Paul's view of God's plan of salvation

From his Jewish background, Paul divided history into three periods: (1) "from Adam to Moses" (Rm 5:13-14; cf. Gal 3:17), when there was no law, (2) "from Moses to the Messiah, when "the law was added" (Gal 3;19; Rm 5:20), and (3) the time of the Messiah, when the end (e;skaton) has been inaugurated (1 Cor 1:18; 15:2; 2 Cor 1:22; 2:15; 3:18 5:5 6:2; Rm 8:23; [Eph 1:14; 2:6]; Col 2:12; Rm 8:30; Phil 3:20), but still awaits its glorious consummation (1 Thes 4:17 etc.), with the parousia (1 Thes 4:15), the resurrection of the dead (1 Thes 4:16; 1 Cor 15:13-19), the judgement (2 Cor 5:10; Rm 2:6-11; 14:10) and the glory of the justified believer (Rm 8:18,21; 1 Thes 2:12).

In this schema, Paul is original in viewing Adam not as a glorious famous man of old (Sir 44:1while sin begins with Eve 25:24), but as the one who brought sin and death upon the whole human race (Rm 5:12; 3:9 etc.). In the drama of history stand (human being, Rm 7:1 = Rm 7:9), confronted by (sin) and (death, Rm 5:12). (law, Rm 7;1) only makes matters worse by pointing out the sin and not providing a remedy. Then enters (grace, Rm 5:21), through the new Adam (Rm 5:19), to save the situation.

The "crucified Christ" (1 Cor 1:17,23-24 etc.), the risen, glorious Christ who is Lord (2 Cor 4:4-5; 12:3 etc.) is the centre of Paul's "gospel" (a term used 48 times in his uncontested letters, 8 times in the Deutero-Paulines and 4 times in the Pastorals). Jesus is the pre-existent "son of God" (Phil 2:6; 2 Cor 8:9 etc.), the "Christ" (= Messiah, a title used 266 times in the uncontested letters alone), and "Lord" (1 Thes 4:6; 1 Cor 2:16; 3:20; 10:26; 14:21; Rm 4:8; 9:28,29; 11:3,34; 12:19; 15:11 etc. = Yahweh).

Christ died and rose to save humanity from sin and death (1 Cor 15:3; Rm 4;25; 5:6; 8: 34; 10:9-10; 14:15; Gal 1:4; 2:20; 3:13; 1 Cor 15:12,17,20-21; 2 Cor 5:14,21; 13:4; 1 Thes 4:14; 5:10; Phil 2:9-10). His death was a sacrifice to God for us (1 Cor 5:7; 1 Cor 11;24-25; Eph 5:2). He sends the Spirit to make us sons (Gal 4:6; Rm 8:14), giving us "justification" (Rm 4:25 etc.), "salvation" (1 Cor 1:18,21; 15:2; 2 Cor 2:15 etc.), "reconciliation" (Rm 5:10-11; 2 Cor 5:19; Col 1:20-22; Eph 2:11-19 etc.), "expiation" of sins (Rm 3:25; cf. Gal 1:4; 2:20), "redemption" (apolu,trwsij, 1 Cor 1:30; Rm 3:24; 8:19-23; 1 Cor 6:20; 7:23); cf. Col 1:14; Eph 1:7), "freedom" from sin, death, self, law (2 Cor 3:17; Rm 5-7 etc.), "sanctification" (1 Cor 1:30; 1 Thes 4:7 etc.), "transformation" (2 Cor 3:18; 4:6; Phil 3:21), being a "new creation" (Gal 6:15; 2 Cor 5:17) and "glorification" (8:30; 1 Thes 2;12; 1 Cor 2:7; Col 1:13; Eph 2:6 etc.).

Man responds to Christ's saving action by faith and love (see below). Initial acceptance of Christ is enacted in baptism, where one "puts on Christ" (Gal 3:27) and is "sanctified and made upright" (1 Cor 6;11), "buried with Christ" to sin and raised to a new life (Rm 6:4-5 etc.) and incorporated into the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13 etc.), which is the Church (Col 1:17; Eph 1:22-23). The union of Christians with the head and other members of Christ's body is nourished and strengthened by the celebration of the Lord's Supper, where Christ's own body and blood are really present (1 Cor 11:27) and his sacrificial death is proclaimed "until he comes" (1 Cor 11;26).

