Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tim Gombis on the pre- and post-conversion Paul

Tim Gombis has written some really good posts in his blog. Yesterday he posted something on "Paul the Pharisee", which says some very good stuff on the pre- and post-conversion Paul. Really worth reading. Here are some excerpts. (The "blue" highlights are emphases added by me.)

"Before his conversion, then, Paul was part of an effort to bring about a renewed nation, to present to God a purified people, zealous, like Paul, for the “traditions of the fathers” (Gal. 1:14).  He was likely convinced that once the nation was pure and obedient, God would be moved to send Messiah who would bring God’s salvation.

Further, this was done through violence, coercion, and persecution of sinners among the people.  This explains Paul’s persecution of the early Jesus-followers.  Because they were worshiping the one whom God had cursed (Gal. 3:13/Deut. 21:23), they were standing in the way of God fulfilling his promises.

After his conversion, of course, Paul’s ultimate aims don’t change.  He is still passionate about the resurrection of the dead and God fulfilling his promises to the fathers (Acts 26:6-7).  It’s just that now Paul knows that this eschatological orientation involves suffering with the persecuted, multi-national people of God, praying and longing for Christ’s return, and participating with the Spirit’s project of producing cruciform, non-violent love among the people of Jesus.

But the contrast between pre- and post-conversion Paul is not that he once was a legalist and is no longer.  The contrast had to do with the manner in which he conceived of God fulfilling his promises to Israel.  How would this come about?  Does God act to restore his people by his own grace?  Or can you violently coerce conformity to the Law to produce a people that will move God to act?

The contrast is between coercive and manipulative treatment of God and others, on one hand, and self-giving love for God and others, on the other.

Previously, Paul violently coerced others and sought to manipulate God to act.  He now loves others, suffering on their behalf and praying for their good.  And his posture toward God is one of deference, praying for and longing for the day of Christ, knowing that God in his wisdom will come to save in his own time."

Click here for the entire blog post.

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