Theology

ST PAUL

ST. PAUL

 The Pope Benedict XVI has declared 2008 the “year of St. Paul” in honour of The Apostle to the Gentiles to mark the 2000th birth anniversary of the Apostle. On 28th June the Pope visited the Basilica of St. Paul’s outside the walls and inaugurated a special Pauline year. St. Paul deserves it. For, riding like a colossus on the firmament of the early church, he left an indelible mark on it as its missionary par excellence having fulfilled its task of taking the Gospel “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1,8; 9,15f; Gal 1,15f).

Plans are afoot to attract large number of pilgrims to the Apostle’s birthplace Tarsus in Turkey. The 12th century St. Paul’s church at Tarsus, which has been converted into a state-owned museum, is opened up as a pilgrimage centre. The seven-member bishops’ conference, representing Armenian, Syriac and Chaldean Catholic communities, has drawn elaborate plans to celebrate the year, together with the Orthodox community. At present there are 120,000 Christians in Turkey. St. Paul is supposed to have made three return journeys to Anatolia (in modern-day Turkey) between AD 47 and 57. Those were the years when his apostolate among the Gentiles was at its peak. He was at his creative best in proclaiming the Gospel boldly and writing letters to his various communities. As was his wont, he proclaimed the Gospel to the Jews first (Acts 9,20; Rom 2,9f), but when the latter refused to believe, he had no option but to ‘demote’ them; he began proclaiming  the Gospel both to Jews and gentiles on an equal footing (Acts 19,8-10). As in the case of Jesus, some Jews accepted the message of salvation, but others continued to their stubbornness. So, Paul, after arriving in Rome, finally turned his back on these ‘stiff-necked’ people and turned towards the gentiles who would … “listen” (Acts 28,28ff).

 

Paul: a Prolific Letter–Writer

A letter is a personal message expression in writing. This form of linguistic expression has been in vogue since time immemorial. In the Hellenistic world, it was a vital form of expression. Under Alexander the Great, and after him, letter writing attained a social importance never achieved before.

The earliest letters were written on clay tablets and potsherds; early Greek and Latin letters on waxed wooden tablets. The Egyptians wrote their letters on papyri.

Letters reveal much about the writer. This is particularly true in Paul’s case. The letters tell what Paul was thinking, what he was doing, where he was traveling, how he felt about Jesus and the work of spreading the Gospel, what he thought about both his friend and his enemies, and most important, his theological thought and expression. The letters also provide trustworthy historical sources about early Christianity and about the Apostle who did more than any other apostle to spread the message of Jesus in the Gentile world.

The structure of the letter was amazingly stereotyped and employed traditional phrases: an address, date, greeting, body and conclusion.

 

I. Importance of Paul

 

1. The Apostles and the disciples laid the foundations of Church. Upon this the faith in the risen Jesus was nurtured and transmitted. Apostle James led the Church in Jerusalem; Philip went to Samaria; Peter was in Caesaria, Antioch and Rome; Thomas went to India. But the most charismatic of them all was the Apostle Paul, who never met Jesus.

 

2. St. Paul was not only the first Christian theologian but in many ways the most original. His thinking was forged on the anvil of his own mind and was not formed in a Pauline school setting. In his writings he quotes no text save Scripture. Thus we can say St. Paul was an autodidact, that is, a self taught thinker who, while indebted to traditions, never appealed to an authoritative teacher and he was the first one who authoritatively interpreted the Word of God and made it understandable to the future generation.

 

3. Paul was not a systematic theologian. All of Paul’s words are words on target. They are addressed to and shaped for particular communities and their needs. That is, he is an apostle forced by circumstances to become a pastoral theologian struggling for the authenticity of his Gospel vis-à-vis alternatives.

            Paul begins with an enquiry: how far Christ is meaningful for mankind. His theology is centred in the person of Christ, however not a study on the qualities of Christ’s personality. Rarely Paul deals with the words and deeds of Jesus, or the events in Jesus’ life. His full concentration was to see the significance and the depth of Jesus’ death and resurrection. When the Gospels deal with the life of Jesus, Paul explains what has been accomplished and achieved for mankind through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Paul had lofty view of Christ. He came o grow progressively attached to Christ, thereby he can declare in all honesty, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2,20). Our appreciation, as we read, will grow for Paul’s intellectual genius, his intellectual insights, and his historical dedication to Jesus Christ.

 

4. Paul stands next to Christ. In the history of the origin and development of the Christian Church next to the resurrection of Christ stands the conversion of Paul, better to say the realization of Paul’s vocation, as the most significant event. The consequences of that are significant and far -reaching in the growth of the Church.

 

5. Of all NT writers, it is perhaps Paul alone who very relevantly and in clear terms brings home to us what it means to be a Christian or disciple of Christ. Paul’s encounter and personal experience was with the glorified Jesus after His resurrection from the dead, and not with Jesus in the earthly life. Our Christian experience also is concerned with the same risen Lord. Paul’s writing are essential not just for the Christian theologian, but for all believers who would understand and live the Christian faith. He became the lens for focussing on the essence of Christianity.

 

6. No one has influenced the course of human history as Jesus Christ, and no one has been so responsible for the extension of Jesus’ influence as the Apostle Paul. Paul took what Jesus has done and made it known to the whole world. He made Christianity a world religion – from a Jewish sect to a world religion by the end of the first century.  This became a challenge for Christianity to conquer the world in Christ’s name. Thus the rapid growth of Christianity in the first century is the lengthened shadow of the apostle Paul. Paul is the one who played a decisive role in the Christian community’s efforts to acquire its proper identity. To him the Church of all times owe its consciousness of universality. His letters are the primary written sources that reveal to us the face of early Christianity.

 

7. Paul was the pioneer of ecumenism in the apostolic church. It was Paul, who succeeded in expressing the Christian Gospel in terms congenial to Greeks and he launched the Church’s teaching safely on non-Semitic waters.

 

8. Paul was the first and greatest missionary perhaps the best known of the early Christian preachers. He was an intensively active missionary. He undertook three mission journeys between 48-58. He left us a substantial corpus of writings. All his epistles are Canonical Books and so are parts of Christian doctrine.

 

9. For the sake of the Gospel Paul had to undergo much trials and difficulties in life (2Cor 11, 16-9. However, we find a successful man in him and a man with extreme confidence in his own Charisma. He was absolutely certain that everything around him, may crack but not his own charisma. As Paul writes “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ” (Rom 8,35). Therefore in the letters we do not find a single sentence which can be called withdrawal from the mission, in spite of all sufferings and trials.

 

10. Finally, it is Paul who made it clear that “love is the fulfilling of the law”. In Rom 13,8 he said “Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law”. All the commandments are summed up in the law “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”

In Gal 5, 14 “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. The welfare of the neighbour must be the prime and basic consideration of a Christian.

 

 

 

In short, Paul’s importance consists at three levels:

  1. At the level of events. It was Paul who brought the Church out of its Jewish cocoon. It is he who gave the church its consciousness of universality, namely he made it a world – wide religion.
  2. At the level of doctrine. It was Paul who first provided a way of formulating the significance of Jesus, which made it possible to universalise his mission. Paul saw with luminous clarity that in         Christ God had acted for all. Thus it became a challenge to conquer the world in His name.
  3. At the level of the missionary perspective. It was Paul who succeeded in launching the Gospel safely on non-Semitic waters. He was one of the earliest proponents of adaptation and indigenisation. With him Christianity moved from a Jewish milieu to the Gentile, Greco-Roman world, as a result it became universal and the gospel took a leap. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles interpreted, with a great sense of concreteness, the content of the Gospel for the divergent and changing reality of his communities.

 

II.  Paul the Apostle

 

The designation Apostle : Paul prefers to use the designationapostle to his name and remains as that which qualifies. St Luke has set apart the name ‘apostle’ only to the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. However in the Acts of the Apostles Luke specially gives the designation apostle to Paul. Who is an apostle? Specifically speaking the one who is chosen by Christ, lived with Christ, the one who followed Christ, the one who knew Christ and has experienced the Christ event is an apostle. When Judas died, in his stead Matthias was chosen (Acts 1,21-25) and he had all the qualifications. But after the death of Jacob, no one else was chosen. It may be because; there was no one at that time that lived with Christ. Moreover Jacob would have accomplished the mission of his apostleship by that time. Thus the status of an apostle was given only to those who lived with Christ. At the same time Luke sees Paul with this status.

St Paul uses the designation to the twelve and to himself. By the use of the apostles before me in Gal 1,17, indirectly Paul admits that he considers himself as an apostle. This is not only a position but also a mission. Later Paul confers this status to Thimotheos and Silvanus (1Thess 1,1; 2Thess 1,1). Epaphrodtitus of Philippian Church is said as ‘your apostle and my collaborator (phil 2, 25).

As far as Paul is concerned the experience at Damascus is enough, the one who experiences the risen Lord is an apostle. Paul does not limit himself the title Apostle only to the 12. All those who do the work of Good News for Christ are Apostles.

However, only the apostles in the Scripture have the right to lay the foundation for an ecclesial community. Either in the name the Word or in the name of Jesus no one has the right to lay the foundation for an ecclesial community different from the apostolic churches. Even today an ecclesial community can be formed only in continuity with the early church based upon the apostolic authority. The possibility for missionary activities comes from this vision. God instituted in the church first apostles (1Cor 2,28) means that they are the first ones to proclaim the Good News. Next to Christ comes the apostolic authority in the church.

Apostleship is not a decorative position in the church, is a position to serve in the church. The basis of apostleship is the authoritativeness and faithfulness in proclaiming Christ. As we read Gal 1, 1 it becomes clear that Paul bases his self – consciousness on apostleship, it becomes highly strong also in that. Paul gives certain dimensions to the apostleship. The nature of apostleship consists in working for Christ and for the Gospel. That is the core of apostleship.

Secondly Paul’s apostleship does not consist merely in proclaiming the Good News. More than that what is important is he throughout his life bore witness to Christ that is he suffered a lot in His name. He bears Christ’s life in his body (2Cor 4, 10). Paul the apostle bears in his body the suffering and death of Christ. He who bears in his body the suffering and death of Christ is an apostle. Paul made use of his apostleship to identify himself to the suffering and death of Christ (Phil 3, 10; Gal 6,17). The authoritativeness of apostleship consists in the faithfulness of the service.

 

 

 

1.Paul’s name:

Saul is Paul’s Semitic name and also as a Pharisaic Rabbi. The Greek form Zaulos is a transliteration of the Hebrew name of the first king of ancient Israel Saul as in 1 Sam 9, 2.17. This name means “asked of God or Yahweh”.

Paul is his Greco-Roman name, and later as Christ’s Apostle. It is a well-known Roman family name.

Prior to Acts 13,9 his name is always Saul, where Peter’s mission among the Jews is mainly dealt with; and from then on, when Paul’s missionary activities among the Gentiles are concentrated the name used is Paul.The author of the Acts used the Hebrew name in the Jewish part of his narrative, and the Latin name in the part given to the gentile mission.

 

2.Paul’s Birth Place

Paul was a Diaspora Jew, namely he was born in one of the Jewish colonies to be found, by his time, in all the chief towns of the Mediterranean world. According to Acts 21,39 and 22,3 his native place was Tarsus, in Cilichia, in the southern part of modern Turkey, in the great peninsula of Asia Minor. Tarsus was Paul’s Civic country, where he received the envied title of a Roman citizen (Acts 22, 25-27). In the first century our era in 66 B.C. Tarusus became a Roman province and Palestine also in this time became a part of the Roman Empire. In 67 it was designated the capital of the Province of Cilichia. Under Augustus Caesar it had its full rights as free city. Such rights allowed its citizens to boast of their Roman citizenship as did Paul in Acts 22,28.

Paul was a Hellenistic Jew who wrote in Greek, used the LXX and was influenced by Hellenism, which started from classical Greece and prevailed from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. and through the succeeding centuries.

But Jerusalem was the fatherland of his soul and of his intelligence. In Acts 22,3 we read that he was brought up in Jerusalem at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the leading religious teachers of the day, as is clear from Acts ch.5.

In Phil 3,5 Paul speaks, who he is and where he bears witness to his own strict Jewish upbringing: Circumcised on the eighth day (cf. Gen 17, 11-12), of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamine and a Pharisee.

Paul was proud of his Jewishness (cfr. 2Cor 11,22-25; Rom 11,1). The Benjaminite tribe provided the first king of Israel, Saul (1Sam 9,1-4) after whom the Apostle was named. Paul also boasted his Pharisaic background (Phil 3,6; Acts 23,6; Acts 26,5). Difference between Pharisees and Sadducees (cfr Acts 23, -9)

In Gal 1,14 we read that Paul was extremely zealous for the tradition of his fathers. Every religion aims at the salvation of man. As a Jewish Rabbi he learned and was fully convinced of three things: Monotheism, Law is the means to reach God and Circumcision is the sign of Jewishness. As he was going around teaching the Jewish Law, tradition both written and oral, he happens to hear about the risen Lord Jesus Christ and his followers. It was really a threat to his faith and also to his teachings. As a result he decided to wipe the followers of Christ from the face of the earth by persecuting them, first in Jerusalem and then in the other places. When persecution died out in Jerusalem, he decided to move to the Diaspora.

 

 

Paul’s Conversion and After

 

Did Paul Convert to Christianity?

Every year, on January 25 we celebrate the feast of Conversion of St. Paul. But, we must not hesitate to ask ‘Did Paul really convert to Christianity’?

The ordinary meaning of conversion is turning from a life of dissipation to a life of grace\virtue. It is not possible to apply this definition to Paul for the simple reason that, unlike St. Augustine, Paul never lived a life of dissipation. He was always committed to God (Phil 3,6). It is due to this commitment that, full of zeal for God’s law, he persecuted the Way i.e. Christians. The latter believed in and worshipped someone who ’hanged on a tree’ and such a person was accursed (Dt 21,23). How dare these so-called Christians defy God’s Law!

It is at this time that, “as to one untimely born”, God revealed his Son to Paul. Speaking about it, Paul obliquely compares himself to Jeremiah by saying that God set him apart before he was born and called him through His grace (Gal 1,15; Jer 1,5; also 49,1).

What was the purpose of this revelation? God took the initiative in revealing his Son to Paul so that the latter ‘might preach him among the gentiles’. Thus, the encounter at Damascus was an earth-shaking event for Paul. It is there that he realized the truth that the Messiah had come; he is none other than the crucified Jesus. In an instant his misgivings about the crucified Messiah vanished. Him whom he hitherto considered as accursed he began to consider as the Messiah ‘whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1Cor 1,30) From now on he will proclaim him not with eloquent wisdom but as crucified, a stumbling to Jews (who cannot accept a crucified Messiah) and a folly to gentiles (who cannot accept Resurrection).

We can put all this succinctly thus: at Damascus, Paul’s theology did not change; his Christology did. There was no question of Paul’s “returning” to the Lord since he did not stray from him at all! From now onwards, however, not the Law but faith in Jesus Christ will be for him the source of justification. From a proud Pharisee Paul now became a humble Christian, Disciple, Apostle. All this was due to God’s grace about which he waxes eloquent. “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1Cor 15,10).

          It was not a conversion from a bad life to a good one; an immoral life to a moral life. If we see his conversion from that way, we misunderstand Paul and belittle grace.

There are two sources that speak of Paul’s conversion. Paul’s own letters Gal 1,11-24; 1Cor 15,8-10; Phil 3, 7-8.12) and the Acts of the Apostles (9,1=10; 22,1-22;26,1-32).

Acts of the Apostle, which is first real volume of Church History, deals with Paul’s conversion thrice, which shows how significant this event is in the origin and development of the Church in the early period.

In chapter 9 we have Luke’s own narration about Paul’s conversion.

Chps 22 & 26 there the event is described in the context of Paul’s speeches:

In ch. 22 we see Paul’s speech before a hostile Jewish crowd at the temple in Jerusalem.

In ch. 26 we have Paul’s speech before the Roman governor Festus and the royal couple Agrippa and Bernice.

Damascus, capital of Syria, is about 180-200 KM away from Jerusalem. It is there the finger of God awaited him, as he was rushing to Damascus to seek out the secret disciples of Jesus in the Synagogue of Damascus, and to bring them hand-cuffed before the Sanhedrin.

The most striking thing about Paul’s conversion is its suddenness and unpreparedness. Both Acts and Paul agree in this. The hunter has been hunted down. It was a sudden and direct encounter that changed Paul the Pharisee into Paul the Apostle. Thereby the most powerful adversary of the early Church is brought into the Christian camp.

To Paul it was purely God’s grace: “Christ Jesus made me his own” Phil 3,12). He was not converted to a system of Christian thought or to a completely organized tradition. Paul was converted to Christ rather than to Christianity. It was not a conversion from a bad life to a good one; an immoral life to a moral one. By the grace of that singular encounter with the Lord, Paul came to regard all that as verse than worthless. He saw it as loss (Phil 3,7). It was a complete turning away from what was genuinely good to its everlasting enemy, the better.

Whatever happened to Paul on the Road to Damascus altered his life radically, reversed the scale of values, and made his vision of all things utterly new. Not the event itself, but the resulting conversion as such is where the meaning and the challenge of the account for the reader are to be sought.

As a Jew Paul was a staunch believer in monotheism. As a Pharisee he was a believer in the resurrection of the dead. As we read in Deut 21,23, quoted by Paul in Gal 3,13, “he who is hanged is cursed by God”. Such a one was acclaimed as God. Paul could not tolerate that. Though, as a Pharisee, he believed in the resurrection of the dead, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth had to signify a good deal more than the specific instance of what a Pharisee believed and hoped to be the lot of all the just.

The risen Lord entrusted him with a mission. The reluctant Ananias was told to go to meet Paul, for “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel (Acts 9,15; 13,47; 18,6; 22,21; 26,17.23).

After the Damascus event, preaching the Gospel was almost a necessity for him (1Cor 9,16).His circumcision on the eighth day, his belonging to the people of Israel, his being a Hebrew born of Hebrews, his Pharisaism, his zeal for the law, and his blamelessness under it (Phil 3,5-6) were inestimable assets of which he was rightly proud. They were real “gain”, genuine and solid accomplishments, of which he could justifiably boast. But – and this is crucial for understanding the conversion – by the grace of that singular encounter with the Lord, Paul came to regard all that as worse than worthless. He saw it as loss.

The incident on the way to Damascus, judged by what Paul himself says about it, was a conversion, a complete turning away from what was genuinely good to its everlasting enemy, the better, and alter the meaning of Paul’s hard earned righteousness, through the observance of the law. It was that righteousness which had to be given up, that “blamelessness under the law” which had to be counted as loss and discarded as refuse. Faith in the righteousness through the law could not exist simultaneously with ‘the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3,9).

            What Paul began to proclaim was precisely the righteousness ‘which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; and no longer a righteousness of my own, based on law (Phil 3,9). In other words, what was radically altered was precisely Paul’s view of salvation. What Paul grasped, or rather what took hold of him?

 

Significance of the Damascus Event

a.  The experience at Damascus did not alter Paul’s basic commitment to the ‘One God’. The   Father  who revealed His Son to Paul was the same God that Paul the Pharisee had always worshipped and served. So his theology did not change.

b.   If Paul’s theology did not change, his Christology did. The Damascus vision instructed Paul in the soteriological value of the death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiahin God’s salvific plan. As a Jew Paul shared the messianic expectation of his people (Dan 9,25). The vision taught him that God’s anointed had already come, that he was Jesus our Lord, crucified and risen. The cross, which had been the stumbling block to the Jews, became in his eyes ‘the power and wisdom of God’ (1Cor 1,24). Henceforth, Paul would understand that crucified ‘Lord of Glory’ (1Cor 2,8) as his exalted Messiah.

c.  Paul got a new vision of salvation history. The messianic age had already begun. So the eschaton, “end time”, so anxiously awaited before, had already been started, but not yet in glory. The death and resurrection of Jesus is seen as the inauguration of the new age, and at the same time he still looked forward to Christ’s coming in glory, to his parousia. This enabled him to fashion his ‘Gospel’ to preach the fundamental good news of salvation in a form that was distinctively his own.

     d.    The cross became the proof of God’s love and the supreme sacrifice for the sins of the people. Salvation was to be had, not by self-righteousness, or obedience to the Law, but by grace and by grace alone.

e.   Finally, his vision was linked directly to his commission to apostleship. He had seen the Lord and had been commissioned by him.