As Christ was "the image of God" (2 Cor 4:4), so human beings are destined to be "the image of the heavenly man" (1 Cor 15:49; cf. Rm 8:29). Growth in Christ is what Paul recommends to his readers. In this way the Christian lives his or her life "for God" (Gal 2:19). Thus, for all his emphasis on Christ, Paul once again refers Christian existence ultimately to the Father - through Christ.

Dual polarity of Christian life

There is a certain tension between Paul's theology and his ethics. On the one hand it may appear that the job is done and Christians have nothing more to do: They have become a "new creation" (Gal 6:15), in whom Christ really lives (Gal 2:20). They have been justified by grace through faith in Christ Jesus (Rm 3;24-25) so that they are no longer "under law, but under grace" (Rm 6:15). On the other hand action is stressed: Christians still have to be delivered "from the present wicked world" (Gal 1;14; cf. 1 Cor 7:26,29-31). You must "not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mental attitude so that you amy assess the will of God - what is good, pleasing to him and perfect" (Rm 12:2). Paul still tells the Christian who has experienced the effects of the Christ-event: "Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling" (Phil 2:12); "for we must all appear before Christ's judgment-seat so that each one may receive good or evil for what one has done in the body" (2 Cor 5:10). Yet Paul knows that "God is the one working in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13).

This dual polarity is why Paul insists that the Christian energized by the Spirit of God (Rm 8:14) can no longer sin or live a life bound by a merely natural earthly horizon (1 Cor 2:11). The material person (y`ucikoj,) does not welcome what comes from the Spirit, but the spiritual person is alive to everything, tests all things and holds on to what is good (1 Thes 5:19-22). Christians are free from sin, death and the self (Rm 6:7-11,14; 7:24- 8:2). But Paul vigorously rejects the idea that Christians should blatantly sin in order to give God more scope for his mercy and gracious justification (Rm 6:1; cf. 3:5-8).

The "law of Christ" (Gal 6:2) is a "law of love", in bearing one another's burdens (in a context of fraternal correction). Even more explicitly, Paul repeats commandments 5, 6 7 & 8 of the Decalogue, summing them up as "You must love your neighbour as yourself" (Rm 13:8-10); he concludes: "So love fully satisfies the law". This is "the law of the Spirit" (Rm 8:2), so that Christ has not simply substituted another legal code for the law of Moses. The "law of the Spirit" may be a reflection of Jer 31:33, but it is more likely that Paul coined the phrase to describe the Spirit's activity in terms of nomos, about which he had just been speaking. The Spirit's law of love is the new inner source and guide of the life by which a spiritual person lives. Yet it is to such spiritual persons that Paul addresses his exhortations to virtuous conduct.

Pauline ethics and theology

Patristic writers, medieval scholastics and Reformation and Post-Tridentine theologians had often used Paul's ethical teachings in treatises on moral theology, but it was only in 1868 that H. Ernesti made the first attempt to synthesize his ethics. He and other writers were preoccupied with the Reformation debate about justification by faith and freedom from the law.

Early in the 20th century A. Schweitzer tried to free the discussion of Paul's ethics from that perspective and emphasized rather Paul's eschatology, He therefore focused on Paul's teaching about the temporary nature of this life and Christians' share in Christ's dying and rising and living the life of the Spirit.

R. Bultmann, in 1924, reverted to the focus on forensic justification by faith and introduced a distinction between the Pauline indicative (you are a justified Christian) and the Pauline imperative (then live like a Christian: "Because the Christian is freed from sin through justification, he ought to wage war against sin." Yet the righteousness of the Christian is an eschatological phenomenon, since it does not depend on human accomplishment, oral or otherwise, but solely on the event of God's grace, an other-worldly phenomenon. This righteousness is not an "ethical" quality; it involves no change in the moral character of a human being. Faith is obedience, and human ethical acts do not bring about righteousness; they are rather expressions of the radical obedience to which humans are called.

Later C.H. Dodd (1927) introduced a distinction between kh,rugma and didach, which roughly corresponded for him to "theology" and "ethics", or to "gospel" and "law". A new age has dawned (realized eschatology), and Paul is the promulgator of its new law, a Christian pattern for conduct to which a Christian is obliged to conform, "the law of Christ" (Gal 6:2).

Reverting to an emphasis of A. Schweitzer, of H.D. Wendland and others, V.P. Furnish (1968) considered eschatology to be "the heuristic key" to Pauline theology, the lever to organize the other elements in his teaching, including the ethical. His understanding of Pauline eschatology differs from Schweitzer's and is nuanced enough to be acceptable. Certainly eschatology is important in Pauline ethics, yet it is not the heuristic key to the whole.

