Imágenes de páginas

Paul recognised it as his task not to expound or enforce the doctrines of his Master, but to open up the message of His life and death. Men who do great deeds do not speak about them. "Heroes," as one has said, "are not their own heralds." Christ was not His own apostle or interpreter. It was given to Paul to tell men what Christ in His real nature was, and what was the significance of His life and death for mankind. If we hear from him scarcely any echo of the utterances of the historic Christ, the reason is, that it had not been the surpassing beauty or wisdom of the teaching of the Prophet of Galilee that had led him to accept Jesus as the Messiah, but the power and grace of the Risen and Glorified One; and hence it is round the latter that all his testimony turns. Not that he disparaged the historic tradition; the memories of Jesus remained a precious heritage, for they were memories of Him who was the same in heaven that He had been on earth, and who was known in His Eternal Nature by the things He had done and said in time. But they were inferior in value to the personal knowledge of a living Christ, and we cannot wonder that the interest that belonged to the earthly Son of Man was for him overshadowed by the grandeur and the power of the conception he derived from intercourse with the Risen and Glorified Son of God.1


And this brings us to the inquiry, what that conception was that Paul owed to his knowledge of and fellowship

1 We are also to bear in mind in this connection the vividness with which the apostle looked forward to the coming in the near future of the Glorified Christ, and his intense interest in the salvation presently to be revealed, which must have withdrawn his thoughts from the past "days of the Son of Man." We now look back upon that life, and every word and incident of the historical Christ is of profound interest to us; Paul looked forward to the Christ to come, "forgetting the things that were behind" in his anticipation of the glory to follow.

with the Risen Christ. Fundamental to it, of course, was the belief common to Paul with the primitive Church, that Jesus, the historic Jesus, was indeed the Christ, the Chosen of God, Supreme over all. This truth, which he had struggled against and had refused for long to admit, he accepted at once as soon as he was convinced by supernatural means that Jesus was alive, and that in having been raised from the dead He had received the seal of His Messiahship. From that moment he transferred to Jesus who had suffered and died on the Cross all those ideas of sovereignty, universal Lordship, and judicial authority which the Jews associated with the office and Person of the Messiah, recognising in Him who had died a death of shame in love to men, One who embodied these ideas in their truth and purity. In the meek and lowly Jesus, crowned with glory, He now saw the fulfilment of the Messianic ideal. It is difficult for us to appreciate the vastness of the change, intellectual and religious, which was involved in this faith. To confess One as the Christ and God-sent King of men, who had lived in poverty as Jesus had done, and who, dishonoured by men, had died a malefactor's death, meant the complete surrender of all preconceived ideas, and the acceptance of an entirely new conception of what was worthy of God and man.1 Nothing was more repellent both to the Greek and the Jewish mind, than the notion that One who had been in His earthly appearance the very embodiment of human weakness and helplessness, could either truly represent the character of God or exhibit the highest conception of human worth. The Messiahship of Jesus was the apotheosis of meekness, humility, patient self-sacrificing love; and to recognise the moral beauty of this Ideal, and the Divinity and claim to universal Lordship of One who had realised it as Jesus had done, was an act of faith so great, so completely in defiance 1 See Note 15 on Paul's Idea of the " Christ" before his Conversion.

of the accepted dogma about the Christ, so revolutionary in its effects on the character of the believer, that it was viewed as springing from Divine inspiration. "No man," said Paul in writing to the Corinthians, "can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Spirit"1

The conviction, however, that Jesus was the Christ, while the turning point in the religious history of Paul, was the common conviction of all believers in the apostolic age. And proceeding to inquire into what was distinctive in the Christological thought of the apostle, we must now consider the fruit of that conviction in his inner life and experience. Here we must take into account the extraordinary personality of the man, and the influence of natural genius in shaping his religious life and colouring his apprehension of Christian truth. We know him indeed only through his Epistles, but we cannot fail to be impressed with the evidence these afford of his extraordinary fitness, by natural endowment and psychological characteristics, to be the instrument by whom a spiritual understanding or interpretation of the Christ of history was to be conveyed to the Church. It is not only his amazing grasp of mind and capacity for dealing with principles of truth that strike one, it is, above all, the firmness and delicacy of his spiritual touch, his power of concentration on the problems of religion and life, his vivid understanding of, and keen sympathy with, the conflict of humanity torn by the contending forces of good and evil; all this marked him out as pre-eminently fitted to discover for himself and tell to others what the living Christ is, and can do as the

