Mar 20, 2015

New Perspective on Paul



Quite interestingly, Paul’s gospel is one of the most divisive accounts in all of human history.

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.  Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.” – Romans 5:1-2 (NLT)

Before we can fully appreciate the new perspective on Paul, we must unpack the old perspective.  To begin, the term themselves are misleading. Paul preached salvation though the Grace of God to those who professed belief in Christ Jesus. From what we can tell, the original twelve apostles preached faith in Christ and a commitment to good works.

What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone?James 2:14 (NLT)

From a Catholic perspective, these ideas were not so different. Good deeds, work coming from a Christ-like heart, result from faith.  Faith leads to good deeds.  No matter how you arrange these ideas they reconcile with each other easily.  The acceptance of this idea was seem in the early Church which endorsed both letters.  Paul himself encouraged all the faithful to be charitable in his Jerusalem collection.  In the 16th century Martin Luther, in an attempt to challenge the corruption in the Catholic hierarchy began a protest against the Church challenging among other things, the idea of salvation through faith and work. He held a very limited, somewhat narrow-minded view of Judaism in Paul’s time.  Luther viewed the Jews of being a legalistic works-based religion what left salvation to the actions of the believers.  This view, combined with his protest against the Church caused an overemphasis on the idea of salvation by faith alone.  This view became a driving force for the Protestant Reformation, which drew parallels between the Catholic Church and perceived Jewish Legalism.  Interestingly, this shift led to a type of religious/theological lawlessness among the incalculable Protestant/Spirit Churches of today. Both ideas were addressed by Paul in his letters.

This brings us to the “New Perspective” on Paul, though it is perhaps a re-emphasis on the original perspective.  In the late 1970’s and early 1980’s three Scripture scholars produced influential works on the topic.  Krister Stendahl put forth the idea that Paul was not denying righteous works to merit favor, he was condemning the legalism and labels displayed in the Roman, Galatian, and Colossian Churches. James Dunn argued that “works of the Law” were normal actions of a covenant people. The last challenge to the Lutheran-perspective is that Paul was arguing against Judaizers who demanded that gentile converts be circumcised and follow Jewish dietary laws.  Ultimately, this new perspective theory emphasizes life in the Spirit.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.  The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.”

“God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.” – Romans 8:1-4, 29-30 (NLT)


For your consideration, I put forth that Romans chapter 8 can serve as a summary of Paul’s Gospel.

Parts in this Series
1. Paul’s Gospel is about Gospeling
2. Euro-Centric Christianity
3. Legalism
4. Lawlessness
5. Paul’s Gospel
6. The New Perspective on Paul is Catholic

____________________
Sources

  • Dunn, James D. G. The Gospel and the Gospels. Durham: University of Durham, 2013.
  • Hensell, Eugene, O. S. B. The New Perspective on St. Paul. n.d. http://www.biblicalcourses.com/workshops/introduction-to-saint-paul/the-new-perspective-on-st-paul/ (accessed March 15, 2015).
  • Longhenry, Ethan. A Study of Denominations. n.d. http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/history/judaizers/#sthash.U5aqE3tS.dpbs (accessed March 13, 2015).
  • Puskas, Charles B., and Mark Reasoner. The Letters of Paul: An Introduction. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993.
  • Rocca, Francis X. "Pope: Catholic educators must share Gospel with multicultural society." Catholic News Servce/USCCB, February 2014.
  • Russle, Walt. Who Were Paul's Opponents in Galatia? Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990.
  • "The New Living Translation Bible, Catholic Reference Edition." Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. , 2001.
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Mar 19, 2015

Paul’s Gospel of Grace



“So I am eager to come to you in Rome, too, to preach the Good News. For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” – Romans 1:15-17 (NLT)

The Letter to the Romans is one of Paul’s greatest works.  He did not write this to correct the Romans, he had not established the Church. Instead he wrote to introduce himself before he traveled there.  In it, he summarized his Gospel and made his plans clear.

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.  As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. “But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them? And how will anyone go and tell them without being sent?– Romans 10:9-15 (NLT)

See how he clearly outlines his belief that salvation is for all who believe and that his mission is one ordained by the Lord to share the Good News of Jesus Christ.

