*PAUL THE APOSTLE
pôl [Pau'lov; Lat. Paulus, little]; SAUL sô1 [Sau'lov, SauVl; lwa`] only in Acts. A first-century Jew who from being a persecutor of the followers of Jesus was transformed into the leading missionary of early Christianity. He called himself an "apostle to the Gentiles" (Rom. 11:13) and was the founder of churches in Asia Minor and Greece, carrying on an extensive correspondence with these new churches as he moved about. Paul's extant letters form an important part of the NT, and Acts devotes more than half its contents to his career. He was a pioneer in formulating the doctrines and the ethical implications of the gospel. His influence has persisted across the Christian centuries, and he must be reckoned as second only to his master, Jesus Christ, as a creative personality in Christianity.
A. The life of Paul
a. Paul's letters
b. The Acts of the Apostles
2. The events in the life of Paul
d. Asia Minor and Greece
e. Jerusalem to Rome
3. Paul as a person
a. "Man of conflict"
b. Man of inward peace
c. Other traits
B. Paul's message
2. The power and righteousness of God
a. God is the author of salvation
b. The righteousness of God
c. The power of God as love
3. Man from the human point of view
4. Christ the wisdom and power of God
a. Christ the gospel's center
b. Who is Paul's Christ?
c. The origin of Paul's Christology
5. The word of the Cross
6. To everyone who has faith
a. Faith and the law
b. Faith as the opposite of boasting
c. Faith as obedience, receptivity
7. Life through the Spirit
a. What does Paul mean by the Spirit?
b. Life in and through the Spirit
c. The Pauline mysticism
8. The church is the body of Christ
a. The meaning of the church
b. The church is divinely constituted
c. The church and the eschatological event
d. The body of Christ
9. Walking by the Spirit
a. The nature of Paul's ethics
b. The Pauline standards of conduct
c. The Pauline paradox
10. The Lord is at hand
a. The importance of eschatology for Paul
b. Was Paul apocalyptic?
c. Eschatology and ethics
11. The permanent significance of Paul
A. THE LIFE OF PAUL. 1. Sources. If we may disregard the Acts of Paul, and other relatively late apocryphal works, Paul is never mentioned in any ancient nonbiblical source. Even Josephus, who might have known and been interested in him, is silent. It is clear that Paul did not sufficiently impress contemporary literary or official circles to gain recognition.
The NT, however, contains a wealth of material on Paul, for we possess not only firsthand sources in Paul's own letters to the churches but also an important and lengthy account of his missionary career by the author of Acts. These two sources are independent of each other. It is generally held among scholars that the author of Acts did not know Paul's letters. The few verbal identities and similarities between Acts and the letters are more likely to be the result of chance agreement of two writers on the same theme than of any dependence of the one on the other, while the striking differences include both significant omissions and equally significant contradictions. This independence of our sources is both an advantage and a liability. Where they agree, they confirm each other and give us confidence in the reliability of the information or understandings they convey; but when they differ, they confront us with many problems, especially since Acts is prevailingly biographical, while Paul's letters are, of course, only incidentally so. These facts not only work out in major difficulties as regards chronology, but also raise important problems with reference to Paul's career.
a. Paul's letters. The very substantial corpus of extant Pauline letters, out of what may well have been scores now lost, affords a fascinating field of study from the purely literary point of view. It is now generally acknowledged that the Pauline writings in the NT are indeed genuine letters--not, of course, private, "off the record" communications, for they are addressed to the churches and presumably intended for public reading. Even Philemon, the one genuine Pauline letter addressed to an individual, is addressed also to the "church in your house." For our purposes a letter may be defined as a communication, on whatever subject, determined as to its contents by the personal relations existing between writer and reader(s). With some small exceptions, Paul's writings conform to this definition. Even the first eight chapters of Romans, the longest discussion of a single theme (Rom. 1:16-17), have a personal purpose growing out of Paul's plans and hopes with regard to the church at Rome (1:8-15; 15:14-33).
Paul conforms to the general epistolary style of his times, with significant changes due chiefly to the nature of the message he proclaims or to his work as a missionary (see LETTER). E.g., the epistolary greeting in the usual Greek letter consisted of the writer's name, the name of the person addressed, and a greeting (caiVrein). Paul follows this pattern but enlarges it so as to indicate the Christian status of both writer and readers, with such phrases as "an apostle," "the church of God which is at Corinth, ... sanctified ..., called to be saints." He also changes "greeting" (cai"rein) to "grace" (ca"riv) and adds the familiar Semitic "peace." He often names one or two persons with himself in the salutation I Cor. 1:1;II Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; I andII Thess. 1:1), but it is unlikely that this means joint authorship; the letters are often too personal for that (see especially II Corinthians). It means rather a joint greeting. Frequently in a Greek letter a word of praise or thanks or a prayer for the health of the recipient follows the salutation. This too is so characteristic of Paul's letters that the absence of the thanksgiving from Galatians appears to be deliberate and in keeping with the tension under which he writes this letter. Apparently it was Paul's custom to dictate his letters to an amanuensis, who on one occasion identifies himself (Rom. 16:22; cf. references to Paul's writing with his own hand inI Cor. 16:21;II Thess. 3:17; Gal. 6:11; Col. 4:18).
Occasional corrections (e.g.,I Cor. 1:16), incomplete sentences (e.g., Rom. 5:12), and a general roughness and vigor of style witness to the extempore character of the compositions. But many passages are carefully and exactly phrased. E.g.I Cor. 13:1, the "hymn of love," while obviously pertinent to the unlovely divisions at Corinth, does seem to go beyond the immediate requirements of the context; and a great passage such as Phil. 2:5-11 has been thought to be from an early Christian hymn. Perhaps Paul, like an experienced preacher, makes use of passages, here and there, which have been independently composed. It is natural to suppose that extended exegesis of OT materials (cf. Rom. 15:7-12; Gal. 3:10-13; 4:21-31) often first appeared in sermons preached by Paul. And the collocations of exhortations of a general rather than specific nature, which tend to appear near the close of the letters (cf. Rom. 12:9-13;II Cor. 13:11-12; Phil. 4:8-9; and the "household lists" of Col. 3:5-4:6), bear more than a superficial resemblance to what we find in James, I Peter, and Hebrews, and witness to the beginning of a Christian "didache."
What impresses one most of all in the letters is the dominance of Paul's central message about Christ and the salvation that is in and through him. Paul does, indeed, seek to "take every thought captive to obey Christ" II Cor. 10:5). Every subject he touches--vegetarianism, women's headdress, lawsuits, personal illness, gross immorality, the status of a Christian slave, party strife--is brought into some connection with the "law" of Christ. Quite earnestly and consistently, Paul seeks to bring everything under the one principle of being "in Christ." It is this above everything else--not Paul's literary gifts, which were considerable; not his eloquence, which could leap like a flame at times--which makes his letters of permanent significance.
No autograph of any of Paul's letters is known, and none is apt to turn up. We have only copies of copies many times removed from the originals, and these copies have been edited and collected before forming the considerable part of the NT canon that we know. It is not surprising that the question of authenticity has been raised and discussed for more than a hundred years. Something like a consensus on the major questions has been achieved. Thirteen writings bear the name of Paul (the Letter to the Hebrews does not have Paul's name in the text). Of these the most important for Paul's thought, Romans, I and II Corinthians, and Galatians, are fortunately widely held to be substantially as they came from him. So are Philippians, Philemon, and I Thessalonians. Many scholars would also include Colossians and II Thessalonians, although these are often seriously questioned. Ephesians, while quite Pauline in content, is often held to be by a Paulinist; and the Pastorals, I and II Timothy and Titus, are usually thought to be post-Pauline but to contain perhaps genuine fragments of his letters.
b. The Acts of the Apostles. In Acts we possess another source of major importance for the life and thought of Paul. Since the letters contain a minimum and Acts a maximum of biographical data, we would seem to be in the happy situation of combining Paul's letters and the Acts for a knowledge of his life and his message. This is exactly what has happened across the centuries. The very simplicity and consistency of the record in Acts is impressive as the framework for the letters, which have been fitted in even when some admitted difficulties arose. If we had four Acts of the Apostles, as we have four gospels, the picture might be much less simple and consistent but nearer the truth. While errors may occur in firsthand sources, these are obviously to be preferred to secondary accounts, which must always justify themselves as over against the primary records in every case of difference. It is a mistake in method to assume that a secondary source provides a framework of events into which the primary sources must be made to fit. This is the mistake frequently made with regard to Acts, probably because it is the only source we possess for much of the biographical data we desire. The extraordinary value of Acts must not be allowed to obscure the fact that it is a later and secondary source to be critically examined in comparison with Paul's letters.
The purpose of Acts is to record the expansion of Christianity from Jerusalem to Rome under the inspiration and control of the Holy Spirit (see 1:8, which is indeed a condensed "table of contents" of the book). While Acts is not, therefore, intended as a biography of Paul, his place in it is of unparalleled importance. He is mentioned in 7:58; 8:1; the first account of his conversion comes in 9:1-30 (cf. 22:1-29; 26:1-23); the initial mission as a colleague of Barnabas is described in 11:25-30; 12:25. But beginning with 13:1, the following sixteen chapters are devoted entirely to Paul.* This considerable amount of unique material so important for the career of Paul needs to be critically assessed (see ACTS OF THE APOSTLES), but only some of the results of this study can be referred to here. It is widely recognized that Acts and Luke form a two-volume work by one author. Now we can know, from observing the way the Gospel of Luke is related to Mark and Matthew, how our author used his sources and what emphases are characteristic of him. Among these (some of them become clearer and more explicit in Acts) are the dominant role of Jerusalem and the Jerusalem church; the prominence of the Holy Spirit in the motivation, guidance, and discipline of the early church; the mission to the Gentiles acknowledged by all the leaders (even Peter was sent to the Gentiles [15:7]), with amazement but without dissension (cf. 11:18); and the innocence of Christians of any charge of rebellion against Rome, coupled with the constant malice and persecution of the Jews. This last is especially noteworthy, for Pilate three times asserts the innocence of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, while the magistrates at Philippi, Gallio in Corinth, the Roman captain, Felix, and Festus in Jerusalem regularly attest to Paul's innocence according to Acts. See map "The Travels of Paul in the Book of Acts" under ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
The straightforward narrative of Acts predisposes the reader in its favor. Is it not unwarranted to question so clear and satisfactory an account? Two answers must be given to this question: First, the author is not an eyewitness--at any rate, for most of the events he records (see ACTS OF THE APOSTLES for a discussion of the "we" passages)--and he is accordingly dependent on the reliability of his sources. Second, while it can be shown that he introduces his sources without radical re-editing, it can also be shown, in the case of the gospel, that he is quite free to select and arrange material from his sources in such a way as to bring out his own views. Much, perhaps most, of the surplus information of Acts, as compared with the letters, is to be welcomed as adding to our knowledge. When, however, Acts stands in clear contradiction to the letters (see § A2 below), the student must not be obsessed with the necessity of harmonizing the two; the letters must be accorded primary authority unless they can be shown to be themselves contradictory or otherwise of doubtful validity.
2. The events in the life of Paul. Only occasionally do Paul's letters furnish data for his biography, and while these glimpses are of great value, they do not add up to anything like a life story. We are so accustomed to draw upon Acts and the letters without discrimination that the results of isolating the biographical materials according to sources is somewhat startling; we are dependent on Acts alone for most of our knowledge of Paul's career. That he was born in Tarsus, and was a citizen of Tarsus by birth; that he was named Saul; that he was educated in Jerusalem "at the feet of Gamaliel" (Acts 22:3); that he was present at the stoning of Stephen and was a persecutor of the Jerusalem church; that he made a persecuting trip to Damascus and was converted as he approached this city; that he subsequently engaged in three distinct missionary journeys; that he was arrested in Jerusalem, appealed to Caesar as the right of a Roman citizen, and was sent to Rome for trial--all this we know only from Acts. Paul himself never mentions any one of these items. Of course, Paul's known letters may have been written before the final sea voyage to Rome, but the other data lie certainly within their scope. Probably the best arrangement of the materials on the life of Paul is geographical.
a. Tarsus. According to Acts, Paul says he was "born at Tarsus in Cilicia" (22:3; cf. 21:39), and three times in Acts he is associated with this city (9:11, 30; 11:25). While the letters do not mention Paul's birthplace, there appears to be no reason why they should, just as there appears no reason why the author of Acts should have invented it. Tarsus had a considerable reputation for culture, and, as a Hellenistic city in Cilicia--one of the early fields of Paul's missionary activity (Gal. l:21)--it would provide the environment for his use of the common Greek speech and perhaps also for some acquaintance with the kind of thinking exposed in the streets and market place by Stoic, Cynic, and other propagandists.
That he received at birth the Jewish name Saul may also be assumed without much question. While he never uses any other name than Paul in the letters, addressed as they were to churches with many Gentiles, he does claim to belong to the "tribe of Benjamin" (Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5), and Saul would be an appropriate name. It has been pointed out that the author of Acts shifts from Saul to Paul (13:9) as Paul moves into more Hellenistic territory, and that Semitisms yield in general to a superior type of Greek in the second half of Acts.
The letters also confirm in general that Paul was a Hellenistic Jew, but it is unwarranted to conclude from his birthplace that he would be acquainted in more than a superficial way with Greek philosophy and culture. He insists on the correctness of his Jewish upbringing and on his zeal for Judaism (cf. Rom. 11:1; Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:5), and we know how ingrown and intense small minorities in a large and alien city can become.
It is generally assumed that Paul came from a family of some wealth and position. That he had a trade of "tentmaker" or "leatherworker" (Acts 18:3) would not be inconsistent with this assumption, since there is reason to believe Paul was a student of the law, and every such student had a trade to live by. The letters do not add to our knowledge here, unless the phrase "We labor, working with our own hands" I Cor. 4:12), shows a self-consciousness about physical work unnatural in a hand worker. That he was a citizen of Tarsus (Acts 21:39) and of Rome by birth (Acts 22:25-28) has been much discussed, for we do not know precisely what citizenship meant in the first century, and Acts does not tell us how Paul's citizenship had been earned by his forebears. Paul himself does not mention this fact of his citizenship.
b. Jerusalem. Acts tells us of Paul's education at the feet of Gamaliel in Jerusalem (5:34; 22:3), of Paul's presence at the stoning of Stephen (7:58; 8:1; 22:20), of his persecution of the Jerusalem church (9:1), and of his journey from Jerusalem with letters to the synagogues in Damascus "so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem" (9:2). Each of these items is known to us from Acts alone, and each raises a difficulty when the letters are considered. It is strange that Paul does not mention Gamaliel, the famous rabbi, when he is asserting his own thorough grounding in Judaism. Furthermore, Paul's rigoristic interpretation of Judaism--especially his statement that failure to keep the whole law brings the legalist under a curse (Gal. 3:10)--disregards the Jewish emphasis on repentance and forgiveness, and is hard to understand if he had indeed sat at the feet of Gamaliel, a teacher of the liberal school of Hillel. Again, we face a difficulty in the account of Paul's persecution of the Jerusalem church. That he had been a persecutor of Christians is unquestioned I Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13). But he is so emphatic in asserting that after his conversion he was "still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea" (Gal. 1:20, 22) that it is difficult, indeed, to suppose that he had been active in persecuting these very churches. The view that Paul was an inconspicuous participant in the Jerusalem persecution is hardly convincing.
c. Damascus. If we had only Paul's own words in Galatians, we would assume that his place of residence at the time of his conversion was Damascus, since he never mentions Tarsus and speaks of not going "up to Jerusalem" and of returning "to Damascus" (1:17). It is the account in Acts of his education in and his persecuting activity in and out from Jerusalem, together with the conversion experience on the Damascus Road (9:3; 22:6; 26:12), that predisposes us to Jerusalem as his residence. It has been argued that Luke's special interest in Jerusalem and the church there must be set over against Paul's passionate insistence that he was quite independent of that church. Do both overstate the case? It is hardly possible to reconcile the two positions as they are stated. At any rate, both Acts and the letters associate Damascus with Paul's transforming experience.
