A few years ago I published my understanding of Paul’s Gospel, while I was going through the Book of Acts for the second time: What Was Paul’s Gospel? In this blog-post I wish to offer the same point of view from a different perspective. In the first chapter of Galatians Paul offers a glimpse of the Gospel he preached to the gentiles. Although it was somewhat different from that preached by the Twelve, in essence it was the very same Gospel preached at Jerusalem. Notice that in Galatians 1:4 Paul says that he preached that Christ gave himself for our sins in order that we might be delivered from this world. In a nutshell, this is the Gospel, and, as I hope to show here, it was the Gospel preached in Jerusalem, minus the Jewish traditions that the Apostles preached Jews should obey, just as Paul preached gentiles should obey the authorities who governed them.
According to Paul, there are really only two entities in which mankind exists. We are either in Christ (Ephesians 1:10; 2:10) or in the wicked one (1John 5:19). We are either in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) or in the flesh (Romans 7:5). We are either the Body of Christ (1Corinthians 12:27) or the body of sin (Romans 6:6). We are either part of the new creation in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) or part of the old creation in our old man (Romans 6:6; Colossians 2:11-12). We have either Christ as our head (1Corinthians 15:22b, 45b, 47b) or Adam (1Corinthians 15:22a, 45a, 47a). Adam represents rebellion from God, for it was he who took mankind away from God, and the whole world with all of its evil lies in him (1John 5:19). He is the body of sin and the beginning of the old creation. All mankind proceeds from him. Therefore, before Christ, all mankind—the whole world—lay in him.
Galatians 1:4 says that Christ gave himself for our sins so that we might be delivered from this world, which lies in the wicked one (1John 5:19) or Adam (1Corinthians 15:22a). While in Adam we are in the state of rebellion against God. We were at war with our Creator before the coming of Christ, but in Christ we have peace (Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 2:12-14). In Christ we are no longer in rebellion, no longer at war with God, and, therefore, no longer under the judgment of God, because the price (punishment) of our rebellion has been paid (1Peter 2:24; 1John 3:5; cp. 1Corinthians 15:3; Galatians 1:4). This is the Gospel Paul preached; it is the Gospel Peter preached (1Peter 2:24; 4:1-2), and it is the Gospel that John preached (1John 2:2, 15-17).
Paul’s Gospel centered around what he knew from his own experience, namely, what occurred on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. Paul found that Jesus, whom Paul had originally considered cursed of God, was really alive, and, if alive, then reports of his resurrection were true. Only God could have done such a thing, so, therefore, Jesus was not cursed but declared to be the Son of God and Savior of the world. Everything Paul preached about Jesus and the Gospel was born out of this life-changing experience. The traditional view of the Messiah being a great general who would defeat the Jews’ enemies (esp. Rome) had no foundation in view of Paul’s Damascus Vision. Savior had to be interpreted in some other manner than delivering the Jews out of the grasp of their enemies. While this idea may be incorporated into the theology of the Messiah’s return, it cannot be understood this way in the times immediately following Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Gospel, then, is spiritually discerned.
The Gospel went out at the command of Jesus to all nations (Matthew 28:18-20). The disciples were sent out as ambassadors in Jesus’ stead to preach to the world that God has reconciled himself to us (i.e. made peace with us) through the death and resurrection of Jesus (2Corinthians 5:18-19). The Apostles (and we by extension) are ministers or servants of the news of that reconciliation. Paul and the other Apostles preached to the world in Christ’s place: “Be reconciled to God” (2Corinthians 5:20-21)! The war is over—be at peace with God and glorify him (Galatians 1:5) for what he has done. Accept his offer of peace (Galatians 1:3; 6:16).