For Christ didn’t send me to baptize, but to preach the Good News—and not with clever speech, for fear that the cross of Christ would lose its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17 (NLT)



To truly examine the aspects of Paul’s Gospel we can look at the two parts of the Christ Hymn from Philippians

Though he was God,    he did not think of equality with God     as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;    he took the humble position of a slave    and was born as a human being.When he appeared in human form,     he humbled himself in obedience to God    and died a criminal’s death on a cross. – Philippians 2:6-8 (NLT)
 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor    and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,    in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,    to the glory of God the Father. – Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)

Verses 5-8 show a downward descent of Christ, from heaven to human form.  Jesus is God, but he cannot rely on his divinity, he chooses to live and be human throughout all of his human life. This makes his death a truly human self-giving act of love.  Notice this act is self-giving not self-denying. This descent mirrors the creation account. The original relationship between God and man is seen in the story of Adam and Eve. They wanted to be “like God” and for their act of prideful disobedience they distorted their relationship with God.  Jesus on the other hand, fulfilled the original relationship God intended with man.  A relationship characterized by total dependence on God, a humanity willing to follow the Divine Will.  Jesus real action overcame the selfish, prideful, nature of humanity. Allowing himself to be crucified, Jesus chose to follow God’s plan to his ultimate end without any disobedience, instead he permitted this to happen out of love for God and us.

Paul believes that Christ’s self-sacrifice fulfilled the original purpose of God and restored humanity to communion with God. The second half of the hymn is one that ascends.  Verses 9-11 show God exulting Jesus above all creation.  The crucifixion did what no other human act could do, it restored man with God.  The Resurrection gave hope to all who accept Christ. 

So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News.  For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.  And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way of life and immortality through the Good News.  And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.– 2 Timothy 2:8-11 (NLT)

How does this apply to us today? Are we accepting of Christ’s sacrifice for us? Do we accept his love in our “fallen” sinful state? Do we hope for the Resurrection and full communion with God?

Parts in this Series
1. Paul’s Gospel is about Gospeling
2. Euro-Centric Christianity
3. Legalism
4. Lawlessness
5. Paul’s Gospel
6. The New Perspective on Paul is Catholic

____________________
Sources

  • Dunn, James D. G. The Gospel and the Gospels. Durham: University of Durham, 2013.
  • Hensell, Eugene, O. S. B. The New Perspective on St. Paul. n.d. http://www.biblicalcourses.com/workshops/introduction-to-saint-paul/the-new-perspective-on-st-paul/ (accessed March 15, 2015).
  • Longhenry, Ethan. A Study of Denominations. n.d. http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/history/judaizers/#sthash.U5aqE3tS.dpbs (accessed March 13, 2015).
  • Puskas, Charles B., and Mark Reasoner. The Letters of Paul: An Introduction. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993.
  • Rocca, Francis X. "Pope: Catholic educators must share Gospel with multicultural society." Catholic News Servce/USCCB, February 2014.
  • Russle, Walt. Who Were Paul's Opponents in Galatia? Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990.
  • "The New Living Translation Bible, Catholic Reference Edition." Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. , 2001.
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Mar 18, 2015

Lawlessness


This challenge to Paul’s Gospel is quite the opposite the previous two examinations of the Judaizers and the legalistic approach.  Both of those ideas focus on a strict adherence to a code of law.  They were based on ethnicity, human constructs, and false teaching.  This next and final group is a type of “anything goes” way of life which flows from the false teachings of non-believers and “strange philosophies”.

In his letter to the Hebrews, Paul writes

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your strength comes from God’s grace, not from rules about food, which don’t help those who follow them.” – Hebrews13:8-9 (NLT)

Paul speaks about “strange, new” ideas.  With a closer examination of his letter to the Colossians we see the “strange ideas emerge”. 

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. (2:8-10)… So don’t let anyone condemn you for what you eat or drink, or for not celebrating certain holy days or new moon ceremonies or Sabbaths. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things. Their sinful minds have made them proud. – Colossians 2:16-18 (NLT)

Paul is not so clear about who these false teachers are.  There are three theories.  First, they were Stoic philosophers mentioned in Luke’s Acts of the Apostles.  Second, they were Jewish Ascetics.  Third, could have been an early, primitive form of Gnosticism. In any event, this group of false teachers preached a false gospel that through human rules about diet, drink, self-denial, and rituals believers could earn admittance to heaven and commune with angels. As we already saw, these strange philosophies lead to a strict legalism based on rules to be followed.  These ideas also promote a total denial of the human body’s feelings, desires, and tastes. Completely contrary to Christian teaching, this group views human nature as evil. Such a philosophy neglects the fact that Jesus was the Incarnate Word, fully human and fully divine. 

Paul goes so far to challenge universalism.  It seems that these false teachers preached the idea of wisdom over revelation, of a merging of beliefs instead of steadfastness in Christ, and the acceptance of general immorality.

 Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ.  For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.  So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority…. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.  Because of these sins, the anger of God is coming. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world.  But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds.  Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.  In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. – Colossians 2:8-10, 3:5-11 (NLT)

Paul passionately confronts this idea of lawlessness and immorality in his Second Letter to the Corinthians.  Corinth was one of the great commercial hubs in the Mediterranean world and had a large Christian community.  At the time of this letter it seemed that the community was fractured, many had succumbed to false preachers, and had accepted the sinful ways of their members without calling fellow Christians to right living. Paul wrote to boldly confront this lawlessness and false teaching. 

Christians are not saved by the Old Testament Law, by the rules, or a lack of moral law.  We were saved by Christ who printed in our hearts His Law of love. This love leads to righteousness. “Either way, Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.” – 2 Corinthians 5:14 (NLT)

What does this mean for us today?  Are we living with the love of Christ in our hearts, following His law, and loving others? Or are we living according to our own interpretation of what is right? Do we live by a “YOLO” philosophy (you only live once, so do what makes you happy)? Do we listen to the Church or disregard it? 

Parts in this Series
1. Paul’s Gospel is about Gospeling
2. Euro-Centric Christianity
3. Legalism
4. Lawlessness
5. Paul’s Gospel
6. The New Perspective on Paul is Catholic

____________________
Sources

  • Dunn, James D. G. The Gospel and the Gospels. Durham: University of Durham, 2013.
  • Hensell, Eugene, O. S. B. The New Perspective on St. Paul. n.d. http://www.biblicalcourses.com/workshops/introduction-to-saint-paul/the-new-perspective-on-st-paul/ (accessed March 15, 2015).
  • Longhenry, Ethan. A Study of Denominations. n.d. http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/history/judaizers/#sthash.U5aqE3tS.dpbs (accessed March 13, 2015).
  • Puskas, Charles B., and Mark Reasoner. The Letters of Paul: An Introduction. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993.
  • Rocca, Francis X. "Pope: Catholic educators must share Gospel with multicultural society." Catholic News Servce/USCCB, February 2014.
  • Russle, Walt. Who Were Paul's Opponents in Galatia? Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990.
  • "The New Living Translation Bible, Catholic Reference Edition." Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. , 2001.
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Mar 17, 2015

Legalism

Another challenge Paul encountered in defining the Gospel is the idea of Legalism. This is similar and related to the previous post on the Judaizers who wrongfully held that Christians must become Jewish in order to be favored by God.  Those who followed a path of legalism reduce Christianity to a series of rules.  This system holds that adherence to rules; dos and don’ts, all of which are human constructs, result in salvation.

We must first define different types of law to which Paul is addressing.  There was Jewish Moral Law.  Paul required all Christians to follow this because it was revealed by God and is essential to righteous living.  There were Jewish Civil laws, some of which Paul followed.  These pertained to justice and communal living.  Lastly, there were ceremonial laws which he boldly said Christians were no longer bound.

“Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed. Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” –Galatians 3:24-25 (NLT)

This quote for Paul’s letter to the Galatians puts to bed the idea that Christians must follow Moasic Law with regard to religious practice and custom.  But Paul is faced with more legalistic Christians.

Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has cast an evil spell on you? For the meaning of Jesus Christ’s death was made as clear to you as if you had seen a picture of his death on the cross.  Let me ask you this one question: Did you receive the Holy Spirit by obeying the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit, because you believed the message you heard about Christ.  How foolish can you be? After starting your new lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?  Have you experienced so much for nothing? Surely it was not in vain, was it? (NLT)

This is directly opposed to the Gospel preached by Paul.  He argued in his letters that no human law could help one get into heaven. Human laws were for humans. Heaven is not to be earned by action, but by grace from above.  Faith in Jesus Christ is necessary and the only way to inherit the Kingdom. (There will be more on “faith” later)

Legalism can lead to “labelism”, this being the belief that one is superior to others based on how he or she fulfills the man-made laws. This too is contrary to Paul’s Gospel.
“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.”  - Ephesians 4:1-3 (NLT)

For Paul, becoming Christian was not about following rules, but experiencing a change in ones’ heart because of the love of and for Jesus.  In his letter to the Ephesians Paul tells us that we are made alive with Christ, given salvation, and raised up with Christ. How does this apply to us today? As adopted children of God, we stand up for Christ, show God’s (not ours) mercy, love and serve others. Are we Christians who follow religious rules or follow Christ? This does not mean we abandon Christian traditions, customs, and practices.  After all, it is Lent and this season is about self-denial.  Paul’s message is that self-denial and rules are followed because of an interior belief and a desire to show love for and accept God’s love.  So the question for us today, is what motivates us to follow religious rules?

