Ready for Paul?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

New Testament Tales - What did Paul say?

What did Paul say?
1. about divorce?
2. about homosexuality?
3. about murder?
4. about sex outside marriage?
5. about law?
6. about faith?
7. about works?
8. about grace?
9. about women?
10. about the end of the world?

Some people argue that Paul changed Jesus’ teaching, leading to a church based on Paul’s ideas rather than Jesus’. Certainly Paul teaches more about homosexuality (i.e. he mentions it), perhaps because of the locations in which he teaches. He treats it (and sex outside marriage) as sin, but references to homosexuality are couched in passages about fallen societies and the worship of pagan gods (Rom 1:22,26: such worship included “religious” homosexual acts), and in the context of God’s new law requiring more than “just” adherence to rules (I Cor 6:1,9, 1 Tim 1:10, 13). Paul’s teaching on marriage and divorce includes an injunction that it might be better to remain unmarried (1 Cor 7:7), but Jesus’ disciples made the same comment (Matt 19:10). Paul’s attitude to women included them as church leaders in some places (Rom 16:3), but asked them not to speak in others (1 Cor 14:34), perhaps where women’s religiosity was too tied up in oracles and false gods. (In a similar manner, Paul says it’s okay to eat meat sacrificed to idols, but not if it might disturb your neighbor’s faith.

In terms of judgment, Paul is himself proof that murderers can be redeemed, since he is blamed for the deaths of many early Christians, and stood by while Stephen was stoned. He clearly “judges” himself and his actions harshly, and calls himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). Meanwhile, like Jesus, he requires perfection of the saved, though he tempers this (2 Cor 12:9) with God’s statement that “power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul demands that we “work out our salvation” (Phil 2:12), but frequently reminds us that we are saved “by grace through faith,” (Eph 2:8) not by works. Many of his arguments hinge on showing that we all stand condemned under the law, that we need to be perfect (Rom 12:2), and that we can only be saved by God’s favor. (The only place grace is mentioned in the gospels is in the first chapter of John. But Jesus, in a sense, models the grace of God, which Paul then teaches.)

Paul and John are the two sources of end-times teaching most quoted in the modern church. Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians include much about how we should behave in the light of Christ’s imminent return. And John’s Revelation uses vivid symbolic language, and veiled references to Rome, to describe God’s control over man’s destiny. Jesus taught that:
  • Jerusalem would fall and the Temple destroyed (This happens during Paul and John’s ministry)
  • False prophets will predict the time. (Jesus, John and Paul all claim not to know the time)
  • There’ll be wars, famines and natural disasters (John illustrates these in various places in Revelation) but these won’t be the end.
  • The good news will be proclaimed to all the earth. (Certainly Paul worked on this.)
  • The desolating sacrilege will stand in the Holy place. (This was possibly fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem, when those in the know fled to the hills and were spared.)
  • There will be false prophets and false Messiahs who will impress with false signs.
  • The sun will grow dark, the stars fall, and every nation will see the sign of His coming. (John’s Revelation describes this with more detail.)
  • The trumpet will sound. (Paul adds that the dead will rise first, and we’ll meet together in the clouds, giving rise to stories of the rapture.)
  • Judgment will follow and some will be condemned.

1 comment:

Lloyd said...

I want to thank you Sheila for your devotion in teaching from the Word of God. I really enjoy reading the studies that you post. God bless, Lloyd