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THE PAULINE SOTERIOLOGY.
ST PAUL understood the word ‘salvation’ in a very wide and comprehensive sense—not merely as liberation from evil or from sin, but as salvation out of this present evil world into the good world which in a sense is future but has now already begun. Hence the simplest division of our subject will be:—This present evil world and its powers; the crisis; Jesus the Saviour; the salvation of believers.
This Present Evil World and its Powers.
In his missionary preaching St Paul began with the message of the judgment that is to come. Under the lurid light of the day of judgment he revealed the entire destruction of his hearers. The theoretical basis of this preaching is a radically pessimistic view of the whole world, which takes no account of the difference between Jew and Gentile, a pessimism which extends to the whole human race, and even beyond it to nature and the supersensuous world itself.
In the first place, the whole human race, the whole 229of creation, is doomed to death. Since Adam, death has seized upon the sovereignty and reigns supreme. It has found its way everywhere. There are no exceptions. That is not a matter of course, it is unnatural. Man’s will is to live. Hence he feels his mortality as a hard slavery which causes him to sigh in deepest melancholy.
Whence comes this doom of death, mysterious and yet certain?
The Jew Paul answers, from sin. The wages of sin is death. Since Adam’s sin death goes in and out amongst men like a hereditary disease; but at the same time it is the consequence of the sin of each individual. For all men have sinned and therefore all die. The universality of sin follows as a simple inference from the universality of death. St Paul is here thinking, in the first place, of individuals. They are free agents—freely have they sinned and so incurred the penalty of death. Thus far St Paul has not diverged from the teaching of the Rabbis. But he soon leaves that teaching behind him when he declares that it is not in the power of the individual’s free will to accept or to reject sin. Sin has acquired a sovereign power over the human race since Adam. There is a kingdom of sin, and that is humanity itself. We all, Jews and Gentiles, are under sin. There is a law of sin in our members to which we are subject. Hereby St Paul declares the necessity of sin for all men, and not merely its actual universality. He gives expression to this thought of the necessity of sin in opposition to the rabbinical doctrine, led thereto perhaps by a deeper insight into the innermost life of the soul and the play of motives, 230still more perhaps by his apologetic. For this thought is a necessary postulate for the doctrine of salvation through Christ, which might appear to be superfluous as long as merely the universality of sin were maintained and exceptions were conceivable.
But what is the origin of sin, with its all-compelling power?
St Paul gives two answers to this question, the difference between which is not explained in his letters.
1. The whole of mankind is involved in the fall of the first man. Through the first man, Adam, came sin, and as its consequence death, unto all men. That is the Jewish theory built up by the Rabbis on the foundation of Gen. iii. Its greatness consists in the fact that it is an attempt to give expression to the thought of the solidarity of the whole human race. The first man is made to appear before God as the representative of the whole race, and his fall is therefore accounted as the fall of the race. But the juridical and, as it were, historical form of this theory is unsatisfactory. Sin enters from without by chance, without any inner necessity, and obtains sovereign power by the commission of one single and accidental fault. And this fault of the single individual has then to be placed by the supreme judge to the debit account of all his descendants, as though each one of them had committed it himself. Such a juridical appreciation of facts harmonizes with Jewish modes of thought, but with no deeper sentiment. It was more for the sake of antithesis, too, that St Paul made use of this theory. He wished by means of it to establish clearly the universal significance of Christ.231
2. Sin clings to man’s bodily nature. All men are flesh, and sin dwells in the flesh. Man is sold under sin because he is flesh. Nothing good dwells in him, that is, in his flesh. So closely are the body and sin connected that St Paul creates the expression “body of sin.” This theory is neither Jewish nor Greek, but an original creation of the apostle’s. The Jewish starting-point is, it is true, clear enough: the opinion that the human body is weak, impotent and corruptible, keeping men in entire separation from God. Jewish, too, is the opposition between flesh and spirit, instead of between body and soul, as the Greeks say. But the pessimism which we read in St Paul’s sentences is by no means Jewish. The conviction of the weakness of the flesh and of the existence of evil motives or of the evil heart in man never suffered the Jews to abandon their confidence in their own strength and righteousness. Side by side with the feeling of sinfulness, the most characteristic features of Jewish piety are self-satisfaction and boasting on account of good works. Words such as “I know that in me, i.e., in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing” must have had an altogether repulsive sound for Jewish ears; and Paul is very well aware how he tramples the optimism and self-satisfaction of his fellow-countrymen under foot when he uses them. And when he goes so far as to say “The flesh lusteth against the spirit,” he appears to take the flesh as the principle of sin and sensuality, just as matter is the seat of evil for the Greeks. Here he is ranging himself on the side of the dualism of the later philosophy which is ultimately derived from Plato. He draws nearer to the Greeks, just as Philo did before. But for all that St 232Paul does not turn into a Greek. There is an effective barrier to this conversion—the firm hold which he has, as a Jew, of the belief in the creation, which surfers no second principle to exist by the side of God, but derives the flesh as well as everything else from the Creator of the universe. There is besides this a second barrier: his belief as a Christian that the world and all that is in it—the flesh therefore included—belong to God and those that are His, and that it is just the flesh in which the Spirit is predestined to lodge. Sin does not originate in the flesh—it takes up its abode therein as a visitor from outside, just as the Spirit is likewise to come in from without and dwell therein. It is evident, therefore, that this theory of St Paul’s upon which he bases the necessity of sin is his own work. Hard personal struggles and sad experience of the power of the senses may very well have supported the theory. The decisive factor was the destruction of all his self-confidence, of all trust in his own natural powers through faith in Jesus the Redeemer. Complete pessimism as regards the body is the necessary converse of the optimistic trust in Christ and His Spirit.
Did St Paul himself reconcile his two theories of the origin of sin? Not in his letters—e.g. in 1 Cor. xv. death is derived from Adam’s fall and after wards from Adam’s earthly nature, without any attempt at reconciling the two statements. And the same applies therefore to sin. But can we rest content with this conclusion? Surely we must choose between the two. The connection between flesh and sin is either antecedent or subsequent to the fall. In the first case it is cause; in the latter, effect.233
Here we stand face to face with the ultimate questions of theological speculation. The gnostics soon afterwards occupied themselves with these matters. In fact, we here enter upon the domain of the Pauline gnosis and leave the field of thought covered by his missionary preaching. St Paul did not shirk these ultimate questions, but he came to no satisfactory conclusion, and contented himself with answers which are contradictory.
One can distinguish the germs of three theories.
1. The theory of evolution.—This present earthly world is related to the future spiritual world as the lower stage to the higher. First the natural (psychical), then the spiritual (pneumatic), first Adam, that is, of the earth, then He that is of heaven—Christ. St Paul develops this theory in 1 Cor. xv. for a definite purpose. He wants to make it perfectly plain to his Greek converts that the resurrection body will not suffer from the defects of the present body. Hence he contrasts it as the higher and the perfect with the lower and the imperfect. In so doing he adopts the story of the creation of man in Gen. ii., and thus obtains a theory which can easily be reconciled with the belief in the divine creation. It is full of a magnificent optimism. Onwards and upwards, step by step, leads the road. When the thought of the education of the human race obtained a footing in the Church towards the end of the second century, then men were glad to invoke the authority of St Paul. But as sin and the flesh are outside of St Paul’s scope altogether in these passages in First Corinthians, they can be of no real importance for the ultimate questions.234
2. The theory of degeneration.—Not only man but all nature is fallen from a state of glory into a state of corruption. The foundation is the story of the fall in Gen. iii. combined with the opposition between the spirit (before the fall) and the flesh (after the fall). Jewish legends (the books of Adam) and gnostic and Catholic theologians anticipate and continue this line of thought. In Paul himself we only find a few scattered indications, which all, however, converge in this direction. The present evil world cannot as such be ascribed to God. God created it, and it was very good. Did not God, according to the Bible story, create the world and mankind in glory as a world of free spirits? Adam and the whole cosmos were confined within the bounds of matter (σάῥξ) as a punishment for the fall. True, the flesh was created by God, but only as a means of chastisement, and that was death which according to Gen. ii. 17 was to follow on the very day of man’s disobedience (cf. Rom. vii. 11: “Sin . . . slew me”). That, again, was nakedness (2 Cor. v. 4), of which man became conscious immediately after the fall: he had lost his former tabernacle, the body of his glory. It was the coming short of the glory of God (Rom. iii. 23), that is, of that body of glory created in God’s image with which man had been clothed in Paradise. Mortality is the punishment for the fall from the world of spirits through the disobedience of the first man, and the groaning and travailing of the whole creation betokens the longing for the lost Paradise. It is only this theory that harmonizes with every step of St Paul’s argument and completely explains his position with regard to the flesh which is God’s creation and yet 235was not from the very first. But these subjects did not enter into his preaching to his new Gentile converts. And thus we can readily understand that this theory is only incidentally mentioned in his letters.
3. The theory of evil spirits. St Paul once mentions incidentally (2 Cor. xi. 5) that the serpent beguiled Eve—according to the Jewish tradition it was to commit adultery. This passage implies that the devil should be regarded as the cause of the whole of the evil condition of the world; nor is the absence of all mention of Satan in the chief passages in the Epistle to the Romans any argument to the contrary, for the place of Satan is there taken by a kind of mythological figure, an abstraction, sin. St Paul’s thoughts always cross over to the spirit-world ultimately; proof of this can be found in other Epistles besides those to the Colossians and Ephesians. Even in the Epistles to the Romans and in First Corinthians we read of principalities, authorities and powers in the upper regions which would separate us from God, and which must be abolished as God’s enemies before the end of the world. Now, as everything proceeds from God, and therefore likewise the angels, there must have been a rebellion in the spirit world and a falling away of some. On one occasion—it is in the passage relating to the head-dress of women during divine service—he alludes to the fall of the angels mentioned in Gen. vi. when the sons of God sought the daughters of men in marriage. On another, when speaking of the lawsuits of Christians with each other, he reminds the Corinthians that they, the saints, shall some day sit in judgment over the angels. All this presupposes apocryphal Jewish traditions as to the 236occurrences in the spirit world. Thus the fall has extended even to the world above, and so the picture of the present evil world is completed. All demons are of course counted amongst these fallen spirits, and as the whole of the heathen world—its religion and its immorality—is ascribed to their agency, this gnostic theory obtains an immediate practical significance. Satan is the God of this world—i.e., of the kingdom of sin—which is manifested, especially amongst the heathen, in so lurid a light.