"Conversion" is a convenient word for Paul's transformation, although Paul himself calls it a revelation (Gal. 1:16), a new creation II Cor. 5:17), an appearance I Cor. 15:8). It did mean a radical about-face in his attitude toward the followers of Jesus, on the one hand, and in his estimate of the role of the Jewish law, on the other. There are several implications usually associated with the word "conversion" which are not appropriate in describing Paul's experience. He was not changed from a morally bad to a morally good man nor from an irreligious to a religious man. He had, he insists, always striven to obey the law and in the eyes of men could claim to be "blameless" (Phil. 3:6). If the seventh chapter of Romans is reckoned to be autobiographical, it does not refute this claim, for it was powerlessness to obey the law perfectly, rather than licentiousness or any type of gross immorality, that drove Paul to the verge of despair (Rom. 7:8, 16 ff).
Nor was it a conversion in the sense of a change from one religion to another. Paul never consciously forsook Judaism for "Christianity." The gospel he insisted upon was the proclamation of the age-old plan and purpose of God, which his fellow religionists had so tragically rejected. Paul did assert that the function of the law had been misunderstood, and he endeavored to prove the true relationship of faith and the law from the very history of his own people. To the end he yearned for their redemption and believed that in the providence of God, Israel's temporary rejection of the gospel opened the door to the Gentiles, and that ultimately "all Israel will be saved" (Rom. 11:26). It was dissatisfaction with himself, and so with man as man in isolation from God, which was the background for the central experience that transformed Paul. Various attempts have been made to rationalize the conversion experience in psychological terms. Paul was moved, it is held, by the behavior of Christians under persecution, especially by the behavior of Stephen (whom he never mentions). Their spirit, unbroken and unembittered by persecution, witnessed to an inner peace which he himself longed for. He tried to resolve his own inner conflict by externalizing it and persecuting the Christians, who represented one side of his own inner conflict. This only intensified the struggle, which was resolved by the "vision" on the Damascus Road, for only an external stimulus adequate for reorganizing Paul's inner self could avail. He believed it was an outside life and light and energy that flooded his embattled mind and heart to bring him into a new creative state of being, and he named this power "Christ," "the Spirit (of Christ)"; and his new state he called being "in Christ."
This and other ways of explaining the event are, of course, legitimate, but we must remember that they are almost purely conjectural, since our sources do not so understand it. Paul presents his experience as the act of God, penetrating, indeed, to the innermost core of his being, but inexplicable, humanly. speaking, and to be ascribed to the unmerited favor, the grace, of God. Here the three accounts in Acts (9:1-18; 22:1-16; 26:1-18) and the scattered references in the letters are in agreement. They also agree that Paul was not instructed in the truths of Christianity; how he came to know these truths is not told in our sources. A further agreement is in the immediate connection of the "conversion" and the sense of Gentile mission (cf. Acts 9:15; 26:17; Gal. 1:16). In other respects the accounts differ. The three accounts in Acts constitute a pattern and sound like a traditional phrasing of the decisive event. All three reflect a sense of an organized Christian group to which Paul was now joined; all three omit the interior emphasis so unmistakable in the letters; and all three stress the voice, the light, but not the actual vision of Christ, which is central in Paul's own words (cf.I Cor. 9:1; 15:8). Paul refers to his own transforming experience on several occasions I Cor. 15:8; Gal. 1:15-1.6; and perhapsII Cor. 4:6), but there is no pattern; indeed, the idea that his own "conversion" could be duplicated by any other man is probably excluded. Paul was not only the latest, but also the last, witness of the risen Christ--there are to be no more. The clear chronological sequence inI Cor. 15:3-8, together with Paul's view that the mark of belonging to Christ is to "have the Spirit of Christ" (Rom. 8:9), would seem to suggest this; and we are probably safe in assuming that he regarded his own unique experience as the authentication of his apostolic standing and mission (Gal. 1:15-16), rather than as a pattern for others. There is no clear statement, either in Acts or in the letters, regarding Paul's knowledge of Jesus' life and teaching and of the teaching of the earliest church and how he came by such knowledge. We must assume that he did know why he persecuted the church and that he did have contacts with the leaders--"those, I say, who were of repute." When he writes of the latter that they "added nothing to me" (Gal. 2:6), he is insisting on the independent validity of his apostolic commission, and the polemical context of the words would not encourage him to admit that he had learned much from these leaders and from other Christians outside the area of controversy.
d. Asia Minor and Greece. Neither the letters nor Acts furnish much data for the early days of Paul's Christian career. The important biographical passage in Gal. 1:11-2:21 is keyed, not to biography as such, but to Paul's vigorous defense of his apostolic commission and its consequences. Acts seems not to know about most of the items in the Galatians passage, and it is difficult to harmonize Acts and Galatians, as we shall see. From ch. 13 on, however, the author of Acts has very detailed sources at his command, including the famous "we" passages generally thought to be extracts from a diary kept by the author or some other companion of Paul (16:10-17; 20:5-15; 21:1-18; 27:1-28:16). The exact limits of these "we" passages are uncertain, since the diary may be quoted beyond the point where the last plural pronoun appears.
Let us sketch rapidly the run of the material in Acts and then face the questions raised by a comparison of Acts with the letters. The "first" missionary journey--Acts does not enumerate but does quite definitely separate the three--is formally initiated at Antioch when Barnabas and Saul are "set apart ... for the work to which I have called them" (13:2), John (Mark) accompanying them as far as Perga (13:13). They sail to Cyprus, Barnabas' native island, where Salamis at the E and Paphos at the W end are mentioned. Sailing again to the mainland of Asia Minor, they journey in the provinces of Pamphylia, Pisidia, and Lycaonia, the towns of Perga, Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe being noted along their way and in reverse order as they retrace their steps. They sail this time from Attalia directly to Antioch in Syria (of course, Seleucia was actually the seaport). Chs. 13-14 tell this story with vivid detail. The contrast between Paul's sermons to Jews at Antioch (13:16-41) and those to Gentiles at Lystra ( 14:15-17) is noteworthy. Assuming that these sermons were freely composed by the author of Acts, we must admire his skill and the appropriateness of the words he ascribes to Paul. The famous Jerusalem "conference" (15:1-29) account follows, rounding out the scheme of Acts, according to which each journey terminates in Jerusalem (cf. 18:22; 21:15). Both the content and the chronology of this "conference" must be considered later.
The "second" missionary journey (15:36-18:22) begins with changed personnel--Silas (Silvanus) and later Timothy (16:3), instead of Barnabas (15:36-40), are the companions of Paul. After "strengthening the churches" in Syria and Cilicia (15:41), whose founding is only hinted at (Acts 15:23; cf. Gal. 1:21), he revisits Derbe and Lystra. The journey through the enigmatic "region of Phrygia and Galatia" follows, and the divinely guided decision to go to Macedonia--Europe to us but not, of course, to Paul--with the significant planting of new churches at Philippi, Thessalonica, Beroea; the incident at Athens; and the longer and more fruitful stay at Corinth. Ephesus, destined to be a center for future evangelization, was briefly visited, and Paul sailed for Caesarea, "went up and greeted the church" (18:22), and then "went down to Antioch." The graphic style and the highlighting of dramatic incidents, such" as the stories of the slave girl and of the jail delivery at Philippi (16:16-40) and Paul's address at Athens (17:22-34), give us the authentic flavor of Paul's mission, although we have only a very general outline of it. The address at Athens,* like that at Lystra ( 14:15-17), seems very appropriate, whatever is to be made of the inscription "To an unknown god," which has been so much debated. 18:22 marks the close of the "second" journey, but it is strangely worded. Is "the church" at Caesarea or at Jerusalem? Most scholars would answer "Jerusalem," "went up" and "went down" being almost technical phrases in Acts for visits to the religious capital. Does this brief, almost casual sentence really mark the end of an important and separate stage in Paul's mission, or does the author lack information at this point and simply introduce it to conform to the pattern of Paul's missionary journeys as he understands them, each ending at Jerusalem? Fig. ARE 58.
The "third" missionary journey (18:23-21:16) again starts from Antioch and ends in Jerusalem. After another vague reference to the "region of Galatia and Phrygia," where the disciples were strengthened (18:23), and the introduction of Apollos and others who needed and received Christian instruction (18:24-19:7), the rest of the nineteenth chapter is devoted to events at Ephesus, where Paul stayed for two years and three months (cf. 19:8, 10). It is assumed that churches at Colossae, Laodicea, and Hierapolis were founded by Paul's disciples during this period, but Acts only summarizes by reporting "that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks" (19:10), by noting that Paul's authentic miracles aroused the envy of Jewish exorcists (19:11 ff), and by giving a full account of the riot at Ephesus (19:23-41). A visit to Macedonia and Achaia is given in very condensed form (20:1-6), and then the coastwise trip from Troas to Caesarea, amplified only by the moving words of Paul to the elders from Ephesus who came down to Miletus at Paul's request to hear what was to be his valedictory (20:1-21:16).
Before going on to the account of the final events as recorded in Acts (21:17-28:31), we must consider briefly some of the many questions raised by a comparison of Acts with the Pauline letters. First, we may note that the agreements are quite as numerous and substantial as sources separated by almost a generation in time of writing could be expected to yield, especially if they are independent. It was in the area of Asia Minor and Greece that Paul did his major work, as Acts and the letters agree. The churches addressed in the letters are all mentioned in Acts, with the exception of Rome, which Paul did not found, and possibly the Galatian churches if the "North Galatia" theory is held (see GALATIA; GALATIANS, LETTER TO THE). A convincing, if incidental, item is the fact that about three fourths of the fifty or so persons associated with Paul in Acts appear in the letters. Of course, Acts is far from a complete record of Paul's career, in spite of its considerable detail. His residence at Corinth (18:11 [a year and a half]) and at Ephesus (19:8, 10 [two years and three months] or 20:31 [three years]) is summarized only, with striking incidents recorded. Neither Illyricum (Rom. 15:19) nor Arabia (Gal. 1:17) is mentioned, nor is Titus, although he is important in Galatians (2:1 ff) and in II Corinthians (2:13; 7:6, 13-14; 8:6, 16, 23; 12:18). The list of hardships in II Corinthians (11:24 ff) is scantily documented in Acts--of the many items only one beating with rods (16:22-23), one stoning (14:19), and no beatings "at the hands of the Jews" are recorded. Acts does have the escape from Damascus (9:23-25), which Paul appends to his list II Cor. 11:32-33); the variations between the two accounts observable in the Greek suggest that they are independent of each other.
These differences and others are not serious; they are what we would expect. But the case is other with some basically contradictory material which we must now consider. Paul's letters record three visits to Jerusalem, each quite pointedly characterized as to purpose and result (Rom. 15:25-32;I Cor. 16:4; Gal. 1:18-21; 2:1-10). Acts, on the other hand, records five visits (9:26-27; 11:29-30 [12:25]; 15:1-29; 18:22; 21:15). Not only is the number of visits in question, but it is by no means easy to identify the three letter visits with any three of the Acts visits, so variously are they described as to purpose and outcome. Many scholars hold that the third visit of Acts (15:1-29) is identical with the second in Galatians (2:1-10), arguing that this visit is recorded from two different viewpoints: a private, informal conference vindicating Paul and Barnabas and laying no restriction on them, "only they would have us remember the poor, which very thing I was eager to do" (Gal. 2:10); and a formal, official council resulting in a compromise formula communicated to the churches (Acts). While not all the difficulties are resolved by this view, it should be noted that the account in Galatians is strictly consonant with Paul's thinking and that the Acts account, with its emphasis on the authority of Jerusalem, is in harmony with the viewpoint of that writer. The suggestion that Acts 11:29-30; 12:25 is to be regarded as the parallel to Gal. 2:l-10--i.e., that the Galatians visit is not the "council visit" of Acts 15:1--has the advantage of eliminating a visit by Paul to Jerusalem between the two noted in Gal. 1:18; 2:1, but it is something of a tour de force, since the famine visit in Acts 11:29-30; 12:25 simply has no point of contact with the issues raised in Gal. 2:1-10 and is relieved accordingly of any overt contradictions. This solution often discounts Acts 15:1 as tendentious--James proposes the compromise, and Peter talks like Paul--and suggests that the "decrees" (vss. 28-29) are really later in date than this visit.
The most radical proposal for dealing with the confusion about the visits is to identify the three letter visits with the only three visits in Acts described as having the same purposes--i.e., Gal. 1:18-21 with Acts 9:26-27, both presenting the new convert Paul to the Jerusalem apostles; Gal. 2:1-10 with Acts 15:1-29, both dealing, with whatever differences, with the basic Jewish-Gentile issue; andI Cor. 16:1-4 and Rom. 15:25-32 with Acts 11:29-30; 12:25, both having as a purpose the bearing of an offering to the Jerusalem church. It has also been suggested that Acts has confused the chronology of these three visits. The famine visit in Acts could not have happened at the time there indicated (cf. Gal. 1:18-2:10), and it is cogently argued that the council visit (Acts 15:1-29) should be after, not before, the "second" missionary journey (could 18:22 be the right place for it?) and only a few years before the final visit. This would have the great advantage of eliminating the fourteen to seventeen "silent" years so difficult to fit into the Pauline chronology, since the whole of the "second" journey would be located in this period. It would also explain why the "decrees" do not figure in Paul's letters, as they would come, not in the middle, but toward the end of his active career. Perhaps the nature of our sources is such that no completely satisfactory solution of the visits to Jerusalem, around which the chronology of Paul's active life revolves, is possible. We ought, indeed, to be thankful that the sources are not even more confusing.
