Paul’s Thinking About Christ

Firstly, Paul was not a systematic theologian with a vast library in his office. Paul first and foremost argued from experience. It is true to say that Paul’s interest was not in theology, but in religion. He was concerned for a well balanced faith by which men might live.

Secondly, there was nothing static about Paul’s belief. He was faced with ever changing situations and human experiences. Basically, Paul’s theology was an adaptable theology. It was always deepening and developing to meet new situations which the life of the growing church brought to him.

The two exceptions to mentioning Jesus: 2 Thessalonians and Philemon

Jesus as the Son of God: a unique relationship

  1. And to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, [that is] Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10)
  2. To reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, (Galatians 1:16)
  3. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the [life] which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20)
  4. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, (Galatians 4:4)
  5. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. (1 Corinthians 1:9)
  6. For the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who was preached among you by us–by me and Silvanus and Timothy–was not yes and no, but is yes in Him. (2 Corinthians 1:19)
  7. Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; (2 Corinthians 1:3)
  8. Concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, (Romans 1:3)
  9. For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the [preaching of the] gospel of His Son, is my witness [as to] how unceasingly I make mention of you, (Romans 1:9)
  10. He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32)
  11. Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ, (Ephesians 1:3)
  12. We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, (Colossians 1:3)

Jesus is never equated with God: but Paul tries to define the relationship between God and Jesus Christ.

  1. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9)
  2. If then you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)

In a sense, Jesus is subordinate to God: nothing distracted Paul from the supremacy of God alone.

  1. But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
  2. And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)
  3. Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God. (1 Corinthians 3:22-23)

Pre-existence of Jesus Christ: a characteristic of John’s writing.

  1. And all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4)
  2. [This was] in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, (Ephesians 3:11)
  3. And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. (Colossians 1:15)

Paul’s summary:

  1. God was always like Jesus: not Old Testament law against New Testament grace.
  2. The doctrine of the Trinity: Father (life-giving work in creation), Son (saving work of redemption), Spirit (illuminating work of revelation). We must avoid this thought as a series in time.
  3. To speak of the pre-existence of the Son is to say that God did not begin to redeem men when Jesus came into the world, but that throughout all ages the redeeming power and the sacrificial work of God had been at work.

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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