Regarding the Damascus experience we can also note the following:

  1. Certainly grace found in the fertile nature of Paul a propitious, favourable soil.
  2. Strong convictions in the service of passion are easier to turn to the good than scepticism fortified by indifference. God enters more easily into the hearts and mind which have not sinned against the light.
  3. In the morning Paul is the devouring wolf that ravages the sheepfold of Christ. In the evening he became the conqueror who brings to the foot of the cross conquered and captive the enemies of the Gospel.

After the event Paul was led to Ananias in Damascus. From there he went to Arabia (Gal 1,17). From there may be that he came to Damascus, from where he had to escape on account of Jewish opposition (Acts 9,23; 2Cor 11,33) in a basket lowered over the city walls.

After three years he went to Jerusalem to meet Peter (Acts 9,26; Gal 1,18). After 15 days he came to Antioch, where he started his missionary work. The Christians there were predominantly, mostly Gentile Christians. For Paul ‘Faith in Christ and the Baptism in Christ were the two conditions. They are free to follow the rites, rituals and traditions of the Jewish community. Thereby Paul opened the door of Faith to the Gentile world, and they are liberated from the Law of Moses.

            But the Jewish Christians’ attitude was different. They were ready to open the door to the Gentiles, not fully but half, for they were ready to accept only those who are ready to accept the Jewish rites and traditions. For they believed, that their teachings and arguments are based upon the teachings of Jesus, “He came not to abolish the Law, but to fulfil it”. Jesus did not proclaim the Good New to the Gentiles, but exclusively to the Jews. So also they believed, circumcision and the other Jewish rites were part of the covenant established with Abraham. If we abolish them, in a way we deny the promises of God. Abraham’s people are set apart with their own Jewish identity, namely with the external mark of circumcision. Those who are not having the blood of Christ in their body, there is only one solution to become the disciple of Jesus: undergo the circumcision and follow other traditions. Therefore there came a clash between these two ideologies and the scene is Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas were active. There came Jewish Christians from Jerusalem and said, as per the Law of Moses those who are not circumcised will not be saved (Acts 15,1). It means, the so-called Gentile Christians are not Christians and are not worthy to invite the other Gentiles into the Christian Church. So they closed the door of the Gospel. Against this Paul and Barnabas fought with tooth and nail. The result was the Jerusalem Council in AD 49-50.

Since the issue was such serious one which includes a common principle and also the one which affects the very future of the Church, Paul and Barnabas decided to go to the supreme authorities of the Church. In the Council under the leadership of the so called pillar apostles – Jacob, Peter and John – Paul’s Gospel was fully accepted and the Gospel to the Gentiles was entrusted to Paul, as the Gospel to the Jews to Peter (Acts 15; Gal 2,7-9). Coming back from Jerusalem Paul undertook two more great missionary journeys. Wherever he visited, he established Christian communities. Later on when he was away from them, he kept constant contact with them through his letters. These letters forwarded by Paul to different communities at various times are the Epistles we have at our disposal in the Scripture.

 

Pauline writings

Excluding the Revelation to John, the whole NT can be divided into two blocks: the Gospels and the Apostolic Letters. In between them there is the Acts of the Apostles which binds the two sections together. He Ascension makes it look back to the Gospels and the Pentecost (Acts 2) points to the starting of the way of the Gospel. The way of the Gospel is described in the rest of the Acts. The Letters were written from the centres where the different Apostles worked. The Pauline writings aimed at deepening the message of the Gospel in the hearts of the Christians in the various centres where the Apostle of the Gentiles laboured.

A letter is a personal message expression in writing. This form of linguistic expression has been in vogue since time immemorial. In the Hellenistic world, it was a vital form of expression. Under Alexander the Great, and after him, letter writing attained a social importance never achieved before.

The earliest letters were written on clay tablets and potsherds; early Greek and Latin letters on waxed wooden tablets. The Egyptians wrote their letters on papyri.

Letters reveal much about the writer. This is particularly true in Paul’s case. The letters tell what Paul was thinking, what he was doing, where he was traveling, how he felt about Jesus and the work of spreading the Gospel, what he thought about both his friend and his enemies, and most important, his theological thought and expression. The letters also provide trustworthy historical sources about early Christianity and about the Apostle who did more than any other apostle to spread the message of Jesus in the Gentile world.

The structure of the letter was amazingly stereotyped and employed traditional phrases: an address, date, greeting, body and conclusion.

 

Pauline writings: Letters or Epistles?

Twenty-one out of twenty-seven ‘books’ of the NT are called epistolai and possess epistolary form. Of these, thirteen are assigned to Paul; they are in the most literal sense letters. Paul wrote these letters in answer to the various situations in which his different communities found themselves. Hence when we read Paul’s letters, we are not reading things which are meant to be academic exercises and theological treatises, but letters written by a friend to his friends/communities. There were some threatening situations in Corinth, Galatia, Philippi and to a certain extent, in Thessalonica and he wrote a letter to meet each situation. He was not in the least thinking of us; he wrote solely for the people who were struggling with the theory and practice of Christian life.

 

Writing or dictation ?

 Paul did not normally pen his own letters but dictated them to a secretary, and then added his own authenticating signature. We actually know the name of one of the persons who wrote for him. In Rom 16,22 Tertius, the secretary slips in his own greeting before the letter ends. In 1Cor 16, 21, Paul says “This is my own signature, my autograph, so that you can be sure this letter comes from me”. This explains why Paul’s letters are hard to understand. We must not think of him sitting quietly at a desk and carefully polishing every sentence. He must have been pacing up and down a room, pouring out his thoughts as his secretary wrote. Paul had his mind on the people to whom he was writing and he was pouring out his heart to them in words that fell over each other in his eagerness to help.

 

Shortcomings ! 

Paul’s letters are spontaneous, sincere, warm and interesting but at the same time, they suffer from being brief, tentative and incomplete. Letters cannot be revised or rewritten. All that the writer can do is write another letter! Thus, we have a second letter to the Corinthians.

Besides, one sees Paul’s thoughts on faith more pronounced in Galatians as well as his reflections on Justification more clearly in his later letter to the Romans.

            All along Paul’s message informs and transforms his people. The letters were for Paul an extension of his apostleship. He conveyed his apostolic authority through them and built a bond of genuine collaboration and closeness with his people.

The writings of Paul are real letters. They are more than just private letters in respect of author, recipients and subject matter. Because of their universal character we call them Epistles.

The prime way to know the life and theology of Paul is nothing other than his letters. They are not mere articles containing multi-faced teachings; rather they are literally high theological books.

Paul is the inaugurator of the NT. Paul’s writings is the first ones recorded in the NT. Only in AD 85 Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles. That made Paul’s letters more relevant.

 

The Order of the Letters:

1.Canonical Order

Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1&2 Thessalonians, 1&2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon. Here, if we observe, the letters to the communities come first followed by those to the individuals.

2.Chronological Order

Since there is a lot of difference of opinion in this regard, we can make only a probable arrangement: 1&2 Thess, Gal, 1&2 Cor, Rom, Philemon, Philip, Col, Eph, 1Tim, Titus, and 2 Tim.

3.The Systematic Order

The early Letters: 1&2 Thess (50-51 AD)

The Great or Major Letters: Rom, 1&2 Cor, Gal.(55-58 AD)

The Captivity or Prison Letters: Philemon, Philip, Col, Eph (60-63 AD)

The Pastoral Letters: 1&2 Tim, Titus.

 

The Authenticity of the Letters:

Paul’s letters can be divided into authentic letters (proto-Pauline) and those of doubtful authenticity (deutero-Pauline).

Proto-Pauline: Rom, 1&2 Cor, Gal, Philip, 1Thess, Philemon

Deutero-Pauline: 1&2 Tim, Titus, Eph, Col, 2 Thess.

 

Virtually half the NT writings are credited to Paul. It indicates the importance of the ex-persecutor convert in the life of the early Church.

The hallmark of Paul’s ministry is evangelisation and building up of Christian communities across the northern and eastern parts of the Mediterranean. In Greece and southern Turkey he was the founding father of several communities. In places like Damascus, Antioch in Syria, Ephesus and Rome he lived and worked with his fellow Christian pastors building up the young churches in Christ. He undertook correspondence with the communities he founded such as Corinth, Philippi and Thessalonica.

These communities lived in an affluent and permissive world akin to that of our time, a world alien to Christian values and the Christian life-style. Paul appreciated that they needed to be constantly built up in the Spirit if they were to withstand the pressures of such a society and to convert it to Christ. Paul carried our his role as a pastor by visits, correspondence and sending delegates like Titus and Timothy, and also by establishing elders\presbyters to lead the communities in the way of Christ.

The sheer force of Paul’s faith and love for these young communities shines through the letters and has ensured a place of importance in the NT Canon. The letters work out the teaching of Jesus and the life in Christ in the Christian community.

Paul saw Jew and Gentile in Christian fellowship as a miracle of God’s power (Spirit) while the barrier of hatred between these two groups disappeared in Christ. As a previous hater himself (of Christians) Paul knew the difference between hate and the love of God in the Christian community.

 

NOTES ON ROMANS

Letter to Romans

It is very significant that the Apostle to the gentiles found his fulfilment in Rome, the capital to the Roman Empire. He had not evangelized this city (Acts 12,17), but was eager to go there in order to share his faith with the Romans, or rather to be “mutually encouraged”. Long before he could go to Rome, however, he wrote to them a Letter, Romans, which has become a Christian masterpiece. Why did he write this letter to a community which he did not found?

There is a two-fold reason. One, the letter is prophylactic. Paul is pro-active here, he wants by all means to prevent doctrinal infection in Rome, something that has unfortunately happened in his own church of Galatia. Before the troublemakers of Galatia (‘Judaisers’) reach Rome and vitiate the atmosphere there too, Paul wants to give a wide publicity to his central synthesis of Justification by Faith. The second reason is: testamentary. Paul wants to bequeath to the Romans his treasure; the pure, unadulterated Gospel! Romans was a masterstroke, to demolish his opponents on the one hand and, on the other, to make his Gospel known far and wide. He knows that ones his Gospel reaches Rome, it will spread like wildfire to all the corners of the world. And so it did. The Gospel preached by Paul continued its relentless march “to the ends of the earth”, encompassing all the continents, turning the world upside down (Acts 17,6) right upto Vatican II which, according to Karl Rahner, was “the first self-actualisation of the Church as the World Church”.

Does St. Paul have a message which is relevant to our time? He has. His message once “hard to understand” (2Peter 3,16), would be three-fold: make the Risen Lord the centre of your life; love the poor; and fight against vulgarity and violence.

First of all, Paul would give us the same message that he gave the Galatians and Romans: we are justified by faith. Paul was obsessed by the Risen Lord for whose sake he considered everything as garbage (Phil 3,8). On the very day of Paul’s so-called conversion, the lord told Ananias in a vision that his “chosen instrument” would have to suffer(Acts 9,15). And suffer he did (2Cor 11,23ff) – gladly for the Lord whom he once persecuted. There is only one desire in Paul’s heart now: to be with the Lord (Phil 1,23) and in season and out of season he will remind us that Christ has freed us from the yoke of the Law (Gal 5,11). Christ has indeed freed us, not only from the Mosaic Law but from all other laws; from men of god, superstars, novenas and everything that enslaves us. The Lord alone deserves to be the centre of our life.

Secondly, in the year of Globalization when 70 percent of the poor are becoming poorer and the 30 percent rich, richer Paul would say, “love the poor.”

Finally Paul would have a message for us to fight against all forms of vulgarity and violence.

 

Introduction

Letter to the Romans enjoys primacy over all others in the Pauline Corpus. This is the longest, about 7100 words, and theologically most significant and the best structured one among the letters of Paul. The length as well as the profundity of its subject matter marks it out as the most unusual letter.

If we understand this Epistle, then we have a passage opened to us to the understanding of the whole Scripture.

Epistle to the Romans is one of the classic documents of the Christian faith, the theological Epistle par excellence in the NT. It is a compendium of Christian doctrine. It is not a Catechism, but only a fundamental thesis, written towards the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, while his reflections are mature. Hence, this may be called in a limited sense the Gospel of Paul, or ‘the Magna Carta’ of Christian Faith.

Of all the Pauline Epistles, the Epistle to the Romans is the least like a real letter. More than a letter we see there a developed treatise – like the exposition of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a result the Letter to the Romans has become for the Church the ‘Testament of Paul’, because the nature of the Gospel is more clearly and exactly worked out in this letter. That is what constitutes the theological significance of this letter.

It is an epistle written to instruct its readers, regarding the essentials of Christian doctrine and life. It is a presentation of his missionary reflections on the historic possibility of salvation now offered in the Gospel to all men. Pharisaic Judaism held the view that the righteousness was adherence to the divine Law. For Paul it is adherence to the Divine Lord through faith. When the Judaism speaks of the salvation only of the Jews, Paul speaks of the universal salvation.

In 2Peter 3,16 we read: “There are certain things in the letters of Paul hard to understand”. When he wrote these lines the author of 2Peter was not exaggerating. We can say, in some respects the Epistle to the Romans contains probably the hardest of all Paul’s thoughts about his Gospel. However, it is letter written in amicable placidity and there we see self-introduction of both the Apostle and his Gospel.

 

The Christian Community in Rome

The origin of Christian community in Rome is shrouded in mystery. The Epistle to the Romans is our earliest witness to the existence of a Church in Rome.

It is worthy to note that neither Peter nor Paul (Rom 1,11-13; 15,20) was the first to evangelize them, though traditionally it is attributed to Peter. One thing is clear that both of them had visited Rome, had played an important role or part in the early history of the roman Church and had finally sealed their apostolic ministries by martyrdom in Rome. They were also, in a special sense, its apostles because their mortal remains there.

The Roman community was comprised of both Jewish and Gentile Christians. The city had a sizable number of Jews during the first century B.C. The letter’s appeal for mutual acceptance (15,7ff), its repeated reference to Jews and Gentiles having the same responsibility before God (1,16; 2,9f; 3,29; 10,12) and the discussion on Israel in chps 9-11 would be incomprehensible if there were no Jewish Christians in Rome.

There were Gentiles too, is clear from the Letter (Rom 11, 13-32; 15, 7-12). In 9,3ff; 10,1ff; 11,23.28.31 one can hear Paul speaking to non Jews concerning his own people. It is beyond doubt therefore that there were Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians in the community to which the Apostle directs his Epistle.

 

Date, Provenance (place of origin) and Circumstance of the Letter

Most probably the Epistle was written towards the end of Paul’s third missionary journey, around 58 AD, just before he was about to return to Jerusalem with the collection, which he had taken from Macedonia and Achaia, for the poor of Jerusalem mother Church (Rom 15, 25-26).

As we read in Rom 15, 19-20.23 the return to Jerusalem was for Paul the end of missionary work in the Eastern Mediterranean area. In v19 he says that he has fully preached the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem and as far as Illyricum. As is clear from 15, 22-23 he desired for some time to evangelize the West. Thus he turned his gaze toward Spain, and hoped to visit Rome en route. After the journey to Jerusalem his hopes were to be realized at last. Accordingly he was emboldened and encouraged to write this letter, probably from Cenchrae, the port in Corinth, to introduce himself to the already existing Christian community of Rome in view of his impending visit. Therefore we can say, the recommendation of Phoebe, deaconess of the Church at Cenchrae, Corinth’s eastern port (Rom 16,1-2) and the fact that this place suits the personal situation of Paul best, point to Corinth as the likeliest place of its origin.

The purpose of his visit becomes rather clear. The Roman church had already been founded by someone else (Rom 15,20-21). Traditionally the church in Rome is connected with Peter. Nevertheless, Paul hopes, a brief sojourn there would have some salutary effect among the Christians of the Capital, even as it had among the Gentiles elsewhere.

For a long time the gaze of the Apostle had been fixed in Rome. He had a strong, vehement desire to visit the little growing church there. This desire harrowed (worried, vexed) him. He kept saying to himself: I must see Rome 1,11-15; 15,23; Acts 19,21. At the same time Paul says in Rom 15,20 (cfr 2Cor 10,15-16) that his ambition to preach the Gospel was such, to preach not where Christ has already been named; lest he builds on another man’s foundation. However, he deems it necessary and appropriate to introduce himself by setting before them a comprehensive and reasoned statement of the fundamentals of the gospel as he had come to understand it. This would clear up some of the misunderstandings and suspicions against him and encourage the Romans to sustain his mission.

We can also say, perhaps Paul had a supernatural presentiment that the centre of the world was predestined to be also the centre of the church.

Regarding the authenticity of the Epistle to the Romans we can say one thing. It is generally admitted today that the letter is of Pauline origin. So it is almost a closed question. As a result Romans occupies a prominent place in every list of the NT books.

The role of Tertius (16,22) could have been that of a short-hand writer, or even that of an independent secretary.

Regarding the integrity of the letter also there is not much serious dispute today. There are a number of commentators who defend the integrity of Romans, including ch.16, whose authorship is not in question.

 

Structure of the Epistle to the Romans

I.   1,1-17 Introduction  

vv.1-7 Superscription (Opening Formula) (Self-introduction of both the Apostle and                                                                                                                  his Gospel.

vv.8-15 Thanksgiving. Here there is an eulogy (praise) of the faith of the Romans, an expression of the lively interest which Paul takes on them.

vv.16-17 Adumbration (outline) of theme. Paul announces the theme of the letter

      v.16 Gospel is the power of God for salvation

      v.17 In this Gospel Paul experienced the Righteousness of God.

II.  1,18 – 15,13 The Body of the Letter. This is divided into two sections.

1,18-11,36 Doctrinal – Dogmatic section

12,1-15,13 Paraenetic section – Moral Instruction

III. 15,14 – 16,27 Conclusion to the Epistle, where Paul gives news about his apostolate. Then speaks of his planned journey to Rome on the way to Spain, then salutations and the letter end with doxology.

 

Division of the Doctrinal section 1,18 – 11,36

A.  1,18 – 4,25 is explanation of 1,17 where the theme is righteousness or justification. Man is justified not by Law, but by faith. First the theme of the righteousness of God or God’s justice is explained negatively saying both Gentiles and Jews are under God’s wrath.

1,18-32 Gentiles are under God’s wrath for they did not seek God, rather committed idolatry.

2,1 – 3,20 Jews are also under God’s wrath. This Paul explains by basing upon the 4 privileges they enjoyed

            2,1-11   They are the elected ones, but the mere election will not save them from God’s wrath

            2,12-24 Second privilege Law. Possession of Law will not save a Jew from God’s wrath.

2,25-29 Third privilege is circumcision. This external mark of Jewishness will not save them                 from God’s wrath.

            3,1- 8    The last privilege I s the promise of salvation given to the Jews.

            3, 9-20  Both Jews and Gentiles are equally unworthy to stand before God

            3,21-31 Positive explanation of the theme stated in 1,17. God’s saving justice is revealed independently of the law and by means of faith. The ground of the justification is the death and resurrection of Christ and the means of justification is faith, which is required from the part of the believer.

            4,1-25  Scriptural proof for the thesis stated. Abraham was justified not by Law but by faith.

 

B. 5,1 – 8,39 Explanation of 1,16 Person who is justified by faith will be saved. Christ has inaugurated the rule of the Spirit in the place of the rule of the law

            5,1-11 Presentation of the theme: the justified lives in the hope of salvation.

First this theme is explained negatively by presenting the enemies that prevent mankind from salvation.

            5,12-21 First enemy is death (thantos) : Christ and Ada

            6,1-23 Second enemy is sin (hamartia) : Dead to sin and alive to God

            7,1-25 Third enemy is law (nomos) : Life of freedom from the law

            8, 1-39 Positive explanation of 1,16: Christian is empowered by the Holy Spirit and becomes  worthy of calling God Abba, Father. Hence it demands and speaks of a life characterized by the indwelling of God’s Spirit.

