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Frank Matera: God’s Saving Grace

Frank J. Matera, God’s Saving Grace: A Pauline Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012), 283 pages, ISBN 9780802867476.

In Frank Matera’s God’s Saving Grace: A Pauline Theology the author considers with careful and solid scholarship the totality of Paul’s themes in the canonical thirteen letters of scripture. Matera, a Roman Catholic and professor of Biblical Studies at Catholic University of America, Washington D.C., speaks as a scholar who studied Reformation teaching. He recaptures Pauline theology, succinctly unwrapping the apostle’s original framework concerning salvation in Jesus Christ. Utilizing Paul’s conversion experience and call, he builds a case that the grace of God remains the foundation for the apostle’s soteriology. In Ephesians 2:8-9 (NRSV) he states “for by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God-not the result of works, so that no one may boast.” Matera writes, Paul “no longer knows God except in Christ;”(248) therefore, there is nothing that sustains him but Christ alone. Again, he continues, “once the mystery of God’s redemptive plan has been revealed, however, it is clear that there has always been one plan, which is revealed in Christ”(248). Through the motif of the saving grace of Jesus, Matera outlines the meaning of salvation and redemption in his book.

Ch 1 A Pauline Theology of God’s Grace

Pauline theology, whether christology, pneumatology or eschatology is centered in the saving grace of God through the cross of Jesus.

Pauline theology, whether christology, pneumatology or eschatology is centered in the saving grace of God through the cross of Jesus. Searching for the historical Paul in both Acts and his thirteen epistles, Matera reveals a difference between a theology of Paul and a Pauline theology. A Theology of Paul “seeks to clarify and synthesize the theology of the historical figure Paul” (2), and A Pauline theology “seeks to clarify and synthesize the theology embedded in the thirteen canonical Pauline letters” (3) Thus, the purpose of Matera’s book is a Pauline Theology, unpacking Paul’s interpretation of Jesus’ mission.

Ch 2 Paul’s Experience of God’s Saving Grace

Paul’s calling and apostleship is grounded in the Damascus Road christophany (Acts 9) where he encountered with Christ. In Gal. 1:13-2:21, the apostle’s autobiography divulges this defining moment of his life. Matera indicates that a number of his letters commence with the launching of his apostleship by “the will of God” (1 Cor. 1:1). Paul defends his ministry with the Damascus christophany as his conversion was both a transformation and calling in one event. As Matera examines each of the three accounts of his christophany recorded in Acts 9, 22, 26, he writes that Paul’s commission was of divine origin, built on the kerygma of the cross of Christ (1 Cor. 1:18). Hence, he observes “Paul’s call, his gospel, and his apostleship are intimately related to each other” (42). Matera’s Pauline theology, is established in the Damascus Road christophany, and in that momentous event, Christ became the focus of the apostle’s life.

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Category: Biblical Studies, Fall 2016

About the Author: Cletus L. Hull, III, M.Div. (Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry), D.Min. (Fuller Theological Seminary), is presently a Ph.D. (ABD) student at Regent University. He has served as a pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for 29 years and psychiatric chaplain for 27 years. He also teaches courses in New Testament at Biblical Life Institute in Freeport, Pennsylvania. His article, "My Church is a Mental Hospital" appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Healing Line. Twitter: @cletus_hull, Facebook, cletushull.com

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