The best way to explain the relation of Paul's ethics to his theology, in my opinion, is to see the former as a detailed, concrete explanation of the love that is the way for Christian faith to work itself out. In other words, Gal 5:6 ("faith working itself out through love") again proves its importance in Pauline thinking, for it is the link between Pauline theology and ethics.

Faith and love

Paul's most elaborate treatment is found in Rom 10. The experience begins with a "hearing" (10:17) of the gospel or of the "word" about Christ and his salvific role. This hearing results in an assent of the mind, which acknowledges that "Jesus is Lord" in one's existence (10:9). It ends, however, as u`pokoh, pistewj, usually translated as "obedience of faith" (1:5; 16:26), but which really means "a hearing-under" and connotes for Paul the "submission" or the "commitment" of the whole person to God in Christ. "If with your lips you acknowledge that Jesus is Lord and with your heart you believe that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (10:9). Thus the faith that one is asked to put in God or Christ (1 Thes 4:14; 1 Cor 1:21-23; Rm 4:24) is not a mere intellectual assent to the proposition that "Jesus is Lord." It is a vital, personal commitment, engaging the whole person to Christ in all his or her relations with God, other human beings and the world. It is thus an awareness of the difference the lordship of Christ has made in human history. This awareness underlies the statement of Paul, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me; and even now the physical life I am living I live through faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me" (Gal 2:20). Such a faith far transcends the OT idea of fidelity. As u`pokoh,, it is a full acceptance of Christian dedication (Rm 6:16-17; 16:19), to the exclusion of all reliance on self or on what Paul calls "boasting" (3::27). The basis of this experience is a new union with God in Christ, an integrated Christian life that Paul envisages (Gal 2:20; 2 Cor 10:5).

Such faith is a gift of God, just as the whole salvific process (Rm 3:24-25; 6:14; 11:6; 12:3). This is the underlying notion of the whole discussion of Abraham's faith in Rm 4. The Deutero-Pauline passage of Eph 2:8 makes the idea explicit: "It is by Christ's favour that you have been saved through faith; and this does not come from you; it is the gift of God." But since God accosts a human being as a responsible person, that person can accept or reject his gracious call. Faith is thus only the acceptance or the response on the part of the human being who realizes that the initiative rests with God. The one who does not respond is regarded by Paul as disobedient and committed to "the god of this age" (2 Cor 4:4), hence culpable and "perishing".

In the polemical contexts in which Paul rejects the "deeds of the law" as a means to justification, he stresses that this justification comes through "faith" (Gal 2:16; Rm 3:28; cf. Phil 3:9). However, the full sense of that faith demands that the Christian manifest it in conduct through deeds of love. "In union with Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor the lack of it means anything, but only faith working itself out through love" (Gal 5:6). This is why Paul continually exhorts his Christian converts to the practice of all sorts of good deeds, why he includes a hortatory section in almost every one of his letters. Christian faith is not only a freedom from the law, from sin, and from the sa,rx-self, but also a freedom to serve others in love or charity (Gal 5:13). For Paul love (avga,ph) is an openness, an outgoing concern and respect of one person for another/others in concrete acts that result in the diminution of the lover's "self" (Phlm 9-12; Gal 5:13; Rm 12:9-13). It is a way of Christian life that is extraordinary (1 Cor 12:31), surpassing even all the charismatic manifestations of the Spirit. In 1 Cor 13 one finds Paul's praise of love in Christian life: its indispensability, its 11 characteristics (positive and negative), and its perdurance and superiority. But love is also for Paul the summation of the law (Rm 13:8-10; Gal 5:14). In other words, the person motivated by a faith that works itself out through love is not in reality concerned about "the deeds of the law", but finds himself or herself doing all that the law has required. In this way faith for Paul turns out to be more than a mere assent to monotheism (cf. Jas 2:14-26). The root of such love is the Spirit (Gal 5:22) and ultimately the love of the Father; for the "love of God" is poured out into our hearts (Rm 5:5; 8:28) and thus it is just as much a grace of God as faith itself. Such service of others is not accomplished without the activity of God in human beings: "God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil 2:13). This is why Paul formulated the hymn to the love of God made manifest in Christ Jesus (Rm 8:31-39) and speaks of the controlling love of Christ in Christian life (2 Cor 5:14)

Christian life and its demands

Paul's ethical teaching, in its specific and concrete recommendations, echoes at once his Pharisaic, Jewish background and his Hellenist background.

