Johnson U. Essay: PAUL’S VIEWS ON GAINING A RIGHT RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.

Firstly, we must accept that Paul’s view—on gaining a relationship with God—is not the same as his view on gaining a tunic or a pot. He would say that once you have the tunic, or pot, you have gained it. And, that your wearing that tunic, or cooking in that pot, does not make it any more yours than it was the day you gained it. His view on our relationship with God is more profound—with complex spiritual ideas over lapping, and some of them still to reach their culmination, even for those who have fallen asleep. Paul believes that a right relationship with God is gained by—perpetually—reliving the actions leading to—and occurring in—the initiation of that relationship.[1]For Paul “gaining” and “maintaining”—in this context—are very closely related.[2]

Paul’s message is that God begat Himself in Jesus, and endured the punishment for our sins so that we could have a relationship with Him—through Jesus Messiah (Rom 1:1–4; Col. 1:17).[3]Paul writes that we all know that there is a Creator—and have his moral code written on our hearts—but choose to ignore this, at some point in our lives (Rom 1:18–32). A. Das cites Gal. 4:29 in noting that the Spirit has something to do with the birth of Christian faith, but does not expound.[4]This is probably because Das also notes that Paul writes that the Holy Spirit enters our lives when we are baptized (Gal. 3:25–27).[5]

Paul teaches that we are seenas being perfect when we believe—and are baptized—in(to) Christ, just as Abraham believed God’s promise (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal 3:2–9).[6]Faith is best seen as when we re-embrace the truth—that “what can be known about God has been made plane to [us],” and that we have turned away from this truth by choosing sin (Rom 1:18–32).[7]So, we re-embracethe Spirit through faith in the Gospel we heard, and we receive the Spirit when we put on Christ in Baptism (Gal. 3:25–27).[8]In this baptism we are justified, and become one with the God Head through Jesus Christ.[9]

The fruit of this new relationship with God, is becoming more like this same God Head we are baptized into (i.e. “sanctification”).[10]It is helpful to note that the OT has shaped Paul’s use of the concept “justification,” so that it is used much less often as a noun, and more frequently as a conjugate of the verb “justify.”[11]This suggests that we should constantly relive/remember the justification process we experienced (i.e. repentance)—to make ourselves more like Christ, who is holy (Phil 2:12). The holiness that the Holy Spirit produces in us has no correlation with status as we have already been statedto be holy by our baptism into Christ’s atonement (Rome 2:25; 5:9; Gal. 3:27). But refers—instead—to the holy character of God that the Holy Spirit produces in our being/living (sanctification) (Phil. 3:3).[12]

Accordingly, as we repeat repentance, we continuously remember our justification in Christ.[13]Each time we remember our justification—in repentance—we understand it better. It’s similar to seeing a great movie when you were a kid. You wanted to watch it again and again. Then it became your favorite, and—before long—you could quote any line. The idea that God came down to us as a man and endured our penalty and excepted us as adopted children into his family is too grandiose foranyone to understand completely (Rom 9:4; Gal. 4:5; Eph. 1:5). It’s like learning math. The teacher is the evangelist. The material being taught is the Gospel. The students are the Christians. The students are already Christians because they believe in the material, but—even though they’ve seen the teacher perform the steps to arrive at the equation’s solution—they still need to go home and practice. So, they go home and repeat the same kind of equation over and over. Each time they do that type of equation, they understand it more and more. The difference is that the material of the Gospel is supernatural, and each time we remember our justification—through repentance—it produces a reflection of God’s life/character (Rom. 5:3–4; Phil 3:3).[14]This is referred to as godliness or holiness.[15]

