Sunday, 11 June 2017

What Paul Was On About

It really helps to take note of what the first-century issues and questions were which Paul was addressing in his Epistles.
We've got our own issues today of course, like the question of grace versus moral living. And the old Calvinist/Arminian question still lingers too in some schools.
And many pull statements out of Paul's writings as if Paul was directly addressing those questions.
But what if he wasn't? What if he was really on about something else.
The types of issues Paul was really answering in his Epistles included questions like:
Must Gentile believers in Jesus become Observant of Moses' Law (that is, become Jews) in order to be fully identified as the Covenant people of God? And Paul's answer of course was, No.
But that didn't mean Christians weren't distinguished among other Gentiles by their morally upright lives. Of course Christ led them to live morally! Paul's statements weren't a denial of that, because the issue Paul was addressing was not grace versus moral living, but grace versus becoming Jews.
In a sense the issue Paul was addressing in the first century shouldn't even be an issue any more, since the Levitical system no longer exists, whether someone today wishes to become 'Observant' or not. But the importance of living godly lives is timeless.
Another question Paul was addressing was:
Wouldn't it imply that God's Covenant faithfulness (to Israel) has been compromised, if indeed justification is now by faith rather than by the Law - since so many Jews have not become believers? And Paul's answer again of course was, No.
It was God's prerogative to have chosen Israel as the custodians of His promise, and to have preserved their nation until the time - then to offer salvation on the basis which He'd planned all along, which is by mercy and faith, not ethnicity and the works of the Law. God was still reaching out to Jews through Gentiles anyway, despite their unbelief.
But many today seem to miss the issue Paul's statements were addressing - and it needlessly triggers the question which Calvinists many centuries later argued with Arminians about. When really Paul's statements weren't about that question at all.
Instead of taking Paul's statements as directly stating 17th century and 21st century issues, why not take his statements as answers to 1st century questions. Then we'll be better able to apply Paul to present-day issues!
In fact many times it dissolves the issue itself.

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