 

C. Chaps. 9-11 Explanation of: ‘first for Jews and then for the Gentiles in 1,16. Whereby Paul asserts that his thesis is not opposed to the OT revelation. The theme is the unbelief of Israel and the faithfulness of God.

            9,1-33 Infidelity of the chosen people

            10,1-21 Israel’s unbelief inexcusable

            11,1-36 Her infidelity, partial and temporary

12, 1- 15,13 Moral Instruction

            12,1-2 Introduction

            12,3-13,7 Reciprocal duties of Christians as members of the mystical body

            13,8-14,23 The precept of charity, an epitome of our social duties.

            15,1-13 Application of the precept of charity.

15,14-16,27 General conclusion

 

ANALYSIS OF THE TEXT

Romans 1, 1-17 Introduction

Rom 1,1-7 The Opening Formula: At the outset, as the first element of the formula, Paul would address himself to the Romans in terms of their shared call in faith, under the same Lord.

While introducing himself to the Christians in Rome, naturally Paul refers to his mission. The reference to the mission leads him to a highly significant definition of the Gospel, which it is his mission to proclaim.

The definition of the Gospel extends to the end of v.4, which is presupposed in vv.9.15.16, when the gospel is referred to.

v.1 Paul calls or styles himself ‘a servant or slave of Christ Jesus’. There are two words in Greek for slave – pais – doulos . Paul uses the strong term doulos (cfr also Gal 1,10; Phil 1,1; tit 1,1).

Thereby Paul affirms that he belongs to Christ without reservation.

For a Greek in the classical tradition it was almost impossible to use the term slave without some feeling of extreme aversion. But in ancient Israel to call a man ‘God’s slave’ was to accord him a title of honour. Thus we see the title applied in the OT variously to Abraham (Gen 26,24), to Moses (Joshua 1,2) to David (Psalm 89,3.20) and to the prophets from Amos onwards (Amos 3,7; Jer 7,25; Isa 20,3; Dan 9,6). Paul may this be quietly affirming that he stands in the true succession of the prophets. For prophets are servants of God.

Paul is the slave of Christ Jesus. Thus he puts Christ in the highest possible place and regards himself as Christ’s bondservant.

For Paul every Christian is a slave of Christ (1Cor 7,22f).

Thus the term doulos expresses the total belongingness, total allegiance and belongingness without reservation to Christ Jesus.

Christ = anointed. Christos (Greek) is the equivalent of the Hebrew Messiah . Paul speaks out that the One, whose slave he was, was the fulfillment of God’s promises  and Israel’s age-old hope.

Paul is called to be an Apostle – In 1 Cor 15,9 Paul calls himself the least of the apostles and unworthy to be an apostle, for he had persecuted God’s Church.

In Gal 1,17 Paul asserts that there were apostles before him, thereby he admits that he was not a first-hand source of historical tradition concerning the life and teaching of Jesus. But he also asserted the equal authority of his apostleship with others, basing his claims, on the facts, that he too had seen the risen Lord (1Cor 9,1; 15,8). He had received his commission directly from Christ Himself (Acts 1,1; Acts 26,15-18).

He does not see his apostleship in any way inferior to that of the twelve (2Cor 11,5; 12,11). He had manifested the signs, that mark an apostle (2Cor 12,12). He had a special responsibility as the “apostle to the Gentiles” (Rom 11,13).

Thus Paul sets himself alongside the twelve ‘pillar apostles’, an apostolate which had been conferred on him. This apostleship is a commission he had received from Christ – not of his personal worth and wisdom, but by the sheer grace of the special calling and revelation of God.

One thing more we have to note here. The word ‘apostle (of Christ Jesus) points away from the apostle’s person to him whose apostle he is.

He is called to be an apostle. The idea of divine calling implies that he is neither self-appointed nor chosen by men. The idea of call includes the notion of response. The called are those who have heard and obeyed the divine call. For Paul call and response go together. Thus Paul thinks of an effectual call, a call capable of producing the intended result.

Many of the OT worthies were called by God:

Abraham (Gen 12,1); Moses (Ex 3,4f); Jeremiah (1,4f); Amos (7,15); Isaiah (6,8-9).

In short we can say, Paul seeks his task in life (like the other apostles’) not as self-chosen, not as mapped out (planed) for him by man, but as God’s own call. Thus Paul had been ‘sent’, as well as ‘called’. He is an apostle not on the basis of presumptuous human egotism, but on the basis of God’s call.

Paul is set apart (aphorismenos) for the gospel of Christ. The same word aphorizo (set apart) is used of his ‘being set apart from birth’ (Gal 1,15; Jer 1,5; Is 49,1). Paul is separated to a greater purpose. We often understand separation negatively, as separation from something; but here it is positive. Paul is set apart to or set apart for the Gospel (Acts 13,2).

The word “Gospel” is definitely a Pauline word (60 times in Paul out of its 76 NT occurrences). The word ‘Gospel’ basically means ‘good news’, which in a Christian context is what God has done in Christ for man’s salvation. It is this for which Paul is set apart. Does it mean simply ‘set apart to preach the gospel’? It certainly includes this, but is surely more. It means to be a gospel man, to live the gospel. Proclaiming is important, but then so is living. Paul’s call was to a way of life, as well as to a task of preaching.

When the gospel is spoken of as God’s Gospel, it is referred to its ultimate source. It is  rooted in God’s eternal purpose.

In vv. 2-4 Paul defines the content of this Gospel:

  1. The Gospel which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures, namely this Gospel is the fulfillment of the prophecy. OT Had foretold the Messiah (Greek Christos= Christ= anointed one= Saviour). Since the prophecy has become a reality in the person of Christ, it implies that the OT is reliable. Again it points forward to something else, namely the NT promises will also become a reality one day.
  2. The Gospel concerning His Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh. Davidic descent is of importance for an understanding of Jesus’ Messiahship. The descent is traced through Joseph. He was not the natural father but the legal father of Joseph. Joseph’s naming him (Mt 1,21.25) ‘Jesus’ is significant. Joseph accepts Jesus as his con. This conferred on him the legal rights of legitimate son ship. Christ’s descent is said as descent ‘according to the flesh’ = as far as his human nature is concerned.
  3. He is the designated Son of God in power. After the resurrection Jesus is Son of God in power. Resurrection is not the ground of his glorification. But from the time of the resurrection Jesus is invested with the power. The resurrection showed Jesus to be the Son of God. God and Christ have the same nature, which is the divine nature.

After defining the content of the Gospel in v.5 Paul speaks of the purpose for which he has been given the grace of apostleship. Grace (=unreserved favour of God) is linked with apostleship. He speaks of the grace of apostleship.

Grace as a gift is given not for the recipients’ personal and private enjoyment. It is given to further God’s plan. The purpose was to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among the nations, which is to bring about the Gentile world to an obedience which springs from faith. This is in contradistinction to an obedience based on the external observance of the law.

Gift is the reconciliation effected through the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross, namely He redeemed us and this is the gospel and if I believe that my life will also be an other-centered one, rather than self-centered. Obedience is submission to this Gospel, in other words as defined above, to the personal of Christ. Faith is the response one must give to the proclamation.

Rom 16,19 “You obedience is known to all” is parallel to Rom 1,5

Rom 10,16 They have not all obeyed the Gospel

2Cor 9,13 “You will glorify God by obedience”

The way to obey is to believe

 v.6 In this mission of Paul “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name” the whole world is included, also the Romans.

v.7 This Gospel is addressed to all God’s beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints.

Grace = Charis (The Gentile way of greeting the people)the unreserved favour of God, namely the reconciliation of man with God and among themselves through Christ’s sacrificial death.

Peace= eirene (Hebrew Shalom, the Jewish way of greeting the people) which is the effect of the reconciliation.

Thus through the first seven verses, which are one complicated sentence in Greek, we have the following points:

  1. At the outset, as the first element of the formula Paul would address himself to the Romans in terms of their shared call in faith, under the same Lord.
  2. While introducing himself to the Christians in Rome, naturally Paul refers to his mission. The reference to the mission leads him to a highly significant definition of the Gospel, which is his mission to proclaim. The definition of the Gospel extends to the end of v.4, which is presupposed in vv. 9 (I serve God with my Spirit in the Gospel); (15 I am eager to preach the Gospel to you); and in v.16 (I am not ashamed of the Gospel).

 

1, 8-15 Thanksgiving Part

Paul expresses his eager desire to visit them, so that they may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. He intends to visit them that he may reap some harvest. We read in 1Cor 3,6f A preacher cannot produce but reap. It is god who produces.

In v.13 Paul claims that he under obligation. God has laid upon him a duty. The sense of duty Paul had, The Gospel of which he was proud of, made him the best missionary the world has ever seen. He wishes to preach the Gospel to the Romans in order to deepen their understanding and strengthen their faith. It is a revealing glimpse of his priorities to preach the Gospel. It is the one thing that matters, for he is separated to that.

1, 16-17 We come to the great thesis of Romans: Salvation (soteria) and justification (dikaiosune) by faith. The content of these two verses tell us much of what this Epistle is. Paul has already set forth quite systematically the Gospel he preached and intends to preach to the Romans.

In v.1 he said, it is God’s Gospel.

In vv.3&9 he said, it is the Gospel of His Son.

Now: Paul is not ashamed of this Gospel which is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith.

This Gospel had brought him neither ease nor comfort.

2Cor 11,16-29 speaks of the sufferings of the Apostle

Acts 16,19-24 he had been imprisoned in Philippi; chased out of Thessalonica (Acts 17,1-10). He preached in Corinth, there his message was foolishness to the Greek and stumbling block to the Jews (1Cor 1,23) and he had to leave Corinth after a stay of 18 months (Acts 18,11).

It is clear that Paul had his share of trouble as he proclaimed the Gospel. Remember, out of this background Paul declared that he was proud of the Gospel. The absorbing thing is that the Gospel had proved adequate for the salvation. Thus Paul was far from being ashamed of it. Gospel is the power of God for salvation. It is not advice to people. When it is preached effectively, the power of God is at work. It enters into one’s life, as if the very fire of God had come upon him (Heb 4,12; Ps 119,105). The power of God is not aimless, but directed to salvation. It issues in salvation.

 

What is Soteria (salvation)?

In General

            Soteria is the term of which justification, redemption and the like are particular aspects.

We know the term ‘soteriology’=doctrine of salvation’ or more concretely ‘the way of salvation. It is derived from the Greek soteria (salvation) which in turn is built on soter (saviour).

Very commonly, there is belief in a saviour God that means a God whose special concern is with the welfare of he human race. On the other side, the notion that the people need to be saved implies that a defective condition is prevalent.

The major religions have differing views as to the root of this defective condition. Thus the Indian systems ascribe our ultimate troubles to avidya = ignorance.

By contrast, the Christianity sees the reason for this defective condition in the Christian doctrine of the original sin, in which the human race is implicated through the primordial acts of Adam and Eve.

 

The Fundamental Notion:

The fundamental idea of salvation (swoteria) in Greek (profane or biblical) is that of any kind of deliverance from physical danger or death (1Sam 11,13).

In biblical Greek the word came to denote the ‘great deliverance’ of Israel by Yahweh: from Egyptian bondage (Ex 14,13; 15,12); the Babylonian Captivity and Exile (Is 45,17; 52,15).

Later the word came to be used to describe the final deliverance of Israel when the Saviour or the Deliverer comes (Ps 12,7). This deliverance came more and more to be interpreted in terms of an ultimate deliverance from the powers of Satan, sin and death. This is the connotation of the word in the NT”: it is God’s deliverance of a man from sin, death and judgement.

 

Phases of Salvation:

            In Paul salvation has many facets. There is a sense in which it has already been achieved or realized (Eph 2,5). Again Paul can use a past tense in connection with salvation. In Rom 8,24 we read “we were saved”, which, however, is qualified by ‘in hope’). Why the past tense is used? Since God’s decisive act by which the believers’ final salvation has been achieved or secured, has already been accomplished.

            There is a sense in which it is a present, on-going process (1Cor 1,18; 2Cor 2,15) to describe the believer’s present waiting and hoping and struggling which have salvation for their goal.

            But salvation is often seen as future, in the sense what begins with Christ’s coming in glory, His second coming (Rom 5,9; 11,13; 1Cor 3,115; 5,5; Phil 1,28; 2,12; 2Thes 2,13).

Salvation is present and future in the sense that Gospel is God’s effective power active in the world of men to bring about deliverance from His wrath in the final judgement and reinstatement in hat glory of God which has been lost through sin. That it speaks of a future salvation which reflects its splendour back into the present of those who are to share it. The future salvation is a present reality; salvation is already begun: 2Cor 6,2 Now is the day of salvation, now is the acceptable time.

St. John proclaims of Jesus as the light which appeared to redeem the mankind that was groping in the darkness. Paul presents Jesus who achieved the redemption of mankind through His expiatory death on the cross. For Paul the total redemption is a future reality. But it has already been inaugurated in the Christ event. A community that lives in and through the holy Spirit can anticipate the joy and fruit of redemption.

 

The Scope of Salvation is universal. It is open to everyone who believes. God puts in this matter no difference between one nation and another. Paul assigns a certain priority to the Jew, but immediately balances it with the reference to the Greek. Historically the gospel came to the Jews first. But Paul seems to mean more than this. The priority was in God’s plan. But there is not one Gospel for the Jews and another for the Gentiles. All who are saved are saved by the one Gospel and are one in Christ. Just as it is true that it is first for the Jew, then for the Gentile, so it is true that “there is neither Jew nor Greek … for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal 3,28).

So the word ‘salvation to everyone’ marks the universality. Immediately a restriction  is indicated by ‘one who has faith’. So the powerful salvation is not the possession of any unbeliever.

The response which the message calls for is faith – faith in the gospel, that is, faith in Christ who is its content and in God who has acted in Him and whose power the message is. For all who respond with faith the Gospel is effective to salvation.

Shall we say that here faith is like another kind of law? Faith is not a qualification which one already possesses in him before the Gospel meets him. Faith only comes into being as response to the Gospel – as though God and man are co-operating to bring about salvation. It is not our faith that gives the Gospel its power; quite the contrary, it is the power of the Gospel that makes it possible for one to believe, for the power of God ia at work in the Gospel.

The Gospel is the power of God for salvation to the Jew as well as to the Greek. This will become increasingly clear as we follow Paul step by step through the epistle.

 

Dikaiosune (Justification or Righteousness)

            Verse 17 is introduced in explanation and confirmation of v.16b. The Gospel is God’s saving power for everyone who believes, because in it God’s righteousness is being revealed.

So the Gospel is God’s saving power, for in it there is God’s dikaiosune. This is one of the key concepts in Pauline theology to express the reality of salvation.

The term dikaiosune thou Theou is crucial in Paul’s theology, central in Romans and the subject of intense discussion. This key verse is absolutely fundamental for the understanding of Romans. Unfortunately its interpretation is disputed. Traditionally the question of justification has been a divisive issue sine the time of the Protestant Reformation.

 

 

The term Dikaiosune in General :

            The restoration of the proper relationship between the creature and the creator is what Paul commonly refers to as “justification or righteousness”. Unfortunately neither of these terms renders satisfactorily what Paul means by dikaiosune, for it is not so much a juridical (legal) term, but is a salvific term. As we read in Rom 5,16: “And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgement following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification”.; Read 5,9 : “Since, therefore, we are now justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God”.

Such reconciliation – justification can only be the free gift of god. God is good and man not. How then can man stand before the high and holy God? This is the basic problem for all religion. What characterizes Christianity is that its answer centers on the Cross. Justification does not take place because people in some way work out a means of dealing with sin. People do not and cannot. But God can and does. Paul sees justification as brought about by Christ’s sacrificial death, for it is in this way that our sin is done away. We are thus made free, made righteous. It is not that sin is treated as though it did not matter. No one who takes the cross seriously can think that.

            When we speak of Justification by way of the Cross, we are saying that sin has been dealt with, and God never condones (overlooks) it. As Abraham asked in Genesis 18,25 “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” We see in the Cross God has done so. Thus dikaiosune in Paul is a dynamic concept denoting the salvific activity of God in Christ effecting man’s salvation in virtue of the promises He himself has made.

 

The Terminology:

            The term dikaiosune tou Theou is a chief theological term found 8 times in Romans 1,17; 3,5.21.22.25.26 and in 10,3 twice. The phrase occurs twice in the other Pauline letters: 2Cor 5,21; Phil 3,9. Only thrice it occurs in the rest of the NT: Mt 6,33; James 1,20; 2Peter 1,1.

The noun dikaiosune (righteousness) occurs 33 times in Romans. It is especially a characteristic of Romans. In general we can say dikaiosune is an ethical virtue. A righteous man is the one characterized by the accepted standards of morality, justice, uprightness.

The word dikaiosune comes from the Hebrew SDQ. Among the Hebrews righteousness was first and foremost a legal standing, which is essentially forensic (connected with the law). Here by righteousness is meant of behaviour which is in keeping with the two-way relationship between God and man, based on the covenant.

The righteousness of God appears in his God-like dealings with the people, that is in redemption and salvation (Is 45,21; 51,5f; 56,1; 62,1)

Israel’s enemies find God’s righteousness to be the root of their downfall (Is 41,10f; 54,17; Ps 129,4f).

Within the righteousness of Yahweh there is a place for punishment and for deliverance. Thus in the destruction of Jerusalem the city confesses, “The Lord is in the right (saddiq), I have rebelled against the Lord” (Lam 1,18). From God’s side it consists in His God-like dealings with His people. From man’s side is demanded of the observance of the Covenant law, in order to be faithful to the relationship. So among the Hebrews the righteous were those who are made free when tries at the bar of god’s justice.

 

Saving Justice of God:

Is God’s righteousness vindictive? (ie. disposed to seek vengeance) ie. Justice by which God punishes the sinners?

Or distributive Justice, a justice by which He both punishes the sinner and rewards the just?

Or does it mean a saving justice? In Hebrew the sedeqah (justice) is closely associated with hesed (mercy) and ‘emet (fidelity) and ‘isy (salvation). Thus in deutero-Isaiah justice and salvation appear quite frequently together. God is termed as a just and saving God (Is 45,21) and in Is 46,13 we read “I bring near my justice, It is not far off; and my salvation will not tarry” (cfr. Also Is 51,5; 56,1).

In the Psalms God’s justice is often paralleled with or associated with his salvation, truth or fidelity and His mercy (Ps 36, 5-6.10; Ps 40,10; 71,2; 103,17). In short in the OT the justice of God is neither vindictive nor distributive, but salvific and it is based upon God’s covenantal commitment to Israel. God is just in that he is abidingly faithful to His freely made promises of salvation and deliverance. Hence such terms as justice, salvation, fidelity and truth are easily interchanged in the OT (Ps 98,2-3; Deut 32,4).

Thus justice of God in OT primarily means God’s merciful fidelity to His promises of eschatological salvation.

Paul : Paul makes the frequent use of the whole word-group of dikaios. He took the term from the OT and establishes the closest connection with the OT, when he speaks of God’s righteousness and God’s justification of sinners. This righteousness is essentially His covenantal dealings with His people. In the NT the covenant people are the New Israel, comprising both Jews and Gentiles.

It is characteristic of the NT view that justification has been established by Christ’s saving work. We find the same in Paul, viz the manifestation of God’s saving justice. Sinners are exposed to the divine wrath. The divine righteousness, which constitutes Gospel, is revealed in Christ and nowhere else. Thus the righteousness of God is pre-eminently to be seen in the atoning work of Christ. To overlook this is to miss a central thrust of Roman letter.

Righteousness is both God’s act of salvation and God’s gift of salvation. It is in this sense that Paul says that Righteousness of God is revealed (Rom 1,17). This revelation of God’s righteousness took place finally and definitely in his Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, by His life, death and resurrection not only revealed God’s righteousness but has become our righteousness (1Cor 1,30). It is to make us righteous that Christ has become our righteousness.

How does God make us righteous? Paul takes all the pains to tell us that it is through our faith in Jesus Christ and not through our works that we are made righteous. This theme is introduced most vividly in Rom 1,16-17 and developed elaborately in Rom 1,18-4,25.

Subjective or Objective Genitive: The interpretation of the Genitive phrase dikaiosune tou Theou as either a subjective or objective genitive is hotly debated, viz. whether ‘of God’ is here a subjective Genitive or an objective genitive.