Two other issues as between the letters and Acts must be noted: the Jews as persecutors of the Christians, and the collection of funds for the saints of Jerusalem as the ruling motive for the final visit. In Acts the Jews are repeatedly said to be persecutors (9:23-24; 13:45, 50; 14:2, 19; 17:5 ff, 13; 18:6, 12 ff; 20:3; 21:27; 23:12 ff; 24:1-9; 25:7), and when Paul and his companions once gain the ear of the Roman officials, they can count on protection and justice. Paul's letters represent the Jews as rejecting the gospel, to be sure, but they are not conspicuously persecutors.I Thess. 2:15 is almost alone in branding the Jews as active persecutors; elsewhere Paul's sorrow and dismay arise from their failure to respond to the good news, rather than from persistent persecution. Acts may possibly reflect here the hostility which emerged toward the end of the first century when Christianity began to be defined as a separate religion. The Dead Sea Scrolls are adding to our understanding of late Judaism as a much more flexible, less rigid religion than we had supposed. According to Paul's letters, the "contribution for the saints" (Rom. 15:25-29;I Cor. 16:1-4) was quite definitely the major purpose of his final visit to Jerusalem. Acts, too, regards this last visit as important and dangerous, but nowhere reveals any knowledge of "aid for the saints" (Rom. 15:25) which Paul has been collecting for some time past. In Acts the motive for the visit seems to be the fulfilling of a vow (18:18; 21:23-26), and the one reference to an "offering" comes late and is far from clear. The words: "I came to bring my nation alms and offerings" (24:17), would suggest a temple offering rather than gifts from Gentile to Jewish churches. Perhaps the obscurity in Acts is the consequence of the author's thesis that tension between Gentile and Jewish Christians had been early faced and settled harmoniously and that the "offering" could hardly be regarded as the strategic and symbolic act intended to resolve a continuing conflict between the two racial groups.
e. Jerusalem to Rome. Acts is our only source for the events in Jerusalem leading up to Paul's appeal to Caesar and the dramatic record of his journey to Rome (21:17-28:31). Even if Rome is to be regarded as the provenance of the so-called "prison letters"--Philippians, Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians--in contradiction of the currently popular view that Ephesus is their place of origin, they throw almost no light on the Pauline biography.
From Acts we learn of Paul's rescue by the Roman soldiery from the hands of a temple mob, aroused by the rumor that he had brought Gentiles into the inner court, and of the permission granted him to address his accusers--an address which permits the author to insert the second account of Paul's conversion (Acts 21:18-22:21) but which it is difficult to imagine that a Roman officer would allow. Paul's assertion of Roman citizenship saves him from scourging (22:22-29), but he is brought before the Sanhedrin in order that the authorities may be enlightened on the real issues involved (22:30). The turn of the controversy to the question of resurrection must have left them uninformed (23:1-10).
Paul's removal to Caesarea, when the plot to assassinate him was discovered, and his relations with the governor Felix and his Jewish wife, Drusilla, including the charges brought against Paul by the Jews, and his defense, are recorded in Acts 23:12-24:27. The "two years" of 24:27 are usually reckoned as the time of Paul's imprisonment, although the alternative view--i.e., the term of Felix' governorship--remains a possibility.
Chs. 25-26 give the next act in the drama, with Festus, successor to Felix, and Agrippa and Bernice as the actors, and the Jews as the accusers. Given the choice of going up to Jerusalem to stand trial before Festus, Paul appeals to Caesar. He makes his final defense before Agrippa; it consists, in the main, of the third account of his conversion, the three (cf. 9:1 ff; 22:3 ff) serving as a kind of chorus to remind the reader of the motif binding the varied events into an ordered whole.
The voyage and shipwreck have been called among the best sea tales from antiquity (Acts 27:1-28). Paul is at last at Rome (28:14), but what the closing verses of the book: "He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ quite openly and unhindered" (28:30-31), intend to convey to the reader and why they form the conclusion of Acts--these are as yet unanswered questions. Was Paul released? Was he martyred? And why, in either case, did the author not inform his readers? No answer commanding general assent has yet been given.
For the dating of each letter and its setting in the career of Paul, see THESSALONIANS, FIRST LETTER TO THE, and the other Pauline letters. For the chronology, see CHRONOLOGY OF THE NT; the articles on the several letters; ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
3. Paul as a person. Paul was a Jew by race, and he had been a Jew in religion; indeed, he never ceased to think of himself as belonging to God's people (Rom. 11:1 ff) and to yearn for the ultimate inclusion of the Jews in God's gracious purpose (Rom. 9:1-11). His message was proclaimed in terms familiar to Jews--the law, faith, the promises, the righteousness of God, the Judgment, the Spirit--however unacceptable his presentation of these themes might be to his fellow religionists. Paul was, of course, a Hellenistic Jew, a Jew of the Diaspora, who wrote in Greek, used the Greek translation of the OT, and at points betrays Hellenistic influences. He must be appraised, accordingly, in the light of the mingled Greek and oriental syncretism which was the atmosphere of the first-century Mediterranean world.
Paul was a Christian although he never uses this word. Jew and Greek alike were in his eyes only custodians "until Christ came" (Gal. 3:24), and he felt himself to be "under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, ... to preach the gospel" (Rom. 1:14-15). He quotes no Hellenistic source in his writings, only the OT; and the impact of the larger world around him must be discerned in his ideas, style of writing, and unconscious absorption of the contemporary culture, rather than in direct borrowing. The centrality of Christ is evident on every page of his letters.
When the student has exhausted all the resources at his disposal in appraising Paul as Jew, Hellenist, Christian, Paul himself is still unexplained. Something has been left out--indeed, the most important something. Paul was a unique person. Just as aunts see now the father and now the mother in the child, so we can see now the Jew and now the Hellenist in Paul. But the child is not his mother or his father; he is himself. Paul was emphatically himself. His letters to the churches of Galatia, to Thessalonica, to Corinth or Philippi, are not just the serious communications of a Christian theologian; it is Paul writing, and the unmistakable flavor of his personality pervades them. Perhaps it would have been easier to estimate him if his writings had been less personal, for we get hints, flashes, intimations, of a rich, many-sided, complex character who remains something of an enigma in spite of the unusually revelatory nature of our sources. But just as Paul's thought is clear in its main outlines, however difficult in particular aspects, so his personality is reasonably clear, however complex and baffling certain traits may seem to be.
a. "Man of conflict." Conflict, struggle in the inward man and in outward situations, characterized not only the pre-Christian but also the Christian Paul. He was born into a conflict of cultures. His heritage was strict Judaism (Phil. 3:5 ff), and the Jews were a minority group whose loyalty to the one God made them resist the eclectic, syncretistic temper of the first century. Hardly an ancient writer has a kind word to say about the Jews. We do not know precisely how a Jewish family outside Palestine would react or adjust to Gentile customs, but Paul's lengthy and labored discussion of the dietary laws and the Christian's relation to them iI Cor. 8:1-10 suggests that he himself had battled long and hard with this problem. Whether Rom. 7:1 is to be reckoned as autobiographical or as typical, the chapter shows a profound insight into the struggle between the law as an external code and the inward desires and frustrations of an earnest and serious soul.
Paul viewed nature as sharing the struggle between good and evil. The creation, he writes, knows the pain and also the hope of a woman in childbirth (Rom. 8:22 ff). This cosmic struggle will go on until Christ "delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power" I Cor. 15:24). He sees nature as within the framework of the apocalyptic warfare.
Conflict continued to be the very breath of Paul's life as a missionary. If his inner conflict had been resolved "in Christ," Paul was still "in the flesh." His personal situation--indeed, that of all Christians--has often been compared to a war in which the decisive battle has been fought and won but the war lasts on, and exhortation and effort are required even though the victorious outcome is now assured and triumph can be anticipated. Paul was a protagonist defending the gospel against Jews and Jewish Christians, on the one hand, and against libertines and sectarians among the Gentile converts, on the other. Hardly a letter omits entirely this note of struggle, not even so joyous a communication as Philippians.
Paul's argumentative style of thinking and writing also reveals the same characteristic note of conflict. He has the habit of putting things in terms of their opposites: flesh versus spirit, faith versus works, grace versus merit. The question-and-answer method of the rabbis, the Stoic diatribe, the epistolary "I" and "you," or just the native temper of a born debater--all these have been credited with Paul's style. The virtue of this dialectical method is its clarity. We can hardly mistake where Paul stood on the main issues he discusses. The weakness of the method is the tendency to exaggeration, so that very little ground remains for opposing parties to stand together on.
b. Man of inward peace. Paul was indeed a "man of conflict," but he was also a man of inward peace, whose wholeness of outlook and statesmanlike leadership are conspicuous among the early followers of Jesus. He knew an inner center of peace and joy "in Christ." Outward turmoil, external circumstance, whether of plenty or of hunger, abundance or want, did not disturb him. "I can do all things in him who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:12-13). He believed that "in everything God works for good with those who love him" (Rom. 8:28). Whatever scars, whatever memories of his tumultuous life, still plagued him, Paul knew a radiant oneness and wholeness of life so that nothing "in all creation" is "able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 8:39). His dark view of the creature and of the creation is not his final word, for he held that the walls that separate man from man--slave, freeman; Jew, Gentile; male, female--have actually been leveled, and that the entire creation has been unified, healed, redeemed, and reconciled by the revelation of God in Christ. His gospel has behind it and within it a cosmic sweep and sanction. There is for him no such unit as an isolated individual; the tiny person "in Christ" is caught up into a cosmic purpose, and conversely the power and love of God are available for every particular human situation. It is this central conviction that speaks to us through Paul, flowing over all the ancient vocabulary and thought-forms that separate us from him. Paul moves from the particular to the universal, from the temporal to the eternal and vice versa, without effort or strain. "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25), is the constant correlation he makes; and to particularize this, he adds: "Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another" (vs. 26). "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?" I Cor. 6:2), he asks the quarreling Corinthians, and then: "If the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial eases?" They expect to sit on the Supreme Court of the universe but cannot qualify as justices of the peace (perhaps Paul did have a sense of humor).
c. Other traits. We possess no reliable evidence about Paul's physical appearance except his own quotation from opponents: "They say, 'His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech of no account'" II Cor. 10:10). The earliest external witness comes from a late second-century collection of legends (see PAUL, ACTS OF) to the effect that he was small in stature, baldheaded, bowlegged, of vigorous physique, with meeting eyebrows and a slightly hooked nose, and full of grace. Paul himself writes of a recurrent physical ailment, deliverance from which was not granted him although he prayed three times for it. He came to see that this weakness of the flesh had its lesson for him II Cor. 12:7-8). All conjectures as to the nature of this affliction--epilepsy, malaria, an eye malady (Gal. 6:1 l)--must remain conjectures, since we simply do not have enough evidence for a diagnosis. The amazing list of physical hardships endured II Cor. 11:24-29) witnesses rather to a rugged than to a frail physical constitution. That Paul was by nature a sensitive, proud, quick-tempered man can be abundantly documented from his letters, for he is conscious of his tendency to boast II Cor. 10:8, 13, 15; 11:1, 16, 21, 30; 12:1), and he glories in the victory faith in Christ assures (Phil. 3:4-14) and in the sublimation made possible by another object of glorying (Gal. 6:11-15). He is capable of sarcasm and irony, although he himself regrets that his opponents have maneuvered him into playing the fool II Cor. 11:16-21).
Paul had a genius for friendship. The extraordinary list of twenty-seven names in Rom. 16:1 (whether this chapter was originally addressed to Rome or elsewhere is immaterial at this point), with just the little touches here and there that save the names from being a mere catalogue, is eloquent of his concern for people. He could be magnanimous--this protagonist--even with persons whose motives were questionable (Phil. 1:12-18). He was tenderhearted--this fighter for his own understanding of the gospel--like a "nurse taking care of her children ..., ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us" I Thess. 2:7-8). The catalogue of his sufferings reaches its climax, not in some physical agony, but in the words: "Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?" II Cor. 11:28-29).
Although Paul traveled through spectacular country, his letters are wanting in figures from nature in either its humbler or its more majestic aspects. The few nature illustrations he does use (e.g.,I Cor. 9:8-10) are not very happy. But when he turns to city life, the arena, the court, the military, he is often effective in analogy, imagery, and figure of speech I Cor. 3:10-15; 4:9; 9:24-27; etc.).
Had Paul a sense of humor? The writings we possess are so deadly serious in intent that the lighter touch may well have been rigorously excluded, but with all his truly extraordinary gifts as a phrasemaker, the humorous, witty flavor so characteristic of the remembered teaching of Jesus seems not to be native to Paul.
Subject as he was or had been to ecstatic experiences II Cor. 12:1-4), it is inevitable that Paul's psychic health should be questioned. He had, no doubt, passed through a period of psychical instability, but the amazingly balanced estimate of spiritual gifts in group worship and in relation to ethics contained iI Cor. 12:1-14 is powerful evidence of the kind of integration Paul had achieved. The impact of his life and work on his own times and ours is also eloquent testimony to his essential sanity.
The most serious charge that can be brought against Paul is that of personal inconsistency. Proclaiming an ethos of love, did he himself deal with his opponents lovingly? Especially in Galatians and iII Cor. 10:1-13, Paul uses sarcasm, irony, and bitter denunciation, including curses, against those who have attacked him and his gospel. Without attempting to defend him, for he himself is conscious that his words do not represent a very high plane of thinking II Cor. 11:1), we may point out the considerations necessary for a proper perspective. His language betrays an oriental exuberance foreign to the usual standards of Western speech and writing. These are letters, after all, and they show a spontaneity which more careful editing would perhaps have modified. His opponents, moreover, are not attacking him and his message from outside the Christian movement but from within it. He can endure persecution from "the world" II Cor. 11:23-33) without any hint of bitterness--indeed, as almost normal Christian experience, the sharing of "his sufferings" (Phil. 3:10)--but when the gospel is attacked directly or indirectly through his own apostleship, he indignantly strikes back. He knows the teaching of Jesus about loving the enemy (Rom. 12:14;I Cor. 4:12-13) and has lived it out in some of his own personal relationships. Cast out by his fellow Jews, he maintains a moving loyalty to them and is convinced that their rejection of the gospel is only temporary and that, in the providence of God, it has opened the door to Gentiles (Rom. 9:1-11). But when from within the Christian fellowship leaders play upon the fickleness, the credulity, and the lower nature of his converts to subvert what Paul believes to be the gospel of the love and grace of God in Christ, he meets this challenge with all the force of his aroused emotions and his agile mind. We may argue that Paul was deficient in an understanding of his opponents and less loving in his attitude toward them than he ought to have been, but he does not condemn them out of personal pique. He believes that the gospel itself in all its implications is at stake; he could do nothing less than meet this danger with vigor. That this is more than mere rationalization becomes apparent when we consider how Paul dealt with rivalries between the partisans of genuine Christians leaders. Cephas, Apollos, Paul--who are they? "Servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God" (cf.I Cor. 1:12-13; 4:1-5; Phil. 1:15-18). Rivalry is unthinkable.
B. PAUL'S MESSAGE. 1. Introduction. Paul's letters afford us rich firsthand source material for his thinking. Yet as letters they depend on situations and relationships known to the writer and his readers but not always entirely clear to us. The epistolary form of our sources creates another difficulty. The letters do not purport to be systematic presentations of Paul's theology; their content is rather determined by the needs of the readers as Paul conceives those needs. Accordingly the nature of our sources is at once an asset and a liability--an asset because we are able to come at Paul's thinking so directly and in immediate relation to human situations; a liability because we must undertake to organize his thinking without any systematic presentation from his own hand.
The interpreter seeks for a key to open up Paul's thought or, better, some central thesis about which all his thinking may be arranged. Paul's doctrine of God, of Christ, of man; Paul's background, Jewish and Hellenistic; Paul's religious experience; these and other focuses have been proposed as central in his theology. Solid gains in understanding Paul have been achieved by this method, even when a single thesis proves inadequate. We have always to remember, however, that any organization is the work of the interpreter and so must be constantly subjected to the test of our sources. We are not dealing with theological treatises but with firsthand communications addressed by a complex personality to diverse human situations. The interpreter's legitimate urge to establish consistency in the whole range of Paul's thinking must be balanced by his determination to let the sources speak for themselves even when consistency is threatened.
