Aside from Jesus, the apostle Paul is probably the most eloquent and persuasive teacher in the Bible. Many of the doctrines he taught are considered the foundational for the Christian faith.
Born a Jew in Tarsus, he was a Roman citizen, tent-maker, and a Pharisee, responsible for persecution of Christians before his conversion on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1–9). He became a faithful follower of Jesus, a dedicated missionary, and a respected leader in the early church. Here are a few of his major teachings.
1. Justification by faith: According to Paul, God ushered in a new era through the death of his Son. Under the old covenant, people, such as Abraham, were justified by believing God, looking forward to the promise of the coming Messiah (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:22). Now we are justified, or declared righteous before God, through faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and His atoning death on our behalf. Our justification is based on the work of Christ, accomplished through His blood (Romans 5:9), and brought to His people through His resurrection (Romans 4:25).
2. Jesus Christ as the risen and living Son of God: From the moment Jesus appeared to Paul at his dramatic conversion, Paul never hesitated to proclaim Jesus as the mystery of the ages and the great Redeemer of sinful humanity (1 Corinthians 15:1–20). To Paul, Jesus was the Messiah, God’s Son, the center of the gospel, and the One through whom “all things were created” (Colossians 1:16).
3. The church as the body of Christ: The only New Testament writer who speaks of the church as a body, Paul emphasized this fact in such passages as Ephesians 1:22, 23; 4:7–16; and 1 Corinthians 12. He also reminded Christians that their various gifts were to be used in building up the body of Christ and that they should work together for the common good of the Christian cause (Romans 12:4-5).
4. The power and influence of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life: Paul taught that the Holy Spirit was a more effective power for holy living in the Christian’s life than the old Jewish Law had ever been. The Law told people what to do, but it could not provide the will or the power to do it. God’s Spirit could provide the necessary power and motivation (Romans 8:9–17; Galatians 5:16–25).
5. The second coming of Christ: This includes the consummation of the kingdom of God as the redeemed are received into God’s presence. Paul taught that Christ will return to earth at the end of this age and that all Christians will share in His glory in the age to come (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; 1 Corinthians 15:20–28).
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