Subjective Genitive means the righteousness which belongs to God – righteousness as an attribute of God or a quality of God.

Objective Genitive (or genitive of origin) denotes the resulting condition of the object of the action , ie. A righteousness from God and bestowed by Him upon us.

It can be put differently, whether righteousness is a quality of God or a quality of man resulting from God’s action, ie. Righteousness not so much of God but as from God, ie a state or condition of righteousness bestowed by God upon man.

The implications of the dikaiosune tou Theou as either a subjective genitive or an objective genitive are enormous, since this expression is integrally related to salvation.

Interpreters who argue that the genitive phrase dikaiosune tou Theou is objective generally see salvation in relation to human possibility. In this frame of reference, righteousness is a gift from God that comes to the person of faith. Here faith becomes the condition for the reception by the individual of righteousness. On the other hand, those who take it as subjective genitive think of salvation in relation to God’s power. Thereby dikaiosune becomes a way of referring to God’s saving activity. This saving activity is the means by which God subordinates creation to the Lordship of God and by which humanity becomes responsible to God. Faith in this instance is created by the saving activity of God, ie. Faith is the product of  dikaiosune tou Theou. If we take it as subjective genitive, then justice is a quality of God, it is a gift given by God.

If we take in the sense of objective genitive, justice is a quality of man. Then ‘Righteousness of God’ means a righteousness of which God is the author and man is the recipient, righteousness not so much of God but as from God, a state or condition of righteousness bestowed by God upon man.

The important thing is the plain fact that Paul uses the expression in certain significant passages to bring about the truth that in the death of Christ God brings about righteousness for those who believe. In Phil 3,9-10 God’s justice is described by its five characteristics: 1. It is not the exclusive property of man; 2. It does not come from the law; 3. It is produced by the in Jesus Christ; 4. It originates from God; 5. It continues to depend on faith.

Taken from PRAT vol.II: In the eyes of official Protestantism justifying faith has no moral value. It is a sort of passive instrument, a purely receptive power of justification, which exercises no causality, and is only an essential condition. The justification of the ungodly man takes place wholly in God; it changes nothing and effects nothing within man; It is not a genuine judgement, by virtue of which the wicked man, who remains wicked, is declared just. God, seeing his faith, but not on account of his faith, imputes to him the justice of Christ, without, however, giving it to him. Thus the ungodly man, though justified, is always in himself ungodly, but before god who has decreed to him the attribute of justice, he is just. This statement is hard to understand. How can the false be true? Or how can God declare true what he knows to be false?

 

Rom 1,18 – 4,25 : We come to the First Sub-section in the Doctrinal Part.

            This is the elucidation of the statement in 1,17 “In the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith”. This subsection we again divided negatively (1,18-3,20),  positively (3,21-31) and with Biblical proof (4,1-25).

 

1,18-3,20 speaks of the revelation of God’s wrath, which is an opposite term for God’s justice or righteousness. Here Paul demonstrates that all-mankind is guilty under God’s judgement. Therefore, all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles – are in need of salvation in  Jesus Christ. Because of their sins both Jews and Gentiles are under God’s wrath. Hence Paul first stresses the universality of sin. So also the entry into righteousness both for Jews and Gentiles are on the same basis, namely by faith. This theme of equality for Jew and Gentile extends to God’s way of judgement, because He is an impartial judge (2,11; Gal 2,6; Eph 6,9; Deut 10,17).

Paul is not ashamed to preach this universal salvation, because it is universally needed. This long section 1,18-3,20 is an indictment (formal accusation) of the human race for its tragic failure and folly.

Can we attribute to God the irrational passion of anger> a personal reaction on God’s part as cause and effect?

It is, of course, true that God is love. But it is not true this rules out any realistic view of God’s wrath. We must bear in mind that the opposite of love is not wrath, but hate. Wrath is perhaps not an ideal term, for with us it so easily comes to denote an emotion characterized by loss of self-control and a violent concern for selfish interests. But these are not necessary constituents of wrath, and both are absent from the ‘righteous indignation’ (anger aroused by something wrong).

A man who knows about the far-reaching injustice and cruelty of rape, child labour, discrimination of women etc. and is not angry at such wickedness is not a good man. In any case wrath is the word the Bible uses. It is a term that expresses the settled and active opposition of God’s holy nature to everything that is evil.

It is part of the revelation in the Gospel that God’s attitude to sin is one of righteous indignation (wrath). Paul is saying that it is the cross that shows the measure of God’s wrath. Forgiveness is no cheap gesture. It is as costly as the cross. It is meaningless without the wrath. The full reality of the wrath of God is only truly known when it is seen in its revelation in Gethsemane and in Golgotha. By giving undue emphasis to this truth, that God is a forgiving and compassionate God, we will be overlooking a Gospel fact, where the cross is at its heart. In the cross we see God’s great saving act. Christ died for us, a death to put away the sin. If there is nothing from which sinners need to be saved and accordingly then there is ‘no good news’, ‘no gospel’. Paul will expound this Gospel. For Paul, all people are sinful and are in the greatest of danger, because they are subject to his wrath. Colossians speaks of the wrath of God that comes because of the present sins (Col 3,6). In Eph 5,6 all men are victims of God’s wrath, are by nature children of wrath (2,3). In 1Thess The judgement is so certain that it can be spoken of as being already present: “God’s wrath has come upon them at last’ (1Thess 2,16). By actual sins one is storing up wrath for oneself for the day when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed” (Rom 2,5). Before Paul comes to the remedy, he makes his diagnosis of the disease.

 

Rom 1, 18-32 The wrath of God against the Gentiles:

This passage is to be seen in view of the Gospel to be announced in the central section 3,21-31. The Gentiles are under the wrath of God (v.18). They had come to know God, but still refused to give him due honour and thanks (vv.19-21). This led to a hardening of their hearts which, in turn, guided them to idolatry (vv.22-23). God punished them for it by abandoning them to immoral activities (24-27) and antisocial vices (28-31). Not only that they do it for themselves, but also they encourage it in others (32).

Rom 1,18 The idea is condensed

vv. 19-32 The idea is developed in an inverse order

            vv. 19-20 Knowledge of God   – suppress the truth(starts with ‘for’).

            vv. 21-23 (starts with ‘for’) Conduct opposed to the knowledge : Asebeia  & Adikia (ungodliness and wickedness).

            vv. 24-32 The vengeance of an angered God :

                                                vv. 24-28 sensual – bodily vices

                                                vv. 29-31 antisocial vices

The wrath of God is revealed apokaluptetai – note the use of the present tense. It is revealed not in the private tribunal of the conscience, not in the threatening warnings of the holy Scripture, but in the world.

The object of God’s wrath is directed to ungodliness and wickedness. The consequences of their asebeia and adikia are idolatry and shameful conduct.

We read in Wisdom 14,12 ‘Idolatry leads to moral depravity’.

Unfortunately the Gentiles did not receive the full revelation in the Law of the OT. But they had enough illumination to know what was right. But they followed the wrong. They had the natural revelation. The invisible God has become visible by His works themselves. Natural revelation for Paul is not the knowledge of God by the use of rational faculties, but a God-given revelation to the mind of man. Since the creation of the world, the universe reflected its creator. Their very ignorance is culpable. Objects against which the wrath is directed is asebeia and adikia. If these two nouns are used strictly, they combine the thoughts of sin against God and sin against man.

Asebeia = is strictly ‘lack of reverence for God’

Adikia = lawlessness or wickedness

So it can be said of asebeia as to the violation of the first three commandments, adikia of the last 7 commandments.

Such a person suppresses the truth – a most penetrating and illuminating characterization of the essential nature of sin. Sin is always an assault upon the truth, which is the fundamental truth of God as creator, Redeemer and judge. His whole creation declares Him. This manifestation in His creation is a deliberate self- disclosure on God’s part. Man’s attempt to suppress, is always bound to prove unsuccessful. Men failed to be led by them to recognition of Him.

The summit of their folly was realized in their acceptance of idolatry (v.23). To make a God of one’s own is to exchange something of real worth (the glory of God) to something of no value (image) (cfr. Ps 106,20). Paul’s thought is influenced here by Wisdom 14,12.

Idolatry and immoral life are the results of irrational and deficient knowledge of God.

 When they rejected God, it affected their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. The summit of their folly was realized in their acceptance of idolatry. They made a god of their own to exchange the glory of God. They turned from the creator to the creature. Man controls his destiny in independence of God.

Idolatry, showing itself in ever uglier and uglier forms, is the most striking characteristic of the life of all the developed nations of the modern world. People prefer to have a religion of their own making than the divine revelation. There we see the triumph of gods over God. The consequence is the gradual clouding of the mind and then the perversion of the heart and the obliteration of the moral sense.

Thus Paul pities them without despising them, and accuses them without condemning them beyond the hope of pardon. So they are without excuse (1,20). Not content with vice in themselves, they actively encourage it in others (1,32).

Summing up 1,18-32 we can say that the wrath of God is revealed against the Gentiles because they refused to recognize effectively in their lives the invisible God through the visible. Instead they went after idols. As punishment God gave them up to unnatural conduct anti-social vices. So before Christ, the Gentiles are abandoned in sin without Christ.

 

Rom 2,1 – 3,20 The Jews Under God’s Wrath: So far Paul spoke against the Gentiles. Now he directs his denunciation against the Jews. In appearance it is an easy task, but in reality a very delicate one.

Easy: it is enough to appeal to facts and to the testimony of the Scripture.

Delicate: For he had to safeguard the privileges, which raised the monotheistic Jews above the idolatrous Greeks.

Paul now shows that these prerogatives either do not belong to them exclusively, or, in the sense in which they are really theirs, aggravate their guilt, instead of lessening it.

Paul speaks of the 4 privileges, which the Jews had.

2,1-11 They are the elected one. The election will not save them from God’s wrath.

2,12-24 They had the law. The possession of Law does not save them from God’s wrath.

2,25-29 External mark of circumcision – the sign of Jewishness.

3, 1-8 They had the promise of salvation

3, 9-20 A summary of what he has been saying from 2,1 to 3,8

3, 21-31 Positive explanation of the thesis stated in 1,17 : God’s saving justice is revealed independently of the Law and by means of faith. Exposition of Justification by faith.

 

2,1-11 First Privilege: Jews are the elected or chosen ones.

In 1,20 Paul said that the Gentiles are without excuse. Now in 2,1 Paul says concerning the Jews, “You also have no excuse”. When you judge the heathen as godless and wicked, you who judge them are also doing the same things. By passing judgement on another person you are condemning yourself.

See the pastoral skill of Paul. He does not accuse them directly. But in a way he compels them or skilfully induces them to pronounce their own condemnation.

Passing a judgement on another person and doing the same things = condemning oneself. Hence, the Jews like the Pagans are sinners. So they too are the object of God’s wrath, which will be manifested on the day of the final judgement.. In God’s judgement what counts is not regard for persons (2,11) but the deeds of each one (2,6-8).

Judgement is God’s, where what matters is deeds.

Judgement is on the basis of works, though salvation is all of grace. Jew must look to the day when his works will be subjected to divine scrutiny.

‘The day of wrath’ (2,5) is an unusual expression. It is found only here in the NT. It refers to the day of judgement – a day on which God’s settled opposition to evil will reach its consummation – a day on which God makes His righteous judgement.

With a quotation from Ps 62,12 “For thou doest repay a man according to his work”, Paul sums up in v.6 what judgement means.

God will render to every man according to his deeds. Recompense is an individual matter. This fact is affirmed again and again in the NT no less strongly than in the OT (Job 34,11; Prov 24,12; Jer 17,10; in the NT Mt 7,21; 16,27; 25,31-46; Jn 5,28-29; 2Cor 5,10; 11,15: Gal 6,7-9; 2Tim 4,14; 1Peter 1,17).

Works are the outward expression of what the person is deep down. It is the invariable teaching of the Bible that the judgement will be on the basis of works, though salvation is all of grace.

The Jew held the view that the salvation was bound up with the Law. But it really means that a person’s works are of the greatest significance; for God will render to each according to those works. The Jew cannot rest in any fancied security of privilege but must look to the day when his works will be subjected to the divine scrutiny. Paul invites the Jews to consider how their works will stand up on the day of judgement.

Now comes a question: Is Paul inconsistent? Elsewhere he maintains that God will justify ‘on the ground of faith or through faith’ (Rom 3,30) and no one will be justified on the ground of his works (3,20.28).

We should remember that in Rom 2,1-11 Paul is expressing the thought that the final judgement will be according to men’s works. The good work is not regarded as constituting a claim upon God, but is meant their conduct as the expression of their faith. The merit will be eternal life (2,7). God’s judgement is impartial (v.11) and there is the universality of the punishment.

Jewish expectation was that it was the Gentiles who would be judged by God, while they themselves would escape. Paul sees here the Jew as the first recipient of judgement and then the Gentiles. These accords with the teaching of the OT (cfr. Jer 25,29; Amos 3,2).

 

 

 

 

ROM 2,12-24 Second Privilege – Law

            The knowledge and possession of the law does not in itself constitute any defense against the judgement of God. Doing what the law commands is the decisive thing. Paul is not saying that people are saved by law-keeping; but they are saved by keeping the law.

Principle: All who have sinned will be judged through the law.

The Jew cannot claim that he will automatically be saved, because God has given him the law. He simply possesses it but does not observe.

Nor can the Gentile automatically be saved because he never had the law and so did not break it. He sinned against the light he had, namely the natural law. What the law requires is written in their hearts. Roman 2,14-15 makes it clear. Thus the gentiles are not without guidance:

  1. His upright actions show that deep down in his heart there is that which points to the right (v.14).
  2. His conscience bears witness to him of his past acts (v.15a)
  3. And there are his conflicting thoughts (v.15b). Often they accuse him, sometimes they excuse him, but all the time they form a witness to right or wrong.

This three-fold witness shows quite clearly that the Gentile has all he needs to guide him along the right way and to leave him without excuse when he does the wrong.

            So both Jew and Gentile are caught up in final condemnation and will be judged according to the light they have. Paul is not saying that the law itself judges. The law is the means God uses; it is his instrument to direct those to whom he has given it. It is not a charm guaranteeing salvation. On the contrary, it means condemnation for those who have it and do not obey it.

It was the pride of the Jew that in the law, he had the very embodiment of fundamental knowledge and truth.

In 2, 21-24 in a series of biting questions the apostle makes it plain that at point after point the Jew has failed to live up to the teaching of the law. You are a Jew. You rely upon the law. You boast of your relation to God. Since you are instructed in the law, you also know the will of God. All these you have. As a result they are supposed to be a guide to the blind; a guide to those who are in darkness; a corrector of the foolish; a teacher of children.

You who teach others, will you not teach yourself?

While you preach against stealing, do you steal?

You say, one must not commit adultery and do you commit adultery?

You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?

Jew did not realize that in his conduct he was denying the teaching of the law on which he prided himself. As a result what happened is that he caused the great name of God he worshipped to be blasphemed by the heathen. Paul proves his accusation with a quotation from Is 52,5 quoted in 2,24. Actually Israel should have been the source of blessing to the Gentiles, bring them to praise God. Instead Israel caused them to have a wrong attitude to God.

Rom 2, 25-29 The Third Privilege: Circumcision: It is a unique privilege of the Jew and his alone. It is a mark of his Jewishness and a sign of God’s covenant (Gen 17,9-14). The circumcision would be of value to the, if they did what the law required of them. Then the circumcision would be an asset at the judgement. A Jew, who has undergone circumcision, but does not obey the stipulation of the covenant, him Paul will not consider differently from a gentile. For Paul circumcision is not merely a symbol of Jewish identity, but includes another dimension known and observed by the gentiles.

In the light of the cross, circumcision and uncircumcision do not count for anything (Gal 5,6; 3,28; 1Cor 12,13; Col 3,11). In the line of the prophets who spoke of the circumcision of the heart (Jer 31,31-33; Ez 36,26), Paul stresses in Romans 2,25 that it is of value only if one obeys the law.

Therefore Paul defines the non-literal aspect of circumcision in very clear terms. This taken up in vv. 28-29 in the course of formulating a definition of the Jew. This is first stated negatively in v.28, and then positively in v.29.

v.28 Negatively, one is not a Jew if one externalizes one’s religion in terms of national descent. Similarly, circumcision is not the external or physical mark of flesh.

v.29 Positively, the true Jew is defined in a three-fold manner.

  1. He is one who does not esteem himself by visible means.
  2. True circumcision is a circumcision of the heart, and thereupon a spiritual one, humble response to God’s gracious love and election.
  3. He is one who does not seek approval of men but of God.

 

Rom 3,1-8 Fourth Privilege: The Promise of salvation given to the Jews

Naturally a Jew who reads the letter may think, If all people are sinful, what advantage is there in being a Jew? Or in circumcision?

Much in every way. Paul speaks of the very real advantages God has given to his ancient people: namely, it was to them that God first gave His word of promise, ie. Jews are being entrusted with God’s revelation to mankind. But Israelites became unfaithful. However, God as the covenant partner is still faithful. Can the faithlessness of some nullify the faithfulness of God? God in His faithfulness can use Israel’s unbelief to promote His purposes (cfr. 11,11-15).

In 3,5-8 Paul envisages an objector, who reasons: My wickedness serves to show the justice of God. Where would God’s righteousness be without the sin? My sin only magnifies his glory.

Then Paul considers another possible objector whose line is that people should sin more so that good (ie. Forgiveness to men and glory to God) may result.

The Apostle rejects both and says, condemnation of the unjust man is just from God’s part, for he is an impartial God (2,11).

Rom 3,9-20 Paul rounds off this important opening section of the letter with a series of quotations from OT, especially Psalm, to support his point that all are sinners.

Unless there is something to be saved from there is no point in preaching salvation. Paul’s argument has been that all people, Jew and Gentile alike, are sinners. His arguments about the universal sinfulness is no private opinion, but one well-grounded in the Holy-Writ.

vv.19-20 The whole world is accountable before God. The consequence is that no one will be accepted before God on account of his observance of the law. No Law gives automatic acceptance by God. What law does is to bring recognition of sin (3,20; Gal 3,19). Paul forcefully says that no one will be justified in God’s sight by works of the law.

A consideration of what the law requires and of what the student of the law performs leads us to see sin for what it is, and ourselves for what we are, sinners (cfr. 5,20; 7,7-11; Gal 2,16; 3,21). It is the straight-edge of the law that shows us how crooked we are.

Therefore, the Jews are not at an advantage in comparison with others. The Jew, without Christ, is in no way better off than the others. Neither the possession of the law, nor the marks of circumcision provide him any superiority before God. Both Jews and Gentiles are under the power of sin (Rom 3,9). All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (3,23).

 

Rom 3,21-31: Justification by Faith

Rom 3,21‑31

Positive explanations of the thesis stated in 1,17: God’s saving justice is revealed independently of the law and by means by faith.

Having demonstrated the universal sinfulness, Paul comes back to the content of the Gospel. 3, 21 ‑ 26 is the centre and heart of the whole of Romans: the locus classicus for Paul’s great thesis: justification by faith. Paul returns more than once to the same theme: 5, Iff, 8, Iff; 10, 1 ff,.\\,_____,~

In w. 21‑26 Paul brings out the grandeur (magnificence, splendour) of Christ’s saving work. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus for all who believe.

1) He speaks of he righteousness of God (w. 21‑22

2) He speaks the sins of man (v.23)

3) He speaks of the salvation effected through Christ (25‑26)

In order to speak of this effected salvation Paul makes use of 3 imageries from three different contexts.

Salvation as justification (imagery from the law court)

Salvation as redemption (imagery from the slave market)

Salvation as expiation (imagery from Old Testament remission of sins)

 

Both law and the prophets proclaim that the righteousness is God’s gift. The law was the heart of the Jewish religious system and the prophets were its outstanding religious teachers. The great truth that righteousness is God’s gift and comes from God is blazoned forth (proclaimed to make widely known) in both law and prophets. This righteousness one makes one’s own trough faith in Christ to all who repentwith faith. None has any claim to this gift on the ground of merit: for all have sinned. Because of the universal sinfulness there is no possibilities of achieving salvation by our own efforts. This is the point of departure for the whole redemptive work of Lord in Christ. All are justified freely and by his grace. Justification is by the unreserved lov~ of God. This justification is effected through the redemption in Jesus Christ (v. 24) Paul is stating in straightforward fashion what God has accomplished for mankind in the death of Christ. Paul reveals here God’s way of making humans righteous: the emphasis is on gift, rather than on its reception.