The headings selected for this article do not, of course, escape an imposed arrangement of Paul's thought. The order of topics is determined in part by the run of the thought in Romans. The first eight chapters of Romans constitute the longest and most orderly presentation of a theme in Paul's writings, although important topics such as the nature of Christ in distinction from his work, the Resurrection, and the sacraments are not discussed at any length. Paul is addressing a church which he has neither founded nor visited. He wants to inform them of his own understanding of the gospel of which he is not "ashamed" (1:16), "that we may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith, both yours and mine" (vs. 12). Perhaps he is also clarifying and arranging his own thinking as he contemplates a fresh stage in his missionary career (15:22-29). The wording of the following topics is derived from Paul's own writings; that the topics correspond in part with rubrics of systematic theology is inevitable, since Paul is concerned with fundamental theological issues. It is not to be assumed that Paul always thought in this sequence. He could and did present his message beginning from any one of these points as the epistolary situation required.
2. The power and righteousness of God. Addressing readers who had never heard him expound his message, although they are "God's beloved" (Rom. 1:7) whose "faith is proclaimed in all the world" (vs. 8), Paul begins with these oft-quoted words: "I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation. ... For in it the righteousness of God is revealed" (vss. 16-17). Paul glories in the power (duVnamiv) of the gospel. The word and the thought pervade his letters. Christ is the "power of God and the wisdom of God" I Cor. 1:24). "The word of the cross is ... the power of God" (vs. 18). He longed to know Christ "and the power of his resurrection" (Phil. 3:10). This power is not an enhancement or release of human energy; it is a divine gift given when a man confesses that his own power is utter weakness: "I can will what is right, but I cannot do it" (Rom. 7:18); "for when I am weak, then I am strong" II Cor. 12:10); even Christ "was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God" II Cor. 13:4). We must examine Paul's thought about the power of God.
a. God is the author of salvation. In Rom. 1:16-17, Christ is not mentioned, although it is clear from the following chapters that God's saving act is in Christ. Paul's theology has been called Christ-centered, and this is true enough if we remember that the center and the circumference alike depend on God. Writing of the ultimate outcome, he says: "When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him ..., that God may be everything to every one" I Cor. 15:28). Or when he speaks of the "new creation" in Christ, he immediately adds: "All this is from God" II Cor. 5:17-18). God is the ultimate reference for Paul. Not Paul, not Christ, but God alone is the author of salvation. "All things are yours, ... and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's" I Cor. 3:21-23).
Paul's God is the God of Judaism. Paul has no new conception of God to propose. He constantly stresses the will and the purpose of God as revealed in his acts and supremely in his new and final act in Christ. God for Paul, as for Judaism, is the living God to be known, as all life is known, through action. Doubtless Paul might have quoted the words ascribed to him in his address at Athens: "In him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28), but they certainly are not characteristic of his own writings. God is the living, active, dynamic source of events, rather than the ground of being or the Absolute beyond empirical knowledge. It is the God who rescued the Hebrews from Egyptian bondage, led them to the Promised Land, and brought them back from exile, who has acted in Christ and will act decisively in the final outcome of human and cosmic history. The gospel is the power of God, and Paul would have been amazed at the charge that monotheism was threatened by his doctrine of Christ. Christ is for Paul the manifest proof on the plains of history of the power of God. He has no other terms in which to present God's act than the familiar OT concepts of justice and mercy. Perhaps most strikingly Jewish is Paul's emphasis on the righteousness of God.
b. The righteousness of God. "In it [i.e., the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed" (Rom. 1:17). Righteousness is revealed in the gospel to be the kind of power God exercises for salvation. The context of this verse requires the meaning here that God is the source, not the object, of righteousness. Perhaps Paul would not have been disturbed by the grammarian's difficulty in deciding whether the "righteousness of God" is objective or subjective genitive, for although it is obvious here that God's power, not man's, is being proclaimed, yet Paul was so convinced that man must possess or be possessed by this righteousness that the distinction would have seemed oversubtle to him.
Was it Paul's Jewishness, the necessities of his polemic against the law-righteousness of Pharisaism, or something else that led him to single out the word "righteousness"? Obedience to the law was the sine qua non of being "right" with God according to Pharisaic teaching. Paul could hardly, expound the gospel in relation to Judaism without facing this position squarely. But we will not understand him unless we sense his deep personal hunger for rightness with God beneath all the polemical necessities. Of course, Paul includes in the term "righteousness" the connotation of "goodness" included in ethical monotheism. Of course, there is a genuine forensic factor in his argument, for Paul is keenly aware that man does not and cannot earn the verdict of acquittal before God's judgment seat. Man is offered in God's boundless mercy a status, a relationship with God which he does not deserve. The dominant note, however, is neither exclusively ethical nor exclusively forensic. It is centrally dynamic. States of being such as "goodness" or "acquittal" do not really do justice to Paul's thought. We must consider later what Paul meant by the righteousness of God. Here we need only note that it is God's own righteousness which gives content to his saving act in Christ.
c. The power of God as love. Paul's emphasis on God's righteousness neither excludes nor contradicts in his thinking God's gracious love in his salvation. He can and does write of the love of God (Rom. 5:5, 8; 8:37-39;II Cor. 13:11) and of the grace of God (Rom. 1:5;I Cor. 15:10; Gal. l:15; 2:9) without using the word "righteousness." He writes also of the fatherhood of God quite in the manner of Jesus--i.e., God is the Father, men become his sons, for the father-son relationship is neither necessary nor physical as based on the creator-creature status; it is ethical and spiritual, based on God's unmerited choice and man's response in faith (Rom. 8:14-17). God is first of all Father of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 15:6;I Cor. 1:9;II Cor. 1:3). Through Christ, God is the Father of all believers I Cor. 8:6;II Cor. 1:3; 6:18). They name him Father II Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:4; Phil. 1:2; Philem. 3). Yet men are not children of God by nature but by faith (Gal. 3:26), by adoption (Gal. 4:4-7), by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14-17). The variety and richness of Paul's vocabulary when he writes of God and of God's relationship with man confirms our view that Paul is centrally concerned to show that God has acted for the salvation of men and that the gospel is the power of God to this end. "Righteousness," "love," "grace," "fatherhood," can be used almost interchangeably to express the character of the God who acts. It is God's act in Christ that reveals his power unto salvation. Righteousness is particularly relevant when Paul explicitly relates his thought to the Judaism he is seeking to reinterpret, but the word "righteousness" is not the only or the inevitable term for the power of God.
3. Man from the human point of view. Having announced the theme of Romans, the "power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (1:16), Paul follows with a sustained argument to show that all men, Jews and Gentiles alike, are guilty before God, that they are in bondage to sin, and that they are powerless to save themselves by obeying God's law, whether written in the scriptures or in their consciences (1:18-3:20). Man's utter and unexceptionable need of salvation and God's grace and power to save--these are the focuses of Paul's theology. The link between power and need is faith, without which even God's amazing offer of salvation cannot avail. This does not mean that Paul centers his gospel in "experience" as over against "theology." It means, as his letters show, that he is concerned to lift the saving acts of God in Christ and man's response in faith into the "clarity of conscious knowing." He is not engaged in formulating a speculative system, even as he is not content to present salvation as a vague and formless "experience." As we grasp his purpose, which cannot be called exclusively experiential or exclusively theological--being, indeed, the interpenetration and illumination of both--we shall be prepared for certain obscurities, and even contradictions, which more systematic thinking might have avoided.
"From now on, ... we regard no one from a human point of view" II Cor. 5:16). The RSV rendering of kata; saVrka is an interpretative, rather than an exact, translation. It has the value of carrying Paul's thought over into contemporary English more adequately, if not perfectly, than the literal "after the flesh." For saVrx means, not just a phase of man's life such as his desires and passions, but the whole man when he is viewed apart from or in opposition to God. Man so viewed can be saved only by a "new creation," by becoming a "new creature" (vs. 17).
Let us examine further Paul's view of man as isolated from or in opposition to God. Paul accuses the Gentiles of sinful deeds such as idolatry and sensual and antisocial behavior (Rom. 1:18-32). He then brings home to the Jews their own sins, which are even more blameworthy in the light of their privileges (Rom. 2:1). His indictment might merit the charge that it is never possible to condemn wholesale an entire people. Were there not "good" Gentiles and "good" Jews? Paul would, no doubt, have agreed. His listing of overt sinful acts may be regarded as a description of the symptoms of the disease which afflicts all mankind, even those men who do not exhibit the flagrant symptoms. The human predicament, Paul holds, is deeper than "sins." "Sins" are the fruit of "sin." "All men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin" (Rom. 3:9). "There is no distinction; since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:22-23). Man as man is the slave of sin (Rom. 6:17, 20; 7:14); sin is the constant pattern or principle of his life (Rom. 7:25; 8:2).
What is sin? We shall miss Paul's meaning if we equate sin with "badness" defined in terms of an ethical standard or code, although he is convinced that sin bears evil ethical fruit. Sin is falling "short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). It is man's isolation from, his independence of, God, and his pride in his own ability to deal with life on the level of his own wisdom. Paul believes that this self-confidence leads to gross moral evils, but its chief disaster is that men are caught in the toils of their own little selfhood. The ultimate tragedy of existence does not lie in little or larger misdemeanors but in the failure to rise to the creative purpose of God, the "glory of God." Sin is more than an act or an attitude of rebellion against God; it is more than a transgression of God's law; Paul appears to regard sin as an objective condition or status, even when man is not guiltily responsible (Rom. 6:12-14). Indeed, many expressions Paul uses suggest that sin is actually a personal being, an outside, demonic power. Sin "came into the world" (Rom. 5:12), "reigned in death" (5:12), "lies dead" (7:8), "revived" (7:9), "wrought in me all kinds of covetousness," "deceived me and ... killed me" (7:8, 11; cf. vs. 13), "dwells within me" (7:17, 20), enslaves me (cf. 6:6, 17), pays the "wages of ... death" (6:23). This is either mythology or vivid rhetorical language. Suggesting the latter is the fact that Paul speaks of the flesh in similar personal terms (cf. Rom. 8:12; Gal. 5:13, 17, 19, 24), and so he does of the world I Cor. 1:20-21). In any case, Paul is clearly saying that man is caught in the toils of sin beyond his power to extricate himself and that sins--i.e., deeds and attitudes patently evil--spring from sin as the objective condition of man as man, man from the human point of view.
When man becomes conscious of this status, he may be driven to the verge of despair (Rom. 7:24). Yet God created man in his own image I Cor. 11:7), and one of the benefits of the gospel is "our hope of sharing the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). Even as the desperate nature of man's plight is brought home to him, he is aware that this sinful condition is alien to his true nature and not part of the creative work of God (Rom. 7:20, 23). The awareness that man is essentially a creature and child of God, though he is actually estranged from him, results in the deep inward cleavage in the self so characteristic of Paul's view of man from the "human point of view."
What of the origin of sin? Paul seldom raises this question, and when he does, his answer is far from clear. The classical passage is Rom. 5:12-21. The terse, closely packed opening sentence: "As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned," is never finished, but few sentences, finished or unfinished, have occasioned more discussion. The "one man" is Adam (vs. 14), whose "transgression" had dire consequences for all humanity. Is Adam regarded as a historical figure (Christ is his counterpart in vss. 15-21), or is he the symbol of a doomed humanity in mystical union with him, just as the redeemed are to be "made alive" in Christ (cf. Rom. 5:17;I Cor. 15:22)? Or did Paul think in such categories as literal over against symbolic? In the verse as it stands, it is death which "spread to all men because all men sinned," and it has been argued that Paul regarded death as inherited from Adam, rather than sin. Each man does his own sinning, it is held, but he is born into a world in which death is the penalty for sin. Yet in this very context Paul writes: "By one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (vs. 19), and: "Sin reigned in death" (vs. 21). He makes no distinction between sin and death as inherited from Adam. We do scant justice to Paul's thought, however, if we fail to note that every statement about the reign of sin and death and about man's helplessness and hopelessness in the grip of sin is set in immediate and vivid contrast to the "reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ" (vs. 17). Paul's impact on successive generations since his time is due in part to the sheer realism with which he faces our human situation and the equally amazing faith that he proclaims in the redeeming, transforming power of God in Christ. We are born into a human situation corrupted by sin, whether the spread of sin is reckoned biologically, sociologically, or psychologically. Yet we are perpetually haunted by the consciousness that we are children of God, made in his image and with the hope of sharing his glory.
How and where does sin lay hold of man? Paul is deeply concerned with this question, and he answers it in many and varied ways. The words "flesh" (saVrx), "body" (sw'ma), and "soul" (yuchV) are the chief terms he employs, while the word "spirit" (pneu'ma; see § 7 below) is the chief term for the redemptive power which overcomes the power of sin and death.
"Flesh" (see FLESH [NT]) as Paul uses the word has many different shades of meaning which only the context can determine. (Translators render the Greek word saVrx by different English words and phrases such as "worldly," "earthly," etc. This is confusing to the reader who does not know Greek. In the following documentation the Greek word for "flesh," saVrx, is always present, even when the English translation does not reveal it.) Often, perhaps usually, Paul uses the word "flesh" for the physical or natural man, the tangible stuff of human life (cf. Rom. 1:3;I Cor. 15:39;II Cor. 12:7; Gal. 4:13; Phil. 1:22; Philem. 16). But it is clear that Paul does not limit the use of this word to the instinctual or sensual aspects of man's life. The "works of the flesh" include not only the vices that we call sensual but also "enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit" (Gal. 5:20). While the flesh is the sphere of imperfection (cf. Rom. 2:28; 6:19;I Cor. 3:1; 15:50;II Cor. 5:16; Gal. 1:16) and so subject to capture by sin, many scholars think that Paul regards the flesh itself as morally neutral. Perhaps in principle he thought of the flesh as neutral but in fact saw it as sinful and, indeed, as the seat of sin. Nevertheless, it is "sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3) which is the essentially evil thing. Flesh for Paul may be characterized as the sense-bound, earth-bound, time-bound, self-bound existence of man apart from God and in opposition to his will.
The word "BODY," sw'ma, also has a number of different meanings and shades of meaning for Paul. He can use it for the natural, physical human body I Cor. 5:3; 12:12; 15:38;I Thess. 5:23). He can also use it of the whole community of Christians in his famous figure of speech (Rom. 12:4-5;I Cor. 12:12-30). But perhaps the characteristic use approaches the meaning of our word "personality," a word not available for Paul. Paul's sustained argument about the spiritual body iI Cor. 15:1 contains the real clue to his meaning. He cannot conceive of existence after death as bodiless. The spiritual body, however, is not of "flesh and blood" (vs. 50). "Body" for Paul in this context is the principle of individuality, the imperishable mold of the person. The body, so understood, is capable of being glorified, transmuted from the physical to the spiritual (vss. 42-50), and so has a spiritual potential not attributed to the flesh.
The word "SOUL," yuchV, is perhaps the least important of the three terms for Paul and at the same time the most difficult for the English reader, since the word "soul" carries with it meanings not present for Paul. It is usually defined as the animating, vital principle of the fleshly body. As such Paul can at times use the word to mean "physical," "soulish," "unspiritual," in ways that seem very like his use of "flesh" (cf.I Cor. 2:14; 15:44, 46). But it has a wider significance than the word "flesh," and Paul can use it of full human life, the natural life of earthly men, in contrast to the life endowed with the "gifts of the Spirit of God" which constitute a new creation I Cor. 2:14). Paul was pioneering in religious psychology, and it is not surprising that he leaves the modern reader somewhat confused as to the precise meanings intended. It seems clear, however, that he intends to say that man by his very nature is open to the onslaught of sin and that sin may capture--indeed, has captured--his whole being.