Ethical lists

In his uncontested letters Paul incorporates catalogues of virtues and vices that should or should not characterize Christian life (Gal 5:19-23; 1 Cor 5:10-11; 6:9-10; 2 Cor 6:6-7; 12:20; Rom 1:29-31; 13:13 [Col 3:5-8,12-14; Eph 5:3-5]). The eschatological reference in these catalogues is often evident: "People who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal 5:21). Since "kingdom of God" is hardly an operative element in Pauline teaching (occurring elsewhere only in 1 Thes 2:12; 1 Cor 4:20; 6:9-10; 15:24,50; Rm 14:17), the association of it with these catalogues seems to mark them as elements of pre-Pauline catechetical instruction, which he has inherited and made use of. These lists have been compared with similar ones found in Hellenistic (esp. Stoic) philosophical writings and in Palestinian Jewish texts (e.g. of the Essenes: 1 QS 4:2-6,9-11).

In the Deutero-Paulines (Col 3:18- 4:1; Eph 5:21- 6:9) and in the Pastoral Letters (1 Tim 2:8-15; Titus 2:1-10) one finds another literary list, which Luther called Haustafel ("domestic bulletin board"), for it lists the Christian obligations or duties of members of the household, the familia of the Greco-Roman world: husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and slaves. These lists show a Pauline disciple coping with social ethical problems of his day, although they list little more than generalities.


Conscience is the judgment of one's actions either in retrospect (as right or wrong) or in prospect (as a guide for proper activity). Paul's word for it is sunei,dhsij. it is related to "Mind" (Rm 7:23,25), but is best treated separately. It has no counterpart in the Hebrew OT or the Qumran literature, but enters Judaic tradition in the LXX (Job 27:6; Qoh 10:20; cf. Sir 42:18; Wis 17:10). The claim that it was derived by Paul from Stoic philosophy is debatable; more likely it is from the popular Hellenistic philosophy of his day. Initially denoted "consciousness" (of human activity in general); eventually it was applied to consciousness of moral aspects, at first as "bad conscience", then as "conscience" in general. Of the 30 NT occurrences, 14 are found in 1-2 Cor and rom (and 6 in the Pastorals); 1 Cor 8:7,10,12; 10:25,27,28,29; 2 Cor 1:12; 4:2;5:11; Rom 2:15; 9:1; 13:5.

Three passages are particularly important: (1) Rm 2:14-15, where Paul recognizes that by means of "conscience" Gentiles perform some of the prescriptions of the Mosaic law and are thus a "law" unto themselves. (2) 1 Cor 8:7-12, where Paul calls upon the Christian to respect the weak conscience of a fellow Christian troubled about eating food consecrated to idols. (3) 1 Cor 10:23-29, where Paul discusses a similar problem. In 2 Cor 1:12 Paul relates the conscience to the problem of boasting; in Rm 8:16; 9:1 he relates it to the gift of the Spirit. Paul's teaching on the subject has often been compared to that in later rabbinic texts about the "evil impulse" and "good impulse".

Natural law

Related to the question of "conscience" in Paul's teaching is that of natural law. A debate has arisen over Rm 2;14-15: "When Gentiles who do not have the law do by nature (fu,sei) what the law prescribes, they are a law (no,moj) to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the deed prescribed by the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them." The no,moj of v.14 has been related to "another law" or to "the law of my mind" in Rm 7:23, probably wrongly since the prime analogate there is the Mosaic law. In Rm 2:14 we have one of the figurative uses of no,moj. Though in 1 Cor 11:14 Paul does argue from "nature" (fu,sij), in Rm 2:14 he may merely be quoting a contention of others ("by nature"). Also in speaking of a law written on the heart, paul may only be echoing Jer 31:33 or Is 51:7. And so it is difficult to be certain about his view of the "natural law", an idea more at home in Greek philosophy. Perhaps the most that should be admitted is that the idea should be regarded as the fuller sense of Paul's teaching, in view of the patristic tradition about it.