St Paul’s pessimism culminates in this last sentence concerning the God of this world. The view at which he finally arrives is that this present evil world was not originally so created by God, but has only become such through the fall, and that it is now governed by fallen angels, powers hostile to God. Various reasons led the apostle to form this awful opinion: contemporary Jewish thought and feeling, his own bitter experience, his realization of the darkness of the heathen world in which he worked, and of the lurid light cast by the approaching day of judgment. The apocalypse of Ezra shows us how strong a tendency the Jews had in times of national disaster to entertain such pessimistic views of the world’s future. And yet, what a difference there is! For Ezra, there are still some righteous, few though they be in number, whereas St Paul writes, “None is righteous; no, not one,” and “in me dwelleth no good thing.” The reason for this difference is evident. St Paul’s pessimism is intended to serve his apologetic. It is because Jesus alone is the Redeemer, that the world has to be presented as irredeemably wicked, and every other road to salvation closed to 237men. It is not the actual recognition of the greatness of sin and the impotence of man which is at the root of this theory, but faith in Christ necessitates these pessimistic postulates as presuppositions. There is a convincing proof of this statement. The pessimistic view of the world no longer holds good for the Christian, or at any rate only in a modified form. The Christian lives in God’s world, and he is lord thereof. The theory of sin is an apologetic means for the awakening of faith; when once this end has been attained, it gives way to other conceptions.
It is evident that the apostle’s apologetic is very far removed from the preaching of Jesus. Jesus was no pessimist, and yet He surely knew what was in man, and knew that no one was good. Children and birds and flowers were His delight. He rejoiced in God’s love and in the good men whom He met. St Paul first violently extinguished every other light in the world so that Jesus might then shine in it alone. This exaggeration of the truth in the service of apologetics was the more fatal that the Church soon began to turn this pessimism to good account.
The Crisis. Jesus the Saviour.
In the scheme of St Paul’s missionary preaching the message of the judgment and of death is followed by that of the crucified and risen Son of God. Here we have the heart and centre of the Pauline theology. Here we can see more clearly than in many other cases into the genesis of his creed. It goes right back to the deep personal experience connected with the vision of the risen Christ. And this experience imparts its personal character to the theory, producing 238an impression of strength and truth. But the necessity arises for presenting it in an apologetic form—it is recast from a theological point of view, and it is only now that it assumes the outer form with which we are familiar.
What did Paul learn of Jesus? For what was he indebted to Him?
He did not know Jesus upon earth, and only learnt some facts of His life by hearsay. His personal acquaintance with Jesus was only brought about by means of the vision on the road to Damascus. Here he saw the heavenly Jesus, the risen Lord, the Spirit, and was called by Him to be an apostle. Hence the Resurrection of Jesus comes to be a fact of very far-reaching influence for him. Death’s reign is at an end. Eternity—the spirit world—enters in triumph into the world of sense. The morrow of the new day has dawned. Now, as the call at Damascus is the starting-point for the whole of St Paul’s new life, the resurrection has really become the foundation of his religion for him.
A new light is forthwith shed upon the crucifixion likewise. Before this the Cross was the greatest stumbling-block, as it apparently refuted the claim of Jesus to be the Messiah. But no sooner was He accepted as the risen Lord than it came to appear as something divine. It was the means of salvation. By the sacrifice on the Cross God’s message of love and grace was conveyed to man. These seem to us to be theological reflections. But the sense of pardon and blessedness which Paul derived from the Cross was a real personal experience. Henceforth it is for him the fixed centre round which all history turns, 239the source of all comfort, of all peace with God. St Paul sees the motto “God for us” written in great letters over the Cross.
There can be no doubt, therefore, that this experience is the root of St Paul’s Christology. The articles of his creed, however, are a great deal more than the expression of this experience. In them as they have now come down to us we can hear the Christian apologist speaking. One instance above all others will serve to make this point clear. As the result of his experience St Paul might have said: “As for me, it was at the foot of the cross that I first learnt what God’s love meant.” But instead of this we read in the letters: “No man can attain to the certainty of this atonement save in the cross alone.” That is the language of the apologist. Hence the extension to all men, the proof of necessity, the exclusion of all other possibilities. This applies to al] St Paul’s statements about the crucifixion and resurrection: how much more to the development of the doctrine concerning the Son of God, where there is no personal experience to build upon.
The Cross, the Resurrection, the Son of God—these are three new great starting-points in the Pauline Christology. In the Cross he proclaims God’s love, in the Resurrection the dawn of the world that is to come, in the Son of God the pattern for all Christians. Since St Paul wrote, these are the three subjects of all Christology.
The Proof of the Love of God.
The first portion of St Paul’s apologetic had presented the Gentiles before the judgment-seat of God 240in all their sin and moral degradation. The wrath of God was all that they could expect. There was no means of escaping from this wrath by their own power or by sacrifices of their own. And then, when they were thus distressed and despairing, he brings them this surprising proof of God’s love. Even before St Paul, the death of Jesus had become the object of theological thought. This had been caused, above all, by the controversy with the Jews. As the Jews interpreted the death of Jesus as a divine punishment, the Christians opposed them with an explanation of that death by which the innocence of Jesus was securely established. His death was, it is true, a punishment—thus far they acknowledged their opponents to be in the right—but not for His own sin, but for the guilt of the Jewish people. It came to be a definite article of the Christian creed that Jesus died for the sins of those that repent and set their hopes upon His death.
When once Paul became a Christian, he accepted this explanation. All that he did was to add additional conceptions of sacrifice, propitiation and redemption, employing the terms of the professional theologians. The theory of sacrifice is repeated in countless variations in his letters, now in a legal, now in a ceremonial form, and again in both together. It was really through St Paul that the thought of Jesus’ death, of sin, and of the atonement for sin, first came to be inseparably connected. St Paul’s greatness is not, however, constituted by this rationalism—for such we must term the arithmetical manipulation of the death of Jesus—but by an entirely new appreciation of the Crucifixion.241
In the first place, he removed the death of Jesus from its narrow Jewish setting and placed it in the centre of the world’s history. He attached so immense a significance to this propitiatory sacrifice that all petty legal categories were felt to be comparatively unimportant. Jesus did not die for the sins of a few Jews alone, but for all mankind; nay, more, even for the world of spirits. The explanation of this fact is that no ordinary righteous man died on the Cross, but the Son of God, the highest object of the divine love. What need after this for any other sacrifices, means of propitiation, acts of penitence—in fact, of any human works? The propitiatory death of Jesus occupies the place of all that was ever done to gain God’s grace. There was nothing left to be done by men, or even by angels, than just to accept this propitiatory sacrifice. But in the next place St Paul’s interpretation of this sacrifice started from above and not from below. It is not that a sacrifice is to be brought to God which is to change His wrath into mercy. Such had been men’s thoughts before, but God is the agent, the sacrificer, the propitiator: and the motive of His action is love, and nothing but love. That was an entire reversal of the usual point of view, and we find it clearly and consciously employed by St Paul in all the chief passages of his letters: God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. God gave His own Son for us, to show us that He would give us all. God shows His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. By thus proclaiming aloud the love of God the apostle really does away with the necessity for all legal and propitiatory thoughts. If the conception of sacrifice 242still remains, it is transformed into a mere symbol. It is not God who loves us that needs the sacrifice, but we men need the certainty that the act of propitiation has taken place. At bottom, the death on the Cross is not a means of propitiating God, but a symbol of His grace for men.
It is true, however, that the influence of Jewish modes of thought again makes itself felt here in the exaggerated estimate of the single historical fact. As before the whole process of man’s moral degradation was derived from Adam’s fall, accompanied by sin and death, so now all God’s grace is gathered together from the whole course of history, and concentrated in the death of Jesus. Paul actually denies that God ever pardoned before the death of Jesus; at any rate, he maintains that it was only now that His grace was made manifest. Had he not in his apologetic zeal already extinguished every other light in the world? This new light must now therefore illuminate the whole world and the whole course of history both forwards and backwards. This exaltation of the one historical fact was not so dangerous for Paul, who expected the end of the world in the near future, as for later ages, which were thereby nothing less than robbed of their faith in the living God. It must, moreover, be remembered that the historical fact can never be intelligible without the theological interpretation. One of two results is bound to follow. Either rationalism gains the upper hand, and defines the necessity of the death of Jesus, attaching a legal or ceremonial value thereto; or the paradoxical and the miraculous elements prevail, and then there remains nothing but faith in the 243unintelligible mystery. Both results can be traced in St Paul’s writings. The same man boasts of the folly of the Cross, and defines the ways of the wisdom of God.
Here the old and the new lie side by side. To the former belong the theory of sacrifice and the rationalism, which attains to its position of influence in the Church through none other than Paul himself, to the latter the paradox that God’s love is manifested in the Cross. Now this statement, when properly understood, annuls the theory of sacrifice, and approximates to the thought of Jesus that even death and suffering come out of God’s hand. But when St Paul narrows the statement, maintaining that God’s grace is visible only in the Cross, then he departs from Jesus’ teaching, who saw God’s love poured out upon mankind in all that He gave them both in trouble and in joy.
