Paul’s Way of Imparting Christ Crucified

 

Today I submitted an essay I’ve been working on for a book project called “Making Sense of Jesus”, written by scholars related to the University of the Free State in South Africa. Here’s what my essay is about…

What would it mean for us, in Southern Africa today, to know what Paul knew of Christ crucified, and to give this knowledge and experience to others? To serve those who might wish to reflect more deeply in answer to such questions (for Africa or elsewhere), I ask the more preliminary questions: What did Paul mean by knowing Christ crucified, and especially, how did he approach imparting this knowledge?

For Paul, knowing Christ crucified means having a relationship with Christ and the gospel in which Christ’s death becomes, for believers, our dying; that is, Christ’s death becomes our way of life, our gospel-shaped identity and vocation.

While acknowledging that Paul imparted this relationship with Christ’s death through preaching the gospel, I demonstrate that he imparted it by embodying the gospel’s pattern in his own life. I maintain that 1 Corinthians represents Paul’s written attempt at imparting the identity and vocation which arise from knowing Christ crucified. Paul uses his own self-portrayal, as an extension of embodying the gospel with his life, to impart a way of thinking and living that makes space for God’s power in the midst of weakness and sacrifice. This impartation of Christ crucified seems to be the heart of what Paul has in mind when he calls believers to imitate him. For the apostle, “making sense of Jesus” means coming to know Jesus Christ in such a way that his crucifixion (and life and resurrection) becomes our way of life. Writing 1 Corinthians was Paul’s attempt to transfer this same reality from himself to the Corinthians, so that knowing Christ crucified would shape the Corinthians even as it had shaped his own life.

 

 

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