4. Christ the wisdom and power of God. Paul is proud of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation (Rom. 1:16). But how is this saving power revealed and made operative for men? Paul answers: "In Christ," who is the "power of God and the wisdom of God" I Cor. 1:24). Paul's thought may be gathered around three questions: Why did Paul center his gospel in Christ? Who is Paul's Christ? What is the origin of his Christology?
a. Christ the gospel's center. Paul's background, racial and religious, was Jewish, and while Judaism could look for the manifestation of God's sovereignty by God's own acts without reference to an anointed Agent or Messiah (see MESSIAH [JEWISH]), yet the coming of Messiah and of the messianic age was characteristic of Judaism. Paul as a Jew was predisposed to look for the coming of Messiah. As a Jew he would look for God's reign to come through deeds rather than by the emergence of new ideas. The structure of Paul's thought required a revelation of God in terms of history. But it was surely the impact of the historic Jesus upon Paul that determined his emphasis and led him to the full and formal ascription: "the Lord Jesus Christ."
If the historic Jesus was determinative for Paul, why did he make so little use of the words and deeds of Jesus in his letters? He centers attention almost exclusively on the death and the Resurrection. Paul does refer to words of Jesus I Cor. 7:10), and they are authoritative for him. An impressive list of possible allusions to sayings of Jesus can be compiled (see § B9b below). Perhaps most significant of all is the central place of "love," ajgaVphI Cor. 13:1), in the Pauline ethos and the fact that he understands so clearly the Lord's deeds and words as manifesting God's outreaching love to men who do not deserve it. He can catch this up in one memorable sentence: "While we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom. 5:8). Yet we must not gloss over the fact of the fewness of references to Jesus' life and words. It is due in part to Paul's radical evaluation of human existence apart from God. Outside the divine purpose and power, death spiritual and physical is the final outcome for humanity. The ultimate issue, then, is whether there can be life-through-death. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the answer. More positively put, the messianic role for Paul does not lie in the past; Christ is the living Lord now, and his lordship will be gloriously consummated in the future. This dominates Paul's thinking. The historic Jesus is now caught up in the divine Lord. It may well be that Paul told his converts more about Jesus' words and deeds than the letters reveal, but it is abundantly clear that Christ is now the living Lord for him.
b. Who is Paul's Christ? The risen Lord Jesus Christ is unmistakably a divine being for Paul. The older messianic concept of a divinely anointed and empowered king who would be God's instrument in restoring the kingdom to Israel has little, if any, meaning for him. Jesus Christ was indeed "descended from David according to the flesh," but he was "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead," and the name given him was not "son of David" but "Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 1:3-4). Christians are called of God (Rom. 8:30) and of Christ (Rom. 1:6;I Cor. 7:22) and of both together (Gal. 1:6). Paul's apostolic commission is from God II Cor. 5:18; Gal. 1:16) and from Christ (Rom. 1:5;II Cor. 5:20; 10:8; 13:10; Phil. 3:12). Revelation is from God (Gal. 1:16) and from Christ (Gal. 1:12). Paul is the servant of God II Cor. 6:4;I Thess. 3:2) and of Christ I Cor. 3:5;II Cor. 11:23). Christ is the object of prayer, is seated at the right hand of God, and is Judge. The title "Lord" is freely used, and it is not always possible to be sure whether Paul means God or Christ by it. Paul's freedom in using almost interchangeably the same expressions of God and of Christ raises the inevitable question: Was Christ God for him? The few verses which in some versions seem to identify God and Christ, actually distinguish between them, as the modern translations correctly indicate (cf. Rom. 9:5;II Cor. 4:4, 6;II Thess. 1:12). Two verses in Colossians (1:17; 2:9) are more difficult to harmonize with Paul's usage elsewhere, but Colossians has a different orientation from the other generally accepted letters and reflects a type of controversy not so central in them. Yet even in Colossians (see COLOSSIANS, LETTER TO THE) God is "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (1:3). Only the Paulinist author of Titus seems to allow a direct ascription to Christ of the name God (2:13). Over against these scattered verses are the several passages which explicitly distinguish Christ from God and subordinate him to God (Rom. 11:36;I Cor. 3:23; 11:3; Phil. 2:11;I Thess. 1:9). That Paul never thought of his monotheism as compromised by his conception of Christ is spelled out in the full and formal pronouncement ofI Cor. 8:4-6: "We know that 'an idol has no real existence,' and that 'there is no God but one.' For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth--as indeed there arc many 'gods' and many 'lords'--yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."
None of the titles Paul uses was invented by him. "Christ," "Son of God," "Lord"--all these were current religious titles in the Jewish and Hellenistic environment. The full and formal "our" or "the Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:11, 21; 6:23; 7:25; 8:39;I Cor. 1:10; 15:57) and the "grace of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 16:20;I Cor. 16:23;II Cor. 13:14; Gal. 6:18) sound like accepted forms needing neither explanation nor defense. Paul as a Jew must have known that the word "Christ" was a title (see CHRIST), but in most cases he uses it as part of a proper name. Possibly his usage of "Christ Jesus" interchangeably with "Jesus Christ" retains the memory of the title, since strictly proper names were not variable in this fashion. "Christ" as a title has all but disappeared in his letters. Was this because Gentile readers had no background of tradition for the Messiah-Christ title unless and until they had been instructed? Was it made congenial because for Paul and the early Christians, Jesus and Jesus alone was the Christ?
SON OF GOD is a frequent designation in Paul's letters. In its Jewish meaning, "Son" or "my Son" would refer to character and appointment, not to metaphysical relationship. Paul's usage certainly implies more than the Jewish implications, although many scholars question whether he is primarily concerned with metaphysical relationship of the Son to the Father. His presentation at this point, however, would bring the Lord Jesus into the area of Hellenistic thought. "Lord" was perhaps the most significant and characteristic title used by Paul. The exact contemporary religious usage of "Lord" (kuVriov) is a complicated area of research. We may only remark that Paul uses "Lord" to designate Christ as a pre-existent, divine being just as he uses the name Jesus to retain the significance of the historic man. The title Lord brought Paul's message within the circle of Hellenistic religious thought as the title Messiah-Christ could not do. Yet Paul was not the founder of a Christ cult in which the Lord Christ paralleled the Lord Serapis or the Lord Mithras. Such a passage asI Cor. 8:4-6 makes such an interpretation impossible. The use of the title Lord no doubt carried with it certain dangers to be guarded against. Paul had, indeed, a "mystery" to proclaim I Cor. 2:7; 4:1), but it was not to be kept secret but to be broadcast to all who had faith to hear and heed.
Some christological titles do not appear in Paul's letters. "Born of the seed of David," Jesus Christ is "Son of God" and "our Lord," not "son of David" (Rom. 1:3-4). The title Savior (see SALVATION, SAVIOR) is not applied to Christ; God is Savior, and the one exception, in Phil. 3:20, immediately adds the familiar "the Lord Jesus Christ." Although Paul never uses the exact title SON OF MAN--it would be a barbarism in Greek--he does make significant use of a related concept, the first Adam and the last Adam, the earthly and the heavenly man (Rom. 5:12-20;I Cor. 15:45-49).
c. The origin of Paul's Christology. When we ask how Christ became the "power of God and the wisdom of God," Paul's answers are not in the form of precise definition but in glowing and vivid figures of speech. The three most important passages areI Cor. 15:20-28 (cf. Rom. 5:12-21); Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:13-20. According to Philippians, the "mind ... in Christ Jesus" was far other than that of the presumptuous and rebellious angels who would have grasped "equality with God." His mind was bent on obedience, on humiliation and self-emptying, that he might despoil death, "even death on a cross," of its doom. And this, writes Paul in bold phrases, turned out to be in accord with the very mind of God, who "has highly exalted him ..., that ... every tongue [should] confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Here the age-old myth of rebel angels cast out of heaven is daringly replaced by the Son, who in complete obedience to the Father chooses the life of a slave among men and a death on a cross. The outcome is that our humanity is no longer doomed to death as the penalty for sin but has the potential of sharing with Christ in the hope of glory.
Whether from the pen of Paul or of a Paulinist, Col. 1:13-20 only carries into the cosmic realm Paul's thought of Christ as the power and wisdom of God. Here, as the agent of God in creation, the Son is the "first-born of all creation," and "in him all things hold together," since "in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell." Although the language here differs in emphasis from the other letters, it is to be noted that this cosmic speculation yields practical consequences (vss. 12-14) and has an ethical outcome, "to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (vs. 10). The type of thought in the whole passage reminds us of contemporary thinking in Alexandrian Judaism (see PHILO JUDEUS) and in the late WISDOM literature. If this is Paul, he is presenting Christ as the sole MEDIATOR over against some threat of angelic mediators.
In the final key passage I Cor. 15:20-28) Paul presents the Lord Christ as the head of the new humanity (cf. vs. 22 with Rom. 5:12-21), this time as the victor over sin and death. He will vanquish all rebellious wills, human and demonic, to achieve the final consummation, when God will "be everything to every one" (vs. 28). The framework of this kind of thinking is clearly apocalyptic messiahism:
One other christological passage has been much discussed: Rom. 1:1-4. Here the crux is the ambiguous verb in vs. 4. Is it to be rendered "declared to be" (KJV), "installed" (Moffatt), or "designated" (RSV)? In other words, is the Resurrection here presented as the proclamation of a status already existing, or as the assumption of an office not previously possessed, or is the verb designedly ambiguous? The last suggestion seems a bit subtle. Would it not be more likely that Paul was unaware of the theological problem he raises for us? If the verb is translated "installed"--i.e., the assumption of an office not previously held--this might support the adoptionist Christology which passages implying the pre-existence of Christ II Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-11) would contradict. It has been argued that Paul here represents a transition between a primitive adoptionism (cf. Acts 2:36) and the thoroughgoing pre-existence, incarnation, exaltation, of the Gospel of John and the Letter to the Hebrews. Another way out of the difficulty is to hold that Paul is tactfully beginning his Letter to the Romans by citing their Christology, which is not his. Paul could be tactful, but hardly at a point like this.
If we ask of Paul, Was your Christ once really a man? he answers: Was? He is the heavenly man, and "just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven" I Cor. 15:49). If we ask, How could the exalted Lord be genuinely human? he replies: He "emptied himself, ... and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil. 2:7-8). If we ask, How can a cosmic Christ be conceived as personal or a personal Christ as cosmic? he answers: This is the whole goal of creation, which "waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God" (Rom. 8:19). If we object that Jesus was, after all, but an incident, an episode, in human history, Paul answers that there is no isolated fact hereafter, for "all are yours; and you are Christ's; and Christ is God's" I Cor. 3:22-23). See also CHRIST.
5. The word of the Cross. "The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" I Cor. 1:18). At the outset it is important to remember that to isolate the Cross from the Resurrection is a formal procedure, for just as the Resurrection can have no meaning apart from death, so the death is informed by the Resurrection, even when there is no verbal reference to it in Paul's words. What is everywhere implicit becomes explicit in such a sentence as: "If while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life" (Rom. 5:10). Was the sequence death-life, or was it life-death? Or was the former the logical, and the latter the experiential, sequence? Surely it was the living Lord Jesus Christ whose impact upon Paul illuminated the Cross and gave it significance. The two events are inseparable, inextricable; and when the one is considered apart from the other, we must remember that their relationship to each other is almost organic.
Why and how is the death of Christ on the cross effective for salvation? No part of Paul's message has been more debated, as he himself anticipated when he said of the Cross that it was a "stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" I Cor. 1:23). Paul employs a number of metaphors to communicate what God has done for man's salvation in the death of Christ: It is a redemption, a ransoming, like a slave's release from bondage (Rom. 3:24;I Cor. 1:30). It is a sacrifice adequate for restoring favorable relations with deity (Rom. 3:25; 5:9). It is a victory over demonic powers who are competing for man's soul (Rom. 8:38-39;I Cor. 2:8; 15:25; Col. 2:15). It is the end of the old and the beginning of the new humanity (Rom. 5:12-21;I Cor. 15:20-22). Similarly, the consequences flowing from God's saving act in Christ are presented in richly varied imagery: as acquittal or justification when man is arraigned before the heavenly court (Rom. 3:24; 5:1); as reconciliation replacing the estrangement between God and man (Rom. 5:10-11;II Cor. 5:18-20); as belonging in Christ to the new humanity instead of in Adam to the old (Rom. 5:12-21;I Cor. 15:22;II Cor. 5:17); as sustained by the love of God, from which not even demonic powers can separate (Rom. 8:35-39); and ultimately as salvation, which is already initiated but will be consummated in glory (Rom. 5:2; 8:18).
Yet the Pauline imagery, varied though it is, is far from chaotic. God is always the author of salvation; there is no slightest hint that it is wrested from an unwilling God, even though the nature of sin is such as to involve estrangement, nor is there any suggestion that the death of Christ is the noble sacrifice of a good man over against an unfeeling or hostile world. Paul can exhort his readers to the imitation of Christ II Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:5), but always this is imitation of the will and the act of God in Christ II Cor. 8:5, 16; Phil. 2:9). Furthermore, it is clear that the death of Christ is the way God deals with human sinfulness, universal and unexceptionable (Rom. 3:22-23). For Paul the origin of sin is on the circumference rather than at the center of his thought. He uses in homiletical fashion an analogical argument from Adam's sin (Rom. 5:12-21;I Cor. 15:21), but it is the fact of sin supported by data (Rom. 1:18-32) and by experience (Rom. 7:7-25) and the cure of sin by the creation of a new humanity in Christ which chiefly concern him. And finally, it is clear that the death of Christ reveals the nature and meaning of God's forgiveness. Paul seldom uses the word "FORGIVENESS." Was it too closely associated with the legalism he was opposing? But his favorite words, "grace," "peace," "reconciliation," express the same deep sense of God's forgiving, restoring love. The death of Christ carries the note of the cost of sin and the costly character of God's act in Christ. These are the major notes sounded throughout Paul's letters when he treats of the death and the resurrection of Christ. He is neither obscure nor esoteric in expressing these convictions.
It is when we ask how the death of Christ reveals and makes operative God's saving action--exactly how--that the recurrent discussion of Paul's doctrine of the Atonement arises. Some of the more important passages in which Paul treats this question are the following:
Rom. 3:21-26. Here the three major notes are clearly sounded: God is acting in Christ, "whom God put forward" (vs. 25); his act deals with universal sin--"all have sinned" (vs. 23); and in this act the nature of the divine forgiveness is set forth (vss. 25-26). Two figures of speech are used: redemption--i.e., emancipation from slavery--and sacrifice, an "expiation by his blood" (vs. 25). "Expiation'.' is to be preferred to "propitiation," not only because the Greek word iJlasthVrion usually has this meaning in the LXX, but also because it is God himself who "put forward" Christ Jesus to this end. The two figures of speech proclaim that in the death of Christ both the power and the guilt of sin are broken. But does Paul mean to say that the death of Christ exhibits in action God's costly forgiving love, or does he mean that Christ paid the inevitable, inexorable penalty for sin as an atoning sacrifice? In the latter case it is God who acts to propitiate himself. Or does Paul rest back upon the ancient axiom: "Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins" (Heb. 9:22), without regard to the subtleties of our modern interpretation?
