Paul’s conception and description of God’s soteriological enterprise continues to be a prominent focal point in constructions of the apostle’s theology. The present essay attempts to provide an outline of this aspect of Pauline theology from inception to corporate participation. The essay is comprised of three parts: (1) an extended examination of the definition of Paul’s gospel; (2) a brief analysis of the way in which the gospel relates to Paul’s own self-presentation; and (3) a few concluding thoughts concerning the way Paul extends his conception of the gospel to the ecclesial community. The primary argument of the essay develops a construction of the participatory nature of Pauline soteriology, building on the notion that the prophetic scope of Paul’s gospel compels the apostle to understand both his own ministry and Christian theology in terms of a participation in the new creation inaugurated within the Christ event.
Beverly Roberts Gaventa, “The Mission of God in Paul’s Letter to the Romans,” in Paul as Missionary: Identity, Activity, Theology, and Practice(ed. Trevor J. Burke and Brian S. Rosner; lnts 420; London: T&T Clark, 2011), 66.
See, e.g., Aernie, Is Paul also among the Prophets?, 139-58; G.K. Beale, “The Old Testament Background of Reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5-7 and Its Bearing on the Literary Problem of 2 Corinthians 6.14-7.1,” nts 35 (1989): 550-81; Mark Gignilliat, Paul and Isaiah’s Servants: Paul’s Theological Reading of Isaiah 40-66 in 2 Corinthians 5.14-6.10 (lnts 330; London: T&T Clark, 2007).
Cf. Steven J. Kraftchick, “Death in Us, Life in You: The Apostolic Medium,” in 1 and 2 Corinthians(ed. David M. Hay; vol. 2 of Pauline Theology; ed. Jouette M. Bassler, David M. Hay, and E. Elizabeth Johnson; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 167.
See especially Otfried Hofius, “Sühne und Versöhnung: Zum paulinischen Verständnis des Kreuzestodes Jesu,” in Paulusstudien(wunt 51; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 48); cf. Hays, “Christ Died for the Ungodly,” 62.
J. Todd Billings, Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 43; cf. Hofius, “Sühne und Versöhnung,” 46, who argues: “Damit wird deutlich: Christus ist nach Paulus nicht bloß neben den Sünder getreten, um ihm etwas—nämlich seine Sünde und Schuld—abzunehmen; sondern Christus ist mit dem Sünder identisch geworden, um ihn durch die Lebenshingabe seines eigenen Blutes in die Verbindung mit Gott zu führen und ihm so neue Gemeinschaft mit Gott zu eröffnen.” Cf. Otfried Hofius, “Das vierte Gottesknechtslied in den Briefen des Neuen Testamentes,” nts 39 (1993): 414-37 .
Cf. N.T. Wright, “On Becoming the Righteousness of God,” in 1 and 2 Corinthians(ed. David M. Hay; vol. 2 of Pauline Theology; ed. Jouette M. Bassler, David M. Hay, and E. Elizabeth Johnson; Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993), 206.
Morna D. Hooker, From Adam to Christ: Essays on Paul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 5; cf. Morna D. Hooker, “A Partner in the Gospel: Paul’s Understanding of His Ministry,” in Theology and Ethics in Paul and His Interpreters (ed. Eugene H. Lovering Jr. and Jerry L. Sumney; Nashville: Abingdon, 1996), 91. On the essential Pauline phrase “in Christ,” see Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ.
John M.B. Barclay, “Paul’s Story: Theology as Testimony,” in Narrative Dynamics in Paul: A Critical Assessment (ed. Bruce W. Longenecker; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002), 155. Original emphasis. Inasmuch as Barclay follows Ernst Käsemann and J. Louis Martyn in emphasizing the punctiliar nature of the Christ event, he may not concur with this expression of the “linear” dimensions of both the Christ event and its effect on Paul’s own narrative. Nevertheless, the way in which Paul narrates the Christ event—as the climax of Israel’s history—seems to suggest that it was indeed a dramatic element within an ongoing story. This is not meant to detract from the dramatic significance of the Christ event. Indeed, as David Horrell notes in his response to Barclay in the same volume, it is essential to argue that for Paul “the Christ event (as generative beginning) gives meaning to a temporal narrative of God’s creative and saving purposes, and then, seen within it, gains meaning form that narrative” (David G. Horrell, “Paul’s Narratives or Narrative Substructure? The Significance of ‘Paul’s Story’,” in Narrative Dynamics in Paul: A Critical Assessment [ed. Bruce W. Longenecker; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2002], 157-71 [here 167 n. 18]).
Gorman, Inhabiting the Cruciform God, 110. Campbell, Paul and Union with Christ, 390-95, argues that Gorman has stretched the definition of justification too far by incorporating both juridical and ethical elements. However, once we affirm that justification is inherently tied to the concept of union or participation, then ethics necessarily become part of the active dimension of this reality, something Campbell himself realizes in his well developed taxonomy of Paul’s “in Christ” language, as he notes that all four of his key terms: union, participation, identification, and incorporation, “entail ethical expectations” (413). Placing the ethical expectations within the definition of justification (or Paul’s soteriology more broadly) does not suggest that humanity enacts its own justification, but rather that the ethical expectations of the new creation stem directly from Christ himself. Our participation in his life, death, and resurrection necessarily entails that we will partake in his faithfulness, especially that manifest in his faithful obedience.