 

3,24  The redemption through Christ

              It is a very important term used throughout the New Testament to speak of our salvation.

I Cor. 1, 3 0 … whom God made our Wisdom, our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption.

I Tim 2,6 … who gave himself as a ransom( lutron) for all.

Since apolutrosis is a vital term we must be clear as to its meaning in the Old and New Testaments. Literally means deliverance by the payn‑rent of a ransom (lutron ‑price) A thing or person is redeemed by the payment of a stipulated price. The idea of redeeming or buying back by paying a ransom was familiar in the Old and New Testament world.

 

In Old Testament

The firstborn in every family belonged to God and had to be bought back by the parents (Num 18, 15‑16). If a Jew fell into slavery because of debt or povefty, he could be redeemed by his nearest kinsman on the payment of a ransom price (Lev. 25, 47‑53). Similarly, among the Greeks and Romans there was an arrangement for the redeeming of slaves on payment of a ransom‑price. It is against this background that Paul’s reference in I Cor 6,20 to Christians, as having been ‘bought with a price’ must be understood. Reference Mark. 10, 45: …to give his life as a ransom for many. In I Cor 7, 23 Paul applies the metaphor further to make another point. In first century society, once a slave was ransomed, he was considered as belonging to the person who had paid his ransom ‑ price. Therefore, Paul says, the Christian must not become anyone else’s slave ‑ he belongs to‑God, because he has been bought with a price. The same thought is present in Rom 6, 15‑23. Christians were once slaves to sin, but they have been redeemed by God, and are now his slaves. The exact priedi which was paid for redeeming us, is “Christ’s blood”. Here is the very heart of the doctrine of our salvation; thereby Paul puts it in ternis of the Old Testament sacrificial language.

Ex. 12: Sacrifice of the paschal lamb by shedding blood. Sprinkling it on the 2 doorposts M; to show that they are set apart or consecrated to God.

Ex. 24: Blood of the covenant sacrifice ‑ unifying effect. Lev. 16: Sacrifice of expiation ‑ to sanctify.

In blood is life. Gen. 9,4‑5 Lev. 17,11; Deut 12, 23.

All these Old Testament sacrifices point to Christ and have their meanings id Christ. So he redeemed us (raktham chinthathe papapariharam illa Heb. 9, 22; Lev. 17,11). Christ reconciled us with God. He redeemed the mankind from their sins by shedding his blood. Thus Paul uses the metaphor of Ransom + redemption to illustrate two main points.

1. The great power of sin and evil.

2. and the fact that a price had to be paid to effect man’s redemption.

In Gal 3, 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law having became a curse for us; for as it is written ‘cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree’ (Deut 21, 23). The death Jesus died was the death the law pronounced as a curse on all who break it. He died on behalf of us; or as in Rom 3, 25 Christ was put forth as an expiation by His blood.

Sinner ‑ Justify

1) what did he do? Redeemed by paying the ransom.

2), How: through the sacrificial death (whom God put forward as an expiation by His blood).

Hilasterion: Two mainways of taking kings James Version: Propitiate: Sacrifices are offered to propitiate or appease God. R.S.V. translates it as Expiation. Both senses tend to express the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death. The catholic tradition accepts expiation. There are grave difficulties in accepting the translation propitiation. We cannot think of the idea of God being placated.

            Secondly, Paul does not explicitly connect the cross with the turning away of God’s wrath.

Thirdly, it is widely held that in the Jewish tradition as against the pagan one, the emphasis was on dealing with sins (expiation) rather than on changing the altitude of God (propitiate) both in the sacrificial system and in the use of hilasterion in particular.

Finally, it is curious to speak of God as having to satisfy his own justice, as if it were not within his sovereignty. It is more likely therefore, that by hilasterion Paul means ‘expiation’. It fits Jewish usage better.

For Paul, Christ’s death is a means of dealing with sin, in the sense of Rom, 6,6 where these who die with him die to sin and are no longer uRder its power. Cross is then God’s means of dealing with sin in enabling believers to die to it.

Greek term is Hilasterion :  In the ritual language of the Old Testament the term hilasterion indicates the central point of the temple, the lid (cover) of the Ark of the Covenant, the mercy seat, which is upon the Ark, which had a crucial role on the Day of Atonement.

Kapporeth designates the golden cover, mercy seat (Lev, 16,2). On the day of the annual feast of expiation, the Yom &ppurim (Lev 16, 12‑16; Ex 25, 17‑22) the high priest sprinkles the blood of the victim both on the kapporeth (mercy seat of God) and on the people effecting the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus Himself, at the last supper, had before the event assumed and lived out his death, transforming it from within into an event of gift and of love. On this basis Paul could describe Christ as hilasterion.

The sacrifices of the animals and of inanimate things are always only partial attempts to substitute for the human being, who must give himself ‑ not in the cruel form of human sacrifice, but in the totality of his being. It is precisely this that man could not and cannot do.

Thus for Paul the voluntary self‑giving of Jesus is the final realization of the intentions of the Feast of atonement. So we are justified by his grace as a gift. God takes the necessary initiative and justifies; that is, accepts and restores to right relationship, those who are sinners. He does this unconditionally, by means of Jesus sacrificial death.

v. 26. this initiative proves that God is faithful or righteous and he justifies him who has faith in Jesus.

27‑31 since the initiative comes from God and justification is accomplished by Christ, man has nothing to boast.

v. 28. man is justified by faith apart form works of law. ‑ God is God of both Jews and Gentiles.

v. 30 since God is one, he will justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.

v. 31 while insisting on faith, do we overthrow the law by this faith? On the contrary, we uphold the law.

 

4,1‑25 ‑ Scriptural Proof’ for the doctrine of Justification by Faith

In Chapter 3 towards the end in v. 28 Paul asserted that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law. So in v. 31 Paul asks do we then overthrow the law by this faith. No, rather we uphold the law for Jesus is the fulfilment of the law. Salvation history begins with the call of Abraham. Towards him God acted in grace, and Abraham, the father of the faithful had been justified by faith. The Jews held the view that Abraham was the supreme example of justification by works.

Quoting Gen 26, 4‑5 (“1 will multiply your descendants … because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes and my laws”) Jews believed that the blessings on Abraham and his seed was a reward for Abraham’s keeping his laws: ie., his law righteousness.

To counter this Paul quotes Gen 15, 6ff. Abraham believed the Lord and he reckoned it to him as righteousness. So Abraham’s faith, not his works, constituted the grounds for his justification. Quoting Ps. 32, 1‑2 in 4,7‑8, he further reinforces this argument. In this salvific economy law was given to make man know who he is. Law has never made one just and it in itself is incapable of it. Thus when the Judean Christians were trying to impose the law as the essential element in the Christian justification Paul could not bear it.

Hence, the justification of Abraham is anterior to the law of Moses, and even to the circumcision Consequently it is independent of them.

Another aspect is:

The faith of Abraham was 4 times put to the proof

1. When he left his native country (Gen 12, 1‑4)

2. When he believed, against all hope, in the birth of Isaac, (15, 1‑6).

3. When he restored to Isaac the right of primogeniture (Gen 21, 9‑14; Ismael from Hagar)

4. When he set about his morality and his son Gen 22.

It was after the second trial, it is said of Abraham “Abraham believed God and it was reckoned him to justification. Rabbies reckoned on an interval of 24 years between Gen 15,6 and 17, 11 24, Abraham’s circumcision. So Abraham was justified first and then circumcised.

Abraham believed in God, who is capable to give birth to a child through his body which is physically incapable. This faith of Abraham was a type of Christian faith, a hopeful faith in the God who raised up Christ from the dead. Abraham is the father of all the faithful. Not only of the Jews but also of the Gentiles, for everything happened before his circumcision.

If Abraham had been accepted on the grounds of his works, Paul’s point that God had always acted in race would not stand. Abraham is critically important. The salvation history begins with the call of Abraham. In Gen 15, 6 we read the promise of God to Abraham Gen 15,6. you shall be the father of a multitude. Abraham believed the Lord and the reckoned it to him as righteousness.

 

Rom 5,1 – 8,39 Explanation of Rom 1,16: Gospel is the power of salvation to everyone who believes.

5,1-11 starts with “therefore” and it serve as the introduction to this sub-section. Her Paul speaks of the justification effected through the sacrificial death of Christ.

  1. v.1We are reconciled with God and at peace with Him.
  2. v.2 We have not only a sense of  His present favour, but assurance of future glory. The one who justified us will also save us.
  3. vv. 3-5 The promised Holy Spirit bears witness to the fact that we are the objects of the love of God.

Formerly afflictions were considered as the expression of God’s displeasure. Since our relation to God is changed, and because of the hope of salvation laid up for us in heaven, man sees a positive value in our sufferings, in other words as a manifestation of God’s love. So Paul says, suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, character produces hope.

  1. vv. 6-11 There is the certainty of the final salvation of all believers. This is argued from the freeness and greatness of the divine love.

God will not leave His work unfinished, whom He justifies, them also he glorifies. The one who reconciled us with God, will also save us, the hope. Therefore, salvation in a general sense, includes justification; but when distinguished from it, it means the consummation of that work of which justification is the commencement.

In v.11 Paul points out, salvation is not merely of future, but is begun on earth, because through Christ we have now received our reconciliation.

Rom 5, 12-21: In our pilgrimage as a justified man towards the final salvation there are three enemies that stand in our way:

First enemy is Thanatos = Spiritual death: Christ liberated us from this first enemy. This Paul works out through his Adam-Christ typology. Paul speaks of the entry of sin into the world through one man. Paul presents Christ here as the second Adam; while in 1Cor 15,35-49 as the ‘Last Adam’.

Paul presents Adam undoubtedly as an historical individual, but it also makes clear that Adam (homo) is also the head and inclusive representative of the human race. In the corporate personality, the whole group, including the past, present, future members might function as single individual through any one of those members conceived as representative of it.

By one man sin entered into the world. It implies that sin existed before Adam. Sin is the personified evil power hostile to God has entered into mankind. The consequence of Adam’s one act was that spiritual death came to all men. The result spread to all his posterity.

Adam is the type – the first man and thus the head of the race. In v14 Christ is called the one to come – the one initiated the new race – the redeemed race. We read in 1Cor 15,45: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit. We find a solidarity of the entire human race in Adam; super solidarity of all humanity in Christ. There is only one similarity between the role of Adam and of Christ – in the fact that there is a transmission of the effects in both cases. Adam inaugurated solidarity in sin and death. Christ became the inaugurator of a more powerful solidarity in justice and life.

Here ends the similarity. The rest are dissimilarities. v.20 Law came in to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more. v.21 Sin reigned in death; Grace, which is the free gift of God that effected our justification reigns to eternal life.

 

6,1-23: Christ liberated us from the second enemy, namely hamartia (sin):

The conclusion in 5,20 is: where sin increased, grace increased all the more. So one may argue, shall we continue to sin so that grace must increase. The sinners might reason, let us sin lustily and thus give grace its maximum opportunity. Paul’s response in v.2 is: “By no means! The believers are baptized into Christ’s death and thereby identified with Christ.

This is the locus classicus for Paul’s doctrine of Baptism. Baptism incorporates the baptized into Christ. They are baptized into one body (1Cor 12,13), viz. the body of Christ. There comes the idea of the corporate personality – the new redeemed, risen and glorified humanity, of which Christ is head and inclusive representative.

Believers are baptized into His death, a death which said ‘no’ to sin. Therefore every believer renounces sin, in accepting Christ. Since believers are in Christ, sin shall not have dominion over them, because they are not under the law, but under grace (v.14). Believers are identified with Christ. How can they live as though Christ never died, as though sin and law are still the dominating factors for present life?

For the loyal Jew God gave the Law. Observance of it was how the covenant people live by grace. For the loyal believer, grace is through our identification with the person of Christ. Therefore in v.14 Paul says: Sin shall have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. And in verse 22 we read “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God. So you have sanctification and eternal life”.

Freedom from the law does not mean freedom from God, but freedom for God. So no one can say, “sin does not matter”.

 

7,1-25 The third enemy is vonmos (Law) : In 6,14 Paul said: Christians are no more under the Law, but under grace. So in chapter t, “Therefore they should not become the slaves of the law, but the slaves of God.” Paul illustrates and confirms this by showing the consequences of this change in our relation to God.

Authority of the law is not perpetual. A married woman is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if he dies, she is free from that law. Through the death of Christ He has freed us from the law that bound us so far. Paul does not say that the law is dead, but we are freed from it by the death of Christ.

Believers are no longer under the old written code and covenant which said, “do this and live”, but are introduced into a new and gracious state, in which they are accepted, not for what we do, for what has been done for us.

7,1-6 While under the law, we brought forth fruit unto sin (v.5). we were easily succumbed to the passions of the flesh. Now we are not under the old written code but in the newness of the Spirit.

7,7-12 Paul explains more fully the use and the effect of the law. Law produces conviction of sin. This agrees to his declaration in 3,20: through the law comes the knowledge of the sin.

v.7 Law in itself is not evil, yet it is the source and the only source of the knowledge of sin. If there is no knowledge of the law, there can be no consciousness of sin. We read in 7b :”I should not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “you shall not covet”. Here Paul is not saying that he did not know the meaning of the tenth commandment: Do not covet what belongs to some one else. He knows. What Paul says is that behind the desire for specific objects there is a desire that is blameworthy in itself. It is this desire which is blameworthy, independently of its object. Desire means precisely the exaltation of the ego, which is to be the essence of the sin. It means putting the sinner in the supreme place. Thus the point of the Apostle’s argument is, that his knowledge of sin is due to the law, because without the law he would not have known that mere desire is evil. These evil desires revealed the hidden source of sin in his nature. Sin was there, but dormant. When the law came home to him, he could not but see himself as a sinner, sinner before God. The result was death. So we read in v.10 “The law was actually designed and adapted to secure life, but became in fact the cause of death. Sin did the harm, but did it through the law. Sin made use of what is good to bring about something evil. The law is good. It awakens in me the knowledge of my own state and character. It was the corruption of my nature, that was revealed to the Apostle by the operation of the law.

Paul uses sin and the law on the same plain to such an extent that the power of sin has abused the law, which is good in itself, and cast humankind thereby into slavery (7,7-12). Believers are to be slaves no longer to sin, but to God (Rom 6,16.22; 7,6).

7,12 Law is holy, just and good.

7,14 Law is spiritual, but I am carnal.

7,19 I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.

Why Paul insists on the deliverance from the law? Is it because the law is evil? Though the law is holy, just and good, it could not produce holiness. It can produce only the knowledge and the sense of sin.

The law presents duty clearly; the heart and the conscience of the believer assent to its excellence; but what can the law do in destroying the power of our inward corruption? The authoritative declaration that a thing must not be done does not destroy the inclination to do it. Hence when we do good, evil is present with us (v.21). We delight in the law after the inward man, but this does not destroy the power of sin in our members (vv.22-23). The inward conflict the law can never end. It only makes us sensible of our corrupt nature (v.24).

How we get a victory over this? Through Jesus Christ our Lord (v.25), viz. following His way, which says always a ‘no’ to us and put the others always in the first place. Thus we read in Gal 5,13ff. “You were called to freedom; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love is servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in the word “you shall love your neighbour as yourself”.

Romans 8,1‑39: Explanation of Salvation : In Christ Jesus we are no more under the oldness of the letter but in the newness of the Spirit. Christian Life is a life in the Spirit

The best gift offered by Jesus to humanity is the Holy Spirit. The new covenant community was established by the sprinkling of the blood on the cross and it was ratified on the day of Pentecost, when the disappointed disciples were filled with the holy Spirit, where the Spirit gave them utterance, and said of them: they began to speak in other tongues (Acts 2, 1‑4). Old covenant was written on stone tablets (Ex 20). In the new Covenant, I will put my Law within them and I will write it upon their hearts, and I will be their god and they shall be my people (Jer 31,31‑33).

In Ezekiel 36,26 we read : “A new heart I will give you, and a new Spirit I will put within you, and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh, and I will put my Spirit within you (v.27).

We the new Israelites are the members of the new Covenant (2Cor 3,6), one not written with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts. John 3,34; 4, 10 Holy Spirit is the gift of God the Father and the risen Jesus John 14,24 the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

We can divide 8, 1‑39 into three parts:

8, 1 ‑11 Christian life is empowered by the Spirit

8, 12‑3Q,Since it is the Spirit of Christ working in the Christians, we also can call God “ABBA,

Father”‘

8, 31‑30 A hymn to the love of God made manifest in Christ.

8, 1 ‑11 Starts with “therefore” that is the following part stands for the legitimate conclusion of all that Pau ‘ I had previously established.

 

The proposition: There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. They live in the newness of the Spirit. If anyone is in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature (2 Cor 15,17; Jn 15,14; Phil 3,20; Col 2,6; 1 Jn 2,5; 3,6). Nothing can separate him from the love of God. They are not exposed to condemnation. They walk not after, the flesh, but after the Spirit. They are not sarkikoi(governed by theflesh) but pneumtikoi (governed by the Spirit).

 

In the following verses Paul gives the reason for his proposition:

The immediate reason is that the Law of the Spirit of life has freed us from the written Law.

The second reason: For God has done what the Law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. The Law being in itself good was made weak by our flesh. Thus the law failed to make us just. In view of the insufficiency of the law to make man just, God sent forth His son as a sacrifice, for sin (v.3) and thus secured the justification of all believers (v.4). God through Jesus fulfilled the Law.

Third: Being thus delivered from the Law, the believers walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit; and this possession of the Spirit is incipient salvation. The life‑giving power of the Holy Spirit begins its ruling as a law within the heart. The presence of the Spirit is the distinguishing mark of the Christian, That is why Paul calls them Pneumatikoi = governed by the Spirit.

Christ came as a sin‑offering, as expiation. He took upon Himself our nature, in order to expiate the guilt of that nature. The expiation must be made in the nature that had sinned. He did expiation for our sins by His blood and not the destruction of its powers in us. The presence of the spirit enables the believers to live a life they could never attain left to themselves. The work of salvation is already begun in those who possess the Spirit. To such persons there is no condemnation. Hence in v. I Paul’s argument is that the same Spirit which was in Christ, and raised Him from the dead dwells in us, even in (I Cor 6,9) and will assuredly raise us up.

In Gal 5, 16 ‑ Paul beautifully and elaborately explains the fruits of the Spirit and that of the flesh. The believers are freed from the written law. In its place the life‑giving power of the Holy‑Spirit begins its ruling as a law within the heart. The reason for the law’s failure is that it is weak through the flesh. Jesus appeared in the likeness of the sinful flesh, but not itself sinful. Christ as the substitute of sinners, took upon himself the curse for them, but did the expiation in the nature that had sinned.

Why God planned to send His son and to condemn sin in the flesh? God wanted to satisfy the demands of the law and did the expiation once for all. This enables the believer to walk after the Spirit. Those who walk by the Spirit ‑ that is lead a sacrificial life for the other ‑ doing good for others are not condemned. For such persons the work of salvation is already begun in them. Hence in 8, 11 Paul argues, the same Spirit that was in Christ, and raised Him from the dead dwells in us and will assuredly raise us up.

8, 12‑20 Paul brings out the implications of our life in Christ

1.           Those who are in Christ have the obligation to live according to the Spirit and to mortify the deeds of the body, that is we should not live according to the flesh.

2.           The presence of the Spirit raises us into the state of Sons of God. Since we have received not the Spirit of slavery, but the Spirit of Son ship, we are called to the liberty of the children of God and therefore should not remain anymore in the bondage of the flesh to decay.

3.           This enables us to call God “Abba, Father” (v.15) and to look forward in hope to the full realization of what Christ has achieved.

4.           Eventually we become partakers of the sufferings of Christ, to prepare ourselves to participate in His glory.