1 1 Cor. xii. 3. Stanton {Jewish and Christian Messiah, p. 122) shows that the idea of a suffering Messiah was contrary to prevailing Jewish beliefs. Drummond, also, in his The Jewish Messiah (p. 358), says that "there was no anticipation that the Messiah must submit to pain and dishonour." See also Schiirer (II. ii. p. 186), and Baldensperger {Das Selbstbewusstsein Jesu, p. 145).

Redeemer from sin and death and all that hinders the Perfection of man.

From the moment he was laid hold of by the Lord on the way to Damascus, and had surrendered himself to Him, he found himself in possession of a new life, in which Christ was everything to him—the Revealer of God's grace, opening up a way of acceptance and pardon, irrespective of his own doings, as well as the Pattern and the Power of an obedience to the Divine Will that flowed from the springs of affection and sentiment. In fellowship with Him he stepped into a wonderful experience of life. The consciousness of Sonship to God, and of spiritual freedom, of separation from all that had dragged him down, and union with and hopeful effort after the loftiest ideals of life and conduct that had hitherto moved him only to despair, a sense of peace and moral power,—these and other such elements, testifying to the new creative force under which his inner life had come, entered into the experience that finds such abundant expression in the Epistles in which he poured out his heart to the Churches. That new force was the Spirit of God infusing into his soul a passion of love for the Personal Christ that was henceforth the dominant note of his life; and that experience received its specific character from the many-sided Good which he found in Christ, the fulness of Blessing to his whole nature that proceeded from Him. Now it is here, in the consciousness of what the Glorified Christ was to him in his personal life, that we are to look for the genesis of Paul's Christology. The conception of Christ's nature that was vital to him was derived from the experience of the new life. He saw Christ through the medium of all that wealth of religious benefit that flowed from living union with his Lord. The Christ of Paul, in a word, is the Christ of his experience, Christ interpreted to him by his vivid consciousness of the Divine life which he owed to

Him. His Christology is the account of that experience in the terms suggested by thought and reflection upon it. It is a judgment or series of judgments regarding Christ that are based on the impressions of Him received in the life of faith.

It is this feature, its being borrowed from his own religious experience, that distinguishes Paul's idea of Christ from a philosophical conception. There are those who account for the apostle's Christology on the supposition that, once convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, he proceeded to draw on his acquaintance with the doctrines of the Jewish schools, and constructed by a process of reasoning a Christ who answered to the theological ideas of the age. On this view, the Christ of Paul would be a purely ideal creation and destitute of objective reality. The question how far and to what extent Paul was influenced in his Christian thinking by the current ideas of the age, and by the intellectual training he had received in the schools of the Rabbis, and whether his teaching is encrusted with elements of error and imperfection from that source, which must be disengaged from the rest in estimating what is of permanent value in his representation of the truth, is a question that has to do with Paul's apprehension of Christianity as a whole, and which I do not feel called upon to discuss at large in dealing with a particular aspect of his theology. It will come up again and again in the course of these lectures in its bearing on particular aspects of our subject, as points occur that suggest the inquiry whether Paul transferred to his thought about Christ ideas that are traceable to outside sources, and therefore I need not dwell upon it now.

Meanwhile it is only fair to bear in mind his own account of the origin of his beliefs, and he tells us expressly that he owed them to the " revelation of Jesus Christ" 1 It was not then that he, Paul, clothed Jesus with ideas of Christhood

1 Gal. i. 12.

« AnteriorContinuar »