Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God– Part Fifty Five

The rest of the discussion of the Galatians material is basically just a re-run so we will move on to the discussion of 1 Corinthians which begins on p.976. Tom will argue in regard to judgments made now in the church, that it is bringing forward the final judgment into the present, just as he has argued that initial justification is the bringing forward of final justification into the present. The discussion kicks into high gear on p. 977. He draws on an analogy and says we have the same picture here in 1 Cor. 4.1ff. as we find in Romans 2.16. The secret of all hearts will be unveiled and God will be praised. Here is how he puts the matter on p, 978, referring also to the matter under discussion in 1 Cor. 6 as well—- “Faced with flagrant scandal the church must do in the present among its own membership what the one God will do in the future in relation to the rest of the world.” The church discipline now is seen as a kind of anticipated eschatology “lodged between the judgment already passed by Paul and the verdict that will come on the last day. The problem with this whole approach becomes clear in 1 Cor. 5.5— Paul says judge them now so they will be saved later. In other words, the judgment now is disciplinary not final, and therefore does not foreshadow final judgment, rather it forestalls it, hopefully, if we are talking about the particular case under discussion. The point then is not to bring the future judgment into the present at all, rather we are talking about a wake up call, which is a different matter altogether. Hays is more nearly right when he says “where the church exercises such disciplinary judgment, God’s judgment is averted, where the church fails to exercise such judgment God intervenes to prevent them falling under final condemnation” (quoted in note 569).

Tom is right that Paul does refer to Christians participating in the judging of angels and others at the final judgment, a different matter once again.

On p. 981, we have further problematic interpretation. Tom renders 2 Cor. 3 in the key verse “It is quite plain that you are a letter from the Messiah with us as the messengers, a letter written on tablets of beating hearts” which is close enough, but then he proceeds to suggest that instead of the Corinthians BEING the letter which is what Paul says, that they merely have the letter from Christ written on their hearts.

Much nearer the mark is p. 982 where Paul says that the contrast between letter and spirit is not in 2 Cor. 3 a matter of hermeneutics (literal vs. spiritual or figurative interpretation of the OT), nor is it a contrast between thought and feeling or rationality and experience, nor is it a contrast between the letter and the spirit of the law. Tom is right that “He is talking about the difference between the Mosaic law which being engraved on stone tablets is unable to change the hearts of the hearers and the Holy Spirit unleashed through the preaching of the good news about Jesus the messiah transforming the hearts of the hearers so they are now different people.” Exactly. But there is also here a clear contrast between the Mosaic and the new covenant, the ministry of Moses which is obsolescent and the ministry of Paul which is ‘of the Spirit’.

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