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Soteriology : NT Theology

For presentation before NT Theology lectures.

by Philip Yim Kwok Hung


  1. Bassler, J. M. ed. Pauline Theology Vol. I: Thess., Phil., Gal., Phil. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991.
  2. Dahl, Nils. A. "The Doctrine of Justification: Its Social Function and Implications," Studies in Paul. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1977.
  3. Keck, Leander E. Paul and his letters. Proclamation Comm. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988.
  4. Sanders, E. P. Paul and Palestinian Judaism. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1989.
  5. Ziesler, J.A. Pauline Christianity. Oxford: OUP, 1983. (see pp. 70-98)


Introduction: the Basic Elements of Judaism :

A. Salvation :

B. Liberation from

C. The means of liberation:

D. Death of Christ

E. Result of Death of Christ:



Introduction: the Basic Elements of Judaism :

Git = God (monotheistic) + Israel (God's people) + Torah (God-man relationship)

i.e. God <---> Torah <---> Israel

Christology Ecclesiology Soteriology / Pneumatology

Logic of the reflections on the Jewish System of thought:

God: Christophany in Damascus --> Who is Jesus ? Jesus resurrected ! Jesus as God.

Torah: Reception of HS in Damascus. Why JX has to die ? Why am I (Paul), a devoted Jews, fight against God (I commit to the law) ? What is the use of the law ?

Israel: If the law is not enough, we believe the Lord by grace through faith, then what is the sign of the people of God ? (not Torah!) Holy Spirit is the sign. (Acts 15:9; Rom. 8:16).

One Spirit; One Body of Christ ---> Unity in Christ ---> No distinction between Jews & Gentile.

Liberation from the following process:

wrath (of God) ---> reconciliation

flesh---> sin---> Law trying to stop---> powers controlling men---> death
Holy Spirit---> Justification---> Faith & Grace---> Redemption---> New Life

A. Salvation:

Def: The meaning is not always the same, but generally related to life under God and freedom from the powers which oppress humanity. Besides, Paul uses the word "save", mostly without any specific reference. Maybe, "the hopes for salvation" is a common phenomena which needs no explanation.


1. Hellenistic :--- they "wanted salvation (liberation: Gk. sothria ) from what inhibited their full enjoyment of life, most notably the fear of death and the sense of helplessness before fate."

2. Jewish: -- They wanted national freedom (from oppression under foreign nations) and their future as a people. This includes justice, prosperity, and well-being.

B. Liberation from

1. sin: Two aspects :

a) What we do by choices (Voluntary action) ---> our responsibility. (therefore, culpable)

The turning from God to not-God (creature; Rom 1:18-32 esp. 21,25,28 )

---> loss of freedom (Rom 1:21) "their foolish hearts were darkened" (NIV)

---> sin's propensity to multiply itself (downward spiral of self-propelling wickedness)

: sign of the wrath of God. [p.72] ("God gave them up..." (vv. 24,26,28)

N.B. Duality of sin: as a state (alienation from God) & a force. [p.73]

Possible Jewish background: "an Evil Impulse, which oppresses people and is always at war with the Good Impulse, thought the Torah could be fulfilled and was indeed a weapon against the Evil Impulse."

b) A power whose grip (firm grasp) we cannot escape simply by deciding to.

Sin is also an external enslaving power (Rom. 3:9; 6:6, 20; 7:14).

N.B. Sin (figuratively) as an independent agent (Rom. 5:21; 7:9,11,17-20).

According to Paul's experience, his zeal for the Law made him a persecutor of the church (Phil. 3:6; Gal. 1:13), something forced him to abandon Jewish idea on the power of sin and the Law.

N.B. The possibility of the existence of the "Universal Spiritual Field" which makes the state of Sin exercising the enslaving power. A field is impersonal and a state, but it exercises force on the "concrete" materials. It is started by something (here I mean Adam's Fall). And in the existence of this thing, it exerts constraining forces on other things without any other concrete means. (cf. Rom. 5:12-21)

2. flesh(sarx; sarx)

Paul contrasts between Spirit and flesh --> Paul's view of body-salvation --> Paul's understanding of Spirit, body and flesh affects his ethics.

General Observations:

a) Christology : Jesus-event ( a public figure) ---> pre-existence of Christ.

Pneumatology : an intensely personal experience which no one sees. (divine encounter)

---> Holy Spirit's works is related to a man's deepest life.

b) Now we fear of the Holy Spirit, because of the labels like charismatics, "spiritual healing."

i) In the NT no one receives the gift of the Spirit privately.

ii) Holy Spirit is "a divinely power", not a heightened human power. (cf. extra-ordinary power)

iii) Divine empowerment is a hallmark of the New Age.

c) Paul can be regarded as a prophet or as a charismatic figure. He had visions & ecstatic experience (1 Cor. 9:1; 14:18; 2 Cor. 12:1-4)

Paul's Use of "Spirit":

" The Corinthians was drifting toward what would later become full-blown, aggressive Christianized Gnosticism." Body is the trap for the divine spark inside, which forgets its nature and so forfeit its destiny. Therefore they are interested in "soul-salvation". (cf. Hinduism and the modern stress on the winning of the soul [dualistic].)

ecstasy = enthusiasm = divine visits or man's spirit leave the body to contact the divine.

