Saturday, June 04, 2016

Paul and the Faithfulness of God Chapter 10, Part 4

Paul AFOGWe continue in chapter 10 of Book Two and Part III of Paul and the Faithfulness of God, vol. 4, Christian Origins and the Question of God, by N. T. Wright. In this section he is continuing the big point of chapter 10 that Paul has redefined the idea of election around the actions of Jesus and the giving of the Holy Spirit. Again, this is a very brief summary of this very important book.  Previous posts on this chapter are here, here, and here. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

Wright continues on to Romans 8.31-39 to show from 3 Old Testament passages the covenant truth of "Jesus the Messiah through Whom God’s Love Holds His People Secure." Again the point is that Jesus the Messiah has fulfilled the purpose of the election of Israel and brings His people through suffering to realize the promise of worldwide salvation and restoration of all the world. The church has not replaced Israel, but Gentiles have entered into the Abrahamic promise because of the faithfulness of Israel's Messiah. This was enacted in the story of Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac and this completes the stories of God being with His people in Psalms and the mission of Isaiah's servant of the LORD. Through Jesus, the Gentiles enter the covenant people.

The interpretation of these three primary biblical passages [Genesis 22, Isaiah 50 and Psalm 44] (Law, prophets and writings) goes again to the very heart of Paul’s reworking of election around Jesus the Messiah. We cannot stress too strongly that this is not a ‘transfer’ of ‘election’ from the community of ethnic Israel to someone else (e.g. a gentile ‘church’). It is the focus of election on Jesus precisely as Israel’s Messiah...Jesus is the Messiah; therefore all the Jewish traditions of ‘election’ must be refocused on him, reworked through him. 902

It is striking that here in (Romans) 8 it is of course the covenant God himself who ‘does not spare his only son’. Instead of Abraham, God; instead of Isaac, Jesus; and, instead of a death averted, a death embraced. 905

It should be clear that Paul has consciously redrawn his picture of God’s elect around Jesus of Nazareth, and that he has done so on the basis of his resurrection from the dead, which marked him out as Messiah. This in turn has enabled him to understand the crucifixion of Jesus as the event which, however paradoxically or unexpectedly, has actually accomplished the goal for which Israel had been chosen in the first place, namely that of dealing with the large-scale problem of evil. 907

Wright now concludes this long section on Jesus the Messiah as the focus of election and Paul's reworking of this doctrine in light of the cross and resurrection. Jesus becomes the embodiment of Israel, fulfilling the purposes of temple, torah and covenant and making election available to all humanity, reversing the Adamic curse and bringing in God's kingdom.

The cross stands, for Paul, as the arrow which marks the central point of ‘the faithfulness of God’. It is the point from which the enthroned Messiah can look to east and west, to north and south, and like Abraham gaze upon all the lands of his inheritance...the Messiah has accomplished the purpose for which the covenant God called Israel in the first place. 911

God has also reworked election, as promised in the OT, around the Spirit. "If the election of Israel was the solemn and unbreakable divine promise to save the world through Abraham’s seed, Paul sees that promise as accomplished in the Messiah and applied through the spirit." (912) The Gospel message (summed up in Romans as "Jesus is LORD") is the message of the kingdom. That God has come to rule and set things right and calls and enables people to follow through the power of the Spirit.

(Paul's) gospel message far transcended the individualistic message of ‘how to be saved’ which the word ‘gospel’ has come to denote in much contemporary western Christian expression. It remained intensely personal in its radical application, but only because it was first cosmic and global in scope: the world had a new lord, the Jewish Messiah, raised from the dead. 916

The gift of the spirit is not a further gift, out beyond initial Christian experience or even initial Christian faith, but is rather the lifegiving energy by which someone is enabled, in the first place, to believe that the one God raised Jesus and to confess that Jesus is lord. 917

The gospel’, then, is the instrument through which the covenant God ‘calls’; and when Paul says ‘call’ he means an effective, powerful summons. The spirit is the driving force behind this; belief of the truth is the first consequence, as one key element in being ‘set apart’ by the spirit for the divine purposes. Ultimate glory is the goal; redefined election is the overall picture. 918

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