5.           If we are imbibed by the Spirit, we will have a new attitude toward suffering, for “we know that in everything God works for good with those who love him who are called according to His purpose. Though we do not know how to pray, the Spirit intercedes for us before God (v.26).

 

8, 31‑39 A Hymn of Praise

Nothing can separate us from the love in Christ Jesus. God who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, He will certainly save us. Paul’s eye‑opening questions in vv. 3234 explain this fact clearly: Who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who dies? Yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercede for us and will let us to participate in His glory. Who will bring ant charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with Him,

 

Romans Chaps. 9‑11 The Place of Israel in God’s Plan

Since Ch. 8 brings to a close the discussion of the plan of salvation and of its immediate consequences, what is the relevance of chapters 9 to 11?

A closer and more attentive study reveals the fact that they are an integral part of the working out of the theme stated in 1, 16‑17, where he said: The Gospel is the power of God or salvation to everyone, first for the Jews and then for the Gentiles. He has not yet explained what the last part of this statement means.      Secondly, for his doctrine of justification and salvation Paul has consistently appealed to the OT as sacred Scripture and for proof. In the Scripture the Jews appear as God’s chosen people. How can Paul establish a system ‑ of salvation for the Gentiles on the basis of the Scripture that gives a special place to the Jews? Paul’s whole argument demands an examination of the Jewish question. Ch. 8,,ends with an assurance: Christ Jesus, who died and was raised from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God will indeed intercede for us. Believers are assured that this brings them to glory and that nothing can separate them from the love of God (Rom 8, 34‑39). Here arises a serous question. Did not the same God give the same assurance to the Jews as His elect? However the Jews for the most part were outside the Churchand bad rejected the Messiah. If God cannot bring His ancient people into salvation, how do Christians know that He can save them? Will the Christian salvation be superseded one day? If Paul’s position was a valid one, he had to show that believers of today are the heirs of a valid ‘promise. Hence the first 11 Chapters in Romans are a unity.

 

The discussion in chapters 9‑11 makes possible a fuller and profounder understanding of the Gospel. The consideration of the call4ina2L!~~~~the jSjSecqti~o2n~of the Jews commences with chapter 9 and extends to the end of chapter 11.

The summary of chapters 9‑11: Paul in the first place shows that God may consistently reject the Jews, and extend the blessings of the Messiah’s reign to the Gentiles (9, 1‑24)

In the second place, that He has already declared that such was His purpose (9, 25‑29)

In the third place, agreeably to these prophetic declarations, the apostle announces that the Jews were cast of and the Gentiles were called. The reason is that the former having refused submission to the righteousness of faith and the latter having been obedient (9, 30‑33)

In Ch. 10 Paul shows the necessity of this rejection of the ancient people of God and proves the appropriateness of extending the invitation of the gospel to the gentiles.. This is accordance with the predictions of the prophets.

In Ch. 11 Paul teach that this rejection of the Jews wasneither total nor final: It was not total, in as much as many of the Jews of that generation believed into the Messiah. It was not final, for Paul hopefully believes that in due time the great body of the Jews would acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and be re-in-grafted into their own olive tree.

9, 1‑5 Before starting with the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the Gentiles, Paul assures his brethren of his love for them and his respect for their national privileges, namely to them belong the son ship, the glory to be the people of God, the covenants, the law, the worship, the promises, t them belong the patriarchs and of the Jewish race in Christ, But who are Israelite? For Paul they are not simply members of a national or racial group, but members of the people of God.

9, 6‑24 Paul moves from his expression of sorrow to the development of his argument, namely the rejection of the Jews and the calling of the gentiles. God had determined to cast off his ancient covenant people, as such, and to extend the call of the Gospel indiscriminately to all. This is the point which Paul is about to establish. Paul does this by showing:

In the first place, God is perfectly free thus to act (vv. 6‑24) in the second place, that He had declared in the prophets that such was His intention (25‑33). Paul argues, God was free to act, namely to reject the Jews and to call the Gentiles and this he shows:

1. By pointing out the promises which God had made: the promises were not made to the natural descendants of Abraham as such but to his spiritual seed (v.8). Take the case of Ishmael and Isaac, both was the natural children of Abraham, yet one was taken and the other was rejected. The case of Esau and Jacob, children of the same parents and born at one birth makes it clear. Yet, Jacob have I love and Esau have I hated is the language of God respecting them 9v. 13). Here comes the question: is there injustice on God’s part in choosing one and rejecting another?

2. Here comes Paul’s second argument. God is perfectly sovereign in the distribution of his favours. The choice is made not on the basis of works or merits. The choice of Jacob, for example was made and announced before the birth of the children. The elder will serve the younger.

Against this doctrine of the divine sovereignty, there are two obvious objections. The Apostle explicitly states them to choose one and reject another at His mere will. To this Paul gives two answers:

a) God claims the exclusive privilege of sovereign mercy, saying I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” (v. 15 = Ex 33, 19)

b) God exercises this right, as is evident from the case of Pharaoh, with regard to whom he says: “I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth”{ (v. 18).

The second objection is: If God acts at His mere will, this destroys the responsibility of men (v. 19). To this also Paul gives a twofold answer.

a) The very urging of an objection against the creator is an irreverent arguing with our master (vv. 2‑2 1). 0 house of Israel cannot I do with you as this potter?

b) There is nothing in the exercise of His sovereignty inconsistent with either justice or mercy. God only punishes the wicked for their sins, while he extends undeserved mercy to the objects of His grace (vv. 22­24).

Those chosen ones are the vessels of His mercy. He has mercy upon which He will have mercy. Therefore, H e calls men from among the Jews and Gentiles indiscriminately. God had called His vessels of mercy out from both groups. Taking a series of quotations from the Scripture Paul establishes his point 9vv. 25‑33)

Why the great body of the Jew were rejected and the gentiles attained the favour of God? The answer is in vv 31‑32. Because the Jews would not summit to be saved on the terms which God proposed. They tired to have a right standing before God in their own way. They failed to profit from their possession of the law. The law was given actually to lead people to the law of faith, hat is to Christ. It could thus be called a law of righteousness. Jews sought justification through he law. They sought a right goal, but did it in the wrong way. Paul ends with the hope. He who builds on the sure foundation of Christ, is delivered from the situation in which the contemporary Jews found themselves.

In Chapter 10 Paul continues the same theme. It also sets forth the truth in reference to the rejection of the Jews as the peculiar people of God and the extension to all nations of the offers of salvation.

10, 1‑4 sets forth the ground of the rejection of the Jews, They put tremendous effort into securing righteousness before god, but in their own way. Though the Jews have a zeal for God, it is not enlightened; they lack a correct knowledge and appreciation of God. They were ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God. The saving work of Christ has brought to a close any attempt to attain righteousness by way of law. Faith is absolutely necessary, and speaks.

10, 5‑13 Paul insists that this view of justification by faith is scriptural,. Paul here resembles a group of passages Rom Scoture to show that God has always cce ed2gople through grace. All that has been required of their part is faith. Faith is the only way to God.

10, 14‑17 The plan of salvation being adapted to all, and God being the God of all, the Gospel should be preached to all. God’s way is not that all should call upon him and the Gospel should be preached to all. If Gentiles have come to know of God, then it certainly can not be supposed that Israel has not known. The Gentiles did not consciously look for God as the Jews did. But in the end they found Him, because He revealed Himself to people of faith. God’s call for Israel went unheeded, for they were disobedient and obstinate. God is often found by those who apparently are the farthest from Him, while he remains undiscovered by those who think themselves ways in His presence.

10, 18‑21 the above said truth was predicted clearly in the OT

Chapter I I Israel as God’s chosen people and to say that they are rejected is unbelievable. Here we find an inconsistency with the Word of God. Paul removes this difficulty.

First by showing that the rejection of the Jews was neither total nor final

Secondly, by proving that the promises in question had reference not to the Jewish nation a such, but to the elect or the spiritual Israel.

The chapter closes with a sublime declaration of the unimaginable wisdom of God, manifested in all His dealings with men.

11, 1 ‑ 10 The rejection of the Jews is not total , as is sufficiently manifested from the example of the apostle himself, to say nothing of others (v. 1). God had reserved a remnant faithful to himself in the time of Elijah (vv. 2‑4). In the days of Elijah, God rejected the great body of he people, but reserved to himself a remnant, chosen in sovereign grace. God’s answer to Elijah: quoting I Kgs 19,18 Paul emphasizes the divine action, it was Got and no one else who saw to it that the 7000 remained. It was God’s action that made the 7000 stand out. God’s statement that he is preserving for Himself 7000 men in Israel amounts to a declaration of His faithfulness to His purpose of salvation for His people, a declaration that that purpose will continue unchanged and unthwarted to its final goal. That this remnant is saved, is a matter entirely of grace (vv. 56). The real truth of the case is, that Israel as a nation , is excluded from the kingdom of Christ, but the chosen ones are admitted to its blessings (v. 7). The rejection of the greater part of the Jews, their own scriptures had predicted (vv. 8‑10).

11, 11‑24 The rejection of the greater part of Israel is not for ever. As the rejection of the Jews was not total, so neither is it final. They have not so fallen as to be hopelessly protested.

Paul believes that God did not design to cast away His people entirely. But their rejection God planned to facilitate the progress of the gospel among the gentiles and then ultimately to make the conversion of the gentiles the means of converting the Jews (v. 11). Thus we can say, the event, the conversion of the gentiles becoming the means of converting the Jews is in itself desirable and probable:

1.          Because if the rejection of the Jews has been a source of blessing, much more their restoration be the means of good (vv. 12‑15)

2.          Because it (the conversion of the gentiles the means of converting the Jews) was included and contemplated in the original election of the Jewish nation. If the root is holy, so are the branches (v. 16).

The breaking of and rejection of some of the original branches, and the introduction of others of different origin, is not inconsistent with God’s plan. Gentiles, though do not deserve, were grafted to the root which is holy. This should lead them to exercise humility and fear, and not boasting and exultation (vv 17‑22). The rejection of the Jews was s hock treatment of their unbelief. It was not the expression of God’s ultimate purpose respecting them. Hence Paul believes, it is more probable that God should restore the Jews, than that he should have called the gentiles (vv. 23‑24). Therefore we can say God uses Israel’s stumble to bring salvation to the gentiles and in the end the Jews will be brought in. So the salvation of the gentiles was intended to arouse in Israel a passionate desire for the Messiah. In vv. 1724 we can also see, Paul proceeds to a warning togentile Christians not to presume on their position. This he expresses through a metaphor, where he reverses the normal grafting principle. He speaks of grafting a wild olive onto a stock of a good olive and later even of grafting back some of the good olive branches that has been cut out. The olive tree is a symbol of Israel in OT (Jer 11, 16; Hos 14,6)

The gentile believers has not been cut out but grafted in. Olive becomes a ‘sharer’, a partner with the branches that remain in the tree. Hence the gentile converts have nothing to boast. It is the root, which is holy, that bears him.

The fate of the Jews is drawn into a warning for the gentiles. The Jews were cut out of the tree because of their unbelief. The fate of the natural branches could easily become that of the grafted ‑ in branches.

Finally in v.24 Paul’s hope: the gentiles were cut from a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree. They were grafted into that holy stem to which he does not naturally being. If they believe this, then they can think God is able and willing to do what is less wonderful ‑ to restore to their own native stock the unbelieving Jews when they repent and believe.

 

11, 25‑32  The conversion of Israel

Paul looks forward to the time when all Israel will be saved. He hopes a national restoration. Israel’s hardening will last until the fullness of the gentiles come in the ground of Paul’s certainty in the faithfulness of God.

 

 

1 CORINTHIANS 7,12‑16 CHRISTIAN VIEW ON MARRIAGE

Paul’s advice with regard to marriage deals with two marriage situations. In the first case, the believing and unbelieving partners are willing to live together in peace and without discord concerning their religious differences. In this case, Paul demands Jesus’ prohibition of divorce be obeyed, and there is no inconsistency in his demand (W. 12‑14).

In the second case, the unbelieving partner is unwilling to live in peace with the Christian partner (vv. 15­16), and Paul allows the believing partner to separate from, and equivalently, to divorce the unbelieving partner,

Paul gives the true interpretation of Jesus’ prohibition of divorce and remarriage, interpreting it to be absolute only in true marriages between baptized persons. Paul, it is claimed, understood Jesus to have prohibited divorce and remarriage absolutely in relation to baptized Christians, but only relatively in relation to non‑Christians or Christians married to non‑Christians.

Thus the Pauline privilege flows from the dissolubility of a marriage in which at least one of the partners was not baptized. One thing is implicit in Paul’s instruction that the Christian’ partner should never take the initiative to end the marriage. However uncommitted both to the marriage vows and to the very institution of marriage, the unbelieving partner may be, the Christian partner upholds its sanctity and its life long permanence.

 

I Corinthians chapters 12 ‑ 14

In Chapter 12 Paul speaks of the gifts of the Spirit. Though there are varieties in the gifts, the same Spirit is working in all. In v. 7 the gifts have been distributed and that they have been given for the service of the community and that through these gifts God is at work in believers. Gifts are given to individual members not for their personal enhancement, but for the common good. The body metaphor shows the unity of the body and of the diversity of its members as well as of the interrelationship between one and the many.

While dealing with the gifts, a list of 9 gifts are cited:

 

1.utterance of wisdom; 2. utterance of knowledge; 3. faith; 4, gifts of healing; 5, the working of miracles; 6. prophecy; 7. the ability to distinguish between Spirits; 8. various kinds of tongues; 9. the interpretation of tongues.

In Chapter 13, after exploiting the body metaphor Paul returns to the gift of tongues as

a point of departure (12,30) for his treaty on love, the gift par‑excellence.

The content of ch. 13 underscores the essential quality of the Christian life. Love is the sine qua non of the Christian life.

Chapter 13 has 3 parts:

w. I ‑ 3 affirm that without love charismatic gifts have no value.

w. 4 ‑ 7 offer a panorama on love, featuring both its positive and negative qualities, that is what love does and what love does not do.

vv. 8 ‑ 13 contrasts love with spiritual gifts, affirming that love never ends

If we observe vv. 1‑3 he begins with the lesser gift of speaking in tongues, then continues with the greater gift of prophecy. Finally he speaks of the ultimate gift, the gift of self‑sacrifice for the benefit of others. IF he did not have love even the gift of self sacrifice would not accrue to his personal advantage.

Paul begins with two positive affirmations about love (v. 4a). Then follows a series of 8 clauses that state what love does not do (vv. 4b ‑ 6) and concludes with 4 affirmations of the universal embrace of love (v.7).

In Chapter 13 for Paul the primary locus of love is the common life of the Church. It is love that makes the life of the Church possible.

 

Chapter 14

In 12, 31 we see the exposition on spiritual gifts culminates in a final exhortation : “But ‑earnestly desire the higher gifts”. Then comes the digression on love.

Now in ch. 14 Paul returns to the topic of the spiritual gifts. The greatest of God’s gifts is love, the gift par excellence, as Paul demonstrates in Ch. 13.

In Ch. 14 Paul returns to the quest for the greater gifts, explaining to the Corinthians that among the various charisms it is gift of prophecy that hey should particularly seek to have.

Ch. 12 discussed the Charisms in general. In ch. 14 Paul turns his attention specially to two gifts of speech. These are the gift of prophecy and the gift of tongues.

Between his two treatments of spiritual gifts is sandwiched the rhetorical digression of ch. 13.

12, 31 “But earnestly desire the higher goods” ‑ this corresponds to the opening exhortation of ch. 14,1 “Make love your aim, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophecy.

Chapter 14 makes it clear that speaking in tongue was the spiritual phenomenon that was especially esteemed among the Corinthians, Some considered glossolalia to be the spiritual reality par excellence, almost to the point of being the sole gift that was recognized by the Corinthians. Speaking in tongues was the real issue with regard to spiritual gifts in Corinth. Because of the Corinthians’ undue emphasis on this single gift, Paul was constrained to underscore the diversity of gifts within the community.

Paul initially put the gift of speaking in tongue in its place by citing the gift of glossolalia toward the end or at the very end of the list of gifts (12, 10.28.30), and relativized the value of this gift by putting the interpretation of tongues , a gift correlative to speaking in tongues, next on his list (vv. 10 & 30).

Ch. 14 shows the relatively greater importance of the gift of prophecy in building up the Church.

Paul recognizes the gift of tongue as a gift of the Spirit. He ‑urges at the very end of his discourse that those who have this gift not to be restrained from speaking in the assembly, His one caveat (=warning) is that there should be propriety and order (14, 39‑40).

In an evaluation of the relative value of the gift of prophecy vis‑d‑vis the gift of speaking in tongue, building up the Church is the primary criterion.

 

Prophecy and speaking in tongues

The gift of prophecy is identified as a gift distinct from the gift of speaking in tongues by means of three contrasts:

I The gift of tongues is God‑directed speech; the gift of prophecy is human directed speech.

2. The one who speaks in tongues utters mysteries, the one who prophesies utters ‑ I. words of encouragement and upbuilding.

3. The one who speaks in tongues builds up the ego; the one who prophesies builds :up the Church. He who speaks in tongues edifies himself, but he who prophesies, edifies the Church (v.4)

Paul urges his addressees to strive for prophecy, which is gift of the Spirit, that is integral to the life of the Church (12,28). It is the only gift that is cited in all four of his list of charisms (12, 10.28.29; Rom 12,6). It is the only gift of the Spirit that is cited in I Thess 5, 19‑20.

For Paul prophecy is a matter of speaking on behalf of God, functioning in a sense as God’s spoken person. In 14,3 Paul emphatically identifies exhortation as the characteristic function of prophecy. Exhortation and encouragement are the way in which community is built up. Prophesying builds up the community in so far as the members of the community are ‘edified’, that is exhorted and encouraged. The criterion for judging the value of spiritual realities is the edification of the Church (vv. 4‑5): He who speaks in tongues edifies himself; but he who prophesies, edifies the Church.

Paul, sets forth specific directives for those who would speak in tongues and for those who would prophesy. His overarching principle is that everything that is done be done for the sake of building up of the community (v.26). A theological understanding underlies this principle (v.33). Cacophony is to be excluded because God is not a God of disorder and confusion. Upbuilding the community is necessary becauge God is God of peace. The God:of the covenant wills the well‑being of his people.

3 rules set forth for the exercise of speaking in tongues are:

First, that there be a limited number of such utterances, no more than two or three. Second, that those who speak in tongues speak in turn.Third, that the utterances be interpreted.

This last condition is a sine qua non (the essential one). If there is no one interpret what is being said in tongues it should not be said aloud. Speaking in tongues is the praise of God. If the other members of the assembly cannot understand what is being said and if they cannot join with an “Amen” (14, 2.16) the prayer should be directed to God and God alone.The exercise of gifts of prophecy is no more beneficial to the community than is the exercise of the gifts of tongues.

Three rules for the exercise of the gift of prophecy are set forth: First, no more than two or three prophets should speak in the assembly, but Paul presumes that the prophets will speak. Second, those who prophesy should speak in turn. Even the prophets be silent when others are speaking. All within the community must be able to profit from prophetic utterance, whether that be didactic or paraenetic. Third, others must judge what the prophets say.

At the end in vv. 3 9 ‑40 Paul urges them To pursue eagerly the gift of prophecy, but not, he warns them, to the neglect of the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues may be of more importance for building up the community. The gift of speaking in tongues has, nonetheless, its role to play in the life of the community. Paul does not consider it insignificant. It is gift of God and an important one (14, 2.5.14), but the criterion for evaluating the use of this gift is its utility for the Church What is imperative is that when the community comes together for worship, the Eucharistic assembly should reflect the nature of the of the Church as the body of Christ, the order in the assembly should reflect the order that exists within the body of Christ. Everything is to be done with propriety and in order. It is the Charism of speech that could prove most detrimental to the order of the community. Accordingly Paul sets out specific guidelines for those who would exercise the gifts of speech in the assembly, especially tongues and prophecy.

 

1 Corinthians Chapter 15

The additional transitional formula found in verses 12, 20, 35, 50, 58 neatly divide Chapter 15, whose primary focus is death, into six units: I ‑11; 12 ‑ 19; 20 ‑ 34; 35 ‑ 49; 50 ‑ 57; 58.

