Monday, January 25, 2010

Reading Paul with Michael Gorman 6

The Gospel of God

The Christian faith finds it roots in Judaism. Paul saw himself as serving the one true God of Israel who was revealed most fully in the Messiah Jesus. This God is the living God who has revealed his name as "YHWH". "With other Jews, Paul believed that God has spoken the world into existence; called Abraham to be the father of a people, Israel, that would be a blessing to all nations; gave the Law to, and made covenant with, that people; expected the covenant people to obey the precepts of the Law, especially to live in loyalty toward God and in love toward neighbor and stranger, particularly the poor; promised a Messiah to save the people from their sins and oppressors; and spoke through prophets about a future day when God would establish a new, permanent covenant, when sin and injustice would cease, and when even the Gentiles would acknowledge the one true God in a new creation."

In Israel's scriptures there derives a set of beliefs about God's acts and character traits. Paul believed that God had acted in Christ and that the scriptures needed to be re-interpreted in light of this fact. He saw the Law as holy and good but also saw that it pointed to the gospel which he had now come to believe and proclaim. When Jews believed in this gospel they were participating in the reality to which the prophets pointed; when Gentiles believed they joined the family of Abraham. They experienced a "spiritual" heart surgery that made it possible for them to "fulfill the righteous requirement of the Law."

Because of the new thing God had done, when Paul used the word "God" there was continuity and discontinuity with how he understood the word. He saw a close relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit; this is what we know as the Trinity. Paul thought of the God of Israel in a different way because of his experience of the Son and the Spirit.

One of God's attributes that the Scriptures highlight is his faithfulness. Again, Paul saw this as taking on new meaning because of the triune nature and work of God. As a response to the problem of sin God established a covenant with Abraham. This has now been made a reality through the Messiah. God has fulfilled his promised to bless both Israel and the Gentiles. God's mercy is revealed in his work of reconciliation. "The focal point of this grace in Christ is, of course, the death of Christ, where God's faithfulness and mercy come into full view."

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