Thursday, April 20, 2017

Threefold Gospel in Paul's Letters

Yung Suk Kim

I remember visiting the web page of the prominent Seminary in the U.S and found a brief mission statement of the school that emphasizes the mission of spreading "the gospel of Christ." Many mainline seminaries include this kind of wording in their mission statements. Then I wondered what that "gospel" really means and how it is communicated to students. But in fact, the gospel relates to God first; that is, "the gospel or good news of God" must be a starting point for the mission, as both Jesus and Paul begin their ministry with this "gospel of God" (Mark 1:14 or in Rom 1:1). Even before we talk about the gospel of Christ, we should talk about the good news of God, which is none other than God's good news. God is the good news. God is righteous. God's righteousness is being revealed (Rom 1:16-17; 3:21-26). God is the center of Paul's theology. 

Now "the good news of God" was manifested through Christ's faithfulness. This is another aspect of good news about Jesus. The good news is not that he died for you or instead of you but that he brought God's righteousness to the world. Therefore, Paul talks about the gospel of Christ in his letters (1 Cor 9:12; 2 Cor 9:13; Gal. 1:7; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thess. 3:2). Christ is the foundation of the church because he laid the foundation of love and faith. The church is being built not by the human commission or from any human authorities, but by the love that is shown by Jesus. 

Finally, this good news of God proclaimed by Jesus cannot become a reality of people unless they change a mind toward God or Jesus. That is metanoia in Greek, which is to change a mind, and also the Hebrew verb shub, which means to turn back to God. So Paul tried to spread this good news to all and asked them to trust God and Jesus. All people, Jew and Gentile, can become children of God through faith, which is to follow the way of God or to imitate Jesus. That is his gospel (Rom 2:16;16:25). Christians are a letter of Christ to others. They should be good news for them. Their good news is not by word only but by the power of the Spirit. Who can have this power? Paul answers in Rom 8: 13: "Those who put to death the deeds of the body."

This three-fold structure of Paul's gospel is clearly seen, if rightly understood, in Rom 3:22: "God's righteousness through Christ Jesus's faith for all who have faith." We must bring God's good news, informed and exemplified by Jesus, through our life.  

For more about this thesis of three participatory aspects of Paul's gospel, read A Theological Introduction to Paul's Letters.

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