On the reverse side of this coin, every time we repent, we trust God with whatever void—or lacking—we were trying to fill with sin. Logically, as we begin to trust God with our lives, we stop trusting in ourselves, and empty ourselves of our sinful character in the process of being filled with God’s character(Col 3:5–17; Phil 3:3).[16]This is what Paul refers to when writing that the Spirit wars against the flesh (Rom. 7:23).[17]It’s like pouring sand into a glass of water. The glass is us; the sand is God’s Holy Spirit; and the water is our fleshly character—that trusts in sin to fulfill our deepest needs, and heal our deepest wounds. The first time we repent—and are baptized, is not the most of ourselves (the water) we will ever loose, as his character (the sand) makes space for itself in sinking to the bottom of the glass (us). Even though, God regards us as having a glass full of sand when we are baptized into Jesus Christ (justification), we have—really—only received the first bit of sand. More and more sand is poured into our glass every time we repent and re-experience the Gospel. The sand sinks to the bottom of the glass because it weighs more, and more and more water is lost. So, each time we remember our justification and repent, our flesh becomes more crucified—like Christ’s, and his Holy Spirit fills us up, similar to how Christ has alwayslived, in—and with—the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor. 5:14–15; 1 Thes. 5:23; Eph. 5:26; Phil. 3:3)[18].

Paul teaches us that the God Head became flesh, suffered, died, defeated death, and raised himself so we could have communion with Them (Rom 8:32; Eph. 1:4).[19]We are—also—to reflect that sacrificial love and give our lives to serve others, just as Christ did (Eph. 5:2).[20]Paul teaches that God will never stop pouring his life into us (Phil 4:3; 1 Tim 1:16; 2 Tim 1:10; Titus 1:2).[21]In the same way that God is relational within the Trinity, and wants us to have a relationship with Him, He also wants us to be in communion with each other—being encouraged in our faith by others, and encouraging them in our faith (Rom 1:12; 1 Thes 5:11; 2 Thes 1:4; Philem. 1–7).[22]The culmination of this relationship is worshiping God (Rom 15:9–12; Eph. 1:14; Phil. 3:3).[23]

SOURCES CITED.

Das, A Andrew. 1995. “Oneness in Christ: The Nexus Indivulsus Between Justification and Sanctification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians.” Concordia Journal21 (2): 173–86.

Martin, Ralph P. “Center of Paul’s Theology.” Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

McGrath, Alister E. “Justification.” Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

O’Brien, Peter T. “Church.” Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Porter, Stanley E. “Holiness, Sanctification.” Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Schnabel, Eckhard J. 2005. “The Objectives of Change, Factors of Transformation, and the Causes of Results: The Evidence of Paul’s Corinthian Correspondence.” Trinity Journal26 (2): 179–204.

Schreiner, Thomas R. Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology. Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2006.

[1]A Andrew Das, “Oneness in Christ: The Nexus Indivulsus Between Justification and Sanctification in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 179; 184; 186.

[2]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 173.

[3]Thomas R. Schreiner, Paul, Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ: A Pauline Theology(Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 27.

[4]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 184.

[5]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 183.

[6]Ibid.

[7]The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version(Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Rom. 1:18–19; all further biblical citations will be in the NRSV, unless otherwise stated.

[8]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 183.

[9]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 184.

[10]Ibid.

[11]Alister E. McGrath, “Justification,” ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 518.

[12]Stanley E. Porter, “Holiness, Sanctification,” ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 397.

[13]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 184.

[14]Eckhard J. Schnabel, “The Objectives of Change, Factors of Transformation, and the Causes of Results: The Evidence of Paul’s Corinthian Correspondence,” Trinity Journal26 (2), 2005: 180.

[15]Porter, “Holiness, Sanctification,” 397.

[16]Schreiner,Paul, 28.

[17]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 184.

[18]Porter, “Holiness, Sanctification,” 398.

[19]Das, “Oneness in Christ,” Concordia Journal21 (2), 1995: 184.

[20]Schreiner, Paul, 25–26; Schnabel, “Change, Transformation, Results,” Trinity Journal26 (2), 2005: 183; Ralph P. Martin, “Center of Paul’s Theology,” ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 94.

[21]Schreiner, Paul, 27.

[22]Schreiner, Paul, 25–26; Peter T. O’Brien, “Church,” ed. Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid, Dictionary of Paul and His Letters(Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 129.

[23]O’Brien, “Church,” 130.


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