Rom. 5:8-11. Here again Paul is discussing the death of Christ, but his thought is oriented to the new life issuing from justification by faith (5:1), which is here called "reconciliation." The same three notes are sounded again: it is God who is the actor (vs. 8); his act deals with sin (vs. 8); and it exhibits the nature of God's forgiveness--i.e., there is a wrath of God to be saved from (vs. 9). Two emphases not present in Rom. 3:21-26 appear: the word "RECONCILIATION," found only in the Pauline letters (Rom. 11:15;II Cor. 5:18-20; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:19-22); and the eschatological reference to salvation (vs. 9). The barrier between God and man--which must be a barrier, in some sense, for God himself---is removed by Christ, who "died for us" as an act of God's love (vs. 8).
Rom. 6:1-11. This important passage relates the death of Christ to still another area of thought. Instead of the language of sacrifice or of reconciliation, the imagery is of the "old self" (vs. 6) and the new, of dying to sin and living to God (vs. 10), of being buried "by baptism into death" and being "raised from the dead [as Christ was]" that "we too might walk in newness of life" (vs. 4). The death of Christ is a death to sin (vs. 10), but the "life he lives he lives to God," and "we believe that we shall also live with him" (vs. 8). The old humanity "in Adam" as contrasted with the new humanity "in Christ" (Rom. 5:12-21) is the background for this thought. The death of Christ, a death to sin, is the end of the old; the Resurrection is the beginning of the new order. By a vivid use of the analogy of baptism--"baptized into his death," "buried ... with him by baptism into death"--Paul conceives the believer as having died to sin and potentially to be raised to that newness of life characterized as being "alive to God in Christ Jesus" (vs. 11). Again it is God who is the ultimate actor, the death of Christ (and here explicitly the Resurrection) which reveals the nature of God's act, and sin which conditions that redeeming act.
II Cor. 5:14-21. This great passage is reminiscent of Rom. 6:1-11. The same controlling concern with the new life dominates, although the occasion is a very personal one (vss. 11-13). There is the same emphasis on personal appropriation of the death and the Resurrection (vss. 14-15), with an even stronger note of the believer's solidarity with Christ (vs. 14), this time without the analogy of baptism. Once again it is God who is the actor, even more emphatically than before (vss. 18-20); it is the death of Christ which reveals the significance of God's act; and it is sin which is vanquished. The closing verse, 21--one of the many terse, enigmatic Pauline sentences--has been variously interpreted. Does it mean that the sinless Jesus bore the penalty for sin on our behalf, or does it mean that by his incarnation he lived the life of man, a life dominated by sin and death, and so wrought out our salvation in the real world of our human experience? In addition to these more ordered treatments of the death of Christ there are occasional references scattered through Paul's letters I Cor. 2:8;II Cor. 8:9; Gal. 2:20; 6:14; Phil. 2:8-9).
6. To everyone who has faith. According to Paul the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith" (Rom. 1:16). Faith is man's response to the gospel; it is the gateway to salvation. Paul uses the word "faith" with more than one meaning, but his characteristic use is to be seen in relation to the law. An understanding of his view of the law is essential to an understanding of faith.
a. Faith and the law. By "law" Paul usually means the revelation of God's will in the Scriptures. In a few passages "law" means obligation such as conscience exerts (Rom. 2:14-16), or civil law (Rom. 7:2-3), or even the demand of Christ (Gal. 6:2). Again, without losing the sense of "obligation," "law" can mean principle or pattern (Rom. 8:2). But most frequently Paul means the OT law or the whole OT (Rom. 3:10-19, where passages from the Psalms and the Prophets are regarded as law;I Cor. 14:21, which includes Isa. 28:11-12 as law). Paul draws no explicit distinction between the ritual and the ethical demands of the law; both are law for him as a Jew (Gal. 3:10; 5:3). Nevertheless, an unconscious distinction is apparent. What the conscience of a Gentile demands can hardly be the ritual, but only the ethical, requirements of the law (Rom. 2:14-16), and Paul regularly thinks of the ethical demands when he discusses the permanent validity of the law (Rom. 2:21-29; 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14-23). He deals with the dietary laws in considerable detail, reckoning them as of relative rather than absolute validity I Cor. 8:1-11:1; Gal. 2:11 ff), and circumcision is spiritualized in a way that would not be satisfactory to a Jew (Rom. 2:28-29). Perhaps the solution of this apparent contradiction lies in recognizing that Paul thinks like a Jew in his view of the law. He is not so much concerned with the content of the commandments as with the fact that they are commandments. Then how are they to be fulfilled? This is the question facing him, and in answering it he undoubtedly, if perhaps unconsciously, shifts the center of gravity from the ritual to the ethical demands, for it is in the area of ethical requirements that the inward struggle goes on (Rom. 7:7-25).
The major difficulty, however, lies in the apparent contradiction between the law as embodying the will of God for men and the law as intimately related to sin and death in Paul's view. He is quite aware of this difficulty and devotes considerable space to its solution. On the one hand, he asserts the validity of the law and his own zeal in upholding it (Rom. 2:13; 3:31; 7:12). The law is to be fulfilled (Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14); and it brings no charge against those who bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). On the other hand, "Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified" (Rom. 10:4); the law brings knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20; 7:7) and death (Rom. 7:9); it stimulates sinful activity (Rom. 5:20; 7:8) and brings those who "rely on works of the law ... under a curse" (Gal. 3:10). Not only is this puzzling, but it is also shocking to Paul's Jewish readers, as he well knows it will be. He insists again and again that he is an upholder of the law, that "the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good" (Rom. 7:12), and that the law itself is not sin (Rom. 7:7). He answers the charge of blasphemy in a twofold way: first, the law is the instrument of sin, not sin itself; and second and more important, the function of the law in the divine economy has been misunderstood. It is not the validity of the law, but its misunderstood role, that Paul attacks. The law does not bring a man into right relationship with God, as the classic example of Abraham shows, for faith in his case preceded the very existence of the law (Rom. 4:1; Gal. 3:6-18). Furthermore, the law is good but powerless as a motivating force, since, on the one hand, it fails to ensure right conduct (Rom. 1:18-2:29), and, on the other hand, zeal in keeping the law only increases one's confidence in his own righteousness and thus defeats the end in view--i.e., the righteousness of God (Rom. 10:3; Phil. 3:4-9).
Law and gospel are thus mutually exclusive as ways to the right relationship with God. Law has the positive function of revealing sin as sin--indeed, of stimulating the activity of sin and showing man that he is in sin's fatal grip, from which only a power not his own can rescue him (Rom. 7:24). Passage after passage (Rom. 3:20; 7:7-25; Gal. 3:21-25) sets forth the role of the law as an instrument in God's gracious providence to reveal to man, to stab him broad awake to the fact, that no effort of his own, however strenuous, will enable him to lift himself by his own bootstraps out of the entangling web of sin, and to show him that every victory apparently won by his own effort is actually a defeat, since it encourages the self-deception that he can save himself. Only a "new creation" like the creative act of the God who made light to shine in darkness II Cor. 4:6) will restore, redeem, reconcile, and save mankind. But how is man to respond to God's saving act in Christ? Paul's answer is, By the obedience of faith.
b. Faith as the opposite of boasting. Negatively, faith is the absence of all self-confidence, self-assurance, self-satisfaction in human goodness, wisdom, power. While Paul can use the word "faith" to mean "trust" or "intellectual assent" and the like, faith owes its characteristic features to the sharp antithesis: faith versus law. Law--any kind of law--is powerless to set a man right with God, to put him in creative relationship with God. On the contrary, law shows man his powerlessness, incites him to sin, makes sin into guilt, and, in short, closes every avenue to salvation save only the way of faith. The objectivity of law, in other words, cuts through the subjective rationalizing of conduct ("I meant well, however short the deed fell from the intention"). The impact of the law, accordingly, either sets a man at enmity with a God who demands what no man can fulfil, or else it opens up the possibility of a radically different relationship with God from that between a lawgiver and a lawkeeper. This is what Paul means when he writes: "The law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith" (Gal. 3:24).
Lover of paradox as he is, Paul expresses this negative quality of faith by writing about "boasting," "glorying," but now the object has been shifted from man to the gospel which reaches man in his helplessness (Rom. 4:20;I Cor. 1:31;II Cor. 10:17; 12:9; Gal. 6:14). Paul knows that human boasting is folly, even when he feels that he is forced by his adversaries to indulge in it II Cor. 10:8, 13; 11:1, 16, 21), and he often sets faith over against it as its radical opposite (Rom. 11:18;I Cor. 1:29; 4:7).
c. Faith as obedience, receptivity. Faith is obedience, surrender, receptivity; it is acceptance with the whole self of the good news that God's saving grace is offered to men in Christ. Paul does not think of faith as a native, human quality progressively clarified as to its object (with the author of Hebrews; cf. Heb. 11:1-12:2), even though he can include the idea of faith as an attitude toward the unseen reality II Cor. 4:18; 5:7). Faith is the response of the whole man toward the humanly unbelievable love of God in Christ, freely offered to men who do not deserve it. This act Paul calls "obedience," almost interchangeably with "faith" (cf. Rom. 1:5, 8, with 16:19), and its opposite he terms "disobedience" (cf. Rom. 11:30-32 with 10:3, 16), for faith is submission and "heeding" (Rom. 10:16). It is, in other words, the condition for receiving salvation, and not a virtue, an attitude, or an experience. It is the continuous necessity of an act of submission, of receptivity to God's grace in Christ. Thus, of course, faith cannot be regarded as meriting salvation, since it is surrender of the self and one's own estimate of the self. But while faith is the basic response of the whole man to the revelation of God in Christ, it is not the whole of salvation. The Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit issue from the faith that puts man in creative relationship with God.
7. Life through the Spirit. If faith is the human response to God's saving act, the consequence of faith is a "new creation" II Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). This new life can be characterized as life in and through the Spirit; it can also be described as life in and through Christ, "Spirit" and "Christ" being used interchangeably.
a. What does Paul mean by the Spirit? The antecedents of Paul's concept of the Spirit are clearly Jewish. As in the OT, "Spirit" is predominantly a religious rather than a metaphysical term, standing for the divine presence and power and for man's capacity for receiving it, and not for an invisible essence in man relating him to the rest of creation (see SPIRIT; HOLY SPIRIT). Paul knows of the Spirit as a miraculous divine power, a kind of invading energy enabling man to perform more than human deeds. He writes at length about "spiritual gifts"I Cor. 12:1-14), quite in the temper of the OT, if with different terminology. In two respects, however, Paul deviates from the OT pattern. First, he relates spiritual gifts, unquestionably personal and individual, to group sanctions, arguing that the variety of gifts is a manifestation of the one Spirit I Cor. 12:4-11) and that an individual gift, however highly prized, is for the edification of the church I Cor. 14:18-19), which is itself the product of the Spirit I Cor. 12:13). Second, the gift of the Spirit is no longer temporary or an ad hoc endowment; it is a permanent possession of the believer. He now lives by the Spirit (Gal. 5:25); without the Spirit (of Christ) he does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9). He is one of the "spiritual" (Gal. 6:1). Here we meet again the persistent Pauline paradox: the Christian is, the Christian ought to be. His true life is the life of the Spirit; yet he is exhorted to "walk by the Spirit" (Gal. 5:25; see § B9 below). That Paul thinks of the Spirit as more than an invading, dynamic energy manifested in spectacular gifts such as speaking with tongues, is evident from expressions such as "led by the Spirit of God" (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18) and setting "the mind on the Spirit" (Rom. 8:6, 27). The Spirit means a direction, a will, for all of life.
Paul can and does use the word to designate the human spirit I Cor. 7:34;I Thess. 5:23) and as an equivalent of "I" I Cor. 16:18;II Cor. 2:13; 7:13 [translated in the latter two cases as "mind" in the RSV]; Gal. 6:18; Phil. 4:23; Philem. 25). Perhaps it is unwarranted to say that Paul thinks of the human spirit as having the capacity for receiving the divine Spirit, since he usually thinks of the self as a unified whole, yet there are at least two passages in which the spirit of man appears to be that part or aspect of the self which is open to the divine Spirit. "When we cry, 'Abba! Father!' it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:15c-16)--this passage and especially the analogy inI Cor. 2:10b-13 point in that direction. It is clear that the term "spirit" has a Jewish rather than a Hellenistic background in Paul's usage, for it does not so much reflect a dualism as refer to the divinely empowered transformation of the whole person to be a "new creation." It is not clear whether "Spirit" is consistently personal or impersonal for Paul, whether we should use the pronoun "he" in all cases or "it" in some instances. There can be no question of the personal meaning in passages such as Rom. 8:16;I Cor. 2:10-16, but where impersonal expressions such as "pouring out," "sealing," "supplying," are used (Rom. 5:5;II Cor. 1:22; 5:5; Gal. 3:5)--and these are the more numerous--the precise intention is less clear. The answer to this question may lie in another direction. Personal and impersonal conceptions of the Spirit are both found in the OT. Paul's use of both, accordingly, is not surprising. What is significant is his intimate association of "Spirit" and "Christ."
b. Life in and through the Spirit. The new life is life in and through the Spirit. The Spirit is the seal, the guarantee, the first installment, of the new life (Rom. 8:23;II Cor. 1:22; 5:5). We live by the Spirit (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:25). The Spirit means "peace and joy" (Rom. 14:17), the freedom of sonship (Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:4-7), hope (Rom. 15:13), and fruit (Gal. 5:22-23). Similarly, the new life is life in Christ and through Christ. The believer has his "life in Christ Jesus" (cf. Rom. 8:1;I Cor. 1:2, 30; Gal. 2:17; Phil. 4:1). "In Christ" are all the goods of the new life: joy (Phil. 3:1; 4:4, 10), the love of God (Rom. 8:39), the peace of God (Rom. 5:1; Phil. 4:7), and freedom (Gal. 2:4). The new life is life in the Spirit and in Christ, both expressed in the same passage: "You are in the Spirit .... Christ is in you .... Your spirits are alive .... Life to your mortal bodies ... through his Spirit" (Rom. 8:9-11; cf. 8:1; Gal. 5:5-6). Paul also uses the expression "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Rom. 8:9; Gal. 4:6; Phil. 1:19), but never "the Spirit of Jesus." He apparently reserves the name Jesus for the historical person. Some scholars think that complete identification of Spirit and Christ is indicated byII Cor. 3:17: "Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom," since "Lord" undoubtedly means "Christ" here, as vs. 14 assures. But a study of the context does not warrant this conclusion. The essence of Paul's thought here (3:4-18) is that scripture, which can be rightly interpreted only by the Spirit, is unveiled by the "Spirit of the Lord," which Spirit sets us free from the written code (vs. 6), for we are "changed into his likeness .... This comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (vs. 18). That the Lord (Christ) has the universality and effectiveness of the Spirit is, no doubt, Paul's meaning, but that he is identifying Spirit and Christ in any metaphysical sense is questionable. The whole passage is to be understood from the religious and experiential viewpoint.
c. The Pauline mysticism. We have seen that the new life is described by Paul as life in and through the Spirit and in and through Christ. What does he mean when he writes of being "in Christ" and of Christ "in me"? This is usually called "mysticism,". a word with many meanings. It will be well to appraise Paul's thought as positively as possible.
