The only way that it would be possible to sum up Paul’s writing in one sentence would be to write a very long one. Michael J. Gorman has done just that in Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission:
Paul preached, and then explained in various pastoral, community-forming letters, a narrative, apocalyptic, theopolitical gospel (1) in continuity with the story if Israel and (2) in distinction to the imperial gospel of Rome (and analogous powers) that was centred on God’s crucified and exalted Messiah Jesus, whose incarnation, life and death by crucifixion were validated and vindicated by God in his resurrection and exaltation as Lord, which inaugurated the new age or new creation, in which all members of this diverse but consistently covenantally dysfunctional human race who responded in self-abandoning and self-committing faith thereby participate in Christ’s death and resurrection and are (1) justified or restored to rich covenant relations with God and with others; (2) incorporated into a particular manifestation of Christ the Lord’s body on earth, the church, which is an alternative community to the status-quo human communities committed to and governed by Caesar (and analogous rulers) and by values contrary to the gospel; and (3) infused both individually and corporately by the Spirit of God’s Son so that they may lead “bifocal” lives focused both back on Christ’s first coming and ahead to his second, consisting of Christlike, cruciform (cross-shaped) (1) faithfulness and (2) hope towards God and (3) love toward both neighbours and enemies (a love marked by peaceableness and inclusion), thereby bearing witness in word and deed to the one true God and the Lordship of Christ, and participating by the power of the Holy Spirit in God’s mission of reconciliation and restorative justice in Christ, even at the risk of suffering and death, all in joyful anticipation of (1) the return of Christ, (2) the resurrection of the death to eternal life, and (3) the renewal of the entire creation.
It is inevitable that any attempt at a summary like this will leave some (most?) people unhappy because of what it includes or what it leaves out and it is not my intention to defend it as a statement. However, I do think it is a remarkable exercise in both theology and grammar. If anyone fancies having a go at their own version, please put something in the comments. I’d love to see it.
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