Posts Tagged ‘Apostle Paul’

Retrieving the Past, Forging the Future of Renewal Studies

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Dale M. Coulter

Here at Regent School of Divinity our aim is to cultivate a brand of scholarship that consciously interacts with or draws from issues related to the global pentecostal-charismatic movement. We call what we do Renewal studies because we are interested in exploring all dimensions of renewal as a historical, social scientific, and theological phenomenon.

To focus on renewal as a method does not limit us to the study of global pentecostalism because renewal encompasses a broad array of historical phenomena including populist movements, spirituality, periods of renaissance, etc. For more on renewal and what we do at the Regent School of Divinity, go here.

To that end, here are the latest explorations from our faculty. Read the rest of this entry »

The Law of the Spirit

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011 by Jason Wermuth

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus tells his disciples “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.” This is a curious passage to many Christians who have received a Christianity which seems to provide freedom from the letter of the law in favor of submission to the law of the Spirit (Rom. 8:2). In what follows I will show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the law, and he is our liberator from slavery to the written law.

While Jesus declares that he did not come to abolish the law, he certainly reinterprets it and engages in creative and unorthodox practices regarding the law. For example, in Matthew 5:21, Jesus takes the command to murder and strengthens it, adding that “if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You Fool,’ you will be liable to hell of fire.” Here Jesus has introduced a harsher requirement than what is in the actual law. In other places, however, Jesus softens the law (much to the chagrin of his Pharisee contemporaries). In Exodus 20:8-10, the Israelites are commanded to “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.” The passage continues describing what that should look like: “Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of the LORD your God, in it you shall not do any work…” In Mark 2:23-28, Jesus is walking through the grainfields with his disciples on the Sabbath when some of his followers start to pick the grain and eat. The Pharisees, apparently keeping a watchful eye on this Rabbi who had a tendency to play fast and loose with the law, confront Jesus about the “work” his disciples are doing on the Sabbath. His eloquent reply ends with “The Sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the Sabbath, so the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.” In one more instance of Jesus’ subversion of the standard of Sabbath keeping, Mark 3:1-6 tells us that Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. In other instances, Jesus touches lepers, spends quality time with Samaritans and eats with tax collectors and prostitutes. All of these would have been considered anathema for a law abiding Jew.

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The Power and Simplicity of Personal Story

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 by Diane Chandler

Just before receiving Christ into my heart as Lord and Savior, I was traveling around the U.S. visiting friends and family. In Houston while visiting my uncle, I happened to meet one of his neighbors, who was a passionate follower of Jesus Christ.  

What I most appreciated during our times together was her sharing of how she awakened to the love of God for her personally and the amazing work of God’s grace in her life.  She was forever transformed.  Her personal story attracted me to Jesus.  It was clear that Jesus’ had imprinted her spirit with His.

The apostle, Paul, knew something of this kind of grace and the transformational power of God.  At the conclusion of his third missionary journey and upon returning to Jerusalem, Paul encountered such opposition that he was dragged out of the temple and beaten. Just before soldiers took him to a barracks, Paul turned to his opponents and shared – of all things – his story of how Jesus sequestered him on the road to Damascus (Acts 22:1-21).

Later when Paul appeared before King Agrippa, you would think that he would have waxed eloquent in his own defense.  But no ~ he again conveys the simplicity of his story, recounting how God appeared to him on the Damascus Road and appointed him as a servant and witness (Acts 26:12-19).  He then declared to King Agrippa, “I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven (vs. 19).

In his book Experiences of God, German systematic theologian Jürgen Moltmann (born 1926) addressed this question in the introductory chapter:  “Why Am I a Christian?” To answer the question, one would think he would present a convincing theological treatise reflecting his biblical brilliance.  But no!  He shares his personal story of how Christ progressively drew him to Himself. This prolific thinker and scholar, who has impacted the theological world like few others in the 20th-21st centuries, recalls his salvation story.  And his theology was greatly impacted by his personal narrative, particularly his theology of hope. His book In the End – The Beginning: The Life of Hope offers another glimpse of the dramatic events leading up to his salvation. Read the rest of this entry »

Paul and his Kingdom Problem – Part 2

Saturday, April 17th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

Last week we discussed the fact that Paul rarely mentions the kingdom of God in his letters (read part 1 here), which is a problem precisely because this happens to be the central theme of Jesus’ whole earthly message. The natural question that arises from this problem is, why does Paul use the phrase “kingdom of God” so rarely?