The new life is personal life. While it is true that Paul can use impersonal terms of the Spirit (see above) and in Col. 1:15-20, terms which strain, if they do not burst, the bounds of the personal in setting forth the cosmic aspects of Christ's role, these terms are not typically Pauline. The life of the Spirit, the life in Christ, is a definite way of living patterned after Jesus. Even the cosmic Lord "emptied himself," and his followers are to "have this mind among yourselves" (Phil. 2:5-11). Love even toward the unlovely is the mark of the new lifeI Cor. 13:1). Paul writes the famous "hymn to love" in a contextI Cor. 12:1-14) devoted to the discussion of spiritual gifts, and he makes it as explicit as words can that the ultimate and only permanent gift of the Spirit is love expressed in personal relations. Every Pauline letter issues in the same concrete, personal application to specific human situations. This is to be the outcome of life in the Spirit, in Christ. The classic statement of Paul's mysticism is found in Gal. 2:19-20: "I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." This statement shows at once the intimate relationship with Christ and the resultant redirection and reconstitution of the self. The self is neither annihilated nor merged with the divine as a stream is absorbed into the ocean; the "I"-"Thou" relationship is retained, "that I might live to God," and its ultimate purpose realized.
The new life is corporate life. If a passage like Gal. 2:19-20 stresses the individual aspect of the new life, many other passages emphasize the corporate aspect. Life in the Spirit, life in Christ, is life in the new humanity I Cor. 15:22). Perhaps being "in Adam" is not less "mystical" than being "in Christ," and this corporate consciousness may well be a central aspect of Paul's thought. To be "in Christ" may well mean a complete sharing in the body of Christ, the church (Rom. 12:4;I Cor. 12:12-27). Paul's discussion of baptism (Rom. 6:1-11; Gal. 3:27-29) and of the Lord's Supper I Cor. 11:23-25) is probably to be understood from the same corporate viewpoint. Paul does, indeed, use language which approaches the terminology of the mystery cults, but the major reference seems to be directed toward the new humanity, the body of Christ.
The new life, then, is personal life in a new realm or a new creation. It is conditioned by faith, which involves a personal response to a definite object, God's gracious act in Christ, and which issues in a new relationship with God through the Spirit. Christ is released from the limitations of the man Jesus and is made contemporary and inward by the Spirit; the Spirit, on the other hand, is given the ethical content and the personal implications inherent in Jesus.
8. The church is the body of Christ. It is generally agreed that Paul's most significant contribution to the concept of the church is his teaching about the "body of Christ." In the two classic passages (Rom. 12:4-5;I Cor. 12:12-30) the word "church," ejkklhsiVa, does not appear; it is only in Colossians and Ephesians that the identification is explicit (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18). The content and context of the extended Corinthian passage on spiritual gifts I Cor. 14:4-5, 19, 28) make it certain, however, that Paul uses "body" and "church" synonymously. No other NT writing employs the concept of the body, unless it is hinted at in John 2:21. The new life manifests itself most conspicuously in the church and in the personal conduct of the believer. These two, church and ethics, are, indeed, intimately associated (see §§ B9b-c below), for the Spirit is the unitary source--the lifeblood, so to speak--of the varied spiritual gifts, and the ethical issue of the new life is described as "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:16-25).
a. The meaning of the church. There are at least two reasons why it is a mistake in method to stress the meaning of the Greek word ejkklhsiVa, used by Paul for the new community. First, he can and does use other words, such as "saints" (more than twenty-five times), "brethren" when the reference is to the common faith (about one hundred times), and a variety of other expressions to indicate that the new community constitutes the true Israel of God (Rom. 4:11: "all who believe"; 9:6-8: "children of the promise"; Gal. 3:29; 6:16; Phil. 3:3: "the true circumcision"). Second, the Greek word ejkklhsi"a has behind it Aramaic and Hebrew words (see CHURCH, IDEA OF), and the linguistic genealogy is by no means clear. Both etymologically and genealogically the background of the Greek word is uncertain, not to speak of the fact that our English word "church" has no relation whatever to the Greek word Paul USES.
It is best to study Paul's usage from the immediate context. His free use of the word we translate "church" indicates that he regards it neither as peculiar to himself nor as in need of definition. This corresponds with the common use of the word in Acts, which purports to give the story of the primitive pre-Pauline community. In Acts and in Paul's letters the word "church" occurs both in the singular and in the plural. Did Paul move from the particular (a church at Corinth) to the several churches, here and there, and so to the universal (the "church of God") by a kind of sociological progression? It is quite widely, and probably correctly, held today that the reverse is true. Paul conceived of the church, not as a new and tiny entity, but as the existing and true Israel, the "church of God which is [i.e., has its local habitation] at Corinth" I Cor. 1:2). In the same way he can recall that he persecuted "the church of God" or "the church" I Cor. 15:9; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:6) when his Jewish zeal was directed against Christians in a specific locality. This helps us to understand his otherwise extravagant hope and confidence in the struggling little communities so seemingly insignificant over against mighty Rome. The church was the eschatological community. Only so can we understand its existence as the heart of a movement which in its inception, at least, looked for the imminent coming of the kingdom.
It has been argued that there was no room for the church as an institution in the eschatological expectation. But is the church envisaged as an institution in the NT? Certainly not in Paul's writings. The church is the eschatological community; it is a "colony of heaven" (Phil. 3:20 Moffatt). This accounts for the informality and flexibility of its organization and worship, on the one hand, and for the fact that organization stems from the consciousness of the one body with its several members rather than from any sense of the need for a polity, on the other I Cor. 12:14-30; see CHURCH, LIFE AND ORGANIZATION OF THE). Paul's view of the church is seen to be entirely consonant with the Synoptic records, according to which the individual is not so much saved by a unilateral relation to God as by being incorporated into the fellowship of God's people, the kingdom of God. Paul develops his thought along his own distinctive lines, but he is not in conflict with Acts and the Synoptics at this point.
b. The church is divinely constituted. We must unthink our modern sociological approach to the rise of the church, if we are to understand Paul's thinking. He does not think of himself as an organizer or even as a missionary in our modern sense of the word; he is not one who selects strategic centers for propaganda and strategic methods of work. We may well appreciate the statesmanship of Paul in choosing the bases for his operations and the skill with which he discovers and develops prepared groups, ready for his message. But these are quite incidental, almost unconscious aspects of his work. He believes that he is heralding the "message of reconciliation" as an ambassador for Christ II Cor. 5:19-20), and those who hear and heed are the "saints" (Rom. 1:7;I Cor. 1:2;II Cor. 1:1; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2 and often). The saints are the called ones, the separated ones, the holy ones. The word "saint" does have. an ethical connotation, but goodness is the implication, not the explication, of sainthood. When Paul writes to the Corinthian or to the Roman Christians as to klhtoi'v aJgi"oiv ("called saints"), he does not mean that they are called to become saints any more than he means that he himself as a "called apostle" (klhto;v ajpo"stolov) is called to become an apostle. He is an apostle because he has been called; they are saints by virtue of their calling. Any other understanding makes nonsense of the use of the word "saints" to characterize those Corinthian Christians whose moral deficiences Paul is going to expose in the frankest way. It is just because they are "saints" in the Pauline sense that he can appeal to them to behave as such. When we remember that the word "saint" is never used in the singular in the NT (Phil. 4:21 is an apparent but not a real exception), we become aware of the power of Paul's conception of the church as made up of the saints who have been called by God and who constitute a "colony of heaven."
c. The church and the eschatological event. The modern idea of the church as a means of propaganda for high ends is also foreign to Paul's thinking. To be sure, he urges the Corinthian Christians to "give no offense to Jews or Greeks or to the church of God" I Cor. 10:32); but to regard the church as a means to an end is not the Pauline thought. He does, indeed, believe that the end of the old world will come with the imminent parousia of Christ I Cor. 15:23, 51-57;I Thess. 4:16), but this anticipated event has already been manifest with the coming of Christ (Gal. 4:4), so that "the old has passed away, behold, the new has come" II Cor. 5:17). The church is not so much an agency for promoting desirable causes; it is itself an invasion of the eschaton into time, having already the "first fruits of the Spirit" (Rom. 8:23) as a "guarantee" of things to come II Cor. 1:22; 5:5) and of "sonship" (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). Paul makes use of the cosmic imagery of Jewish apocalyptic to prefigure the eschaton I Cor. 15:51-57;I Thess. 4:13-18), but with his teaching about the new life and the church he has decisively "lifted the eschaton out of the dimension of cosmic occurrence into that of historic events."
d. The body of Christ. With this background we come to a consideration of the church as the body of Christ, an important Pauline concept, consonant, as we shall see, with his total view of the new humanity in Christ. The figure of the body must not be too rigidly interpreted, since Paul himself develops various aspects of it. InI Cor. 12:12-30 after a brief statement to the effect that the body is one, its many members actually demonstrating rather than negating its unity and "so it is with Christ," Paul focuses attention on the vital interrelations in the community of Christians. Each member, however insignificant in himself, is related organically to the body by the "same Spirit," and the differing spiritual gifts are to be understood from the functional viewpoint, for "you are the body of Christ and individually members of it" (vs. 27). In Rom. 12:4-8 the figure is again directed to the same end of unity in diversity. In Colossians, however, a different note is sounded. Here there is no suggestion of rivalry over spiritual gifts; the danger is from those who fail to acknowledge that Christ is the "head of the body, the church" (1:18), and so the "head of all rule and authority" (2:10). That Christ is the head of the church is apparently derived from the cosmic headship of Christ in the universe (Col. 1:15-20), and Christians are not so much thought of as separate parts of one body as they are incorporated into the very person of Christ. The Paulinist Ephesians carries this concept much further, along lines, many think, of Gnostic mythology, although designed to combat it.
Whatever the source of this striking figure of the body of Christ, Paul uses it to emphasize, now in one way and again in another, the unity of the Messiah-Christ and the messianic community. It is thoroughly consonant with the eschatological and the ecclesiological outlook so central in his thought. It is, as indicated above, so closely related to the mysticism of Paul as to constitute an integral part of his thought about being "in Christ." Is this phrase Paul's way of proclaiming that the Christian is "in" the fellowship of believers, "in" the church, and "in" the eschatological community of those who are being saved? At the least, this aspect of his thought must be included in any consideration of his mysticism. But does the complementary "Christ in you" (Rom. 8:10; Gal. 2:20; Col. 1:27) find its explanation so readily in eschatological and ecclesiological terms? Should we not be willing to allow Paul a genuinely mystical idea of the interpenetration of the living Lord with the spirit of the believer, which is not inconsistent with the mysticism of the body and its members?
9. Walking by the Spirit. Paul knows what ecstasy means II Cor. 12:1-4), and he prizes the spiritual gift of speaking with tongues in its rightful place I Cor. 14:18-19), but the fruit of the Spirit is a kind of character and conduct consonant with the new life in Christ and quite different from spectacular gifts; it is a matter, not of flying or soaring, but of walking (Gal. 5:25). The importance of ethics in Paul's message is unmistakable. Not only does he commonly close his letters with ethical admonitions and exhortations, but in most instances his doctrinal discussions are conditioned by some ethical problem or interwoven with it. It is the ethical collapse of both Gentile and Jew (Rom. 1:18-2:29) that makes justification by faith alone a necessity. The most significant passages on the sacraments are related to questions of behavior: baptism ought to issue in "newness of life" (Rom. 6:1-14), and we possess the words of the institution of the Lord's Supper only because of the disgraceful conduct of members of the Corinthian church I Cor. 11:17-34). An important christological passage such as Phil. 2:1-11 and the significant discussion of the church inI Cor. 12:12-30 both appear to owe their presence in the Pauline corpus to the ethical needs of the churches addressed. Whether Rom. 7:7-25 is autobiographical or meant to represent the typical experience of man-under-the-law, or partly both, the ultimate despair (vs. 24) is occasioned by a "commandment" and by man's inability to "do the good" (vs. 19).
Paul's doctrine of salvation is set forth in language which at a number of points reminds us of the mystery cults, but his insistence on morality as the fruit of the Spirit sunders him sharply from these cults. It is unnecessary to look to Stoicism as the source of Paul's ethical emphasis, although he would approve and on occasion appears to have used some Stoic terms (see STOICS). The obvious background of Paul's ethical emphasis is Judaism, with its identification of religion and conduct. The ethical monotheism which was Paul's heritage made it quite impossible for him to think of conduct without its source in religion or of religion without its consequence in behavior. Judaism, however, had the law as the standard of conduct, and when Paul displaced law by faith as the basis of right relationship with God, what was to be the new standard? This question troubled both Paul and his readers and must be considered later.
a. The nature of Paul's ethics. Paul was, ethically speaking, a Jew from the beginning to the end of his life, and as a Jew he was the heir of an ethical monotheism he never abandoned and of the law of Moses, which remained valid for him as a guide to conduct although he denied that it was capable of setting a man in right relations with God. Consciously or unconsciously, Paul's ethical center of gravity had shifted from the ritual to the moral commandments of the law, although he made a gesture toward the former by interpreting them symbolically (Rom. 2:28-29). His respect for the law as a guide to behavior obviates the necessity of providing a new system of ethics for converts to the gospel. Paul conceives the Christian as freed from all external requirements (Gal. 5:1, 13), but this freedom does not mean license (vs. 13); it is freedom to act according to the new life principle (Gal. 5:25). The law of Moses--indeed, all law as an externally binding control--is finished, "for Christ is the end of the law" (Rom. 10:4). This was not, at least in Paul's intention, a charter of moral subjectivity, although some of his converts so interpreted it, creating thereby one of the most difficult problems he had to face. They understood his teaching to mean that every man might now do what was right in his own eyes. Paul meant that the new man in Christ now wants to do from inward compulsion what was formerly imposed from without. This is the new Christian freedom. Henceforth good deeds are to be considered the normal expression of the Spirit-filled life; the Christian is to walk by the Spirit by which he lives (Gal. 5:25). Just as the child learns to walk with many a fall, so Paul believed that the new life in the Christian would mean walking after the pattern of Christ, and falling was not ruled out as a possibility. He found this difficult to explain to his new converts, and he devotes much space in his letters to the ethical implications of the new life.
b. The Pauline standards of conduct. Eager as Paul was to escape from the bondage of all law--for sin used the law as its instrument--and emphatic as he was in insisting that the new life creates its own "fruit" and is untrammeled by external rules, he cannot avoid standards, norms of conduct, if he is to deal concretely with ethical issues as they arise in the Gentile churches. "Walking" (Gal. 5:25) involves putting one foot before the other and doing this in a certain direction. Right conduct is not inevitable, even among the "saints," as Paul knows from experience; it is a matter of decision and of effort. Accordingly, Paul's letters do reveal certain standards of conduct even though he has no system of ethics as such. Chief among these norms are the law of Moses, the words and example of the Lord, and the leadings of the Spirit. Although Paul repudiates the law of Moses--indeed, all law--as the way to justification and shocks his Jewish readers by associating it with sin and death (Rom. 7:7-11), he himself is certain that he has maintained the validity of the law as "holy and just and good" (vs. 12). It is the function of the law which Judaism misrepresents, not its demands. God in Christ has acted so that the "just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:3-4). The ethical demands remain in force for him, and they are meant to be fulfilled, except that the new man, Spirit-filled, now performs what the law demands from an inward motivation rather than from an outward compulsion. There are a number of passages (Rom. 2:6;II Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7; Col. 3:24-25) in which Paul appears to look forward to a judgment according to deeds done "in the body" quite in terms of the Jewish pattern which he has repudiated. The apparent contradiction is to be resolved, not by supposing that Paul has forgotten for the moment his doctrine of the saving grace of God in Christ to be received by faith, but by remembering that the divine grace was a morally creative power, in his view, which made possible all and more than the law required.
