The final chapter (10) of Michael Bird’s excellent book A Bird’s Eye View of Paul: the man, his mission and message, is ‘Gospelizing 101: Paul’s Spirituality’
Spirituality is a word that in contemporary language can mean almost anything. So what is Christian spirituality, and more specifically what was Paul’s spirituality?
Bird highlights two themes that stand out from his letters. They are shaped around the gospel since for Paul ‘the Christian life is the gospel-driven life’.
– God is a ‘God of the gospel’
– Christology is understanding ‘the man Jesus Christ’ (1 Tim 2:5) and the ‘gospel of Christ’
– Christian ethics is living ‘a life worthy of the gospel’
– the gift of the Spirit is fulfilment of the ‘promise of the gospel’
– apologetics is the ‘defence of the gospel’
– ecclesiology is the doctrine of the community of the gospelized
– missiology is the practice of gospelizing
– discipleship is the process of gospelization, ‘beginning to reflect in one’s life the realities that the gospel endeavours to create’
This gospel shaped life is supported by two pillars:
This is to be shaped in accord with the cross of Christ. Paul came to Corinth determined to preach nothing but ‘Jesus Christ and him crucified’. What this looks like in Christian spirituality is something like this:
– Foolishness of the cross, the paradox of Christian faith is that from death comes life
– Mutual forgiveness, forgive as you are forgiven
– Overflow with love in gratitude for the cross
– Pattern of life to follow, take up the cross and self-sacrificially live for others
– Seeking the kingdom not the world’s approval, the cross is counter-cultural
– Finding identity in the cross – ‘I no longer live’ but Christ lives in me.
In this sense believing the gospel is far more than assenting to mental set of propositions. Christian spirituality is manifested in actions – taking up the cross daily.
[or to be made alive by the power of Christ’s resurrection. C’mon, what sort of word is that?]
Bird makes an important point here. Too often evangelical theology has focused so much on the cross that it has neglected the resurrection. This has had some negative practical effects. The ‘gospel’ can be reduced down to solving our sin problem [see the earlier post on this]. It can also mean that there is a disconnect between the cross and empowerment for daily Christian living.
Seeing the resurrection as integral to the gospel has positive effects, namely;
– In the here and now Christians experience the life-giving power of the Spirit to live the Christian life.
– The resurrection imparts hope, a hope with real substance and foundation. The hope of the new age to come and the resurrection from the dead.
– the resurrection assures believers of God’s empowerment for all of life – and death
Overall verdict of this book?
Buy it. Read it.