The reason of this is that St Paul, as an apologist, is obliged to narrow the road that leads to God’s love, so that it must perforce pass through the Christian faith alone, and therein he sets no good example to the Church.
The Dawn of the Coming World.
The Resurrection of Jesus was an unparalleled event; the sovereignty of death was at an end; he that had ears could hear the first peal sounding for the general resurrection to usher in the world that was to come. From the invisible world Jesus stepped forth once more into the world of phenomena, and so testified still more clearly to the fact that the new world was close at hand.244
St Paul, who was himself vouchsafed an appearance of the risen Christ, grasped the meaning of the Resurrection of Jesus: the old world is passing away, the new world is at hand. Thereby the Christian hope received a mighty accession of strength. Again and again we have these two statements coupled together. As surely as God awakened Jesus so surely will He awaken us. But such were the thoughts of the earliest Christians as well. What is new in St Paul’s conception of the resurrection is the meaning that he discovers in it for this present life.
The positive and negative elements seemed to him to be necessarily combined in the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. The Son of God had come into this world only to die because of it, and to succumb to its evil powers. But no sooner was He awakened from the dead than His life began in the world beyond, the true world.
All this seemed to Paul to be typical and symbolical, and that in very many ways. Did it not imply that man had bidden farewell to all the former world, and that the new world had already dawned? Death, sin, the flesh, the descent from Adam—their power was broken, their reign was at an end, But the new sun was fast rising, and its rays were already illuminating the Christian life.
To express this in theological language was, however, rather more difficult. Again we have an historical fact—to be sure, it was a miracle—to start with. Now, was this miracle to imply the transition from the old world to the new? It was evident that death, sin, and the flesh still continued in the world. The Resurrection of Jesus did not put an end to all 245this. Nevertheless, St Paul persists in connecting the crisis in the world’s history with this one fact.
The end of death is, of course, one of the things to be awaited. But flesh and sin are to be laid aside. How can that be done, seeing that Paul himself still lives in the flesh, and very many Christians still in sin? St Paul gives two explanations, and the one contradicts the other.
On the one hand, as he looks at life as it really is, he takes refuge in ethical theory, in the categorical imperative. Christ’s death and resurrection ought to imply for all Christians the death of their own sin and selfishness, and the beginning of the new life. On all occasions St Paul insisted clearly and impressively on this imperative.
On the other hand, his metaphysical pessimism impels him to accept a theory which brings the powers of nature on the scene, and maintains that flesh and sin have been overcome in the tragedy of Jesus’ death. Seeing that men have been described by him as under the dominion of evil powers of nature, there is no room for a purely ethical solution. Somehow or other these natural powers must be vanquished and rendered innocuous by the death of Christ. This St Paul really did maintain, but never in a very convincing fashion.
As a matter of fact these theories are concerned with the other-worldly character of Christianity. That beautiful passage in Colossians: “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God . . . . your life is hid with Christ in God,” tells us what is St Paul’s object. The Christian is to have his gaze turned towards the 246future with eager longing and zeal for righteousness; he is even now to be a citizen of the heavenly country. Here St Paul quite coincides with Jesus, only that Jesus points to the kingdom of heaven that lies in front, while St Paul goes back to the resurrection of Jesus and bases his argument upon that fact. In the apostle’s insistence on the beginning of the Christian’s new life even here and now, we may find a further parallel to the belief which Jesus entertained—it is true, only for a time—in the actual commencement of the kingdom of heaven. And yet, even here we can trace the prejudicial influence of St Paul’s apologetic interest. He is compelled to derive postulates from this one fact to which nothing corresponds in reality. It is, to be sure, nothing to be wondered at that he to whom the appearance was vouchsafed should exaggerate the value of Jesus’ resurrection. Nevertheless it was a misfortune for the new religion, and in contradiction with the progressive spirit of Jesus, that the one miracle in the past thereby became the foundation for Christianity.
The Son of God who came down from Heaven.
St Paul was not acquainted with the historic Christ during His life here on earth. He merely heard men speak of Him. He thus became familiar with all manner of instances of His love, humility, and kindness, and apparently he told his Greek converts of them. These, however, did not form the basis of his theology. The most important element in that are the titles. The knowledge of the titles and of their value compensates for the lack of personal knowledge. How could it be otherwise? If one knows Jesus 247oneself, all titles are inadequate; if one does not, then one just extracts from the titles all that is capable of extraction.
St Paul had three titles from which to choose—all three had been commonly used of Jesus in the earliest Christian community: Messiah, Son of Man, Son of God.
The title of Messiah—the Greeks said Christ—is naturally retained by St Paul, were it but for the Jews’ sake. He employs the word in the old eschatological sense, as the Lord of the kingdom of heaven that is at hand, and also, with but little of its original meaning, as a mere title of Jesus. He nowhere attaches any new signification to it. He himself awaits the advent of Messiah, earnestly looks forward to the day of Messiah, and considers all Christians to be living in expectation of Messiah’s revelation. His idea of the Messiah is that of the apocalypses. He conquers Antichrist and vanquishes Beliar; doubtless He is surrounded by all the hosts of heaven just as He is represented in the apocalyptic pictures. And he likewise expects the judgment of Messiah when God shall grant Him to sit upon His judgment-seat. But this Jesus that is yet to come is of almost less importance for St Paul than the Jesus who has come already. Besides thus looking forward into the future we find him—more and more frequently—looking back upon the Cross and the Resurrection. Besides, he feels that the word Christ has a strange sound for Greek ears, and conveys no clear meaning. He therefore introduces two Greek titles in its stead: Lord and Saviour. The word Lord is introduced as an equivalent for Messiah into the official formulae 248used at baptism; Jesus the Lord, no longer Jesus the Christ. Such is the shortest of these formulas. The word Saviour, or helper, is intended to explain to the Christians what they are to expect in the coming Messiah: the eschatological sense still largely prevails. He is not yet the Saviour upon earth. Now, as both Lord and Saviour were attributes universally applied to gods and kings, both these titles introduced by St Paul came to be the means, contrary to his intention, of separating Jesus altogether from the Messianic picture and of bringing Him nearer to the dignity of the Godhead.
The second title—Son of Man—St Paul abandoned, as it could only have denoted Jesus’ human descent for the Greeks—quite contrary to the sense of the Hebrew word. But instead he calls Jesus the ‘Man.’ It is possible that he intended this as the right Greek translation of the oldest title. “The man from heaven” would then be the last reminiscence of the passage in Daniel where the “Son of man is expected from heaven.”
Unfortunately we cannot determine with sufficient certainty whether St Paul, in making use of his idea of the heavenly man or second man, started from the title, Son of Man, that was used in the primitive community. For in any case he created something new and original, whatever the preliminary stages may have been. The abrupt break of continuity with the national Christology and the conception of Jesus’ world-wide mission are both revealed in this title. Jesus appears to be so great to St Paul that He can only be compared with the first man, the father of the human race. Where Adam fell back He goes forward, 249and He recovers what Adam lost. So Jesus is assigned His place in the world’s history, the division of which into the period before and the period after Christ, dates from this magnificent conception of St Paul’s. Nowhere else is the universality and novelty of Christianity expressed as simply as here. Only we must remember that it is ideas and not facts with which we are now concerned. It is not the historical Jesus who is compared with Adam, but the ideal man with the sinner.
Besides, St Paul himself frequently varied these thoughts. In one place you will find the whole contrast is made to consist in the difference of natures: Adam earthly, Jesus heavenly. In another, in the difference of the act: Adam disobeyed, Jesus was obedient. The explanation is that on each occasion he is pursuing a different aim. In order to bring out clearly the sequence of the present and the future world, he contrasts the lower and the higher nature of the two prototypes. But when he wishes to guarantee the certainty of the life eternal to the Christians, he demonstrates that equally important consequences for their descendants have resulted from the deeds of these two progenitors.
But how are we the descendants of Christ? There is no answer. Neither does the comparison of the consequences hold good. Adam’s descendants died; Christ’s followers die also. At bottom, then, no very great service is rendered by this comparison. It dazzles one at first, but cannot be carried out. It is a brilliant idea entertained by St Paul for a time but afterwards abandoned. The meaning of Jesus cannot be clearly expressed by changing and playing with such antitheses.250
There remains yet one title—the Son of God as the centre of Pauline theology. The word ‘Son of God’ had already been used by the earliest community, but in a very harmless sense. It denoted Jesus as the favourite of God, His confidant, knowing His ways better than anyone else. In the 2nd Psalm, too, the words “This day have I begotten thee “denote the divine election and nothing more. St Paul gives the words Son of God an altogether new and mythical sense; for the Greeks alas it was only too intelligible. The Son of God is a heavenly being who has been with God from before the ages. He is more than man, for He became man. It is not impossible that rabbinical doctrines as to intermediate beings supported St Paul in this thesis. It is, at any rate, very much like the Rabbis, when from the passage in Scripture, “God created man after His own image,” St Paul drew the conclusion that a separate being, “the image of God,” must therefore already have been in existence in heaven, and that this “image of God” was none other than the Son. But St Paul’s experience, the vision of Christ, was the decisive factor. As he here saw Jesus as a heavenly being in glory, so he had to picture Him to himself as existing from the beginning of time. The faith in this Son of God that descended from heaven is a consequence of the vision of the Son of God in heaven. By means of his vision St Paul became the creator of the new Christology, which drew its inspiration, not from history, but from something above it—from a mythical being, and which won over the heathen for this very reason.
But what is the relation of the Jesus of history to 251 this Son of God? St Paul’s thesis is an exceedingly surprising one, but it bears the stamp of a man of genius. “The Son of God became a man such as we are, that we men might become sons of God as He is.” Thus the leading theme had been furnished for the whole long history of Christology.
