in these various activities some naturally single themselves out to take the lead.

Note: When Paul deals with the disorder at the Corinthian supper it would be natural to write, at 1 Cor 11:21,22,33, “Wait for the presiding minister (instead of starting to eat as soon as possible and as much as possible”. But there is no indication of presiding minister and Paul can only say “Wait for one another”.

3.                   Reflections

Paul taught little about the life of Jesus. He emphases on the resurrection of that is the pivotal point of his whole belief. That Jesus has risen from the dead was the proof and authentication of his whole theology.

Paul’s message is a four-fold announcement about Jesus:

(1)     In Jesus of Nazareth, specifically in his cross, the decisive victory has been won over all the powers of evil, including sin and death itself.

(2)     In Jesus’ resurrection the new age has dawned, inaugurating the long awaited time when the prophecies will be fulfilled, while Israel’s exile will be over, and the world will be addressed by one creator God.

(3)     The crucified and risen Jesus was, all along, Israel’s Messiah, her representative king.

(4)     Jesus was therefore also the Lord, the true king of the world, the one at whose name every knee would bow.

 

Paul’s message has a double and dramatic announcement about God:

(1)     The God of Israel is the one true God, and the pagan deities are mere idols.

(2)     The God of Israel is now made known in and through Jesus himself.

 

                                                                                                                                    Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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