Prayer and asceticism

These are prime considerations of Christian life, because one sees Paul himself not only engaged in them, but also speaking about them in a reflex manner. For Paul "prayer" is the explicit recollection of the Christian that one lives in the presence of God and has the duty of communing with him in adoration, praise, thanksgiving and supplication. Paul's letters are permeated with expressions of prayer; the formal thanksgiving in each letter, except Gal and 2 Cor, is an integral part of his writing - and not merely conformity with an epistolary custom. He prays sometimes for himself (1 Thes 3:11; 2 Cor 12:8-9), his converts (1 Thes 3:9-10,12-13; Phil 1:9-11; 2 Cor 13:7-9), his former coreligionists, the Jewish people (Rm 10:1). Paul often exhorts his readers to pray (1 Thes 5:16-18; Phil 4:6; Rm 12:11-12); it is the mark of the mature Christian disciple, who prays to God as Abba (Gal 4:1-6). The ground of Christian prayer is the Spirit (Rm 8:15-16,26-27), who aids Christians in praying, interceding on their behalf (8:28-30). Paul prays to the Father () through Christ and the Spirit (Rm 1:8; 7:25). Examples of his prayers: doxologies (2 cor 11:31; Phil 4:21; Rm 1:25; 11:33-36 [Eph 3:20-21]); intercessory petitions (1 Thes 3:11-13; 5:23-24); benedictional confessions (2 Cor 1:3-7 [Eph 1:3-14]); thanksgivings (1 Thes 1:3-4; Phil 1:3-11; 1 Cor 1:4-9; Rom 1:8-12). Paul even considered his preaching of the gospel a form of worship (Rm 15:16-17).

Linked to such prayer and worship is Paul's ascetical attitude. Though he never speaks of a;skhsij, he does regard evgkratei,a, "self-control, self-discipline", as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). This attitude is owing not simply to the imminence of the parousia (1 Cor 7:29-31), but to his view of life as a struggle (1 Thes 5:6-8; 2 Cor 10:3-4; 4:7-11 [suffering as a passive asceticism[) or as an athletic competition (Phil 3:12-14; 1 Cor 9:24-27, where the asceticism is active). Paul freely renounced his right to recompense for preaching the gospel (1 cor 9:1,4-18) lest he be tempted to boast. Specific forms of asceticism are recommended by him: the use of material abundance to help those in need (2 Cor 8:8-15); temporary abstinence from the marital act "to devote oneself to prayer" (1 Cor 7:5-6).

Marriage, celibacy and widowhood

Paul considers marriage, celibacy (or virginity) and widowhood, along with slavery and civic freedom, as conditions of life in which Christians find themselves. The principle that governs his view of them is expressed in 1 cor 7:17, "Let each one walk in the lot that the Lord has assigned to him and in which God has called him". 1 Cor 7 spells out various details of such ways of life. For Paul, both marriage and celibacy are God-given charisms (7:7). He recommends monogamous marriage, with its mutual rights and obligations, because "there is so much immorality" (pornei,a, 7:2) and because "it is better to marry than to burn [with passion]" (7:9). But Paul clearly recognizes the salvific character of marriage, the influence of one spouse on the other and on the children born of them (7:12,14-16), even when the marriage involves a Christian and a non-Christian. He repeats as a charge "from the Lord" the absolute prohibition of divorce (and subsequent marriage, 7:10-11). But in saying that "the wife should not separate from her husband", Paul's formulation is already adapted to a Greco-Roman setting, where divorce instituted by a woman was possible (cf. the Palestinian setting in the formulation of Luke 16:18). But when the marriage is "mixed" (i.e., between a Christian and a non-Christian), Paul - not the Lord - tolerates separation or divorce, if the two cannot live in peace (7:15), whence develops later the so-called Pauline privilege. In 1 Cor 7 Paul never tries to justify marriage in terms of a purpose of procreation; nor does he show any concern there for the Christian family. (This will be remedied by the Deutero-Paulines.) Paul echoes the contemporary view of women in the society of his day, when he speaks of the "husband" as "the head of the wife" (1 Cor 11:3; see further 11:7-12; 14:34-35 [probably a non-Pauline interpolation!]). But one has to recall that the same Paul writes in Gal 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."

(One finds in Eph 5:21-33 a different and somewhat more exalted view of Christian marriage. The author begins by asserting the mutual subjection of all "out of reverence for Christ". Then he immediately says, "Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord" [5:22] - a subordinate role of wives, echoing 1 cor 11:3, that is tempered by the instruction to husbands, "Love your wives" [5:25]. Here the author is trying to cope with the psychological difference between husbands and wives, as he insists on the mutual obligation that they have to each other. But he does it in the only - time-conditioned - way that he knows: the wife must be subject, and the husband must love. He never implies that the wife is an inferior being. As a model for the husband's love, he cites the love of Christ for the Church [5:25]. Finally, in quoting Gen 2:24, "For this reason a man leaves father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two become one flesh," the author reveals a "secret" (musth,rion) hidden in that verse of Gen centuries before, i.e. that the fundamental union of marriage established by God long ago was a prefigured "type" of the union of Christ and his Church. This view of the sublimity of marriage has coloured much of the Christian tradition throughout the centuries.)

