The Paul Understanding of Jesus

The Paul Understanding of Jesus

By Fr Habib Jajou
Chaldean Catholic Mission
London 2011

Introduction

Paul the Apostle, who first persecuted the followers of our Lord, converted on the road to Damascus and become, with St Peter and St James, leaders of the early Church. He is the Apostle of the nations, wrote many letters to Christians in Ephesus, Corinth, Galatia, Rome, and Thessalonica. They were like a net of spiritual communications at that time (52 – 62A.D.)

He deeply understood Jesus as the promised Christ and Lord, Son of God who was born to save us. He teaches us that we take our origin from two men: Adam and Christ. . . Adam, he says, became a living soul, Jesus a life-giving spirit…’

What did he say more regarding that, how did he understand of Jesus and changed his convictions? I will try to explain that through his several letters.

I the Letter to the Ephesians 4:17-32: the Old Man and the New Man

According to St Paul, God has forgiven us in Christ. He proclaimed and taught that truth is only in Jesus Christ. He wants us putting away the old self, and putting on the new one. The old man was corrupted through deceitful desires. The new man follows the truth (Jesus Christ), in God’s way, in righteousness and holiness of truth.

He confirms that Christians all are like members in a family where Jesus is the Head. Faithful can not be perfect by his/her effort, rather by believing and following the God’s plan for reconciliation which has been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. Jesus, who is the only Savior, by his power of the Holy Spirit, works and guides us for perfection.

II the Second Letter to the Corinthians 5:11-21:
The Apostolic Mission is to serve the Reconciliation

The community in Corinthians made a misunderstanding of St. Paul. They considered that being Christians means complete freedom , but to what extend? Paul says: ‘God has reconciled us to himself through Christ’, and ‘reconciled the world to himself in Christ’ (2 Cor. 5: 18-19) this reconciliation means forgiving our trespasses. So every believer has to serve the reconciliation missionary over the world. This demands a religious duty on them as members of the early Church. According to Paul, God made Jesus Christ to be sin for us. This is the cost of reconciliation; so believers should fight sin in their daily life, especially Son of God was crucified for us sinners. The first fruit of the members of the community is forgiving every one insults.

St Paul did not know Jesus physically; rather the Lord was sighted to him. He expresses how much the love of Christ has impels him. The reason is that because Jesus died for all especially for him sinner. So he, members of the early Church, and all believers must die and only rose by Christ. Faithful must live for Jesus, and they have to, spiritually, know him more and more. This knowledge will make believer a new creation.

III the Letter to Galatians 4:1-7:
The Law was for the bondage and we have liberated

The communities of Galatia wished to adopt a rigid obedience to the Jewish Law but, St Paul warned them that if they (who were Jews) refuse his proclamation, there will be no longer place for them to accept Jesus Christ in there lives. He confirms on faith more than the works of the Law. Whatever man tries to work according to the Law, he/she is not able to get perfection.

St Paul says that, before being faithful, we were ‘enslaved to the elemental powers of the world’ (Gal 4: 3) Son of God was sent to ransom us. He declares that he has been crucified with Christ, and he is now living with the Risen Christ (Gal 2: 19-20). So that, believer is no longer son of sin, rather of God. This means also that they are Jesus’ brothers or sisters. We are free by the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) who is also Spirit of Jesus, so that we are heirs by Christ.

IV the Letter to the Romans

Chapter 3:21-26: Christ is ‘the Righteousness of God’ for all believers

In this first part of St Paul’s Letter, he declares the bright side of his proclamation which he already has outlined in (1: 16-17). He depended on Scripture, ‘St. Paul professes that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.’(CCC601). He proclaimed the God’s Plan, which has been fulfilled; God sent His own Son ‘in the likeness of sinful flesh and for the sake of sin, He condemned sin in the flesh.’ (Rom 8: 3). Jesus is ‘the righteousness of God’ who ‘has been manifested apart from the law’ (21) where the Law and the Prophets have testified him.