The divine presence is a gift received, not an essence released (1 Cor. 2:12). the Corinthians seems to agree. God remains sovereign and the Giver; and "Spirit is field of force, a power structure in which the recipient operated as a subject in kingdom." 1 Cor 12 have some exegetical problems: the gender(meaning) of the word pneumatikoi. (the neuter meaning is spiritual things.) The saying 'Jesus is cursed' is found in the Corinthians Christians?

Paul's Use of "flesh"

Meanings of sarx(sarx) in 1 Corinthians:

1) the physical stuff of which we are made:-- 1 Cor. 6:16; 15:39; 2 Cor. 7:1).

2) with a pejorative (deprecatory) sense : -- 1 Cor. 3:1,3; 2 Cor. 5:16). In detail, Keck says,

"...sarx is not identical with soma, body, nor is the substance of the body. Rather, like Spirit, flesh is a domain of power, a sphere of influence in which one lives."

Paul's understanding is rooted in the OT, where flesh means the whole self vis-a-vis the divine.

e.g. Isa. 40:5,6 "all flesh" means all humanity. Isa. 31:3 says, "The Egyptians are men and not God;"

Contrast of Flesh with Spirit in Gal. may have the following background:--

a) Circumcision was sometimes called 'the covenant in the flesh' (Ecclus. 44:20).

b) Spirit =New Age & Flesh =Old Age (two aeons) : as in the Qumran Scrolls. ( IQS 4,11)

c) LXX translate Hebrew basar (may means human weakness Vs divine strength) into sarx.

Since his emphasis on freedom may leads to libertinism (i.e. doing what pleases us), Paul warned that the x'ns who live under the Spirit will breed righteous life, not immortality. Hence, he also cited a lot of social virtues as examples.

In short, Paul's dualism of sarx-Spirit, is not a body-soul, but life under God - life under non-god.

Ziesler suggests Paul's development of sarx: Phil. 3:3f ---> Romans (fullest expression).

2 Cor. 10:2f --- bodily life (ethically neutral) or life submitting to standards other than God.

Rom. 8:53---- fleshly life = set the mind on the flesh = to be in the flesh.

Paul uses flesh to means transient character of life. (2 Cor 12:7; Gal. 4:13; Phil. 1:23)

Paul interpret flesh in contrast to the Spirit, but NOT the visa versa.

Body Resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13-17: Paul doesn't interest in the Resurrected Body.)

Body is for the Lord, not immortality (1 Cor. 6;12-20).

Corinthians: I am free to do anything (marry his stepmother 1 Cor. 5:1-2)

I don't contact any woman. ( 1 Cor. 7 : marriage) Sex is a powerful drive, which is not neutralized by the Spirit. Sex within marriage ( 1 Cor. 7:3-6).

3. Law: -- the Law is good (Gal 7:12; Rom 7:7), but we must be freed from it; because ...

a) Its function as a guardian is over, since Christ has come. (Gal. 3:21-6; 4:5)

b) It has been perverted by sarx (Rom 8:3) which exploited it to bring death (7:8,11). i.e. Law's misuse. But Paul doesn't explain what is the misuse.

4. wrath(orgh) :--meaning disputed; but certainly not a divine emotion like a loss of temper. C.H. Dodd's suggestion: God's wrath is the painful consequence of sin. Evidences: the verb 'to be angry' is never used with God as subject; "the wrath" often occurs, only 3 times "of God" are added. (Rom. 1:18; Col. 3:6; Eph. 5:6).


a) It fits some passages only. eg. Yahweh will judge men at the Day of Judgment.

b) Jews don't live up to the Law, also incur orgh; (Rom. 2:1-24; 4:15) like the Gentile who live in sinful life (Rom. 1:18-32).

5. the powers:

-- "Christ delivers from bondage to the celestial or infernal (hell) powers (Rom. 8:37-9; 1Cor. 15:24-7; Gal. 4:3-7; cf. Col. 2:14f; Eph. 1:21f). In Gal. 4:3-7 & Col. 2:14f, the Law, appears to be classed as such a power." "This deliverance is present (Gal. 4 and Col. 2) but also future (Rom. 8 and 1 Cor. 15)." [quoted in Ziesler p.80]


6. Death

6. Death: Death with repentance can atones for sin was developed after the destruction of the Temple.

According to the Rabbis, Adam's sin was frequently thond Christ is taken as "corporal".


