Some of the unique features of Pauline Theology include:
The Gospel of the Mystery … It is the Gospel which is provided “by grace” and received “through faith” (Eph. 2:8-9), and “by which ye are saved,” and is the Gospel “wherein ye stand” (1 Cor. 15:1-4).
Salvation has always been by grace through faith, but faith has not always stood alone, i.e., “without the Law” (Rom. 3:21). Paul’s preaching was focused on salvation by grace through faith because of the redemptive significance of the finished work of Christ. Paul was given the key (“the word and ministry of reconciliation” – 2 Cor. 5:18, 21), which unlocks the salvation doors to this Dispensation of Grace. Faith now stands alone! Salvation is no longer a matter of “believe,” plus some required expression of faith, i.e., sacrifices, ceremonies, rituals, circumcision or baptism.
The Mystery of the Gospel … It is important to note the distinction we are making between what we mean by the Gospel of the Mystery and what Paul means when he talks about the “Mystery of the Gospel” (Eph. 6:19-20). The Mystery of the Gospel represents that body of truth which reveals and explains the far-reaching consequences of the Grace Gospel of the Mystery. Some of the obvious consequences are:
- A New Identity: Pauline Theology is Christocentric. Phrases like “in Christ” and “Christ in you” call our attention to the wonderful new, intimate relationship and identity believers have as members of the “Body of Christ.” Believers of all past dispensations have been “in Christ,: but never before have they been in [the body of] Christ,” as revealed by Paul (1 Cor. 12:12-14, 27; Eph. 5:30, 32). Paul’s use of the phrase “in Christ” recognizes not only a new corporate identity (as mentioned above) membership in the Church that is His Body, but also a new personal identity both for Christ and the believer. As for Christ, His identity is not now exclusively related to the nation of Israel as the “minister of the Circumcision” (Rom. 15:8) and the Savior/King of the Jews, but now as the Savior/Head of the Body (Eph. 5:23). Because of this, Paul says “though e have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16). Paul calls this the “Mystery of Chrit” (Eph. 3:4; Col. 4:3)! Of the believer’s new identity, Paul says, “We are members one of another” (Eph. 5:24), and “henceforth know we no man after the flesh…if any man be in Christ he is a new creation old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new…Now then we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:16-20).
- A New Agency: This new agency, for the execution of the plan of God, is not an extension or an overhaul of God’s former agency of Israel, but is a “Joint Body/Church” made up of believing Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 3:6). God, having concluded both the Jews and Gentiles in unbelief, has broken down the “middle wall” of enmity, “even the Law of commandments,” that He might create the “one new man” agency (Eph. 2:14-17) wherein there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Col. 3:11).
- A New Power: One of the major marks of Pauline Theology is the availability of the Holy Spirit’s presence3 and power in the believer’s life and ministry. It is this dynamic to which Paul refers when he says, “My speech and my preaching was not in enticing words of men’s wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Cor. 2:4). The former motivational force in the life of the Old Testament believer was the Law. The Law was “holy, just and good” (Rom. 7:12), but it was external and “weak through the flesh” (Rom. 8:2), and, therefore, abolished (Rom. 6:4-6; 2 Cor. 3:13); Eph. 2:15). It is Paul who first announces the coming of the internal, indwelling, all-sufficient, all-powerful, un-prophesied baptism by the Holy Spirit: a Divine act by which the believers are not only placed into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-13 and guaranteed their inheritance (Eph. 1:13-14), but provided a new power and rule of life (Eph. 5:18). This baptism by the Holy Spirit is not to be confused with the baptism with the Holy Spirit, which was in fulfillment of God’s promise for Israel’s last days (Acts 2:17).
- A New Position: God promised, in dispensations past, through the Abrahamic Covenant and its enlargement in the Davidic, Palestinian, and New Covenants, that believers would receive a secure citizenship and an eternal position of blessing in the coming earthly Kingdom. This Messianic Kingdom, though initially 1,000 years long, would be extended forever on the New Earth (Dan. 2:44; 4:34; 7:18; Rev. 21-22). However, with the advent of the Dispensation of Grace, members of the body of Christ are now enthroned and “blessed with all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3), and given a full-fledged citizenship in Heaven (Phil. 3:20). This enlightenment comes courtesy of Pauline Theology, in order “that we may know what is the hope of His calling and what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the Saints” (Eph. 1:18). This lofty position means that we are “heirs and joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:14-16). Connected with this issue of the believer’s position and subsequent blessing and inheritance is the Judgment Seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10-11). Here is where rewards (or loss of rewards) are dispatched. This judgment was not revealed before the Apostle Paul and, therefore, is uniquely associated with Pauline Theology/the Grace Message.
- A New Eschatology: With the ministry of God, the Holy Spirit in this Dispensation of Grace, comes the promise that believers are “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). This day of redemption will occur “when Christ Who is our life shall appear, then shall you also appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). Grace-age believers will be raptured at Christ’s coming for them in the air (1 Thess. 4:13-18), and instantaneously transformed into His likeness (Phil. 3:20-21), and then presented to Him without “spot or wrinkle” in glory (Eph. 5:26-27). Then!!! we shall know the glorious liberty of the children of God (Rom. 8:19, 21)! Then!!! we shall receive the investiture of our “house which is from Heaven!” Then!!! “mortality shall be swallowed up of life” (2 Cor. 5:1-5). This!!! Is what the Apostle Paul called the “blessed hope” (Rom. 5:2; Col. 1:5, 27; Titus 2:13).
The Grace Message is …
… Change and Changes!
A Change: Pauline Theology is the result of a change in God’s administration of the affairs of His world. The Bible calls this the “Dispensation of Grace” (1 Cor. 9:17; Eph. 3:2, 9; Col. 1:2). This change stands in bold contrast to the Old Testament economies that once administered the Divine program (Innocence, Promise, Law). God has, thus, instituted a change from the old economy to the new, from “Law” to “Grace,” and from “Israel” to the “Church which is the Body of Christ.”
Changes: Those who see no change in the purpose and stewardship of the plan of God, except those associated with a supposed continuing progress of one Divine project being worked out, will do well to exercise themselves to explain these changes. To name only a few:
- Why are God’s people today organized under the leadership and watch care of a pastor, teacher, deacon, or other Spirit-gifted men and not of a high priest and priests?
- Why do the saints assemble themselves in locations and in almost every conceivable place except in the Temple or Synagogue?
- Why does the descent, disposition, duty and destiny of the Body Church differ so radically from that of the nation of Israel?
- Why was the nation of Israel cut off from the place of privilege and blessing and the Gentiles, contrary to “nature”/prophecy, graciously grafted into the place of privilege (Rom. 11:17)?
- Why have the conditions of salvation today eliminated the observance of the Law (Lk. 18:18-27)?
- Why have conditions of salvation changed from including water to no water (Acts 3:38; 22:16)?
- Why is fellowship with God/spiritually maintained today by appropriating the provisions of Grace rather than conforming to the ceremonies, rituals, and sacrifices of the Law?
- Why the present headship and ministry of Christ from Heaven?
These and a host of other perplexing questions of Bible doctrine and its interpretation into life, will never be satisfactorily answered unless the question, “What is the Grace Message?” is correctly answered, understood and applied. The blueprint of Pauline Theology must be followed carefully lest the finished product of the believer’s life and ministry prove him to be an “ashamed” workman (2 Tim. 2:15).