Jesus Creed

PaulCaravaggio.jpgThe paradigmatic conversion story in the Book of Acts is the story of Paul, but that story contains a missional element many ignore. Paul’s “conversion” is not emphasized as one from sinner to saved but one from persecutor to missional agent. Conversion in the Pauline pattern is conversion from opposing God’s mission in this world to become an agent of God’s mission in this world. (Again, see: The Acts of the Apostles (Abingdon New Testament Commentaries)
.) Notice the following texts:

Acts 9:1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing out threats to murder the Lord’s disciples, went to the high priest … [Paul] fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 9:5 So he said, “Who are you, Lord?” He replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting! 9:6 But stand up and enter the city and you will be told what you must do.”  … 9:15 But the Lord said to [Ananias], “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. 9:16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”  … 9:22 But Saul became more and more capable, and was causing consternation among the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.

Galatians 1:13 For you have heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I was savagely persecuting the church of God and trying to destroy it. 1:14 I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my nation, and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors. 1:15 But when the one who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace was pleased 1:16 to reveal his Son in me so that I could preach him among the Gentiles…

Ephesians 3:1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles – 3:2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3:3 that by revelation the divine secret was made known to me, as I wrote before briefly. 3:4 When reading this, you will be able to understand my insight into this secret of Christ. 3:5 Now this secret was not disclosed to people in former generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit, 3:6 namely, that through the gospel the Gentiles are fellow heirs, fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus. 3:7 I became a servant of this gospel according to the gift of God’s grace that was given to me by the exercise of his power. 3:8 To me – less than the least of all the saints – this grace was given, to proclaim to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ 3:9 and to enlighten everyone about God’s secret plan – a secret that has been hidden for ages in God who has created all things. 3:10 The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. 3:11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, 3:12 in whom we have boldness and confident access to God because of Christ’s faithfulness. 3:13For this reason I ask you not to lose heart because of what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

It is a big emphasis in much of the scholarly discussion to emphasize the Gentile mission as Paul’s conversion, but these texts need to be balanced with Gal 2:15-21, 1 Cor 15:9 and 1 Tim 1:13, but there is something vital about the story of Paul’s conversion in Acts. Furthermore, the new perspective emphasis that justification is inclusion of Gentiles fits into this entire question about the nature of Paul’s conversion: his justification was entry into the mission of God to include Gentiles in the Abrahamic promise.

Genuine conversion is conversion from opposition (or even neutrality) to participation in the mission of God through Jesus Christ. It is not just forgiveness of sins … that much is very clear in Acts 9.
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