The first chapter, “Paul and the Mission of God,” considers what Paul thinks God is up to in the world (the missio Dei): in a word, salvation. It then relates God’s salvation to participation in Christ before addressing the challenging question of if, and how, Paul expected his communities and individual believers (rather than just apostles and “missionaries”) to participate in the mission of God. This chapter provides the basic Pauline framework for the rest of the book. The chapter argues that, for Paul, to participate in Christ is both to benefit from God’s mission of liberation and reconciliation and to bear witness to this divine mission — thus furthering it — by becoming a faithful embodiment of it. Both communities and individuals bear public witness to the gospel and thus participate in the missio Dei.
The second chapter, “Reading Paul Missionally,” sets the interpretive framework for the rest of the book. It first explores the idea of missional hermeneutics, or biblical interpretation done from the perspective of the church as a sent community, as it has been developing among certain recent biblical scholars, missiologists, and ecclesial leaders. We review several approaches to, or “streams” of, missional hermeneutics, and we suggest the kinds of questions that a missional hermeneutic will ask of Scripture, including Paul’s letters. We then propose that the guiding question in a Pauline missional hermeneutic is, “How do we read Paul for what he says about the missio Dei and about our participation in it?” That is, we are interested not only in what Paul said to his churches, but also, and indeed most importantly, in how his invitation to them to participate in God’s mission is also an invitation, indeed a summons, to us. Accordingly, as we read Paul’s letters in the subsequent chapters, the “so what?” question will always be before us.
The third chapter, “Becoming the Gospel of Faith( fulness), Love, and Hope: 1 Thessalonians,” explores the missional significance of the famous — and early — Pauline triad expressed in 1 Thessalonians 1: 3 and 5: 8 that later becomes known as the three theological virtues. The chapter shows how God through Christ, by the Spirit, makes people into a community of Godlike, Christlike faith (and faithfulness), love, and hope. As such, and only as such, does this community bear witness to its neighbors far and wide that the God of Israel is calling all people into a new way of life in which God is properly worshiped, people are appropriately loved, and the fear of wrath and death are conquered. Paul shows the Thessalonians, and us, how Christ, ministers, and the entire community share in the embodiment of the gospel.
The fourth chapter, “Becoming and Telling the Story of Christ: Philippians,” investigates the rich poetic or hymnic text found in Philippians 2: 6-11 — which I have called Paul’s master story — from a missional perspective. This text has been the subject of many diverse investigations and interpretations. The chapter argues that the hymn/ poem summarizes the gospel that Paul wants the Philippian assembly to (continue to) proclaim and (continue to) embody, in spite of opposition. Philippians 2: 6-11 is thus a missional Christology for a missional people, a missional people who display a narrative and narrated witness. Participating in the missio Dei, the Philippians will both hold forth (in word and deed) and defend the basic Pauline claims about the crucified Jesus as the self-giving, life-giving Son of God and sovereign Lord, in fulfillment of Scripture and in contrast to Caesar. These claims have been vindicated by God in exalting Jesus, and they will soon be acknowledged by all creation. Paul’s words speak to the contemporary church in several ways about the coherent form and content of its missional life and message. These can be summarized in the phrases “the great commission,” “the great commandment,” and “the great challenge.” The letter to the Philippians also reminds us that suffering was and is a normal consequence of faithful witness.
The fifth and sixth chapters, on becoming the gospel of peace (shalom), argue for the importance of peace and reconciliation in the Pauline corpus generally and in Ephesians particularly. Chapter five, “Becoming the Gospel of Peace (I): Overview,” surveys the language of peace and reconciliation in the Pauline letters to show how, for Paul, the biblical vision of shalom comes to fulfillment in Christ and is prominent in his letters, though often neglected by his interpreters. For Paul, in Christ the God of peace has brought the peace of God.
Chapter six, “Becoming the Gospel of Peace (II): Ephesians,” argues that although the authorship of Ephesians is disputed, it captures an essential element of Pauline missional theology. In Ephesians we see that the drama of salvation is the story of the divine peace initiative. Those who are reconciled to God through Christ are invited — even expected, as a natural part of their reconciliation — to participate in God’s ongoing mission of making peace both inside and outside the church. Believers are, in a sense, to “wear God” — the God of peace.
Building on the discussions of shalom, chapter seven, “Becoming the Justice of God: 1 & 2 Corinthians,” addresses a significant question that many have wondered about: whether Paul was apathetic about the central biblical theme of justice, especially as seen in the prophets. Despite some studies of this theme in Paul, it has not received the attention it deserves, and questions linger. This chapter argues that justice was central to Paul’s theology, particularly his teaching on justification. It explores seven links between justification and justice in his writings, giving special attention to the connections the apostle draws in 1 and 2 Corinthians. For Paul, justice is both in continuity with and a new development of biblical justice; it is both prophetic and cruciform. The chapter concludes with theological reflections on the place of justice in the missional life of the contemporary Christian community.
The eighth chapter, following on the exploration of justification and justice, is called “Becoming the Gospel of God’s Justice/ Righteousness and Glory: Missional Theosis in Romans.” It builds on renewed interest in theosis generally, and particularly with respect to Paul. As an extension of the general argument of Inhabiting the Cruciform God, this chapter argues specifically that Romans is an early Christian treatise on theosis, and specifically missional theosis. In Inhabiting, I argued that theosis, when used of Paul, means transformative participation in the kenotic, cruciform character of God through Spirit-enabled conformity to the incarnate, crucified, and resurrected/ glorified Christ. This chapter traces Paul’s soteriology of restoring human dikaiosynē and doxa, or justice/ righteousness and glory — fundamental elements of theosis — in Romans. For Paul, this restoration is participation in God’s own justice/ righteousness and glory, and it is accomplished by participation in the death and resurrection of the obedient and faithful Son. It is manifested in “righteoused,” multicultural, cruciform communities of Christlike Godlikeness in which Gentiles and Jews glorify God together as a foreshadowing of the final glory of God. Their corporate existence is, at least implicitly, a counterpoint to the pseudo-glory of Rome and a permanent model for the church in the face of normal expressions of political, especially empire-like, power. Their transformation, then, is a liturgical and missional participation in the life of the triune God that bears witness to God’s desire to reconcile people in Christ so that they experience the righteousness and glory of God together.
Gorman, Michael J. (2015-05-06). Becoming the Gospel (The Gospel and Our Culture Series (GOCS)) (Kindle Locations 244-302). Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Kindle Edition.