This book is a commentary on Paul’s authenticated Epistles. It is framed within radical Christian thinking exemplified by the likes of Huss and the Moravians, Arminius and the Dutch Collegiants, Spinoza and the Quakers, for example. While not scholarly, neither are the commentaries light reading. They are thoughtful elucidations suited to our times.
The few authenticated Epistles written by Paul are not accounts of historical events. They are not philosophical treatises. Paul’s letters are explications of his encounter with reality, in particular the reality of personal salvation and freedom in being or existing of and from God indwelling according to Christ after the spirit. Given Paul’s lifelong commitment to the ‘things of God’ and given his more than twenty years of challenging ministry to Christian communities, we are left with only a meagre remnant of his written work. In these few authenticated letters, Paul’s experience, teaching and thinking is described. The brief writings do not tell about the full scope of Paul’s work with Christian communities, but they do provide a presentation of and allow us an understanding of his core mission and purpose.
The Spirit of God has a singular message regarding personal existence and about our ultimate existential meaning, significance and purpose. This message is comprehended by those who are of and from God. God indwelling our person ‘words’ this gospel in Christ-specific terms, in the forming of our spiritual person. God indwelling according to Christ after the spirit forms and shapes our spirit, heart, and mind, so that we personally put on Christ in our conforming to Christ’s likeness. The gospel message is unchanging and not morphed according to cultural, societal variations. These commentaries speak to Paul’s explications and teaching of the spiritual things of God, Christ and the Spirit. Paul’s writing concerning this singular message was accompanied in his writings by his descriptions and admonitions to the various communities’ cultural and societal situations. These commentaries do not tease out Paul’s personal peculiarities or idiosyncrasies, nor the cultural or societal peculiarities of various communities.
Evidence is that institutional, denominational churches are failing organizations, or at best organizations undergoing considerable substantive change. While some undertake to contain God in the ‘things of the flesh’; others actively endeavour to build their spiritual lives ‘dead to the flesh’, but alive to the spirit. The Apostle Paul writes about this in his Epistles to the communities in which he worked. Since those days others have also explicated the things of the spirit (for example Spinoza), with a view to making that reality known and accessible to themselves and to others. The gospel carries on as long as reality itself carries on. We can be optimistic that in generations to come, the gospel will not be lost, regardless of the organizational conditions of the denominational churches.
In the commenting there emerges a basic Pauline theology, Christology and pneumatology, which rings true for us in the present. The basic message has significant and meaningful relevance to the human condition and to personal salvation and holiness. Paul’s basic theology tells us that in this life it is right and good to follow Christ passively in willful intention; and, to follow Christ actively by God’s grace.