Paul seeks to respond to those who deny that there is a resurrection of the dead. In his response to those who doubted, Paul first proclaims that the Gospel he preached is the common Gospel of all believers. He simply handed on what he himself had received. The Gospel he has preached is the gospel that others have preached. Some of those who “,\qe i d the resurrection of the dead may also have denied the resurrection of Jesus.

Paul cites six witnesses in all to show the appearances of the risen Christ ‑ that can be taken as an indication that the reality of the resurrection of Christ might have been doubted and \ or contested in some Corinthian quarters. Having established his apostolic authority on the basis of his experience of the risen Lord, Paul can then spell out the implications of the traditional kerygma and confront those who deny the bodily resurrection.

 

Arguing that there is resurrection of the dead, Paul makes his point in two movements of thou . ght: He first deals with the reality of the resurrection of the dead (vv. 12 ‑ 34); then he takes up the issue of how it is possible for the dead to be raised (vv. 35 ‑ 57). Rhetorically these two units function as proofs of Paul’s demonstration.

 

The exposition of the first proof is set forth in the familiar chiastic pattern:

A           vv, 12 ‑ 19

B           vv. 20 ‑ 28

C           vv. 29 ‑ 34

              Elements A – A presume that the resurrection of Jesus is related to the resurrection of those who believe in him. If there is no resurrection from the dead, then Christ has not been raised. If Christ has not been raised there is little meaning to what Paul and Corinthians have been doing.

Element B (vv. 20 ‑ 28) seeks to explain the link between the resurrection of Christ and the resurrection of those who believe in Him. Christ is the first fruit of those who have died (15,20). As a Jew of the Pharisaic persuasion Paul held that the resurrection of the dead is god’s ultimate salvific act. The resurrection of Christ from the dead is the inaugural event in the resurrection of the dead. If Christ has been raised it is possible for all believers to be raised.

In the second proof (vv. 35 ‑ 37) Paul addressed the issue of how it is possible for the dead to be raised. Paul affirms that God provides appropriate bodies for all He creates (vv. 35 ‑ 44a). The first Adam has only a natural body, whereas the second Adam has an inspirited body (vv. 44b ‑ 49). With what kind of body will those come who are raised from the dead? Paul responds that they will come with a transformed body, a body that is imperishable and immortal (vv. 50 ‑ 57). God makes all that possible through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore Paul’s request in v. 58: Remain faithful in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the lord your labour is not in vain.

 

Corinthians Chapters 8 to 10

We come to another question put to Paul by the Corinthians and Paul’s answer to this thorny issue. He takes three long chapters to deal with this problem.

 

8, 1 ‑ t 3 The problem: eating food sacrificed to idols

I . Paul’s right as an apostle 9, 1‑18

2. Paul does not take his salvation for granted 9, 19‑27

3. The Israelites in the desert fell into idolatry and fornication 10, 14‑22

4. The table of the lord versus the table of demons 10, 14‑22; 10, 23‑11, 1 Practical solutions to the idol food problem.

 

8, 1‑13 Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up

Paul’s implicit condemnation of knowledge that ‘puffs up, leaving its possessor like an inflated balloon, is central to his argument for eating the food sacrificed to idols. His argument calls upon the Corinthians to subordinate knowledge to love. Loveless knowledge is not true knowledge, because, as he says in 8, 11, it brings about the spiritual ruin of those for whom Christ died. Thus Paul’s central argument is that love is more important than knowledge. In other words, more accurately knowledge subordinated to love is true knowledge.

Paul both agrees and disagrees with his critics, when he says “all of us possess knowledge”. He agrees with his critics that thee is only one God and eating meant sacrificed to idols, as a consequence means nothing. After agreeing Paul quickly qualifies by pointing out that not all are so intellectually secure: “However, not all posses this knowledge” (v.7).

Paul agrees with those who know that there is only one God. They have a perfect right to exercise the freedom this knowledge gives them. But the case is different with the fellow Christians recently converted from paganism. They have scruples about eating idol food, for they quite simply do not have this knowledge of one God.

Therefore Paul distinguishes between a right conscience and an erroneous conscience. Paul takes for granted that each must follow his or her conscience, right or wrong. In order to avoid confusion Paul asks of those with right conscience to do one thing. He asks not that they should give up their rights, but that they should give up the use of their right t follow their right consciencC If they use their right they may be a source of temptation to their weaker brethren to go against their erroneous conscience and thereby sin (vv. 8‑12). Paul’s conclusion, “Therefore, if food is a cause of my brother’s falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall” (v. 13) supports his basic principle that “knowledge putts up, but love builds up” (8,1). We must always pause to see our fellow Christian as “the brother for whom Christ died” (v. 11). To cause any brother to stumble even once, is such an appalling danger for Paul that he will not once touch meant to avoid such a disaster (8, 13). This is true Christian love and that, Paul would affirm with equal fervour, is true Christian freedom.

Corinthians should be concerned to sin neither against their brethren nor Christ. Therefore, by tell them, how he himself will behave in such occasions: “Therefore, if food is a cause of my brothers falling, I will never eat meat, lest I cause my brother to fall” (8,13), in 9, 1‑27 Paul develops his own way of responding to the call of God. Paul rhetorically asks four questions in 9, 1:

Am I not free?

Am I not an Apostle? The next two questions are concerned of his apostleship: Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my workmanship in the Lord?

In 9,3 to 18 he answers the second questions and therewith third and fourth too. In 9, 19 to 27 he answers the first question.

9,2 The Corinthians are the seal of his apostleship.

9, 3‑18 Paul asserts that he is indeed free. But for the sake of the Gospel he has given up many of the right s his freedom conferred on him. By putting several questions, Paul is compelling the readers to answer them.

v.8. Even the law allows certain rights to be enjoyed. Here also he brings forward certain questions, to which he expects answer from the readers.

v. 12b. Paul’s principle was to endure anything, rather than put an obstacle in the way of the Gospel of Christ. Therefore Paul has made no use of any of these rights (v. 15). He was ready to give up all the rights when that would advance the work of the Gospel. Proclamation of the Gospel is his prime duty, for God had set him Apart from this and it is his right as an apostle. So that he can say, “woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”(v. 16). Thereby Paul is urging the Corinthians to sacrifice their rights for the sake of their brethren, as he himself was ready to give up the use of his rights. In v. 18 he affirms that he preached the Gospel free of charge. He did not always preach the Gospel free of charge is clear from Phil 4, 1020. In Corinth he was able to support himself by his own labours (Acts 18, 3).

9,19‑27 Now he answers the first question by asserting that he is indeed free but for the sake of the Gospel he has given up many of the rights his freedom allows him. He is once again making the point about freedom and rights that he made in 8, 7‑13 by reminding the Corinthians that even though he is as free as they are, he has nevertheless given up the use of his rights in order to attain something far more important. He has in fact made himself “a slave to all so as to win over as may as possible” (9, 19). He suffered everything for the sake of the Gospel, that he may share in its blessings (v.23). His request to the Corinthians is that they should stop worrying about their rights, rewards and freedom and should think of their responsibility, by becoming all things to all men in order to save some (v. 22). For this one needs perseverance and self‑discipline of an athlete which Paul himself practiced in responding God’s call (9, 25­27).

10, 1‑13 To elucidate his position Paul introduces an obvious biblical evidence. How the absence of self-control and persistence affected the life of Israelites, God’s chosen people, in the wilderness. In spite of all the privileges the Israelites enjoyed, god was not pleased with most of them, because of their evils:

v.7 idolatry ‑ ex 32, 4‑6

v. 8 immorality ‑ Num 25, 1‑18

v.9 putting the Lord to the test ‑ Num 21, 5‑6

v. 10 grumbling ‑ Num 16, 41‑43

As a result they were overthrown in the wilderness (10, 1‑5), Now these things happened as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction (vv. 6& 11). By this illustration the Apostle stresses the similarity of the OT event with the Corinthian situation. In v. 13 Paul rerninds them that this may lead them also into idolatry.

Displaying his own way of responding to God’s call and the failure of the Israelites to understand their responsibility to their call, Paul comes to the issue of idolatry.

Paul is not ready to compromise the truth stated in 8,6, namely the oneness of God and is not ready to put any qualifications into his rejection of idolatry, so he said, “Shun the worship of idols” (10,14).

10., 14‑22. In view of the Lords supper the Corinthians should avoid idolatry. He interprets the lord’s supper in two stages:

First he states what the Corinthians believe about the Eucharist, viz, fellowship with the body and blood of Christ (v. 16), the vertical sense; Second, from this vertical relation he fon‑nulates his interpretation in v. 17 where the fellowship with the body and blood of Christ is the foundation for his affirmation about the one body. Fellowship with the lord includes fellowship with the community.

To substantiate his point Paul introduces evidence from the OT: “consider the practice of Israel: Are not those who eat the sacrifices partners at the alter (10, 18)?

I” “Likewise, in the pagan sacrifice those who offer to demons establish a fellowship with demons 910,20). Fellowship with the Lord and fellowship with demons are absolute opposites, the one excluding the other 910,21). To the Corinthians who try to compromise, the apostle pos es tow sharp questions: Shall we provoke the Lord to jealously? Are we stronger than He? (10,22).

 

10. 23‑11.1 Positive guidelines to the Problem of the food sacrificed to idols                                              First Paul places the basic principle as in 6,12: All things are lawful, but not all thins are helpful; all things are lawful, but not all things build up. Legally the faithful in Corinth are allowed to participate in the food offered to idols, but if it is not useful to build up the community then a participation is not at all helpful. Hence, Paul advises them: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour” (10,24).

Paul’s first solution to the problem is: Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without any problem of conscience. The reason is “the earth is the lord’s and everything in it is good” (8,6).

Second solution: if somebody calls attention to the origin of food, then the believer shall not eat it; not because eating itself is idolatrous, but because the conscience of the other is confused.

Then in 10, 3 1 ‑11, 1 Paul gives four positive guidelines:

1. Do all for the glory of God

2. Try to please all men in everything

3. Seek that many may be saved

4. Be imitators of Paul as he is of Christ

 

 

PAULINE PERSPECTIVE ON THE LORD’S SUPPER

The command of Jesus Christ “‘Do this in remembrance of me” at ‘the Lord’s Supper remains valid for evermore. Immediately after this imperative tone Jesus invites the disciples present, to participate in His ‘body and blood’, which essentially implies a tacit request to take part of His symbolic self‑offering and also in Himself. Realizing this truth Paul makes it clear that “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes”(1 Cor 11,26).

The beginning of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Church was the response of the believers to the direct command of Jesus Christ. In each celebration the Church, the body of Christ, finds her own existence rooted more and more in Christ Jesus; alongside of it renews day to day the challenge put before her. Thereby the believers become increasingly duty bound to be the sign and the instrument of God’s justice in the world. The words of our Lord Jesus Christ “Do this in remembrance of me” turn out, to be the command to share bread and wine with our brethren, in other words to share what we are and what we have. Paul reminds us this reality involved and implied in the Lord’s Supper. Hence in this article we aim at to find out the Pauline perspective on ‘the Lord’s Supper” as reflected in his letters.

 

1. Pauline Tradition

Among the Eucharistic texts of the New Testament those which are preserved in The First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians are unique. Their remarkableness consists in that that they have been explicitly inserted within the frame of life of a local church, ‘the church of God which is at Corinth’ (lCor 1,2), and they not merely impart us the tradition of the institution of the Lord’s Supper but contain as well the earliest theological interpretation of what Paul and, the apostolic community understood of it.

Paul uses the Eucharistic tradition in the effort to provide a solution .for the problems existing in a nascent Christian community and interprets it to make it relevant for his people. In his dissatisfaction with the way in which the Lords Supper is being celebrated in Corinth, Paul attempts to correct their misbehaviour by recounting the tradition. He intended not merely to repeat what he had preached to them at an earlier date but to argue the cause for which the Lord’s Supper was instituted and what it implied for the Christian community. Here we observe that Paul, the theologian, is not conditioned by the tradition but rather, that he interprets the tradition, incorporates it into his theology and, by remaining loyal to the tradition, makes it relevant for the tradition.

 

2. Pauline Texts

Paul’s first reference to the Eucharist occurs in the context in which he responds to the Corinthian inquiry concerning the f(W offered to the idols (1 Cor 8,1‑11). In his argument against idolatry the Apostle has recourse to the traditional fact known to the Corinthians, adding his interpretation (I Cor 10,16‑17~ which he does in two stages: first, he states what the Corinthians believe about the Eucharist, namely koinonia (fellowship) with the body and blood of Christ (10, 16), the vertical sense; second, from this vertical relation he formulates his interpretation in v. 17, where the relationship with the body and blood of Christ is. the foundation for his affirmation about the one body. Koinoniawith the person of Christ remains the basis of a koirOMa with the brethren. Thus the vertical move of the Christians towards a fellowship with the Son is brought to include the horizontal plane, the community.

The second reference is in a section devoted to instructions on the proper conduct of the community’s worship (I Cor 11, 17‑34). Paul’s disappointment with the Corinthian’s way of celebrating the Lord’s Supper made his intervention necessary. The expressions of self-indulgence, factionalism and lack of concern for the congregation as a whole were in tension with Paul’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper.

As, we have already said, in I Cor 10, 16‑17 Paul shows how the common participation in the body and blood of Christ maintains and intensifies one’s fellowship with Christ and also effects fellowship with one another. In the celebration of he Lord’s Supper the Corinthians’ do not recognize and manifest that they are one community, one body, the body of Christ and that in such a community there is no room for selfishness. They turned the memorial of selflessness into an experience of selfishness, and had made a rite of unity., a riotous disunity, a time for mutual edification, a time for division. In fact, an experience meant to build up the Church was having the opposite effect, namely their gatherings were doing more harm than good.

 

3. The Lord’s Supper and the Christian community

The Lord’s Supper is the central celebration of the Christian community and the central place of encounter with its Lord. As the source and summit of the Church’s activity, it is inexhaustible in its depth of meaning. By celebrating it, the life‑giving source, the community complies with the will of the Lord. Through its ‑ proper celebration the faithful come to express in their lives and to manifest to others the mystery’ of Christ and the true nature of the Church. For it re‑presents the once‑for‑all sacrifice of Christ offered sacramentally at the Lord’s Supper and manifested through His death on the cross, the event that grounds the community’s existence.

Paul deals with what happens when the Corinthians come together as a church. He is handling not simply a custom but a tradition that becomes a true ‘test’ of the life of Corinthian Christian community.’ For the Lord’s Supper presupposes that the community is not only gathered together but also united. 2 What stands behind Paul’s dire statement “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you cat”(1 1,20)? What had Paul hoped ‘would persuade the Corinthians to come together for the better? How does the handed over Eucharistic tradition function as a response to the Corinthian abuse?

 

3. 1.     1 Cor 11, 17‑22    What the Corinthians do

The life of a Christian community is inextricably linked to the worship in communal gatherings. Paul has been informed of the abuse, which has infiltrated into the Corinthian Christian community’s celebration of the Lord’s Supper. After hearing the reports of how the Corinthians acted when they came together, so incensed was he that he wrote bluntly, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you eat” (v.20).

Lord’s Supper presupposes the unity of the gathered assembly, but in the Corinthian gatherings there are divisions (v. 18), which Paul cannot even think of Moreover, their egocentricity is well pictured in the way they celebrate the Lord’s Supper (v.22). In their celebrations the agape preceded the Eucharist and this deviation from the tradition as it was handed down was the reflection of pure individualism which threatened the unity of the community in general and the worthy celebration of the Lord’s Supper in particular. Paul who endeavours to bring the disordered and disunited community back to faithfulness, finds in such individual behaviour a contempt for the Church ‑of God.

The celebration of the Lord’s Supper actually takes place in conjunction with a communal meal. It denotes that the ‘Lord’s Supper’ is comprised of both a ‘fellowship meal’ (later called agape) and a ‘cultic meal’ (Eucharist).  In the Corinthian celebration the two meals were differentiated one from the other, but not yet separated. Rather, the agape preceded the Eucharist. From the Pauline perspective the fellowship character of the Eucharist is very important and the Lord’s Supper has a broader connotation, where the Eucharist is contained. Thus one can speak of a Pauline Eucharistic understanding, only when agape and Eucharist are united.

It is of vital importance to know and recognize that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper has a communitarian character, for it is the liturgical action of the believing community. In interplay with this concept of solidarity, the Lord’s Supper is the best means to display a living individuality, which, as distinct from individualism, is the capacity for personal responsibility and for moulding one’s own life. Such individuality does not stand in mutually exclusive opposition to, but in fruitful tension with, the duty ‑of solidarity, and as such affects the individual and motivates his conduct. Precisely because the Lord’s Supper was a community act, the individual participant tended to loose sight of his personal responsibility towards the action. Gradually personal interests and animosities intruded into its celebration. Each one went ahead with his own meal; consequently one is hungry and another is drunk. For Paul humiliating the poor and despising the Church of God is one reality. The failure to comprehend the true nature of the Church and their responsibility to make visible what the Church is, am reflected in the way they celebrate. An undivided fellowship with Christ is possible, only when there the unity of the Christians exists. To disrupt fellowship with the brethren is a manifestation of the rupture of one’s fellowship with Christ for, according to Paul, no individual fellowship with Christ is possible that exists by itself and disregards one’s fellowmen.

The Lord’s Supper when properly celebrated represents the founding event of the community, namely the sacrificial death of Christ and reconstitutes the participants as a community.” A community deeply rooted in Christ and really united among its members at its celebration of the Lord’s Supper does justice to its Christological and ecclesiological dimensions. Such a community’s ‘coming together’ will always be for the ‘better’. Paul sees ‑the community of the brethren as God’s doing, holy and invulnerable as the temple in the cultic tradition: “… For God’s temple is holy and that temple you are” (I. Cor 3,17). When a community celebrates the Lord’s Supper disregarding this basic fact, it violates its own founding event, in other words it destroys the very purpose of the Lord’s Supper. No wonder Paul was unwilling to praise them. Their deviation from the tradition handed over to them altered an act originally communal into an individual one, resulting in the denial of both aspects of the Lord’s Supper, namely the Christological, the death of Christ ‑‑ the founding event of the community, and the ecclesiological, the community itself Hence, Paul recalls the tradition transmitted to them.

 

3.2.    1 Cor 11, 23‑26  What Our Lord Did

In his attempt to correct the Corinthians’ behaviour, Paul has recourse to the ‘tradition’, which goes back to the Lord, one that becomes a true test of the life of the Christian community. While speaking of this ‘tradition’ of the Lord’s Supper, Paul does not say as in Gal 1, 12 that knowledge came to him by revelation.  Moreover, we have to keep in mind that the tradition of the Lord’s Supper belongs not to revelation but to the Church’s ongoing tradition from the time of its inception. What is important now is not the mode of transmission, but the, source,, which, Paul explicitly says, is ‘from the Lord’, and its authenticity cannot be gainsaid. Paul relies on this authority in his rebuke against the disorderly celebration of the Lord’s Supper in Corinth. He proclaims his unassuming loyalty to the tradition, in which he considers himself a mere link in the chain. When the apostle reminds the Corinthians of this tradition, he expects of them the same role and fidelity.

The institutional words over the bread points to the self‑offering of Jesus for the sake of others, in obedience to the will of His Father. Heinz Schurmann paraphrases this aspect saying, “this is my body, which is for you and for your salvation, intended for you and as such now offered to you”.  Such an offering of a gift implies the reception of it by the disciples. The acceptance of the gift and its benefits includes the acceptance of the significance of the gift. As a gift always implies a task, the self‑offering of Jesus demands from the participants at the Lord’s Supper the same attitude of willingness to give themselves freely for others. For an active participant the agape is the occasion to manifest preparedness to give oneself freely for others.

The interpretative words over the cup in v. 25 indicate Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross, ratifying the new covenant between God and mankind in His blood, poured out. As often as the disciples drink the cup of the new covenant established by Christ’s blood, they remember the Lord, who in perfect obedience to God sacrificed Himself on the cross shedding His blood and thereby they also enjoy the benefits of the new salvific economy, the new fellowship resulted from it.