The words and example of the Lord are also authoritative as a standard of conduct. While there is little direct quotation, Paul's letters reflect, here and there, the influence of Jesus' teaching (cf.I Thess. 4:8 with Matt. 10:40; Luke 10:16; cf. Gal. 4:17 with Matt. 23:13; Luke 11:52; cf.I Cor. 4:12-13 and Rom. 12:14 with Matt. 5:44; Luke 6:27; cf.I Cor. 5:4 with Matt. 18:20; cf.I Cor. 9:19 with Mark 10:44; cf.I Cor. 13:2 with Matt. 17:20; Mark 11:23; cf.I Cor. 13:3 with Mark 10:21; Luke 12:33; cf.II Cor. 10:1 with Matt. 11:29; cf. Rom. 2:1 and 14:13 with Matt. 7:1; cf. Rom. 14:14 with Matt. 15:11; Mark 7:15; cf. Rom. 16:19 with Matt. 10:16 and many other passages). Three explicit references to Jesus' teaching are:I Cor. 7:10 (cf. Matt. 5:32; Mark 10:11-12);I Cor. 9:14 (cf. Matt. 10:10; Luke 10:7);I Cor. 11:23-25 (cf. Matt. 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:15-19). To this should be added Paul's stress on love (ajgaVph) as the ultimate determinative of conduct. Love is the Pauline ethos, the "way" I Cor. 12:31) in which all spiritual gifts are to be expressedI Cor. 13:1 does not mention Christ, but the context makes it evident that Paul is speaking of the way in which the Spirit (of Christ) issues in conduct. Even when Paul refers to the teaching of Jesus explicitly, the manner of his reference is significant. Jesus' teaching about marriage has, indeed, final authority I Cor. 7:10), but Paul does not present it as an objective command like the law of Moses. It is rather part of that revelation of the new life in the Spirit, in Christ, which Paul himself shares (7:12, 25). Jesus' saying is not an isolated dictum but an integral part, if the supremely authoritative part, of the total revelation.
It is the Spirit which is the prevailing sanction and norm of Christian conduct. What saves this standard from being vague and indecisive is the role of the Spirit in binding the many into one body I Cor. 12:12, 27). Because of the Spirit each individual member has an organic relationship (obligation?) to all other members. There can and must be no schism I Cor. 1:10-13), no self-conceit (Gal. 5:26), no censoriousness, but only a "spirit of gentleness" (Gal. 6:1), for this is the "law of Christ" (vs. 2). This sense of sharing, koinwniVa, produced the Pauline ethic or, at any rate, gave it its distinctive form. This is another reason for the lack of any formal system of ethics, although the list of household duties (see HOUSEHOLD DUTIES, LIST OF) in Col. 3:18-4:1 (cf. Eph. 5:21-6:9) is a step in that direction.
c. The Pauline paradox. It is in the realm of ethics that the Pauline paradox is most clearly encountered. The Christian, Paul insists, lives a new life; he is a new creation; yet he must be exhorted and admonished to be what he is, to act in accordance with his new nature. Perhaps there is no logical solution of this paradox. Paul simply knows that the new life comes from God through Christ and the Spirit as men open their hearts in faith to receive it; he also knows that he must exhort his converts to walk by the Spirit, which is their true life. Of course, salvation for Paul is still an end event, the Christian is still living "in the flesh" (Gal. 2:20), and the battle with sin is still going on even though the decisive victory has been won. Accordingly Paul exhorts and admonishes, for the believer has the seal, the guarantee or down payment, of the Spirit, but the final and complete salvation is still to be expressed in future tenses (Rom. 6:5, 8, 14).
Another unsolved problem, logically speaking, is the basis for obligation in the Pauline ethic. He has abandoned the law, all law, as the means of a right relationship with God and has reinterpreted its role in the economy of salvation. Has Paul also abandoned all objective grounds for obligation? This was the position taken by certain antinomian Christians in the Pauline churches, and Paul is seriously troubled by their plausible arguments (Rom. 3:7-8; 6:1, 15). Our obligation is to God, who in Christ has acted for our salvation, but what is the ground of our obligation to our fellows once the law has ceased to play that role? Paul's answer appears to be, We are bound into one body by the gift of the Spirit, and so our obligation is as members one of another. But here his striking figure of the body is not wholly satisfactory as a logical solution, for the members of the body operate organically and automatically and not from obligation in a moral sense. It is clear, therefore, that in Paul's thought the body is still a metaphorical term and is not meant to be taken literally.
10. The Lord is at hand. The coming of the Lord (see PAROUSIA) is but one aspect, although of central significance I Cor. 15:20-28;I Thess. 4:13-17), in Paul's expectation of events to be realized at the end of history and as its divinely ordained culmination. Eschatology is central rather than peripheral for Paul. He contemplates these end events both in chronological terms as near (Rom. 13:11-12;I Cor. 7:29) and in terms of decisive opportunity and fulfilment (see TIME), looking forward, not with foreboding, but with eager joy, to the emancipation from human and cosmic enslavement when "the creation itself will be set free" (Rom. 8:19-23).
a. The importance of eschatology for Paul. How important eschatology was for Paul is to be seen by surveying the scope of his expectations. The most complete statement isI Cor. 15:20-28. There the major notes are sounded, although his terse phrases leave the precise meaning open to conjecture. The destiny of believers, alive and dead, is bound up with the coming of Christ in messianic power I Thess. 2:19; 4:15; 5:23). He is the "first fruits" of the new humanity. The resurrection of Christ--so the logic of Paul's reasoning runs--means the resurrection of believers, who are members of his body. Just as they have been "in Adam," so they are now "in Christ" I Cor. 15:22). The rule of Christ is to mean the defeat of all alien powers (vss. 24-26). How long this rule of Christ is to continue is not indicated (contrast Rev. 20:5, 7), but it is to issue in the complete conquest of the enemies of God and in the final consummation when the Son delivers the kingdom to God (vs. 28). Whether the final judgment of all, believers and unbelievers alike, is meant by the words to; te"lov (vs. 24; "the end" or "finally"?) is not clear; Paul is here concerned primarily with the destiny of believers, although, no doubt, sharing the view that all will be judged (Rom. 2:6-11; but Rom. 14:10;II Cor. 5:10 refer to the judgment of Christians). Two Thessalonians passages deal with the destiny of Christians who have died before the coming of the Lord, in order to assure the readers that the dead in Christ will share equally with the living at his coming I Thess. 4:13-18) and to correct their view that "the day of the Lord has come" by an enigmatic presentation of the "man of lawlessness" and of events that must yet occur before the coming of the Lord II Thess. 2:1-17; see THESSALONIANS, SECOND LETTTER TO THE).
An integral part of Paul's eschatology is his view of the cosmic conflict between Christ and the invisible, supernatural powers of evil. These "principalities" and "powers" (Rom. 8:38; Col. 1:16) reign over all mankind, bringing sin and death since Adam. But in the Cross they have been defeated I Cor. 2:8; Col. 1:13; 2:10, 15), for Christ's coming and especially his resurrection marked the turning point in the tide of battle, and the ultimate victory is now assured I Cor. 15:26-26).
It follows naturally that salvation for Paul is a strictly eschatological event, the climax of God's dealing with men (Rom. 13:11 and often): we have been reconciled to God; we shall be saved (Rom. 5:10). That Paul can speak of salvation as a present reality (Rom. 8:24) is a contradiction in terms but not in reality, for he is emphasizing the fact that ours is, indeed, a saving hope, not contrasting something completed now over against the eschatological climax.
b. Was Paul apocalyptic? Neither Paul's eschatology nor the apocalyptic form it took (see APOCALYPTICSM) when he was contemplating the sequence of coming events I Cor. 15:20-28;I Thess. 4:13-18;II Thess. 2:1-12) can be dismissed as oriental hyperbole or as merely the framework of his thought from which his essential message can be lifted without surgery. These ideas are too deeply embedded in his gospel and too intimately woven into it to be treated as incidental. Yet the question, Was Paul apocalyptic? remains a valid one. He did think in terms of the two ages, the Judgment and the resurrection, the reign of the saints and the coming of the Lord. Apparently he also accepted the intermediate messianic kingdom as preceding the age to come I Cor. 15:25-28), after the general pattern of Jewish apocalypses (cf. II Bar. 30:1; II Esd. 7:26-30), although this plays an incidental role in his presentation of end events.
But Paul stands over against the apocalypses in important respects. His OT citations and allusions are from the Pentateuch, Isaiah, and the Psalms prevailingly, and he makes almost no use of the apocalyptical parts of the OT. In contrast to the pseudonymity of the apocalypses, Paul's personality is of significance in his writings. While the epistolary character of our sources guarantees this, it remains true that a thoroughgoing apocalyptist would have regarded an apocalypse as alone worth writing. Furthermore, moral values and motives, peripheral in the apocalypses, are central for Paul. The apocalyptic message was primarily one of comfort for the faithful and of condemnation for unbelievers. Paul's eschatology had a different relevance to his ethics (see § B10c below) than in the Jewish apocalypses. Finally and chiefly, the apocalyptic dualism--this age and the age to come--has been essentially transformed in Paul's thought. There is no longer a sharp boundary between the now and the then, for "all things are yours, whether ... the present or the future, all are yours" I Cor. 3:21-22). The dualism is now not simply a matter of time or of space, but it is a warfare between flesh and Spirit. Though the believer is still "in the flesh" (Gal. 2:20), he is also "in the Spirit,'" and the Spirit dwells in him. The age of the Spirit is yet to come, but the reality of the Spirit's presence is the guarantee of victory and of participation in the kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17). Paul puts this in a striking phrase inI Cor. 10:11: "written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come." He believes that he and his readers "stand in the isthmus of time between the ages," or better, he believes that the age to come can be entered from within history. Indeed, Paul has lifted the eschaton out of the "dimension of cosmic into the realm of historic occurrence." Accordingly, while it is correct to say that Paul accepted and employed apocalyptic, it is more accurate to say that he stands above apocalyptic, unconfined by its boundaries. This age of historical time has yet opportunities opening out into the age to come. That age has invaded this in Christ and the Spirit.
c. Eschatology and ethics. Paul's ethical teaching is surprisingly free from an explicit eschatological sanction and motivation. It is, of course, true that all his exhortations to right conduct imply the "new creation" in Christ II Cor. 5:17), which is to be consummated in salvation as an end event. Behavior, however, is usually the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-23). "Love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:8-10), and it is through the Holy Spirit that "God's love has been poured into our hearts" (Rom. 5:5). Paul seeks to work out each ethical problem to the "way" of love (ajgaVph). In two instances he does make explicit use of the eschatological sanction: In Rom. 13:11-12 he follows the important declaration that "love is the fulfilling of the law" (vs. 10b) with the words: "Besides this you know what hour it is ... For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand." The imminence of the end is not used to control the content (love) of conduct; it only enforces the relevance of that teaching. The situation in Paul's discussion of marriage iI Cor. 7:1 is quite different, however. Here, in counseling the unmarried to remain in their present state, Paul explicitly introduces the imminence of the end as the reason for his advice (vss. 26, 29). This is the clearest example of "interim ethic" in the NT. It is to be observed that Paul uses eschatology here, not to invalidate the institution of marriage, but only to show its inadvisability in view of the imminent end.
How thoroughly eschatological Paul's thought is can be tested by considering any one aspect of it. He cannot think of the destiny of the Jewish people, e.g., without evaluating their present rejection of the gospel in terms of the ultimate purpose of God (Rom. 9:1-11). Salvation, the conduct of the believer, the unceasing battle with the flesh--every aspect of the new life is at once a mingled faith and hope and a definitive assurance of victory. Yet Paul was never obsessed with speculations about the end, else we would have had only an apocalypse from his pen. His letters are replete with admonitions, exhortations, warnings, and encouragements. He is convinced that "the form of this world is passing away" I Cor. 7:31), but what saves him from being an apocalyptist is the event of Christ and the gift of the Spirit. Because of these events human history is now conjunct with the age to come. The day is dawning, and the eyes of faith can see its approaching glory. To the Christians at Thessalonica who are tempted to sloth by the imminence of the end, Paul writes a sharp rebuke II Thess. 3:6-12). The nearness of the end should mean the release, the enhancement, the revitalization, of the whole man to live the new life. What the end means is a new range and significance for life here and now "so that whether we wake or sleep we might live with him" I Thess. 5:10). Into this temporal, transient age new and lasting powers and values have come. Love, "poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit," lasts on, even when the form of this world passes away. The church is a "colony of heaven" (Phil. 3:20 Moffatt), and the believer is being changed into the Lord's likeness.
11. The permanent significance of Paul. It is hard to write calmly about Paul. Across the centuries, as during his lifetime, he has been the center of controversy arousing passionate defense and equally passionate opposition. The fact that his letters were preserved and that they were ultimately accepted as scripture is solid evidence of the verdict of the early church. That verdict has never been successfully challenged. It is true, however, that the significance of Paul's message has been quite variously assessed. Sometimes little more of Paul is known today than the well-loveI Cor. 13:1, together with Rom. 12:1; Phil. 4:8-9; and other such ethical exhortations. Sometimes one would gather from theological works that Paul only wrote a series of proof texts to support and illustrate the rubrics of systematic theology. Perhaps Paul would write again as he did to the church at Philippi: "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice" (1:18).
Paul himself acknowledged the marks of human frailty both in his thinking and in his doing. His achievement--or, as he would say, what God wrought through him--is the more impressive because of it. He asked and gave significant answers to the major theological questions which were to recur again and again through the subsequent centuries. But perhaps his most creative contribution was the union in him of the universal and the particular, for he released the universal message of Jesus from Jewish limits, laying the foundation for Gentile Christianity, and at the same time he planted little Christian churches in the strategic centers of the NW Mediterranean world in the firm conviction that they were "colonies of heaven," thus influencing and helping to shape the history of the Western world. Paul was an authentic ambassador for Christ whom nothing "in all creation" could separate from the love of God.
Bibliography. W. M. Ramsey, St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen (1896); H. Weinel, St. Paul, the Man and His Work (trans. G. A. Bienemann; 1906); A. Schweitzer, Paul and His Interpreters (trans. W. Montgomery; 1912); R. W. Robinson, The Life of Paul (1918); C. H. Dodd, The Meaning of Paul for Today (1920); G. A. Deissmann, St. Paul: A Study in Social and Religious History (trans. W. E. Wilson; 1926); F. J. Foakes-Jackson, The Life of Saint Paul (1926); B. W. Bacon, The Story of Paul (1927); T. R. Glover, Paul of Tarsus (1930); F. C. Porter, The Mind of Christ in Paul (1930); A.D. Nock, St. Paul (1933); C. A. A. Scott, St. Paul, the Man and the Teacher (1936); J. Weiss, The History of Primitive Christianity (trans. F. C. Grant et al.; 1937), bks. II-III; J. Knox, Chapters in a Life of Paul (1950).