C. The means of liberation:

1. faith and grace: faith (Gk.: pistis, cognate with the verb pisteuo, "believe")


a) as a body of beliefs (Gal. 1:23; 6:10)

b) faithfulness (Rom. 3:3)

c)grasping what God offers, as saying 'Yes' to his gracious approach. [Ziesler p.80]

only meaning c) concerns us in this discussion. (This is no kind of work. Rom. 4:1-6) grace: (charis) It goes hand in hand with faith. God's grace + faith (accept X + [obedience]committed to X: Gal. 2:20; Phil. 3:9)

2. reconciliation and redemption [corresponds to duality of sin]

reconciliation: human responsibility of sin. one-sided or two-sided? Rom. 5:10f : X's death makes reconciliation possible. 2 Cor. 5:18-20: human are reconciled to God. Therefore one-sided! redemption: human inability in sin. meaning: liberation from bondage. 3 words used: exagorazo : Gal. 3:13 & 4:5 lutroo : Tit. 2:14 [from slavery to freedom] apolutrosis : Rom. 3:24; 8:24; 1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7, 14; 4:30. [slave-->free] All basically denote transfer from one ownership to another LXX: lutr- is the root used for Israel's deliverance from slavery in Egypt. Paul doesn't refer to any price. (except 1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23, not using this root!) Who is the price paid to is unknown? Christ frees men from the Law, sin; and gives them freedom of life with God.

3. justification

"the verb 'justify' (the noun 'justification' is rare, occurring only in Rom. 4:25 and 5:18) is to do with the restoration of relationship and not the establishment of a new character."

declare righteous > make righteous.

LXX: 'justify' (dikaioo) for the Hebrew verb sdk shows that the legal or forensic reference is only one among several. for Paul, it means the act of restoring people to their proper relationship with God. [Close to forgiveness, which equated in Rom. 4:6-8]

Rom. 1:17 justification ---> righteousness of God.


D. Death of Christ

1. Meaning of the act: sacrificial death (Christ's Act)

Jesus-event has a salvific meaning. (1 Cor. 2:2) The Cross and resurrection are closely connected, hence 1 Thess. 1:10 (and Rom. 10:9) only mentions Jesus' resurrection.

In 1 Cor. 15:3-11, Paul has emphasized the salvific meaning of Jesus' death which is unthinkable in Jewish Messianic expectation. The passage uses the passive form "was raised" to reflect a theocentric view.

In Rom. 3:24-26, the word hilasthion may means "mercy seat" or expiation.

expiation: expunges, takes away sin. propitiation: dissolves hostility by placating the aggrieved.

[God gave him over to death (Rom. 4:25) = Christ gave himself to death (Gal. 1:4, 20)]

Jesus has not just died for our past transgression, but also delivered x'ns from the evil aeon.

Why the sacrificial death is connected to forgiveness of sins ? Possible logic:

a) God's resurrecting Jesus vindicates Jesus.

b) Believers know they are rightly related to God.

c) It is God's plan.

d) New relationship --> resurrection ---> Jesus' death ---> God's means

e) New relationship reflects God's love ---> Christ's death is an act of God's love.

f) Consequently "Christ died for our sins". (1 Cor. 15 & Rom. 5:8)

[ see also Arland J. Hultgren, Christ and His Benefits, 47-57.]

2. Meaning for Christians: dying and rising (Christian's participation in it: Rom 6:10f)

"Christ has not died instead of us, but to enable us to die, just as he rose to enable us to rise (1 Cor. 15:22; 2 Cor. 5:15)" [p.98]

Baptism : as an act of dying with Christ. (Rom. 6:3)

In 1 Cor. 1:14-17, Paul may not know the tradition in Matt. 28:16-20, which Jesus commanded to baptize with a specified (triune) formula, which is a later development.

Baptism, which may be derived from John the Baptist, functioned like a marked entry to the x'n community (by immersion). Baptism of the whole family, including infants, is connected to the reception of Holy Spirit; hence this action had some power in it.

In Rom. 5:12-21, Adam and Christ is taken as "corporate persons"; they are in fact representing the "objective" transference into a domain of power. (i.e. under X, or Adam).

participation in X's death: present. (without the post-existent glory).

participation in X's resurrection: future. (NOT by baptism!) Rom. 6:8 There is a calendar too.

Corinthian x'ns may infer that they have participated in resurrection. In 1 Cor. 10:1-3, Paul uses that Israelites, who baptized into Moses in the sea, actually died in desert of their sins !


E. Result of Death of Christ:

1. The new life : that is stronger than death (p.97)

2. The new righteousness : that is stronger than sin (p.97)


@The whole picture is clear and it is easier to be shown in a diagram as follows: (will be added later.)




  1. Ziesler states this analysis in p.70. He cites 1 Thess. 5:8-10; Rom. 5:9 to support this.
  2. see also Ziersler p.70.
  3. quoted from Ziersler p.70. (italics mine)
  4. quoted in Ziesler p.73.
  5. Keck pp.95-96.
  6. quoted in Keck p.96.
  7. quoted in Keck p.98. Keck takes "Spirit is field of force" as a metaphor, but I think that the Holy Spirit is the provisoner of the Universial Spiritual Field.
  8. Ziesler p.74.
  9. quoted in Keck p.100.
  10. Ziesler p.75.
  11. Ziesler p.76.
  12. Kech p.101.
  13. quoted in Ziesler p.79.
  14. Ziesler p.82.
  15. quoted in Ziesler p.84.
  16. Keck p.36.
  17. Keck p.37.
  18. Sanders p.464-5.
  19. Keck p.55.
  20. Keck p.57.
  21. Sanders p.448.
  22. Sanders p.173.
  23. Sanders p.173 footnote 128.
  24. Sanders p.174.