St Paul used the words “man such as we are” in a very strict sense indeed. Jesus had been born of a woman. He had taken upon Himself our physical nature. He died on the Cross and was buried. He even died of weakness and to pay the debt of sin. Had the Docetae then existed they would have found no more determined opponent than the apostle himself. For the death on the Cross, which was their chief rock of offence, was the apostle’s glory. If he occasionally uses the equivocal expression, ‘homoioma,’ picture or likeness, then he would merely say that the Son of God, who is originally of a different nature, now became such as we are. Neither, however, does the later doctrine of the twofold nature—the opinion that in Christ Jesus a heavenly being was united to a human find any support in St Paul. Jesus, while upon earth, was for him a man, not a man and Son of God, first flesh then spirit, not both together. One thing only separates Jesus from all other men, His sinlessness, which has of necessity to be postulated for the theory of sacrifice. With this one exception nothing separates Him from ourselves. However often He may be set up as our pattern, nothing is ever said of a special spiritual organization, or of a second nature.
Doubtless this whole point of view is a myth from beginning to end, and cannot be termed anything else. It was as a myth, as a story of a God who had descended 252from heaven, that the Greeks immediately accepted it. And yet the form of the myth is, it must be granted, Jewish. God is in no wise drawn down into the world of sensible human phenomena; the thought of an incarnation of the Deity would be pure blasphemy for St Paul. It is not God but the Son of God alone who thus descends into this world. But the personal life of the historical Jesus does not exist for this theory.
The way in which St Paul, however, imparts an ethical meaning to his myth is very admirable. The coming down of the Son of man to a life of service and obedience forms the pattern of our humility and sacrifice. The whole of the great Christological passage in the letters to the Philippians has an ethical and practical purpose. But how much more simply did Jesus teach His disciples the lesson of humility by the example of His life upon earth without any mythological background! As everywhere, St Paul finally reaches the thought of Jesus, but here in so dangerous and roundabout a fashion that the Jesus of history is completely smothered up by the myth of the heavenly Son of God.
Paul and Jesus.
The Cross, the Resurrection, the Son of God who descended from heaven—these are the three great innovations of the Pauline Christology. In the Gospel of Jesus they are almost entirely wanting, yet St Paul’s object is to express evangelical thoughts by means of them. The comparison between the Master and the disciple is especially instructive:—253
1. Jesus.—God is our Father, and has been always and everywhere. He showers down His love upon us by the gifts of food and raiment, by abundant pardon, by deliverance from the evil, by the promise of the kingdom that is to come. All that Jesus does and says is meant to confirm man’s faith in the love of God the Father.
Paul.—In the Cross of Jesus God gives the whole world a proof of His pardon and His love. Without that there is no certainty of the atonement. Only he that believes in the Cross has the true God.
So speaks the ecclesiastical apologist according to the principle that outside of the Church—that is, the community of those that believe in the Cross—there is no salvation.
2. Jesus.—The kingdom of God is at hand. It is to be the aim of the disciples’ longing, and is to give them strength for a new life in righteousness. Jesus leads His disciples onwards till they can walk in the light of eternity.
Paul.—The Resurrection of Jesus is the proof that the world to come is already beginning. Even now the Christian is risen with Jesus and has entered into life eternal.
So speaks the apologist, who is bound to give palpable proofs for the promised realities, and thereby confuses facts and postulates.
3. Jesus.—Through His teaching and His example He redeems men, so that they become the children of God, and lifts them up to a life of love and humility.
Paul.—The Son of man came down from heaven upon earth so that we might have a pattern in His 254self-humiliation, and through Him become the children of God.
So speaks the apologist, who himself knew not Jesus, for whom therefore the mythical picture had to effect that which the impression made by Jesus wrought in the earlier disciples.
The consequences of the great innovation were boundless. Jesus was presented to the Greeks in the shape of a mythical drama. Once again they had a new myth, and that, too, derived from the immediate present. And this conquered the world. The simple teaching of Jesus of Nazareth had never been able thus to win its way to victory, for the world was not yet ripe to receive the impression of a great personality by itself. That which was great and redemptive in Jesus had to suffer itself to be wrapped up in the heavy coverings of dogma; even in St Paul it lives and works mightily therein. In spite of all, it must be deemed fortunate that Jesus was preached to the world by St Paul. After all, side by side with the thoughts about Him came the Master Himself.
The Salvation of the Faithful.
After preaching the crucified and risen Son of God, St Paul’s next step in the course of his missionary labours was to gather the faithful into communities, to purify their life in common, and so to regulate it that it might become a haven for the individual and the means of his salvation. Passing now to theory, we find the doctrine of the salvation of the faithful built up upon these facts. Here, too, the foundation is formed by St Paul’s experience both of his own nature, and especially of his missionary communities; but it 255is only after revision in the interests of Church defence that the theory is completed as we now have it.
St Paul had himself been converted by the appearance of the risen Lord. He had felt an entire breach of continuity with the past, the death of his former life, a changed estimate of all values, of all frames of mind. But at the same time he felt the growth of a new life within himself since that meeting with Christ. Powers burst forth into being, of the existence of which he had had no previous knowledge. He himself began to speak with tongues, to behold visions, to catch glimpses of the world beyond. So powerfully did he feel the nearness of God that he was compelled to fall upon his knees and to cry out “Abba, Father.” Peace and joy, blessedness, freedom from all anxious care, took up their abode within him. The contest against all the powers of evil seemed no longer so terrible. Victory was at hand. He felt himself to be more than human—a giant, a hero: “I can do all things through Him that strengtheneth me.” All this called for an explanation, and Paul, in accordance with the whole of his psychology, could only find it in the ‘Spirit’ which had miraculously been imparted to him.
The experience he had gathered in the course of his missionary work seemed to him to point in the same direction. Here he saw the servants of sin, the scum and offscouring of mankind, carried away by a passion ate religious enthusiasm from the very moment that he began to preach, and often even strengthened so as to overcome their sins. Many were the miracles that he witnessed among his converts—manifestations of power, such as the healing of diseases, the speaking 256with tongues, prophecies, but also miracles of conversion. All this could proceed from nothing but the Spirit, especially because of the frequent ecstatic accompaniments. But here the value of the communities was far more evident than in St Paul’s own case, who had become a Christian without any ecclesiastical instrumentality. Permanent converts were to be found only within the communities. Like stars in the world, so these Christian congregations shone along the shores of the Mediterranean. Here was a visible and palpable proof that the coming world was very near at hand.
Both these factors, the personal experience as well as the results of the missionary journeys, must be remembered if one would understand the doctrine of redemption. But the third factor—the apologetic motive is not long in making its influence felt. The results of experience are universalized and completed. The ecclesiastical interest acquires clear expression for the first time in a theory concerning the value of the Church as an organized body. The word ‘ekklesia’ is of course but little mentioned as yet, but all the more is said of Faith, of the Spirit, of Baptism, which together constitute the Church. But at the same time even the most determined apologist cannot shut his eyes to the imperfection of the communities and of the redemption by means of them. The patch work character of the whole of this earnest of the world to come is only too evident. Hence the theory concerning the postulates for the future world succeeds the theory concerning the experiences in the present; the doctrine of salvation by the Church is followed by eschatology.257
The Theory of the Experiences.
St Paul recognizes as the root of the Christian’s new life a single definite force: the Spirit of God or of Christ. This force does not work directly, but only through the means of grace. The inner means is faith; the outer are the Word, the Church and the Sacraments. Now, though the Spirit works upon men through these media an entire change of the inner and outer man is seldom effected: there are. obstacles in the way. Such obstacles are the flesh, the sin that still remains, suffering and death. The Christian’s duty is to endeavour to overcome these obstacles. He actually does this partly through faith and moral effort, partly through hope in the coming perfection. Thus the theory of the experiences leads on quite naturally to the theory of the postulates for the future world. Such, then, is the arrangement of the following section.
The power that effects the believer’s salvation is the Spirit. Although St Paul occasionally speaks of the Spirit as though it were matter—e.g., the outpouring of the Spirit—yet he regards it usually as distinctly a force. As such it is included under the strict law of natural causation, only that it is a cause of a higher order. Like all forces, it can only be described by its effects.
The effects of the Spirit are exceedingly manifold, and range from the extraordinary to the normal, from the miracle to ordinary virtue.
First of all come the physical effects—the ‘forces’ in the general sense of the word. According to the 258popular conception there is not merely one Spirit, but as many Spirits as there are manifestations of force. One Spirit causes the speaking with tongues, another the interpretation thereof, another prophecy, another healing. St Paul himself writes of the Spirits in three passages of the first letter to the Corinthians. He there speaks of the Corinthians as “eagerly seeking for spirits,” each desiring to gain as many as possible for himself. We should to-day speak of these phenomena as the elementary effects of the religious impulse in the psychical and physical domain. St Paul himself was a master in glossolaly, more than all the Corinthians. No wonder that many caught fire at his enthusiasm. Such experiences are contagious. But little was wanting to make the whole of the Christian Church resemble a company of madmen. The apostle now, however, proceeded to allay the excitement, and that by summary measures. First of all he gathered all these different spirits under one heading: they are the various manifestations of the one Spirit of God. His object in so doing was to put an end to all jealousy and envy. The same Spirit gives to each one severally as He will. In the next place he sternly represses the wildest and least intelligible expression of this enthusiasm—the speaking with tongues—compares it with prophecy, and assigns a higher place to the latter because the understanding has a share in it and the whole Church is thereby benefited. That was a reversion of the order of precedence in the community. The undue exaltation of an egoistic mysticism was thereby effectually prevented. But finally, he places even prophecy itself far beneath love, “the more excellent way,” which is alone eternal: 259the doing of the simplest Christian duties is of greater value, in his sight, than the most exceptional gifts of insight and foresight. For all that, he allows a certain value to all those manifestations of the Spirit—they, too, are divine. At Thessalonica he went so far as to take up arms in defence of prophecy against mockers and doubters. His object is just this, that the Christians should learn to find their way out of enthusiasm and the extraordinary into plain and sober everyday life. And this object is best served by his insertion of 1 Cor. xiii. in the midst of his dissertation on spiritual gifts.
