SAINT PAUL THE THEOLOGIAN AND, HIS LEGACY
We resume our re-visiting of the life and work of Saint Paul in this final chapter of the work.
The theologian and his legacy
The beginning of this Year of St Paul set us off on a path of discovery, endeavouring to see St Paul as he really was, the man in the context of his times and locations. We learned a great deal, even down to his appearance, his temperament and most importantly the great depth of his love for Christ and the remarkable extent of his apostolic activity and teaching through Christ living in him.
Now, at the end of that year, we can step back a little to consider the whole picture of the great saint’s life. Many modernists have tried to present St Paul as the” inventor” of Christianity, in effect to separate his teaching from the “real” Christ and his teachings. They claim to want to “re-discover” this “real” Christ. But, in reality their objective is to sideline the Church and “discover” a Christ who is just another very good man among many and that neither “he” nor “his” Church is essential for the complete modern man.
But neither Jesus Christ and His Church nor St Paul can be circumvented by such deceits.
St Paul is the very model of a faithful follower of Christ. He is the centre of St Paul’s life and being, the object of all St Paul’s hopes. Christ’s Church has become St Paul’s home, more, his mother and his family. He is the loving servant of Our Lord and His Church, and in a very real sense, the first great theologian. Standing at the gateway of the true new age, St Paul is a man of towering historic significance whose lamp held high still lights our way 2,000 years later. Small in stature, his work for Christ has made him a giant of history.
His reflection upon Christ’s life, actions and teachings is profound, thorough, comprehensive and intellectually coherent. His writings reveal this exhaustive reflection on all that Christ is, said and did. He affirms that Christ the Word who was to be made flesh had existed eternally – he is the Creator of the World (Coloss. 1: 16 – 17) and is superior to all created beings (Eph. 1: 21) and everything is by Him, in Him and for Him (Coloss. 1:16). He is the Son of God since all eternity (2 Cor. 1:19; Romans 8:3, 8: 32; Coloss. 1: 13; Eph. 11:6 & more)
St Paul directs to Christ the praises due to God (2 Tim. 4:18, Romans 16:27) and prays to Him as the equal of the Father (2 Cor. 12: 8 -9, Romans 10: 12; 1 Cor. 1: 2). He prays to Him for grace, mercy and salvation which are God’s alone to give (Romans 1: 7, 16: 20; 1 Cor. 1: 3, 16: 23 & more). He affirms that before Him every knee shall bow in Heaven, on Earth and under the Earth (Phillip. 2: 10). In Christ St Paul acknowledges all the Divine attributes – eternal existence (Coloss. 1: 15 – 17), He is all-powerful (Coloss. 1: 16) and He is infinite (Coloss. 2: 9). He is identified with the God of the Old Covenant (1 Cor. 10:4, 10: 9, Romans 10: 13, 1 Cor. 2: 16, 9: 21). He clearly describes Him as our “great God and Saviour Jesus Christ) (Titus 2: 13) and “God over all things” (Romans 9: 5).
St Paul equally affirms the real humanity of Jesus Christ. He is the “second Adam” (Romans 5: 14, 1 Cor. 15: 45-49) the descendant of the Patriarchs (Romans 9: 5, Gal. 3: 16). He is the “seed of David, according to the flesh “(Romans 1: 3) “born of a woman” (Gal. 4: 4) like all men.
The integrity of St Paul’s presentation of the astounding reality of God made Man can only be attributed to Divine inspiration. Many in succeeding centuries were to stumble into grave heresy when considering this same subject. Docetism denied Christ’s human nature, Arianism denied His Divine Nature, Nestorianism proposed that He was two persons – one human and one Divine, Monophysitism claimed He had but one “fused” nature, Appolinarianism diminished His human nature and later Lutherans did likewise with their heretical concept of Kenosis. We marvel all the more at St Paul’s divinely inspired presentation – coming first in the detailed written exposition of the mystery and implications of the Incarnation he avoids the multiplicity of possible errors and with simple elegance unfolds the Truth.
Christ Our Saviour
St Paul expounds the doctrine of the Redemption of Man achieved by Christ’s sacrificial death. In recounting the concepts involved in the sacrificial nature of His death, the payment of our ransom from past servitude to sin and Christ substituting Himself for us in Regard to punishment due, St Paul avoids every excess which many later writers - especially Lutheran - would fall into.
He shows with clarity the correct way to consider the facts. The Father offers His Son to manifest His justice because of His mercy toward us. Christ is our Redemption by virtue of His Sacrifice, which derives its value from His Divine being and Love in obedience to the Father. We co-operate by understanding and accepting God’s teaching and thus obtaining the fruits of the Redemption.
“But thanks are to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness”. (Romans 6: 17- 18)
Christ’s Second Coming
St Paul is powerful in his description of the Parousia or Second Coming of Christ and the General Judgement Which will follow the Resurrection of the Dead. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body.”(2 Cor. 5: 10)
At the end of the Year of St Paul our sentiments are not those common to most conclusions - the “well that’s that” attitude does not arise. No, our sentiments are quite different. We have followed St Paul carefully and with keen interest – we know we can never compete with him as a model servant of Christ, but we are eager to hurry after him, eager to try to do far more than we have with our lives as followers of Christ. St Paul is, in that inspirational sense, still with us. Blinded, enlightened, inspired and martyred St Paul indeed “fought the good fight” and beckons us on, an inspiration for every one of us.
St Paul Apostle and martyr
Pray for us.
COPYRIGHT. This article first appeared in the June, 2009 issue of FOUNDATION.