Lent with Paul, Session 4

Paul is Christ-centered.

Paul believes Christ has died for our sins.  Moreover, God raised Jesus from the dead.  Those who confess that Jesus is Lord and place their trust in him will be saved.  Jesus is the image of God; Jesus is the Son of God  (There is no Trinitarian theology yet.),  (Powell’s Introducing the New Testament, p, 248-249).  And so we see everything Paul lives, breathes, writes, proclaims and dies for…is Christ.  How can we make Christ our center?  What would that look like for us?

Paul’s view of Salvation

Paul reminds us that what has happened through Jesus is the launching of a new creation.  The messianic events of Jesus and the spirit are not simply another religious option, a new twist on an old theme.  If anything, the creator God has called TIME! on the old creation and has launched a new one in the middle of it.  No wonder the new reality is uncomfortable (NT Wright’s Paul, A Biography, p. 158).  And so God’s plan had always been to unite all things in heaven and on earth in Jesus, which meant, from the Jewish point of view, that Jesus was the ultimate Temple, the heaven-and-earth place.  This, already accomplished in his person, was now being implemented through his spirit.  Paul always believed that God’s new creation was coming, perhaps soon.  But the present corrupt and decaying world would one day be rescued and emerge into new life under the glorious rule of God’s people (p. 401-402).  In this way, salvation is NOW and TO COME!

Because of his own profound life experiences, Paul knew that he was not saved by the law or by his scrupulous, self-righteous fulfillment of the Law.  He found in Jesus Christ a God who accepted him and called him while he was yet a sinner – and empowered him to live an entirely new life – a life in Christ Jesus.  So Paul is again our example-living a saved life right into eternity.

Reconciliation

On the cross, God shares in our destiny and takes residence with us; and in doing this, God reconciles us with Godself.  Paul’s basic statement is that God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Godself.  In and through Jesus, God shares in our human fate, our human destiny.  God becomes vulnerable and takes the brokenness of the world and our lives into God’s very self.  When God takes our brokenness, up to the point of death, into God’s self, it means not the end of God but the end of death, (John Dwyer’s “That We May Live in Joy and Die in Peace:  God’s Gift on the Cross of Christ).   What does reconciliation mean to you?  How do we live as reconcilers?

“Reconciliation” is the Greek legal term used of husband and wife (see I Cor. 7:11).  But Paul applies it to the process of salvation here.  God is the agent of reconciliation, and we are reconciled.  Christ is the means, which is extended to the world.  By being reconciled, we become a new creation, the holiness of God, (Dictionary of the Bible, p. 722-723).  From the Catechism #460, “The Word became flesh to make us ‘partakers of the divine nature’:78 ‘For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.’79 ‘For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.’80 ‘The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods., 81” .  Do you hear a sense of oneness in these descriptions?  The Trinitarian relationship Father/Son/Spirit have with each other is one that we are invited to enter into.  We are called to join in the divine dance!

2nd Reading: 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21

For context:  When Paul was in Ephesus, he got word of problems in Corinth and so wrote 1 Corinthians.  After that, things got messy.  Paul had said he was going to take a trip to Macedonia and then visit the Corinthians on his way back to Ephesus.  He changed his mind and decided to visit Corinth on his way to Macedonia as well.  Perhaps he caught them unawares; in any event, it didn’t go well.  He had some kind of confrontation, something that later he would claim actually hurt the entire congregation (2 Cor 2:5).  Paul left in a huff and canceled his plans to visit them on the return trip, so he wrote a letter which is lost (although some theologians think it is actually segments of 2 Corinthians).  This letter repaired the relationship between Paul and the Corinthians and they repented, so Paul wrote them again, which is most likely most of what 2 Corinthians is (Powell, p. 294-298).

The word ambassador in Greek is presbeutes. It was a person that was directly commissioned by a king or ruler.  Paul is using it here to help us understand that we are commissioned to bring God’s terms of mercy and love to sinners so that they can be welcomed into the family of God. (Preaching Resources, March 2004)

“An ambassador from any country is always conscious of the fact that he has a tremendous responsibility because he is the representative by whom his country is going to be judged. And to us is given the privilege and responsibility of being the representatives of the Son of God in this world. We stand for him, people judge him by what they see in us, and they are perfectly entitled to do so because we are the ones through whom and in whom he is glorified. Do we, I wonder, always realize this?” Martyn Lloyd-Jones, a Welsh Protestant Minister.

As new creations in Christ we are to offer to others the same love and forgiveness that has been offered to us. Selfishness and self-righteous attitudes do not lead to joy, to celebration. Such a lonely road leads to isolation and misery.  (From “Exploring the Sunday Readings”, March 2010)  But being a new creation is not an assured possession!  It is something that must constantly be worked at.  To renew that status is the work of the apostolic ministry – the “ministry of reconciliation,” as Paul calls it (liturgy.slu.edu, March 14, 2010).

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