To quench this exaggerated spiritual exaltation St Paul places the exact opposite of speaking with tongues at the head of the gifts of the Spirit, viz., the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge. As he is speaking of nothing but extraordinary things, he must, in the first place, mean a speaking of God and the Divine which appears suddenly and unexpectedly, like a revelation, and surprises all that listen. The lightning thought of wisdom reveals the presence of the Spirit. But that is not all. St Paul teaches that the whole body of Christian knowledge, all those thoughts the possession of which constitutes the preeminence of Christians over Jews and Gentiles, can be traced to the Spirit. Every Christian teacher may boldly step forth with the claim that he is bringing an inspired message, and every layman who calls Jesus Lord speaks under the impulse of the Spirit. This is the point from which the representation of the Pauline gnosis will have to start. Two things are especially important in this derivation of knowledge from the Spirit. In the first place, the chasm between 260the supernatural and the natural has been bridged. Not only the welling forth of revelation, but the permanent spiritual outfit which should belong to every Christian, are to be ascribed to the working of the Spirit. At the same time, however, Christian is contrasted with all non-Christian knowledge as some thing wonderful and higher. Here we have the origin of the sharp division in later times between the knowledge of the natural man and the faith of the Church. The same man who rejects miracles in the popular sense of the word proclaims the miraculous character of the new theology all the more loudly.
St Paul sounds the deepest depths when he brings the life of prayer into connection with the Spirit. Prayer as he describes it in Rom. viii. is still very closely related to the talking with tongues. The understanding can go no further. Because we know not how we ought to pray all the more does the Spirit work. He comes to our aid, with sighings that cannot be uttered. But God, that reads the hearts of men, knows what the Spirit means. St Paul is here thinking of no ordinary prayer—no Lord’s Prayer even. He is thinking of moments of deepest emotion, such as came over him and others, prostrating them and casting them into a state of blessedness either of silence or finding utterance in sighs. Those are the moments when the immediate contact of the soul’s inmost being with the ultimate source of all things is experienced. That which he here calls Spirit is the mysterious background of our personality, inaccessible to all our science, working beyond our consciousness. But St Paul does not confine the Spirit’s activity to these rare moments of exaltation. Every prayer that 261a Christian utters beginning with the name of Father proceeds from the Spirit. In every real prayer there is a communion of the human soul with God. Then the Spirit of God testifies to our spirit that we are the children of God. Then the love of God is poured forth in our hearts through the Holy Spirit. Then are we ‘driven,’ that is, we feel a higher power coming over us, and then we experience a feeling of joyful gladness, surest token of God’s presence. All these sentences have an enthusiastic ring about them; they betray their origin in a great time of storm and stress. Yet some of this enthusiasm every Christian in every age is bound to carry with him into his every-day life. Without that certainty which the Spirit gives us that we are God’s children, it is impossible to ascend the steep and rugged road that leads from this world to the next.
The most important sphere, however, of the Spirit’s operations has yet to be mentioned. St Paul conquered the whole of life for the Spirit and thence derived all moral action and every virtue in our possession. The extraordinary is once more the starting-point. A charism—a gift of grace—is in reality the altogether exceptional privilege of quite extraordinary persons. Just as there are only certain people who can prophesy or teach, so there are others who alone understand the difficult task of serving, of presiding, of ministering to the poor, because they have been specially endowed by the Spirit with these gifts. This or that individual Christian can be joyful, or patient, or chaste in especially difficult circumstances where perhaps every other would have given up the struggle. The reason of that must be that the Spirit 262gave him the power and the endurance. Originally, as in the previous instance, it was the different spirits of joy, patience, etc. In every case heroic and extraordinary states of thought and feeling are originally conceived to be the surest signs of the Spirit’s presence. But from this somewhat narrow starting-point St Paul draws wider and wider circles which gradually extend over the whole of life: 1 Cor. xiii., Rom. xii., Gal. v., are proofs of this. At first only heroic manifestations of love were conceived of as the workings of the Spirit. St Paul leads his Corinthian converts to look upon love as that power in life which is intended to dominate and transform all that is common and every-day. At first gifts were only ascribed to abnormal persons. St Paul leads the Romans to conceive of all Christian feelings and acts, be they great or small, as the effects of grace. It is not the excitation of this or that feeling which is to originate from the Spirit, but the inspiration of the whole life. So radical and complete is the change that owing to St Paul the words ‘in the Spirit’ or ‘through the Spirit,’ which originally denoted an ecstatic condition, came to mean the same thing as the Christian life. Here the Spirit is naturally no longer conceived of as a force that comes and goes, but as a Christian’s permanent and abiding possession. And yet how we are reminded again all at once of the previous popular stages of the conception! St Paul’s ‘gifts’ are simply a theological word for the spirits of the earlier age, only they are no longer external beings, but faculties and talents immanent in the soul. The strictly causal conception of the Spirit, leading to determinism, is likewise retained 263from the earlier form of the belief. When the Spirit works there is no room for the free agency of man. St Paul never suffered this determinism to have any practical consequences, though there was no escape from the logical results of the whole theory.
But who can fail to recognize that the entire theory of the effects of the Spirit, which, starting from miraculous forces, derives from one and the same source all knowledge, the life of prayer and moral action, is nothing but the description of the Christian ideal drawn by an enthusiastic apostle? The actual state of things, the condition of the congregations, corresponded here and there with this ideal, but contradicted it in the vast majority of cases. A theory of the Christian life as it should be universally is here built up upon isolated great experiences. So Paul spoke to the Gentiles that he might sing the praises of Christianity, and to the Christians in order that they might be urged on to the attainment of the ideal by the description thereof. This apologetic character of the doctrine of the Spirit is rendered still plainer by all that follows.
St Paul terms the Spirit, Spirit of God or Spirit of Christ, and both phrases mean the same thing. The identification is by no means a matter of course. It is the apostle’s doing, and his object is the subordination of mysticism, under the influence of the Jesus of history.
The phrase ‘Spirit of God’ is certainly a very obscure expression; its meaning depends entirely upon the conception of God held by the man that uses it. He who represents God to himself as the impersonal first cause of the world, or as the negation 264of the world, will conceive the Spirit of God as the mysterious forces of nature which proceed from this first cause. This conception of God and His Spirit is the cradle of all the later history of mysticism. The phrase ‘Spirit of Christ,’ on the other hand, is perfectly intelligible, and derives its meaning from the Jesus of history. Rightly understood, it is bound to render the evanescence of religion into mysticism utterly impossible.
St Paul’s universal experience in founding his congregations was that they became the scenes of a wild enthusiasm which was certainly connected with faith in Jesus, but had in reality nothing whatever to do with Jesus Himself. The breach with their former heathen life, the concentration of their thoughts on the after world that was so near at hand, their renunciation of this world, the feeling that they were safe in port, all combined to drive many Christians into a whirlpool of religious sensations. The religious life had been aroused, and dominated them exclusively. Plain civic duties and ordinary everyday work were neglected. Idleness, ascetic tours de force, selfish fanaticism, an exaggerated zeal for certain spiritual gifts, were on the increase. St Paul cut off all that was unhealthy and dangerous. Yet he still allowed enough and to spare of that enthusiasm to continue, which originated, not from the influence of Jesus, but from the untrammelled religious impulse. It is very significant that in speaking about these gifts of the Spirit—e.g., talking with tongues, healing, etc.,-—St Paul never uses the words ‘Spirit of Christ;’ just as, conversely, when he does use them, he never has such manifestations in 265view. Without denying the divine element in them, he suggests indirectly that these phenomena are in no wise specifically Christian. Indeed, they almost belong more to the universal history of religion than to the history of the religion of Jesus.
On the other hand, St Paul spares no effort in his endeavour to bring the Spirit under the influence of Jesus. This he does, firstly, by forming the expressions ‘Spirit of Christ,’ ‘Spirit of the Son of God,’ and next, and in a still higher degree, by placing Christ and the Spirit side by side with each other, and even identifying them with regard to their influence upon Christians. This last he effects by a threefold series of propositions: Christ lives in the believer; the believer lives in Christ; the believer died and rose again with Christ. In stating the second of these propositions, even the grammatical expression which St Paul employed—‘in Christ’—is exactly parallel to the words ‘in the Spirit,’ which were used in other cases. Now by this means the whole doctrine of redemption is apparently doubled. We have a theory of the Spirit and a theory of Christ, the aim of which is, after all, exactly the same—the renewal of life. Therefore the Spirit and Christ must be identical, as indeed we should infer from the very expression ‘Spirit of Christ,’ which connects the two conceptions. What, then, is the meaning of this identity? It is by no means a dilution of the idea of Christ into any thing impersonal or abstract: this is the last thing of which the man who had seen Christ would think. On the contrary, it is the Christianization of the Spirit, who is thereby transformed from an impersonal force of nature into the historical influence of the person 266of Jesus. This is St Paul’s great reform. He firmly established the connection between the Redeemer and the redemption of believers. These were two separate things for the earlier Christians. On the one hand was the picture of Jesus, such as it passed over into the Gospels, and on the other were wonderful phenomena, tongues, etc., as effects of the Spirit. Between the two there is no connection, nor can there possibly be any as long as the sphere of the Spirit’s operation is merely the abnormal. St Paul teaches Christians to recognize the working of the Spirit above all else in the renewal of their lives, but this is the effect of the teaching of Jesus; Christ and the Spirit are therefore immediately seen to be one—or, to express the same thing more concisely, Paul will acknowledge no other power in the lives of Christians, by the side of the influence of Jesus. The logical consequence of his reasoning would have been to abandon the conception of ‘Spirit’ altogether in favour of the personal influence of the historic Christ. It would have been better so for all future time, for under the title ‘Spirit of God,’ all that was alien to the Spirit of Jesus crept into the new religion. That which hindered St Paul from drawing this conclusion was at bottom merely the general atmosphere of thought of the ancient world. Like all the rest of his contemporaries, the apostle was bound to recognize an immediate divine influence in these wonders and manifestations of power.