Really all human beings are sinners. They have been created according to God’s image and likeness. Despite they are still having God’s image, but no longer His likeness. As a result, they are far from the Grace of God, and in need to trust and obey His Divine Plan.

Listeners to the St Paul’s proclamation have to believe and follow Jesus in order to obtain the God’s righteousness. St Paul focuses on the word (righteousness); he used it for more than forty times in his letter to Romans. This righteous is by Jesus Christ, thus He is our redeemer.

These words were like a Good News for people; they believed that Jesus really was present among them (Romans 1: 3-4). The Apostle of the Nations was always begin with the reality, which is the Resurrection of Jesus ‘I am not ashamed of the Good News’ (Rom 1: 16) How does Jesus do that? By his lovely solidarity with the sinful humanity, so he becomes the head of humanity. He presented his life as a sacrifice to the Father to redeem all human beings.

The expiation rite in the Temple was like an image to the Christ’s one. But, by the Cross of Christ, which is the Cross of Salvation, every human can obtain righteous. How this has been done? The answer is: ‘”God put forward as an expiation by his blood”. So, in Christ’s humanity “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.”’ (CCC433)

Chapter 5: ‘we have been justified by faith’ in the Cross of Salvation

In this second part St Paul confirms that the new life in Christ (the Second Adam) is certain. And we justified by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ not by our poor works. By this Justification we have peace with God. This is even with our afflictions. But, what afflictions do? According to St Paul, they produce endurance, then, character, after that hope, which isn’t disappoint.

Jesus died for the ungodly; and by his death, the reconciliation, by his life; the redemption. All the grace that we have is from God; however, we receive it by Jesus. Despite many were sinners, Jesus obedience to the plan of the Father made them righteous.

Chapter 6: 1-11 ‘we died to sin’

The fact that we were baptized to be buried with him, means also we live to the new life. This is because our savior was raised by the glory of the Father, and we have united with him in his death and life. Our old man -the first Adam- was crucified with him, but we have a new life for the sake of God by him who lives forever.

Life

Worth mentioning, St. Paul rarely uses the word (life) in chapters 1-4, while between chapter 5 and 8, 25 times. Life, in his letter, has a scatological impression. It means shearing life with the Risen Christ. But, there is no new life only by triumph on sin and Law. Certainly, there is a new life with the Risen Christ, but this is threatened by suffering in the world (5: 3-5) and moral weakness (6-9). The best for Christian is priding of the Cross of the Christ who by the Cross we have been reconciled.

Conclusion

We have seen how St Paul has converted after living experience of encountering the Risen Christ. He was like a blind, and then experienced the Divine light. This light has enlightened people of every city in Asia Minor and Greece which have welcomed him. So as a result of his success, he merited being the Apostle of the nations.

Jesus Christ, who was persecuted by Paul, has become his Lord, the Son of God, and the Risen Lord, the righteousness of God. He loved, forgave, and reconciled him with the Father. The Cross has become Cross of Salvation. So Paul putted away his old self, died to sin, and followed the truth after leaving the Law which was for the bondage. St Paul was certain that Jesus crucified not for him, rather for all human beings. St Paul proclaimed that the redemption from sin is justification through Faith more than doing many works. However, his mission was a fruit of his freedom by the Spirit of Christ and his Apostolic Mission was to serve the Reconciliation

Today, St. Paul’s Journey is a symbol of how our journey should be. So to follow him, we have to confirm in our teaching that the misery which oppresses human beings because evil can only be understood according to the first Adam’s sin. Proclaiming the Kingdom of God through the teaching of St. Paul is to enlighten the world that there is no truth only in the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

References

36. The New Jerusalem Bible, Pocket Edition published (1990), Darton, Longman & Todd Ltd.
37. The Holy See (2007) Catechism of the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Chapman.
38. Maryvale Institute (2007), Introduction to the New Testament, Birmingham. Chap 5.

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