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Paul in One Sentence

In his wonderfully accessible book, Reading Paul (in the excellent Cascade Companions Series), Michael Gorman offers a wonderful one sentence summary of Paul’s gospel:

“Paul preached and then explained in various pastoral, community-forming letters, a narrative, apocalyptic, theopolitical gospel (1) in continuity with the story of Israel and (2) in distinction to the imperial gospel of Rome (and analogous powers) that was centered on God’s crucified and exalted Messiah Jesus, whose incarnation, life, and death by crucifixion were validated and vindicated by God in his resurrection and exaltation as Lord, which inaugurated the new age or new creation in which all members of this diverse but consistently covenantally dysfunctional human race who respond in self-abandoning and self-committing faith thereby participate in Christ’s death and resurrection and are (1) justified, or restored to right covenant relations with God and others; (2) incorporated into a particular manifestation of Christ the Lord’s body on earth, the church, which is an alternative community to the status-quo human communities committed to and governed by Caesar (and analogous rulers) and by values contrary to the gospel; and (3) infused both individually and corporately by the Spirit of God’s Son so that they may lead ‘bifocal’ lives, focused both back on Christ’s first coming and ahead to his second, consisting of Christlike, cruciform (cross-shaped) (1) faith and (2) hope toward God and (3) love toward both neighbors and enemies (a love marked by peaceableness and inclusion), in joyful anticipation of (1) the return of Christ, (2) the resurrection of the dead to eternal life, and (3) the renewal of the entire creation.”  (Michael Gorman, Reading Paul [Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2008], 8).

I’d be hard pressed to find a more concise and thorough statement of Paul’s gospel anywhere else.  Anybody find anything Gorman’s missed here?  Seems pretty right on to me.


  1. Perfect summary.

    And in true Pauline form, the sentence is incredibly long.

    Monday, June 23, 2008 at 9:46 pm | Permalink
  2. Lucy wrote:

    Mention of mission is missing. 2 Cor. 5–we have been given the ministry of reconciliation by virtue of God’s reconciliation in Christ. We, therefore, are God’s ambassadors to the world.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 5:27 am | Permalink
  3. dan wrote:

    Chris Tilling wrote on this very sentence a little while back ( and Michael Gorman actually showed up in the comments.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 8:58 am | Permalink
  4. nice one lucy!! otherwise, it is a very good summary.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 9:23 am | Permalink
  5. Geoff wrote:

    Mission is probably implied by Gorman calling Paul’s preaching “gospel.”

    If anything is missing, I would say that it is Paul’s gospel reveals to God’s people that God is Father.

    Tuesday, June 24, 2008 at 5:45 pm | Permalink
  6. Lucy wrote:

    Geoff, not on my read. Just because one affirms that what Paul preached was ‘gospel’ does not necessarily get you to mission. The further question is, ‘What is the gospel?’ It seems that Gorman assumes what so many assume–sure we should do mission, but this is sort of a second step after we know what the gospel is. On contrary, the gospel is that we have been made into missionaries through the apocalyptic actions of Jesus. God’s reconciliation in Christ includes within itself our ministry of reconciliation. We are participants in God’s mission, and so in God. This is the gospel!

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 6:44 am | Permalink
  7. Chris Green wrote:

    “We are participants in God’s mission, and so in God.” Lucy, you are spot on. Missiology is soteriology, and vice versa.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 6:48 am | Permalink
  8. Michael Gorman wrote:

    Interesting comments. Thanks to Halden and all. I do not assume, however, that mission is secondary. I assume that an alternative community is inherently missional (cf. Yoder on this), and I explicitly state that love of neighbors and enemies is essential to participation in Christ. If I were to tweak the sentence a bit, I might add the words “missional” and “reconciliation” or “justice” to it. But these are all in the book, and the connection between justification and justice (and to nonviolence) will be spelled out more fully in my forthcoming book from Eerdmans (spring 2009), Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology.

    Wednesday, June 25, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Permalink
  9. Halden wrote:

    That sounds like a fabulous book, Michael. I hope I can tempt you to get the publisher to send me a review copy for the blog!

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 10:11 am | Permalink
  10. Michael Gorman wrote:

    Of course, Halden.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  11. Halden wrote:

    Lovely. Hopefully we’ll see each other this November. Or will you only be att SBL?

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 9:41 pm | Permalink
  12. Geoff wrote:

    Lucy, the idea that Jesus makes us missionaries is the gospel still requires that we know the gospel to be missionaries. It seems to me that since faith comes by hearing the gospel that we have to hear it to become the missionaries it makes us when we believe. Thus making being missionaries a second step. But once again, assuming your contention about second steps is the case(which it probably is, I’m mostly wrong), I still think that the very words gospel and preaching imply mission, because it is a message of good news that is proclaimed by a herald or missionary.

    Anyhow, I have only read this incredibly long unbroken sentence, moving from topic to topic, rather than the whole book.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008 at 10:30 pm | Permalink
  13. Lucy wrote:

    No, I don’t think mission is a second step. The gospel is that we as God’s enemies have been reconciled to God through Christ. The content of reconciliation is being brought into a relationship with a missionary God in which we are his co-laborers, i.e., missionaries. To be in a relationship with the triune God means to be his witness. We cannot be in a non-missional relationship with God. Even in the eschaton, we will not stop being missionaries. Mission will be forever because God, from eternity, is a missionary God. Sin and rebellion will be no more, but because God simply is the lively enactment of the mutual relations between Father, Son, and Spirit, eternal life with this God means that we will forever participate in the life of mission and witness that is God.

    In other words, the benefit of the Gospel is entrance into God’s life in which the Father is always sending the Son, and the Father and Son are always sending the Spirit, and the Father, Son, and Spirit are always sending the church.

    Saturday, June 28, 2008 at 9:52 am | Permalink

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