But it was Paul the apologist who completed this subordination of the Spirit to Christ. The Jews spoke of the Spirit of God, and the Greeks might also 267have used the same words. But the Spirit of Christ is naturally the peculiar possession of Christians. For what purpose should Christ have come into the world, if it turned out later that there was another road to salvation apart from Him? On one single occasion (in Gal. iv.) St Paul speaks of the sending of the Spirit as of something separate by the side of the sending of the Son; but no, it is the Spirit of the Son of God Himself. The salvation of believers can only be effected by the Saviour. St Paul cannot admit any other way. Without this nexus of conceptions the whole edifice of his apologetic would be undermined. The doctrine, however, was. it must be admitted, attended by a peculiar difficulty. We, to day, can speak of the Spirit of Jesus because we know Jesus from the Gospels. Now St Paul does not know Him; he only saw the heavenly Jesus, and that for a moment. Where was the guarantee that he understood the Spirit of Jesus? It is just here that the continuity with the Jesus of history seems to be broken. But facts prove that St Paul knew Jesus in spite of all—yes, knew Him better than all his predecessors. What he brought to the Greeks was no mere product of his imagination, but the real Jesus with His promise, His claim and His redemption. When Paul writes, “He that hath not the Spirit of Christ is none of His,” “He that is in Christ Jesus is a new creature,” he is filled with a profound and genuine impression of the person of Christ, and though it was only as apologist that he gave the final form to his doctrines, yet in this point he was right. Whatever of genuine Christian life was lived in the times to come, has its source exclusively 268in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, or as St Paul writes, in the Spirit of Christ.
The means of grace.
The Spirit of Christ does not enter when and where it will. It is bound to certain outer and inner media. The most important of the latter is faith. St Paul became a Christian without the help of any ecclesiastical organization, but not without faith in Christ. He had to bring that to the vision of Christ which the others had to bring to the preaching of Jesus. The parallel with the miracles of Jesus here strikes one’s attention. Just as want of faith prevented Jesus from performing miracles, so the Spirit, in spite of all the forces at its command, cannot take up its abode with any unbeliever. In neither case is faith the final cause but solely the condition.
What is faith in this connection? Not primarily that which it came to be later—the acceptation of a number of formula? as true; just as little as this was the faith which Jesus demanded. Faith can best here be defined as readiness and receptivity for the work of redemption. When Paul begins his preaching of death and judgment, of the Cross and Resurrection, as God’s great acts of redemption, these all depend upon whether or not his hearer recognizes something divine therein, something that has to do with his own redemption. He needs not to understand the connection of the propositions. As soon as it dawns upon him, “this Jesus concerns me and my salvation,” then faith has been awakened in him. Consciousness of a divine power unto salvation in the mighty drama of Jesus that, and nothing but that, is faith. Forthwith, 269peace with God, the love of God, and the certainty of atonement, make their entry into the hearts of men. This St Paul himself experienced and perceived in countless other instances.
If we ask in the next place whether this faith is a free act on the part of man, or whether it is God working in him, then it is very hard to say what answer St Paul would have given. The different parts of his doctrine of salvation are as a matter of fact so closely connected together that there is very little room for the exercise of man’s free will; in man there dwells no good thing—but yet there is the longing for salvation. The doctrines of grace and of predestination appear to exclude any co-operation on the part of man in the work of redemption. If God determines who is to belong to the saved and to the lost, then faith as a condition of salvation must be reckoned as a part of that which God decrees.
But for another reason determinism cannot be said to be St Paul’s final answer. St Paul is a missionary and an apologist. As such, he is bound to count upon the freedom of his hearers. He would lose his missionary zeal, the fire of his eloquence and the ardour of his love, if he did not hope to attain his end thereby amongst men free to choose. He must often have exclaimed—like a Methodist preacher—“Now is the acceptable time, now is the day of salvation; be ye reconciled with God. Let not God’s grace be offered you in vain.” He who thus appeals to the feelings of his hearers does not believe that the season of grace for each individual amongst them has passed long ago. And so we find St Paul in the Epistle to the Romans counting it a 270fault in the Jews that they shut up their hearts against the faith in their false zeal for righteousness. Even thus it is as yet not active co-operation that is called for, but something purely passive—readiness to receive God’s gift. Afterwards, it is true, St Paul leaves this, his first position, far behind him, when he makes salvation depend upon the acceptance of certain definite formulae; on the faith that Jesus is the Lord and that God raised Him from the dead, or on faith in His death. Consciously or unconsciously the ecclesiastical creed has here been forced upon the apologist, in the place of the mere receptivity of former times. And the creed at any rate is a human piece of work. Nay, more, for apologetic purposes this conception of faith is the only one that is practical. The preaching of the Church necessitates the ecclesiastical creed. The way of salvation is through the Church. Since then, this great word ‘faith’ has been used many thousand times to describe the entrance into the Church for those that stand without and to exhort them thereto.
Of the external means through which the Spirit of God works upon them that draw nigh, the word of God is the most essential. Faith is awakened when the word is preached. In St Paul’s own case, of course, this does not apply. But not every one is called by a vision from heaven. St Paul’s opinion of the importance and power of the word or Gospel was exceedingly high. In it God’s power unto salvation is brought near to men. Therefore it is God’s word and not man’s. Here indeed the apostle is in entire agreement with his Master, whose employment of parables is a testimony to the importance He attached 271to the word. The flood-tides of every religion have always coincided with the supremacy of the free word and with its exaltation high above all liturgies, sacraments, and the like. For it is only in the clear word that both the spiritual and the intelligible elements in a religion find expression, and behind the word stands the personality of the apostles. It is just owing to the high estimate which he had of the word that St Paul looked upon himself and the apostles as means of salvation. God’s message of atonement is only completed through the apostles, who carry it forth and publish it abroad. It is only where apostles have been bringing the word of God with them, that faith can arise and the Spirit enter.
We pass next to that which is really the most important of all the means of salvation, the Church, i.e., the whole Christian organism. The demand for faith—i.e., for entrance into the Church—proves that the Spirit is bound to the Church, and this is further indirectly proved by the fact that the Spirit nowhere has an abiding place outside of Christianity. But St Paul also adopted the most appropriate metaphor to express this theory, the Church as the body of Christ. Therefore Christ is the Spirit of the Church. Thereby he unites Christ and the Church so firmly to each other as only the Catholic system has done besides. For as yet no need had arisen for the division of the Church into visible and invisible. This need only arose when it became evident that the sad experience which even St Paul had had, was not transitory but belonged to the essence of the Church here on earth. St Paul did not as yet believe this. He looked at the good and bright sides in his congregations, and 272trusted that the bad, however often it appeared, would meet with a determined resistance and be bound to disappear. The high esteem in which he did, as a matter of fact, hold his congregations, here combined with his apologetic thesis that the Spirit could work upon Christians within the Church alone. The power and the truth of his apologetic depends upon the former, the actual fact. Later, when Church and community diverged, it appeared to be a mockery that the Church should be a mediator of the Spirit of Jesus. Had it not become the home of all these elements which had gradually grown up in opposition to the real Jesus? How entirely different was the situation which St Paul partly already found and partly himself created. There was a rivalry of love in the Churches, a readiness of sacrifice, fearless renunciation of the world, a strict morality, mutual co-operation, a glowing hope for the future, an enthusiastic eagerness to suffer for Jesus. In spite of much that was disappointing, it must have been a delight then to strike a blow in defence of the Church. There was a great element of truth in the proposition, “The Church is the channel of the Spirit of Christ.”
St Paul made a very free use of the metaphors in tended to express the relationship between Christ and the Church. Now it is body and spirit, now body and head, and again man and wife. At times he pursues the image into minute details without much taste, after the manner of contemporary allegories. But the very change of metaphor proves the indissolubility of the quantities compared. Christ and the Church form a unity for St Paul which nothing can put asunder. Now, however new this relation 273may be, the value attached to the Church in itself is old and Jewish. Paul destroyed the Jewish Church for Christians, opposing the community of believers to the legal organization. These are great reforms. But the conception of Church itself remained, and to a certain extent even the way of looking at religion as a constitution. The thesis, “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” had hitherto only been maintained by the Jewish theology. Through St Paul it obtained a firm footing in the Christian communities. Here the apostle of liberty paves the way for the Catholicism of later times.
