“Paul’s Message Was Not His Gospel” – Graham Twelftree

I’ve been reading segments of Graham Twelftree’s book Paul and the Miraculous. It is an amazing book and is a prime example of excellent scholarship. When my eyes caught the italicized sentence which is the headline of this post I was immediately intrigued. Here’s the passage from which our post title comes. Agree or disagree I think it bears some careful thought.

“Paul’s missionary message can be summarized thus: in Jesus, God sent his Son, who was killed on a cross for the sake of others; but he was raised to life, exalted to heaven, and is expected to return soon. It was important, therefore, to live ethically sound lives in anticipation of living with Jesus forever. However, Paul’s message was not his gospel.

The words Paul used to convey this information were not the good news he was bearing, even though words are used to describe the good news or to depict God. In the tradition of the prophets, he considered he was involved in presenting the power of God (cf. Rom. 1:16; Gal. 3:1-5). In defining the gospel in terms of ‘power of God’ (δύναμις γὰρ Θεοῦ, 1:16), Paul directly and closely associates the gospel with the miraculous.

From his letter to the Thessalonians it is clear Paul saw the gospel as an unhindered realization of the Spirit (1 Thess. 1:5; Rom 15:18-19), which for him, I argued, would have involved the whole range of the miraculous: not only miracles, but also charismata (e.g., 1 Cor. 12:4-11) and perhaps the so-called fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). From Galatians we see that the coming of the Spirit and the miraculous could be viewed as one and the same thing (3:1-5). From Romans we also see that Paul understood his gospel as (always) both word and deed, or salvation heard and experienced in proclamation and signs and wonders (Rom. 15:18-19). Or as he put it in the earliest letter we have, his gospel was word and power in the Spirit (1 Thess. 1:5).

This study has shown that the long-standing and widely held view, attributed in modern times to Bruno Bauer, that Paul thought he was waging war with the word alone is patently false. Paul reminds the Thessalonians that his gospel ‘did not come to you in word alone’ (1 Thess. 1:5). Writing to the Corinthians, he said his preaching, which he admitted was rhetorically unskilled, came in tandem with, or was demonstrated in, ‘the Spirit and of power’ (1 Cor. 2:4). In this, Gordon Fee is shown to be correct in supposing that Paul never would have imagined that the miraculous would not be part of the gospel, or that the gospel could come in either word or deed. Yet, W.D. Davies and Bernd Kollman are to be deemed incorrect in supposing that, for Paul, the miraculous was subordinate to, or side effects of, the message. Rather, for Paul, miracles, the realization of the presence of the Spirit, were an integral part of, as well as a demonstration of the origin and validity of, the message. The gospel was a composite expression of the audible and the tangible powerful presence of God. For Paul, no more could the gospel be proclaimed without words than it could come or be experienced without miracles. Without the miraculous, Paul may have had a message, be he would not have had a gospel. Without the miraculous, there was no gospel, only preaching.” (315-17)

Paul and the Miraculous


About Louis

I am a 1997 graduate of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
This entry was posted in Biblical Studies, New Releases. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Paul’s Message Was Not His Gospel” – Graham Twelftree

  1. J.W. Wartick says:

    This sounds like a really fascinating book, and it came out at a very appropriate time, given all this controversy with the “Strange Fire” Conference. Thanks for the discussion!


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