In order to understand the problem one must first understand a little bit about the cultural climate in which Paul lived. The Roman Empire, in Jesus and Paul’s day, controlled everything from Spain in the west to the Arabian Peninsula in the east. Each territory of the Roman Empire was ultimately under the rule of the Caesar who appointed Governors to ensure order was maintained throughout the Empire. These governors were famous for using their vast military might to crush uprisings with brute force. Any hint of an uprising or any question of who the real ruler of the Empire was and the Governor was likely to squash you and your group with swift and decisive action. These were the likely events that surrounded Jesus’ own crucifixion, of which Jesus’ followers were all too familiar. Even Paul, who was not one of Jesus’ followers at the time of his death but who claims to have seen the resurrected Jesus (Gal 1:11-17; 1 Cor 9:1; 1 Cor 15:8-11), knew what happened when someone was proclaiming the coming of a new kingdom with a new king. It would follow then that Paul, cognizant of his surroundings, would have taken care not to write anything that might be intercepted and traced back to him as some kind of clarion call to begin a battle against Rome and inaugurate a new kingdom. Furthermore, Paul was often writing to a mixed Jewish and Gentile audience. It is likely that the Gentile audience would not have understood a discussion of the kingdom of God in the way that Paul would have intended it, and so in most instances, Paul refrains from talking about the kingdom of God. The question remains though, did Paul know anything about Jesus’ kingdom message?

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Paul and his Kingdom Problem – Part 1

Saturday, April 10th, 2010 by Jason Wermuth

The apostle Paul is well known for many of his theological insights, such as his theology of justification, salvation, sanctification, glorification and all of the other Pauline words that, in English, end in “-ation.” Many scholars note, however, the scarcity of references to the kingdom of God in Paul’s epistles. Since this is the central theme of Jesus’ message, this would appear to be a problem!

Many suggestions have been offered in reference to the lack of kingdom language in Paul. Some suggest that he knew nothing of Jesus’ teaching, and thus he knew little of the kingdom of God. This answer is unsatisfactory, however, since as a good Jew, from the pharisaic tradition, he would have certainly been well acquainted with the promise of the coming kingdom found in places such as Daniel 7 and elsewhere throughout the Jewish Scriptures. Furthermore, Paul does indeed use kingdom language in his letters, albeit rarely.

Why do you think Paul talked about the kingdom of God so rarely?

In most instances Paul uses kingdom language eschatalogically (referring to the end of the age), and many use this fact to show that Paul knew nothing of the “at-hand” kingdom that Jesus was set on inaugurating in the present. Some, such as James Dunn (see his The Theology of Paul the Apostle, pp. 190-191) have proposed that there is more to Paul’s understanding of the kingdom of God than many have given him credit for.

Dunn contends that Paul replaced much of the kingdom language associated with Jesus’ teaching with Spirit-language and I am inclined to agree with him on this point. He shows that in the synoptic Gospels, “the kingdom” is mentioned some 105 times. In contrast, Paul uses the term kingdom of God (or related variations) only 14 times. Paul, however, mentions the Spirit over 110 times. Could it be then that through Paul’s emphasis on the Spirit we may see allusions to Jesus’ not-yet/already tension of the kingdom of God?

Next week we will look at why Paul uses the phrase so rarely and we will survey the pertinent passages in relation to Paul’s view of the kingdom to attempt to understand what Paul means when he does use kingdom language and how this compares to Jesus’ use of the phrase.

Does Paul actually view the kingdom of God similarly to Jesus? What would it mean for Christian theology if Paul truly knew nothing of Jesus’ teachings? What role does the kingdom of God play in your own theology?