Parts in this Series
1. Paul’s Gospel is about Gospeling
2. Euro-Centric Christianity
3. Legalism
4. Lawlessness
5. Paul’s Gospel
6. The New Perspective on Paul is Catholic

____________________
Sources

  • Dunn, James D. G. The Gospel and the Gospels. Durham: University of Durham, 2013.
  • Hensell, Eugene, O. S. B. The New Perspective on St. Paul. n.d. http://www.biblicalcourses.com/workshops/introduction-to-saint-paul/the-new-perspective-on-st-paul/ (accessed March 15, 2015).
  • Longhenry, Ethan. A Study of Denominations. n.d. http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/history/judaizers/#sthash.U5aqE3tS.dpbs (accessed March 13, 2015).
  • Puskas, Charles B., and Mark Reasoner. The Letters of Paul: An Introduction. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993.
  • Rocca, Francis X. "Pope: Catholic educators must share Gospel with multicultural society." Catholic News Servce/USCCB, February 2014.
  • Russle, Walt. Who Were Paul's Opponents in Galatia? Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990.
  • "The New Living Translation Bible, Catholic Reference Edition." Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. , 2001.

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Mar 16, 2015

Euro-Centric Christianity


One of the earliest groups to cause Paul trouble and challenge his gospel was a group of traditional-minded Jewish Christians.  We have labeled them Judaizers because this Christian faction preached that gentile converts needed to conform the Law of Moses making themselves Jews.

While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved.”  Paul and Barnabas disagreed with them, arguing vehemently. Finally, the church decided to send Paul and Barnabas to Jerusalem, accompanied by some local believers, to talk to the apostles and elders about this question.  The church sent the delegates to Jerusalem, and they stopped along the way in Phoenicia and Samaria to visit the believers. They told them—much to everyone’s joy—that the Gentiles, too, were being converted.

When they arrived in Jerusalem, Barnabas and Paul were welcomed by the whole church, including the apostles and elders. They reported everything God had done through them.  But then some of the believers who belonged to the sect of the Pharisees stood up and insisted, “The Gentile converts must be circumcised and required to follow the law of Moses.” – Acts of the Apostles 15:1-5 (NLT)

With a closer examination of Acts we can see that a great many Jewish Christians had converted after hearing the good news and witnessing miracles.  “After hearing this, they praised God. And then they said, “You know, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews have also believed, and they all follow the Law of Moses very seriously.” – Acts 21:20 (NLT)

This group caused so many problems among the gentile converts that the first Church Council was convened.  We read in Acts 15 that at this council in Jerusalem Council the “pillars of the faith” heard all sides.  The Jewish Christians, probably Pharisees, demanded that all new Christians follow the traditional laws and customs of the Jewish people.  They claimed that in addition to belief in Christ, it was necessary for non-Jews to become Jews by adhering to the strict Mosaic Law.   The Judaizers demanded this ethnic conversion.  This reaction was fueled by the friction with the Roman authorities and a growing sense of Jewish nationalism.  This issue was less about the value of the Mosaic Law and more about the definition of Christianity.  Paul spoke on behalf of the gentile community and was vindicated when James declared that the Judiazers were to stop troubling the gentile converts.  Paul was also given the charge to proclaim the gospel to the gentiles.

The term judiazer appears only once in the New Testament.  Paul uses the term in his letter to the Galatians.  In it, he condemned Peter for being a hypocrite because until James’ people from Jerusalem (the judiazers) pressured Peter, he had been living among, with, and like the Gentiles in Galatia.

“When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?” – Galatians 2:14 (NLT)

Paul remained true to the Gospel, the Council of Jerusalem, and encouraged the new believers to live morally according to their own customs.  He did not condemn the Law, but instead held it as a personal choice. We will examine more on the Law’s precepts and legalistic practices in the next section.

What bearing does this have on us today?  For starters, in February of 2014, Pope Francis called on Catholic educators, to “offer all of their students, "with full respect for everyone's liberty and in ways appropriate to the educational context, the Christian proposal -- that is, Jesus Christ as the meaning of life, the cosmos and history.”  This is in response to his acknowledgment of the very real situation that school, universities, communities where Christian Churches serve are increasingly multicultural and non-Christian. This is very similar to Paul’s situation in Galatia.  Paul, a Jewish Christian, evangelizes to the gentiles.  He speaks to them on their terms. He philosophizes in Athens; he lives and works in Corinth; adapting his message to their situation.

“Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life. 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view.”- 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 (NLT)

Christ came for all.  As believers, we are called to stop judging others according to human standards.  The Judiazers applied the Law to the new converts.  What are the human standards we use to judge others?  Are we closed to ethnic Christians?  Do we judge and condemn non-European cultural expressions of Christianity?

Parts in this Series
1. Paul’s Gospel is about Gospeling
2. Euro-Centric Christianity
3. Legalism
4. Lawlessness
5. Paul’s Gospel
6. The New Perspective on Paul is Catholic

____________________
Sources

  • Dunn, James D. G. The Gospel and the Gospels. Durham: University of Durham, 2013.
  • Hensell, Eugene, O. S. B. The New Perspective on St. Paul. n.d. http://www.biblicalcourses.com/workshops/introduction-to-saint-paul/the-new-perspective-on-st-paul/ (accessed March 15, 2015).
  • Longhenry, Ethan. A Study of Denominations. n.d. http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/history/judaizers/#sthash.U5aqE3tS.dpbs (accessed March 13, 2015).
  • Puskas, Charles B., and Mark Reasoner. The Letters of Paul: An Introduction. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993.
  • Rocca, Francis X. "Pope: Catholic educators must share Gospel with multicultural society." Catholic News Servce/USCCB, February 2014.
  • Russle, Walt. Who Were Paul's Opponents in Galatia? Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990.
  • "The New Living Translation Bible, Catholic Reference Edition." Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. , 2001.
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Mar 15, 2015

Paul's Gospel Is About Gospeling

When we speak about the Gospel immediately our mind wonders to thoughts of the four Evangelists.  To us, “gospel” is synonymous with a biography of Jesus, for that is essentially what the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are.  Each writer focused on different aspects of Jesus, highlighting his nature, mission, and manner.  In the end, each author told a story with an introduction, conflict, climax and resolution. Their stories, though different, were quite similar.  In fact, there were more similarities than differences when compared with what St. Paul calls his Gospel.  In each of four canonical Gospel accounts, Jesus lived, taught, angered the authorities, was executed, and rose from the dead fulfilling Old Testament Messianic prophecy.

The word gospel literally means “good news”, not biography.  This term was not introduced to Christians by Mark (the first evangelist), it was first used earlier by St. Paul in his letters.  In fact, Paul borrowed the term from Roman political writers of his time who wrote gospels about their notable leaders re-telling their exploits.  Paul uses the term 60 of the 75 times it is mentioned in the New Testament, beginning in the 50’s A.D. This is a decade before Mark introduced his Gospel Account. He branded this term with the Christian message of belief in Christ, His crucifixion, the Resurrection, our life in the Spirit, and future hope because of Him.

Paul’s gospel was not a narrative with basic story elements. He had a simple message.   We can see his gospel message in this introduction to his letter to the Romans.

This letter is from Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, chosen by God to be an apostle and sent out to preach his Good News.  God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit.   He is Jesus Christ our Lord. Through Christ, God has given us the privilege and authority as apostles to tell Gentiles everywhere what God has done for them, so that they will believe and obey him, bringing glory to his name. - Romans 1:1-5 (NLT)

For Paul, the good news was Christ Jesus not Paul’s narrative or interpretation of the events surrounding Jesus.  Paul preached Christ crucified for the sake of all believers.  He believed that Jesus envisioned His own mission as gospeling, which was sharing the good news of salvation from sin and death with all would open their ears, minds, and hearts to Him.  Paul modeled his missionary work in the same fashion.

This is the first part of a six part series.  The next three sections will explore three challenges presented by Paul’s contemporaries.  The last two will explore Paul’s Gospel and living it.

Parts in this Series
1. Paul’s Gospel is about Gospeling
2. Euro-Centric Christianity
3. Legalism
4. Lawlessness
5. Paul’s Gospel
6. The New Perspective on Paul is Catholic

____________________
Sources

  • Dunn, James D. G. The Gospel and the Gospels. Durham: University of Durham, 2013.
  • Hensell, Eugene, O. S. B. The New Perspective on St. Paul. n.d. http://www.biblicalcourses.com/workshops/introduction-to-saint-paul/the-new-perspective-on-st-paul/ (accessed March 15, 2015).
  • Longhenry, Ethan. A Study of Denominations. n.d. http://www.astudyofdenominations.com/history/judaizers/#sthash.U5aqE3tS.dpbs (accessed March 13, 2015).
  • Puskas, Charles B., and Mark Reasoner. The Letters of Paul: An Introduction. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1993.
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