The same remark applies to the remaining means of salvation, baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Hitherto they had been valued as signs of membership, baptism as a condition of redemption besides. But it was Paul who first created the conception of a sacrament. Any external acts—here bathing, eating, and drinking—are turned into sacraments as soon as they are esteemed to be means of salvation. They are thereby stamped as something different from what they really are: the element of mystery and the miraculous takes possession of them, they come to be the instruments of divine power. This result St Paul achieved in the case of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Baptism was not of supreme importance for himself personally. It conferred no new gift upon the man who had been vouchsafed the vision of Christ. As missionary, too, he had not regarded baptizing as his office. God had not sent him forth for that. Even the great idea of dying and rising again with Christ appears in the Epistle to the Galatians without any mention of baptism. It is only 274in the Epistle to the Romans that St Paul makes use of it to elucidate this idea. But here, it is true, he employs altogether sacramental language of baptism, and parallel passages can be found in other letters. He would have baptism regarded as a miracle and a mystery. The baptized convert should believe that he steps forth from the water a different person to what he was when he entered it. In like manner he taught of the Lord’s Supper, that it was a meal at which one eats no ordinary bread and drinks no ordinary wine, but partakes of the body and blood of Christ. It was a spiritual food and a spiritual drink—i.e., a channel for the conveyance of the powers of salvation. It is hard to understand how St Paul, who elsewhere always connects redemption with the Spirit of Christ, here all at once attaches a value to the body and blood, i.e., to that which was after all perishable in Jesus. The reason probably is that he found here an institution already existing which could only obtain a place in his spiritual doctrine of salvation with extreme difficulty. But he did find a place for it, and thereby made it a sacrament. He had to educate his heathen converts, and with this end in view it appeared to him to be important that they should clearly realize their redemption in certain ceremonial actions. As a matter of fact he only confused them thereby, dragging them down from the spiritual sphere into that of natural magic. It appears to us at the present day exceedingly strange that the hero of the Word should at the same time have become the creator of the sacrament. He himself—every one who knows anything about St Paul knows that—needed no ceremonial magic, as the Spirit 275within him testified to him of God’s love, and Jesus had set him free from the ceremonies of the law. But through the reception of the sacraments into his doctrine of redemption, he has himself a share in the origin of that Catholicism which made him a saint while at the same time it stamped out his spirit.
Obstacles to Salvation, and the way to overcome them.
Salvation as St Paul conceives of it, is in its essence the imparting of a divine power. Men cannot save themselves—they are sick, powerless, and prisoners. Then there comes to their help the power that has its origin in the world beyond, the Spirit. He takes over the guidance into his hands as effective cause. We ourselves are passive instruments driven by the Spirit. The aim of salvation is that the power from beyond should permeate everywhere and dominate all, absorbing entirely everything that is fleshly and sinful. Then shall the next world, the new heaven and the new earth, have come unto us.
But do we even attain to a complete salvation here in this world—when everything that is old hath passed away and all things have become new? No; salvation by the Spirit is thwarted by certain obstacles which stop its progress. Death is still with us, and announces its approach by sufferings which ever remind us of our perishable nature and drag us down from the heights of enthusiasm. The flesh is by no means dead or absorbed. The Christian feels his lusts and passions only too keenly. And sin? St Paul met with it at every step among his converts. At Corinth alone incest, fornication, lawsuits about property, party strife. And had it really departed even out of his own life? 276“Not that I have already obtained or am already made perfect.” The apostle had by nature a passionate and irritable temperament, temptations from within and from without, and at the same time a keen and highly sensitive conscience. It is inconceivable that he imagined himself free from sin.
Paul was no fanatic to shut his eyes to any unpleasant facts. Whenever he came across a sin he called it by its name. To hush things up or decently to throw a veil over them was never his way. He remained unaffected by the flowers of Greek rhetoric. It would be truer to say that he occasionally formed too gloomy a picture of the state of the whole community because of the sins or failings of a few. But he never lost courage. He clings firmly to his. apologetic theory of the ideal of redemption without admitting any limitations, and he sets to work to look the obstacles that lie in the way straight in the face and to overcome them.
First comes the summons to fight against the flesh, sin and the devil, to fight with all the power of one’s will. For it has been proved that the Spirit alone cannot do it. Man—i.e., his will—is to help the Spirit to victory by taming the lusts and passions, by hard work and strict self-discipline. Now here the categorical imperative and the thought of the end to be achieved reinforce the Spirit working according to laws of natural causation. Whether this is theoretically conceivable or not is a matter of indifference. Whenever St Paul expounds the theory of salvation he ends by this call to duty. And thereby he rendered experience her due. If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit. We are debtors not to the 277flesh, but should through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body. “Mortify, therefore, the members that are upon earth.” The apostle’s deep earnestness is well brought out by the severely ascetic form of these exhortations. He was able, at any rate, to say of himself that he mortified his own body and brought it into subjection, lest while he preached to others he himself should become a castaway. When he actually saw any sin in the course of his labours he forthwith exclaimed “away with it.” For this, in his opinion, was to constitute the difference between the redeemed and the unredeemed: that the former should at all times be able to fight a victorious fight. Through the Spirit he has been raised from his state of impotence and has become strong and bold. He should have no lack of courage and faith in victory; the ardent exhortations of the apostle will furnish him with an ever fresh supply breathing the same confidence in the power of the good as did the summons of Jesus.
If, however, in spite of all, the believer should have stumbled, then faith raises itself up again by the Cross of Jesus. For surely God’s love does not cease at our baptism. Why, that is when it really begins for us. As Christians we are under grace, and have the certainty of salvation from the wrath that is to come. It is not, of course, from ourselves that we derive any absolute guarantee of the abiding love of God. Even though the Spirit may impart to us in our hearts the certainty of the Sonship, who shall tell us exactly where the Spirit ceases and one’s own wish begins? The moments of ecstatic communion with God are succeeded, alas, often so swiftly, by hellish 278states of depression. The Christian only stands immovably fast in the love of God when he is not thrown upon his own resources, but can lay hold of what God Himself has done. It is only when he gazes upon God’s love as shown in the Cross that that comfort is vouchsafed him which is proof against every trial. Nowhere do we penetrate further into the depths of St Paul’s thoughts, nowhere recognize more clearly his sober sanity, his distrust of his own feelings, his need of an objective proof besides. Clearest of all is the following passage in the Galatians: first the triumphant exclamation:—“It is. no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: . . . .” there is all the joy of the new redeemed life. This, however, is immediately succeeded by the chastening reflection: “And that life which I now live in the flesh”; ‘the old is after all not laid aside, I feel its presence only too often’; but then follows the brave consolation: “I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” It is not the Christ within us but solely the Christ without us, who leads us through all our anxiety to peace at the last. And from this fact every Christian may derive the certainty of forgiveness. Accordingly, St Paul everywhere recommends forgiveness, and himself forgives. As far as we know, he may have received even the incestuous person into communion again, when he saw that distress and sorrow were driving him to despair. Paul was no Tertullian whose rigid sense of justice placed insuperable obstacles in the path of pardoning love. So he leads his converts on to the glad faith, that in spite of the sin that doth yet beset him, the Christian can 279still remain a child of God, and can look forward joyfully to the day of judgment.
Our self-discipline and faith in God’s love do not, however, fully remove the obstacles in the way of salvation. Again and again the Christian finds himself entangled in this present evil world. Only one thing helps him in every difficulty, and that is hope. Hope alone permits the Christian to look at the world as it is, and to escape depression without wrapping himself up in any fictitious optimism. We walk by faith, not by sight. We are, it is true, saved, yet by hope. Here we see in a mirror darkly, and all our knowledge is fragmentary. We ourselves, though we have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body. The Spirit is an earnest of our future state, and not that state itself. Never did any man realize the imperfection of our present state more sincerely or truly. That is why no one can call him an idle enthusiast. This recognition, however, of the defects of our present state is but the necessary negative condition attaching to the positive hope in which St Paul’s message centres. This present world passeth away, and the salvation which has here been begun will soon be completed.
This leads us on of itself to the theory of the postulates for the future. The decisive factor here, however, is not the picture of his fancy, but the power of the yearning which draws its comfort thence. For this yearning Paul found words—think of the song of creation’s earnest expectation—which still to-day fill us, “ripae ulterioris amore”! For the details of eschatology are always more or less the product of 280this or that particular age, and therefore negligible for later ages. But the yearning itself, with all its consequences for the life of the apostle, courage, consolation, joy and patience, is that which speaks to men in all ages. The concluding verses of the 8th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, in which trust in God is expressed as nowhere else in the New Testament, follow immediately after the song of the earnest expectation; and were it not for this confident hope in the future, they would lack all sound foundation.
By thus striving to overcome the obstacles on the road to redemption through work, faith, and hope, the Christian at length attains to the certainty of salvation, so that he can stand on the everlasting foundations even now, in the midst of tribulation and distress. The assurance of salvation is explained by the theory of election—Paul starts from the following proposition: That which is eternal cannot have arisen in time. If the Christian, therefore, is certain of his eternal salvation, then this must have been determined upon by God before all time. God chose certain individual men and women before the creation of the world, even those who possess this certainty, and foreordained that they should become brothers of Christ and children of God. In consequence of this election by God, all that happens to them for their salvation follows in an inevitable succession. Every imaginable evil may befall such chosen children of God—it matters not, their lives are marked out for them, they must reach the goal. All works for their good and brings them nearer to the goal. Even were a devil to get possession of them, he would have to work God’s will and bring them forward on the road 281to salvation. So St Paul thought of himself: God separated me from my mother’s womb: so each true Christian may think, and from this standpoint count his whole past with all its guilt as a part of God’s plan.
St Paul thought that all Christians should attain to this consciousness of election. He did not, however, transmit his belief to the Church. Experience showed only too plainly that being baptized and being saved are too different things. The individual is to attain to salvation in the Church but not through the Church. St Paul prescribed no particular method for the acquisition of the assurance of salvation. As tokens he mentions now the love felt for God, now the faith in the Cross, and now the voice of the Spirit. In the end it is found to be a personal experience. No man can tell his brother what it is; he must discover it himself. God is faithful, and He will complete the good work which He has begun; so St Paul would reassure those of a wavering and doubting temperament. Here, however, there is a gap in the apostle’s apologetic system. Strict consistency demanded that entrance into the Church should guarantee salvation. St Paul meets this demand half-way when he connects salvation with faith. But he does not pursue this line of reasoning to its ultimate conclusion. In the end salvation is a matter which the individual has to settle with his God. Hereby we see that St Paul was more than an apologist for the Church: he was a disciple of Jesus.
The Theory of the Postulates for the Future.