As for celibacy, Paul states his preference gradually in 1 Cor 7. Celibacy is his own opinion, "not a command of the Lord' (7:25), even though he thinks that he is as attuned to the Spirit in this matter as anyone else (7:40). At first, there is no comparison, "It is good for a man not to touch a woman" (7:1); but his preference emerges in 7:7: "I wish that all were as I myself am". Again, "to the unmarried and the widows I say, It is good for them to remain as I am" (7:8). Paul gives two reasons for his preference: (1) "because of the impending distress" (7:26, i.e., the imminent parousia; cf. 7:29; 1 Thes 4:15,17; Rm 13:11); and (2) because one is thus freed from "worldly cares" (7:28) and "divided interests" (i.e., the concern for a husband or a wife) so that one can give "undivided devotion to the Lord" (7:32-35). Here a comparison between the married and the unmarried is implied, and Paul recommends celibacy in view of apostolic service. At the end of the chapter he introduces the comparison explicitly in the difficult passage about the marrying of one's "virgin" (daughter, ward, fiancée?): "the man who marries her does what is right, but he who does not does even better" (7:38). As for widows, Paul recognizes their right to marry again, but he judges that they will be happier if they remain widows.

Society, state and slavery

Paul recognizes differences both in human and in Christian society. he recognizes that both jews and Greeks have been called to be come children of god through faith and baptism and their oneness in the Church, the body of Christ. Though he does not obliterate all distinctions, he recognizes their lack of value in Christ Jesus. "By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, Jews or Greeks, slaves or free; and all were made to drink of the same Spirit" (1 cor 12:13; cf. Gal 3:28). Yet he can also say, "Let each one walk in the lot to which the Lord has assigned him...; everyone should remain in the state in which one was called" (1 Cor 7;17-20). Paul's basic attitude is expressed in 1 Cor 9;19-23: "I have become all things to al that I may save some." Hence he reckons with Jews and Greeks, slaves and free, men and women, rich and poor, married and celibate, the weak in conviction and the strong, those material and those spiritual in Christian society.

Paul is also aware that the Christian must live in civil and political society that is not wholly oriented to the same goals as the Christian community. Christians may in reality be citizens of another, a heavenly "commonwealth" (Phil 3:20), but they do have obligations of another sort in this earthly life. These Paul treats in Rm 13;1-7 and indirectly in 1 Cor 6:1-8; 2:6-8. Paul does not really have an "ethic" of the state or even a well-formulated systematic understanding of it. In Rm 13:1-7 Paul recognizes that Christians must "subject themselves to the authorities", most likely human state officials. Christians are to recognize their place in the structure of human society. Paul's motivating reasons are mainly three: (1) eschatological (the danger of facing "judgment" [13:2] and "wrath" [13:5]; (2) the dictate of "conscience" itself (13:5); and 3) "the [common] good" (13:4). For the same reasons Paul insists that Christians must no only "pay taxes" and "revenue" (13:6-7), but accord the authorities "honour" and "respect" (13:7). Underlying Paul's discussion is the conviction that "there is no authority except from God and those that exist have been set up by God" (13:1). In writing to the Romans, Paul is implicitly recognizing the God-given character of the authority of the Roman Empire in which he himself was living. The trouble with his teaching in this passage is that he never envisages the possibility that human authorities could be evil or do evil; it does no good to try to save Paul in this matter by invoking angelic authorities. His teaching is limited; and even his reference to "the [common] good" (13:4) can scarcely be invoked in defense of civil disobedience.

Lastly, Paul's counsel to slaves in 1 Cor 7:21-22 is always a difficult teaching to cope with. Paul did not seek to change the social system in which he lived. This is undoubtedly the reason why he returns the runaway slave Onesimus to his master Philemon (Phlm 8-20). Yet in the latter passage we may detect what he really thinks about the matter; for his sends Onesimus back as "more than a slave, as a 'brother'" (16), i.e., suggesting that Philemon recognize him as a fellow Christian, and possibly even hinting that he should emancipate him (though the latter is far from certain). Paul was in this instance more concerned with interiorizing the existing social situation than with changing it, realizing that even a slave in civil society could have freedom in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:28; cf. Col 3:22- 4:1; Eph 6:5-9).