- Paul spent his ministry proclaiming that the death and resurrection of Jesus brought salvation for all people, both Jew and gentile. Paul explains how salvation works in a variety of ways, however, using a variety of “models” to illustrate it. In one model Paul portrays salvation in judicial terms. God is a lawgiver who has instructed people how to behave. No one is perfect, however, and everyone stands guilty before God for breaking his law. The penalty is death, which God, as judge, imposes on the entire human race. Christ himself voluntarily pays the death penalty for others. To show that God has accepted the payment he raises Christ the dead. Anyone who accepts/trusts/believes in this payment will now be restored to a right standing with God. Quite different is a “participationist” model, a mystical understanding of how followers of Jesus come to be united with him to overcome the evil powers of sin and death. In this model sin is a demonic force that enslaves people (not simply an act of disobedience); Christ defeated this power by taking it into himself on the cross and putting it to death; his followers can participate in his victory by being “united” with him by being baptized. They are unified with the power that defeated sin, so it no longer holds any sway over them. (Bart Ehrman)
Ehrman argues Jesus taught repentance and turning back to the God of Israel and doing the things He required in the Torah so people could enter the Kingdom of God which was soon to come. Ehrman argues, by contrast, Paul did not teach such repentance. Followers of Jesus who have a restored right relationship with God will be saved from the destruction God will bring on His enemies at the day of judgment.
Ehrman focuses on Paul’s letter to the Romans because he systematically outlines his gospel message, as Paul didn’t found the church and had never been there. All the other authentic letters were written to his own congregations to address problems, and so hit on central topics more or less by accident (eg, the importance of the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians).
Paul argues salvation, getting right with God, most basically comes from believing in and accepting the death and resurrection of Jesus. If Jesus died and was resurrected, that’s great for Jesus, but what does that have to do with me? Paul has different models for how the death and resurrection of Jesus makes it possible to be in right standing with God.
One is the Judicial Model which is justification by faith that brings about a not guilty verdict. The problem is people disobey God, breaking his laws – everyone sins. Not necessarily the laws of the Torah, but not doing whatever God wants. Like Adam, the penalty is death, and the penalty of sin is “death to God” for all time. The death of Christ is substitutionary, paying the penalty for you. Christ did not owe the penalty because he was without sin. But, you have to accept the payment, so if you say no thanks it doesn’t work. The resurrection shows God accepted the payment of Christ’s death because death was no longer in effect – because it was overcome by Christ. You appropriate the payment by trusting in these things, which is justification by faith.
The other major model in Paul is the Participationist Model where Sin is not primarily man breaking God’s laws but sin as a cosmic power in the world trying to enslave people, forcing them to be alienated from God. Paul talks about people being under the power of sin, being enslaved by it, and people being liberated from sin. You can try to fight sin, the devil, and death, but they are stronger than you and you will lose. We can be liberated, not because a debt is paid in this model, but because Christ’s death was a victory over sin. Christ conquered the power of sin because Christ conquered the power of death. The power of Death is the greatest of powers because it most keeps you separate from God, and so if death is conquered, all the subservient powers were also conquered. Great for Jesus, but what about us? We need to appropriate it, not through faith as in the previous model, but you have to make Christ’s death and resurrection your own in another way. In Romans 6, Paul says this is done through baptism. Paul thought when you were under the water you experienced a mystical union with Christ in his death and resurrection. The body of Christ you are mystically unified with is Christ and also the other believers you become one with. You are submerged as Christ was buried and are one with Christ and so participate with him in his victory. Sin and death no longer have power over you.
Adam was the first to Sin, which caused Sin to enter the world, which likewise increased the amount of sin happening. So, both of Paul’s models were working together to address these issues. There are other minor models in Paul. One is the purchase model where Christ’s death bought people back. Sometimes Christ’s death is seen as a sacrifice like an animal sacrifice. Also, Christ’s death is seen as intervening because we are in danger.
Paul’s belief is these work for both Jews and gentiles. Jews and gentiles are equal before God. Gentiles don’t have to become Jews to benefit from Christ’s death and resurrection.
Another great lecture by Dr. Ehrman. Certain concepts were left unclarified which would have helped, like what it meant that Christ in the first model was “sinless?” Paul is clear we all mist the mark just as a consequence of living our lives, so “sinless” must mean something else here. In any case, it’s easy to see how the problem of death relates to the problem of sin, since as Paul says “1 Corinthians 15:32 32 If I fought with wild animals at Ephesus with a merely human perspective, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised,“Let us eat and drink,for tomorrow we die.” But the problem is more nuanced than that, since belief in the final resurrection was common enough in Paul’s time. Conclusion? PERHAPS EHRMAN’S ANALYSIS IS A LITTLE WANTING BECAUSE ALL HE SHOWS IS HOW DEATH IS CONQUERED, NOT HOW THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE SPECIFIC PROBLEM OF SIN HOLDING A STRANGLEHOLD ON PEOPLE, FOR WHICH WE NEED THE SOCRATIC / IMPALED JUST MAN MORAL INFLUENCE MODEL.
For My Scriptures Study Index SEE