Paul sums up both these dimension of the Lord’s Supper under the historical event ‘the death of the Lord’ (v. 26). Thus when the ecclesial community celebrates the Lord’s Supper in the manner prescribed by Christ, they proclaim the death of Jesus for the sake of others and the establishing of the new salvific order, the new covenant, with the expectation that the Lord will come.

 

3.2.1. Anamnesis

According to the will of Jesus the Last Supper should not be merely a unique and significant event of His earthly life, it should remain as a permanent institution. Thus Jesus adds to His institutional words over bread and wine a command to repeat the rite: touto pokite (Do this), which is an established expression for the repetition of a rite.  Without having this direct command from Jesus, the Lord’s Supper would not have been celebrated in the early church. The Jewish passah tradition also know of a command to repeat the rite.’2 This command within the frame of Jesus’ Passover meal with His disciples has the same sense as in the old Passover. It denotes not merely an intellectual or emotional aspect, but of a real ‘doing’. From this background such a command from Jesus is easily understandable. However, the command ‘to do’ cannot be interpreted without referring to its immediate complement: eis ten enwn anwnnesin (in remembrance of me). What is the purpose of Jesus in demanding the disciples to repeat the rite?

The word ananwesis occurs in Paul only twice. Both are found in the words of institution (24b‑25). There are thus no other texts in Paul for comparison. What do we understand by this term?

A look into the OT Jewish tradition is enlightening. In the OT we meet with the Hebrew verb Ar and its derivatives, with a wide range of meanings used in different senses, beginning with its basic meaning Cremember’ in the sense of ‘recall’, and the cultic re‑presentation of the past.  The noun form zjkaron (memorial), to the notion of remembering, adds the element of a sign that evokes remembrance.  In the LXX the noun is translated by the Greek noun nwmosunon, which in the active sense means a memorial that calls something else to remembrance.  In Hebrew the special relationship of ‘remembrance’ of a particular person is expressed by the preposition jr.

Though we do not have an exact Hebrew term for the Greek eis ten enwn anawwsifn, the expression parallel to it is rzikaron.  In the OT Fzikaron is applied in two ways, to remind either God or men. There are occasions in which God remembers His people collectively, “‘ or a particular individual,  and occasions of remembrance on the part of men as a religious and cultic act.  Of these the last mentioned is important for our Context We read in Ex 12,14: “This day shall be for you a memorial (FAkaron; LXY noemommon) day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever”. The text explicitly states that the day of Passover shall be a day of 1’zikaron to the historical Israel, that is the Passover ‘memorial’ is the community’s remembrance of past events rather than the community’s reminding Yahweh of them. It proscribes the observance of that day through the repetition of the rite by the entire community of Israel in all their generations forever. The people are told that they must remember the day of their deliverance by keeping its proscribed observances (Ex 13,3) and practices related to the day are ‘memorial’ meant to keep Yahweh’s law in their minds (Ex 13,9).

The feast of the Jewish Passover was primarily one of remembrance and praise to God for His redemption of the people of Israel from Egyptian captivity preparatory to the covenant making at Sinai ‑ the series of events, which created Israel or brought the nation into existence as Yahweh’s special possession.  But Passover was also an occasion for looking forward to the future redemption, which God would through the Messiah. Through their celebration of the pascha the basic liberation and the salvific events of Exodus could become a present reality for Yahweh’s people and they could celebrate it with its present relevance. We read in Deuteronomy that each generation of Israelites had to regard itself not simply as members of a people, which Yahweh has called into existence in the past but as personally delivered by Him and made partners in His covenant.  Thus, the Passover was a ‘remembrance’ to be kept forever in Israel. It was the rite by which they recalled the divine intervention that had set them free and made them Yahweh’s own, the sacred meal by which they renewed and tightened the bonds that kept them together as the redeemed people.  Both its significance and its efficacy derived from the initial sealing of the covenant in an historical act.

Jesus is reconstituting the ‘memorial’ for the ‘new Israel’ that will gather around the table in His name ‘to remember’ its own deliverance through His self‑offering in obedience to the will of God for the salvation of mankind. At the institution the disciples are asked to repeat the rite ‘in remembrance of Jesus Himself. Jesus speaks of a remembrance through the act, which is at the same time a real remembrance, for in this re‑presenting of His act, He Himself will be present in person. Thus we can say that anamnems means a making present’ of the historical unique truth and reality. It corresponds to the prophetic act of Jesus. As the prophetic act it not only foretells, announces but also in the word and in the sign makes the future begin, so also the anamnesis makes the past ‘living’ not only in remembrance but also in reality.  If Jesus’ Last Supper was truly the anticipation of His sacrifice on the cross, then anamnesis is truly the “making present’ of this sacrifice and His sacrificial acts.

In short; the Lord’s Supper ‑is not only an ‘actual presence’ but a ‘real presence’, that is, at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, Christ’s death on the cross, His sacrifice is present. Not only is this event present, but also the living person of Christ in His self-offering, sacrificial act. At the celebration we have thus the actual‑ and personal presence ‑ the actual presence of His salvific works and the real presence of His person.  Through Jesus’ command to repeat the rite these two aspects are clearly brought to light. Only by repeating the rite can one make present the event and the person of Christ as is anticipated in Ex 20,24: “‘An altar of earth you shall make for me and sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause my name to be remembered I will come to you and bless you”. Jesus likewise establishes a rite through which the sacrifice of the living Christ is made ever present.

3.2.2. Katangeflete

The explanatory words of Paul in v.26 manifest his great concern in repeating the words from the tradition, namely his intention to remind the Corinthian community of the ‘manward’ implications of the Lord’s command. For this purpose Paul combines the words and gestures of Jesus over the broad and cup under a unifying historical event and says: ton thanaton tou Kuriou katangelkte.

             The verb katangellein occurs in the NT 18 times of which 11 are found in Acts and 7 in Paul.28 The verb always has a sacrificial significance.  Used in Paul it has both person as well as thing as its object. Its occurrences in Acts characterize the giving of promises to Israel and the announcing of the Gospel with its consequences.  There the verb in each occurrence appears as a technical term for the language’of mission and has the character of a solemn proclamation of a completed happening.

             Though kakmgelkin signifies proclamation with words paul’s use of it in v. 26 with the verb esthiele and pinete recalls the command of Jesus ‘lo do “in v. 24.25. But katangelkte is to be understood as indicative, not as imperative, signifying that which the Lord has commanded to do, you are indeed fulfilling, for at every proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper you proclaim His death. Paul does not command the Corinthians that with the Lord’s Supper they henceforth speak of the death of the Lord, as if it represented a new‑ obligation added, to their Christi‑an life, but he asserts that’ by the very celebration of the Lord’s Supper they‑proclaim the death of the Lord, whether they consciously avert to it or not.  They, have no duty of proclaiming, rather by the very fact that they gather in the name of the Lord and celebrates the Lord’s Supper, they are proclaiming His death. It is there the community repeats the gestures and words of Jesus and receives the body and the cup of the Lord. In the words of Xavier Leon‑Dufour, “by the very fact that the community exists and celebrates the Lord’s Supper it proclaims the life‑giving power of the death of Jesus”.

What the community solemnly proclaims at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is the death of the Lord. With this assertion the Apostle’s understanding of the traditional expression is fully clear: touto poiefte eis ten enwn anawwsin (“Do this in remembrance of me”) and, under what particular historical aspect Paul sees the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The very celebration in itself is for Paul the Gospel of the death of Jesus Christ. In other words the cultic, remembrance of the Lord is the proclamation of His death, and its celebration has thus a missionary character, for it is a living sermon, a perpetual proclamation.

The ritual proclamation of the death of the Lord is at the same time the symbolic reiteration of the sacrifice of the cross, which our Lord anticipated in the celebration of His last supper. It was the death God caused Him to die for us, whereby the salvific love of God and the loving self surrender of Jesus are manifested. In obedience to God’s will Jesus accomplished the work of redemption. The Lord’s Supper is precisely a proclamation of the great deeds of God, the salvific actions realized in Christ. That is why Paul urges the Corinthians to allow their thought and actions to be determined by the cross, of Christ.

 

3.2.3. Marana tha

The proclamation of the death of the Lord via the Lord’s Supper continues ‘until the Lord comes’ (11,26). From the outset the Lord’s Supper looked forward in hope to the coming of the Lord. It thus is the celebration of the expectant, hoping community. In the believer there is an insatiable yearning for the dawn of the eschatological consummation. Paul himself lives in expectation of the imminent coming again of Christ.  The intensity of hope is shown by the prayer‑cry Marana tha (“Our Lord Come”) at the end of the letter (16,22). Thus there are retrospective and prospective elements in every celebration of the Lord’s Supper: a backward look to the death of the Lord; and the great expectation of the imminent coming again of the Lord. As at the old paschal me4 this new one is to carry a triple relationship: from the past action which it evokes, the death and glorification of Christ, to the present covenant situation of God’s people, born from the cross but actualized in the memorial; and to the future consummation of this new covenant relationship.

We can thus say that an improper celebration, manifesting individualism and leading the community to division and even to factions, violates the founding event of the community ‑ the very death of Jesus ‑ and will make one liable to incur divine judgement. Such behaviour makes the death of Jesus in vain. Through the proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the establishing of the new salvific order and the new fellowship aspects of

Christ’s death is proclaimed, in order that His death may not be in vain. Hence, by referring to the institution of the Lord’s Supper Paul places before the Christians the gravity of their behaviour in the Lord’s Supper. That is why he employs the traditional material as the weighty argument to correct the Corinthians’ behaviour.

 

3.3.   1 Cor 11, 27‑34 What the Christians Should Do

Based upon the explanation he has made, Paul now gives grave admonitions and pastoral instructions in order to persuade them to make their ‘coming together for the better’. What the proper celebration of the Lord’s Supper signifies for Paul is that it is a memorial of Christ’s sacrificial death and a means of proclaiming it ‘until He comes’. Paul’s understanding serves as the basis for the connection between the tradition of the institution and the problem in the Corinthian practice. Hence, he admonishes them ‘to examine themselves and to judge correctly the body’ so that they may know whether their celebration of the Lord’s Supper actually proclaims the death of the Lord, or simply proclaims the values of the individual. Commemorating the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner the participants become guilty of the person of Christ (v.27). Those who participate in the Lord’s Supper without having a proper sense of the Church, are violating their own identity as ‘the body of Christ (v.29). Paul warns the Corinthians that the one who does not recognize and pay heed to the community in the celebration of the Lord’s Supper eats and drinks judgement upon oneself.  The failure to recognize one’s own identity makes one liable to incur judgement.

The only way to escape from the divine judgement, Paul proposes is to judge correctly one’s own identity and the identity of the communal fellowship. To recognize and to behave accordingly, while revealing one’s individuality, will bring about the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner.

 

4.  Paul’s Unique Contribution

Having seen how Paul himself understood the Lord’s Supper, in what follows we see those Eucharistic elements, which are uniquely Pauline and examine how he displays them in his theology. This will enable us to grasp in‑depth Paul’s understanding of the Lord’s Supper.

 

4.1. Ecclesiological Dimension of the Lord’s Supper

Paul’s understanding of the Church as Soma tou Christou (‘the body of Christ’) is inextricably associated with the Lord’s Supper. The term Soma Chiistou is applied both to the Eucharistic body and to the ecclesial body. Paul emphasizes the importance of the Eucharistic body for the realization and intensification of the unity of the ecclesial body, which are effected through the participation in the former (I Cor 10, 16‑17), and from the Pauline perspective the one cannot be understood without the other. That is to say Pauline ecclesiology has its foundation and beginning in his Christology.

The concept of the Church as ‘the body of Christ’ may be considered a creative and substantial contribution of Paul to the NT theology. It is a theological concept proper to Paul, for in this form it is not found anywhere else in the NT.  What ‘the body of Christ’ signifies for Pauline ecclesiology has to be understood through an analysis of function.

We note in Paul two traits of thought on, the theme of ecclesiology: the first one with the term ecclesia is related to salvific history with an eschatological thrust where the apostle obviously stands in a Jewish Christian tradition; the second one, with the formula Soma Christou is an original creation of Paul himself.

In Paul we observe that the concept he ecclesia tou Teou is introduced simply and used without giving any details of what is meant by it. With the concept Soma Christou Paul describes what ecclesia is, its reality and essence. 43 It is the most mature result of the NT thinking about the Church. It expresses adequately both the believers’ participation in Christ and the mutual interdependence of all the various members of the one body of Christ, highlighting Christian life as a life in the body for other members within ‘the body of Christ’ (12,14). Thus by introducing the conception Soma Christouinto Christian theology Paul stresses the believers’ life in Christ, the unity of the Church and the aspect of equal concern and mutual interdependence of its members.

It is in the Lord’s Supper that the participants receive and rediscover their own identity as the body of Christ. The Eucharistic bread is the body of Christ who brings all those who participate in Himself together into the unity of His body. In Christ the participants realize their own identity as communal and can themselves be designated, as Paul says, Soma Christou. If so, as Josef Hainz observes, there cannot exist an enormous difference between Soma Christou and ho Christos (12,12). They both signify that the one body of the community is nothing other than the body of Christ Himself’4′ and, when applied to the individuals, they are individually members (12,27b).

The functional identity of the ecclesial body with the body of Christ must be proved in the life of the community. This becomes evident when Paul solemnly adjures the Romans to offer themselves as a living sacrifice in the unity of Christ’s sacrifice (Rom 12,1). The sacrificial life of the Christian community cannot be dissolved from the whole life of fraternal fellowship in which each member of Christ’s body considers himself at the service of the others. Thus Paul can write: “And He died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves” (2 Cor 5,15). In the Lord’s Supper Christ’ self‑denial for the benefit of others is made present among us. How, then, can the richer Christians ignore the hunger of the poorer ones in an egocentric way? In view of Christ’s cross, where Christ “emptied Himself’ for others, and in view of this death made present in the Lord Supper, Paul exhorts, “Let each of you look not only to his or her own interests but also to the interests of others” (Phil 2,4). When the ecclesial body lives a sacrificial life being at the service of others, then Jesus can pronounce on the Soma Christou ‘this is my body in perpetual state of sacrifice given up for you’. Only such a body can celebrate the Lord’s Supper in a worthy manner and through it proclaim the death of the Lord.

 

4.2. Kerygmatic Dimension of the Lord’s Supper

The proclamation of the death of the Lord constitutes for Paul the nucleus of the Lord’s Supper celebration. The very celebration of the Lord’s Supper is proclamation of the death of the Lord, until He comes. With this affirmation Paul bestows on the Eucharistic mystery a profound and unbiased kerygmatic meaning and makes clear what he means by “Do this in remembrance of me” and under which singular historical point of view among others he sees the event of the Lord’s Supper.

       The life and death of an ecclesial community depends on how much its members are willing to proclaim the Gospel to the world. The Gospel to be proclaimed is that of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen. The celebration of the Lord’s Supper, which is the proclamation of the Lord’s death, is the most intense and influenceable way that the participants can enact the kerygma of Christ. In Rom 1, 1‑5 Paul focuses upon God’s eschatological deed which set him apart, as the servant of Jesus Christ for the proclamation of the Gospel as his principal mission. The participants do not proclaim the death of the Lord unless they are prepared to go through those prophetically charged actions of Jesus’ giving Himself. For Paul the close relationship between us and Christ’s death on the cross means that we represent Christ’s death and cross in our own life, carrying in our body the death of Jesus (2 Cor 4, 10). Such a cross‑existence includes self‑denial and active love for others (2 Cor 4,15; 1 Cor 4,11‑13)’ 46 Only by actively loving and caring for others does our participation in the Lord’s Supper ‘proclaim’ Christ’ death as something that happened for others.47While speaking of the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the best means to proclaim the death of the Lord, Paul’s main concern was, whether the Corinthian celebration proclaimed the death of the Lord. If not the source of salvation becomes the source of condemnation.

 

4.3. Judicial Dimension of the Lord’ s Supper

The whole of Paul’s mission was to help the Christians to be “guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor 1,8) and he prays that the faithful may remain blameless on the day of the parousia (I Thess 3, 13; 5, 23; Phil 1, 10). As the Corinthians “wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” they are endowed with the necessary charismata (spiritual gifts). The Lord’s Supper is the most perfect charisma, which implies a task as well; namely to proclaim the death of the Lord, a death in which is rooted the individual’s Christian existence and which constituted the members of the community as the body of Christ. Otherwise the community’s coming together to celebrate the Lord’s Supper will be for judgement (krima 11,34) now and at the event of the Lord’s glorious coming (11,26; 4,5; 1 Thess 1, 10), the day of future judgement, which would bring to a climax before the world the revelation of Jesus Christ as the eschatological judge (I Cor 4, 4‑5; 2 Cor 5,10).

The Lord’s Supper, the best way for the perfect self‑presentation of the Soma Christou and the supreme means of proclaiming the Gospel, can bring both salvation and destruction upon the chosen people of God in Christ. To proclaim the death of the Lord and to live what that death implies in relationship to believers behaviour towards the members of the Soma Christou is the criterion for divine judgement. The way to avoid judgement is to judge correctly the identity of the Soma Christou and to live and behave accordingly. Thus the celebration of the Soma Christou will in the full sense be “the Lord’s Supper, the believers’ ‘coming together’ will always be ‘for ‑the better”; their celebration will be in a worthy manner becoming the spring of eternal salvation, and they will remain blameless. Only then on ‘the day of the Lord’ can Paul be proud of his apostolic activity (Phil 2,16; 1 Thess 2, 19).

 

Conclusion

The problems regarding the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Corinthian Church are critical and informative for the Church of all ages. The Lord’s Supper is the dynamic moment when the body of Christ is not only most visibly communitarian, most actively the Church of God, but also the moment when the body receives a new divine life impulse necessary for its continuance. Since the Lord’s Supper is the action that most property translated into external and visible form the body of Christ’s own internal reality, it is the most important revelation about the Church itself in all ages.

The believers’ new mode of existence must be that of “carrying in the body the death of Jesus” (2 Cor 4, 10). All Christians need to understand that they can proclaim the Lord’s death only by allowing themselves to die to themselves in participating in the body and blood of Christ. For the Christians must have a lived realization of the attitude manifested in the death of Christ. His death was for all, “that those who live might live no longer for themselves” (2 Cor 5,15). It is a question of the total commitment to others that is realized in the unity of the body of Christ. Only in the measure that the members of the body five in loving fellowship with Christ and among themselves will the death of Christ be proclaimed in and apart from the Lord’s Supper celebration. If the Lord’s Supper is the obvious expression of an uninterrupted Christian gift of self for others in continuation of the sacrifice at the table of the Lord, it will become a living reality, pulsating with a spirit of Christ like concern for others. Without a life of concern for others as demonstrated by Jesus, the celebration becomes an empty word and meaningless action. It would have been far healthier if the original form of the Lord’s Supper as preserved in the Pauline tradition had been continued so that the fellowship with Christ and with each other which it involves would have been shown and seen as the form and shape of Christian life.

The Lord’s Supper table is the matrix of mission, the place from which the believers are sent forth to live the Lord’s Supper. The proclamation of the Lord’s death, which Paul reminds us, has often been limited to professing Christians. The Lord’s Supper, the centre and epitome of Christianity, is an important dimension of the missionary task of the Church. The public celebration of the Lord’s Supper is a clear proclamation of the vicarious and expiatory death of Christ and an invitation to participate, by living Christ’s self‑giving in the vigil of those who wait for His coming. The celebration continues to convey meaning and challenge. If the believers identify their lives with proclaiming the sacrificial death of the Lord, the Lord’s Supper will activate them to live a Christ like life.

The proclamation of the Gospel establishes the existence of a community and shapes its nature. The Lord’s Supper is an essential part of the Gospel, and as such is intended to be at the very head of the life of the Church. It could become a powerful missionary medium if Christians would allow it to be the vehicle of proclamation that Paul intended when he wrote to the Corinthian Church. Besides that the cross, as a self‑sacrificing act of obedience to God, becomes the paradigm for the life and ethics of the believing community, for sacrificial love is the greatest force on earth.

 

 

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