Here, too, the needs of the apostle’s apologetic system unite with his personal hopes. The vast 282edifice of the doctrine of salvation is as yet unfinished. To complete the structure St Paul will have to look beyond this present world, so experience teaches him. But the Christian does not grope about in an uncertain and imaginary future which can be depicted according to individual fancy. The nature of the future world can, on the contrary, be safely predicted from our knowledge of the present. There are two facts which cast a bright light on this future world: the Resurrection of Christ and the possession of the Spirit. From the resurrection of Christ we may infer that our own resurrection will exalt us into a higher state. We shall be transformed, and our bodies will be like that of Christ. From the possession of the Spirit, it follows that we shall have a spiritual body, one in which the Spirit shall no longer dwell as a strange guest. But besides this—here St Paul is employing the methods of Jewish apologetics—we may learn a great deal as to the nature of the end of human history from the description of its beginning in the first chapters of Genesis, for all things revert to their origin.
From these data we can derive a clear picture of the Pauline eschatology in its principal features, distinguishing its negative from its positive elements. All that is hostile to God throughout the whole sphere of salvation must be conquered, destroyed, or at least subdued. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. They are taken up into something higher. All the hostile angelic powers are cast down and subjected to the dominion of Christ. Finally, the last enemy, death, is vanquished. And, on the other hand, the dead rise up, they enter into 283everlasting life, into the spiritual world, as it was in the beginning of all things. All Nature lays aside once more its garments of corruption and stands, instead, clothed in glory in the presence of God. And Christians now have spiritual and heavenly bodies, they are clothed in the bright robes of Paradise, they are fashioned like unto the image of Christ and stand around Him like brothers round the first born. Now all creation is once more good, and God is all in all, as He was before the creation of the world.
These are the principal features of the eschatology;. they are perfectly clear and in this form peculiar to St Paul. There are several features of the Jewish apologetic which point in the same direction—e.g., the idea of a transformation of the body, but nowhere so simple and consistent a system. St Paul, it is true, completes this system by the addition of many traditional details derived from Jewish apologetics. To the principal features he added: the Antichrist, the arrival of Messiah, the restoration of Israel, the day of judgment, the millennium, Paradise and others. The process of transformation is also conceived in a thoroughly Jewish fashion with many wonders and catastrophes, and as of old, this earth is to be the scene of the kingdom of God. But all this is relatively of little importance compared with that which alone really matters—the immense progress in the spiritualization of the eschatology. We enter into a new world, a spiritual kingdom. The earthly joys of Jesus’ promise, the glad eating and drinking at His table, have gone. Paul retains, however, what Jesus desired above all else—communion with God in a higher, an eternal state of existence. Taking this, therefore, as 284the essential, he leaves all the phenomenal apparatus on one side and so completes the spiritual process which Jesus had begun. God and eternity—that is the real issue at stake. The Christian is to strike out of his hope all that is of the earth, phenomenal and individual; it belongs to flesh and blood, not to the Spirit.
With these brief indications he has left us a number of unsolved problems. (1) Is the resurrection and transformation of the body one event, or are they two separate occurrences which succeed each other rapidly? On one occasion, St Paul says plainly, the dead shall rise incorruptible; on another he speaks of the awakening of the mortal body, when he explains to the Corinthians that the body belongs to the Lord and not to fornication; and founds his explanation on the message of the resurrection. He appears to presuppose that this mortal body will in the first instance rise again. Is it not contained in the very conception of resurrection and transformation that the old body will first of all arise from the grave and only afterwards be changed? (2) Does Paul expect a resurrection of all men, or only of Christians? In the most important chapter he only mentions the resurrection of Christians, but in the course of his missionary preaching he brings all the just and the unjust before the judgment throne of God. But even if the unbelievers participate in the resurrection, the spiritual body cannot surely be granted them. We do not find any definite mention of hell—the word itself does not even occur. Is it possible that he conceived of ordinary death as a final punishment? (3) When does the judgment take place? Does it coincide with the 285second coming of the Messiah? or is it postponed till the end of Messiah’s reign, or does it take place progressively in the gradual victory over the enemies of God? The conception of the single day of judgment seems to be the prevailing one. But then can the new body in this case be said to exist before the final judgment has been pronounced? All these are questions which admit of no clear answer—for us, but not for St Paul. Probably St Paul pictured the occurrences in the after-world somewhat after the manner of the Apocalypse of Baruch. First, all men arise with their mortal bodies, and thus appear on the day of judgment immediately after the parousia. Not till then does God deliver His judgment, allotting death to one man, and to another the transfiguration of the body and everlasting life. If these suppositions are correct, then St Paul’s position is much more nearly that of the popular hope of the resurrection than certain phrases in 1 Cor. xv. allowed us to suppose; in this chapter, however, he is trying to meet the Greeks as far as possible.
But is it true that all men are condemned either to life or to death? Isolated texts in St Paul’s Epistles appear to give expression to the bold thought that all men shall be saved. “As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” “As through one trespass the judgment came unto all men to condemnation, even so through one act of righteousness the free gift came unto all men to justification of life.” “God hath shut up all unto disobedience that He might have mercy upon all.” On these passages later theologians have based their hope of a universal restoration. But on insufficient grounds. As soon 286as the texts are read in connection with the context it is evident that St Paul is only thinking of Christians. In his enthusiasm his expressions are somewhat rhetorical. Surely the great apologist of the Church did not build up his whole doctrine of salvation, closely connecting each part with the other, in order finally to cast it on one side. And if in the whole course of his missionary preaching he starts from the presupposition that there are lost and saved, two sharply divided classes, then he does not think of rendering his presuppositions on which the whole of his work rests illusory in the end. For clear-thinking ethical natures such of those of Jesus and St Paul, it is a downright necessity to separate heaven and hell as distinctly as possible. It is only ethically worthless speculations that have always tried to minimize this distinction. Carlyle is an instance in our own times of how men even to-day once more enthusiastically welcome the conception of hell as soon as the distinction between good and bad becomes all-important to them.
Other passages in the letters have given rise to the opinion that in the course of his life St Paul gradually receded more and more from the Jewish hope of the resurrection and approximated to the Greek hope of immortality in the after-world. We hear of the apostle’s wish to enter into the eternal house of God in heaven as soon as his earthly tabernacle is dissolved, or of his longing to depart and be with Christ. That appears to point to something different to the old hope of the resurrection. But it is only appearance. The man who composed the great chapter on the resurrection in First Corinthians had not yet acquired 287the chameleon-like qualities of a modern theologian. The hope which he there expresses is certain truth for which he will live and die. Even from the imprisonment in Rome he writes: “If by any means I may attain unto the resurrection from the dead.” The resurrection, the transformation of the body, and the judgment—those are the absolutely fixed points in the Pauline eschatology, and it is at our peril that we try to meddle with them. The longing to die and be with Christ is for him identical with the hope in the resurrection. This longing spans the chasm that lies between death and the resurrection, and proceeds straight to the desired goal, to the meeting with Jesus. So likewise the martyr Ignatius hopes by death to come straight into the presence of God, passing across the abyss between death and the resurrection, of which he often makes mention. For the religious hope, death, resurrection, and the coming into the presence of God are one and the same thing, always and everywhere, not in St Paul’s case alone. And in like manner the passage as to the dissolution of the earthly tabernacle and the being clothed upon with the heavenly habitation, refers to the change at the time of the resurrection and to nothing else. The apostle would not then be found naked before God—i.e., in his mortal body—which appears to him to be nakedness (Gen. iii.) compared with the heavenly body, but he would be clothed immediately in the robes of glory. At bottom it is a matter of complete indifference to him what happens to his body before the resurrection. For he has found abiding comfort in this thought: “Whether we live we live unto the Lord, and whether we die 288we die unto the Lord; whether we live, therefore, or die we are the Lord’s.” A man possessing this sure comfort need invent no new hope for the after-world, but can content himself completely with the traditional Jewish representations. Beyond the dark passage which he shall have to traverse he knows that he shall be with Jesus, and that he shall enjoy the vision of God—that is the goal.
The Pauline eschatology was too exalted for the later Christians, too poor in the concrete pictures of the imagination. It was not the letters of St Paul but the Apocalypse that became the handbook for the doctrine of the last things. Since, however, they drew the longing for eternity from these letters and suffered his courage, his consolation and his joy to influence their lives, St Paul’s labours in their midst were not altogether fruitless.
St Paul was the first to build up a great theory of salvation. Before him salvation had been a matter of experience. No one had described it. Jesus made children of God of His disciples without uttering one word about salvation. Through Him they had become established in hope, and victorious in the pursuit of the good; the anguish of sin no longer beset them, the cares of this world no longer troubled them; death itself had lost its terrors. They were God’s children, living together with God as with their father. Upon the basis of this experience—his own as well as that of others—St Paul built up his soteriology. He called the power which produced all these single effects the Spirit of God, and united it with the historic Christ and the Gospel. The Spirit is 289nothing but the influence of the personality of Jesus in history.
But St Paul likewise built up this whole theory of redemption as an apologist in the service of the Church. The Spirit was attached to the Church and its institutions. He made out all men outside of the Church to be as bad as possible, he set up the Christ of the Church as the only Saviour, and praised the Christian ideal, as it is possessed by the Church, as the greatest thing in the world. Thereby his soteriology obtained that definite ecclesiastical character with which it shortly afterwards passed over into Catholicism.
By constructing this theory of redemption St Paul united the Gospel of Jesus with a cosmology and a theology which in spite of many Jewish conceptions was bound to be welcomed by the decaying ancient world on account of its pessimism, its new myths, its ideal, its doctrine of hope. Jesus, His influence and His Church, were here introduced into the drama of the great world. All that was merely Jewish and national was weeded out; there remained the story of the fall and of the redemption of creation. And conversely, all the hopes and longings, the thoughts and imaginations of the ancient world came to crystallize round the person of Jesus, and so acquired consistency and the sense of reality. Thus, then, the background had been found for Jesus, and the centre for the philosophy of the world and of salvation. That was the work of St Paul.290
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