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Frank Matera: God’s Saving Grace

Ch 3 Christ the Embodiment of God’s Saving Grace

The meaning of grace embodying Pauline theology divides this chapter’s theme into three areas. First, he unveils the identity of Christ. Titles such as Son of God, Christ/Messiah, and Lord confess Jesus as “God’s redemptive agent” (62) in salvation history. These titles for Christ summarize his preaching. Second, Matera investigates three hymn-like texts from Philippians 2:6-11, Colossians 1:15-20, and 1 Timothy 3:16. Jesus remains the consummation of God’s kingdom as he is likewise the firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15), proclaimed in his incarnation, and coming again (Tit. 2:13). Third, Christ is revealed as the eschatological Adam to the apostle on his Damascus road experience. In Jesus’ death, resurrection, and exaltation, Christ transcends life. Thus, God’s redemptive agent, Christ, remains rooted in Paul’s Damascus road experience.

Ch 4 The Saving Grace of Jesus Christ

Everything begins and ends with grace as humankind must make a decision to receive or reject it.

As grace is the unmerited favor of God to humankind, the apostle’s letters are laced with the grace of Jesus. Matera works through each epistle displaying the sinful plight of humans, yet affirming the grace of God for unredeemed humanity (1 Cor. 1:21). God’s redemptive work through Christ consummated God’s justification, reconciliation, and salvation. Thus, everything begins and ends with grace as humankind must make a decision to receive or reject it. Ultimately, grace leads to holy living as sanctification and glorification are discovered in Christ.

Ch 5 Living in the Community of God’s Saving Grace

Matera uncovers Paul’s soteriology and christology in the context of the community of the church, unpacking the apostle’s personal experience as a basis for his ecclesiology. The church as the local assembly (ἐκκλησία) is viewed within the confines of homes; hence, the church is not a building, but God’s people, called to declare the death and resurrection of Jesus. The author examines the meaning of the metaphor Body of Christ which constitutes the church, edifying God’s people. Spheres of ministry such as spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14; Rom. 12), and ministry offices (Eph. 4; 1 Tim.; Titus) are viewed as complementary, not separated. Matera writes that both the charismatic ministry and ministerial offices are ordained by God to lead the church in works of grace. Finally, he turns a different direction to Israel and the church. Both are called by God as an example before others and each one is a remnant, called as the eschatological people of God in the world. Thus, the apostle’s ecclesiology remains based in the saving grace of God and founded in God’s eschatological plan.

Ch 6 Living according to God’s Saving Grace

Both the charismatic ministry and ministerial offices are ordained by God to lead the church in works of grace.

In chapter six God’s grace informs Paul’s ethics. Grace infuses sanctification in the believer, which in turn directs one’s moral and ethical decisions. Matera divides the Pauline ethic into five areas: soteriological, Spirit-empowered, sacramental, love, and eschatological. The soteriological ethic is grounded on God’s redeeming work in Christ. He surveys the Pauline corpus unveiling the indicative, which positions “the pattern of Christ’s life as the pattern of the believer’s life” and the imperative, where “God is at work within believers so that they can work out their salvation”(161). The saving grace of Christ provides the power for a moral life. A Spirit-Empowered ethic connects “the indicative of salvation and the moral imperative” (162) Believers as free moral agents, by the power of the Spirit can live moral lives that please God. In essence, Matera adds that it is “a choice between living according to the flesh and living according to the Spirit” (168). Baptism and Eucharist are the sacramental symbols combining the indicative of salvation and moral imperative. Both sacraments establish believers in a morally good life. The sacramental ethic invites Christians to the transformational life that comes as a result of Jesus’ ethical teaching centered in the love ethic. As a result, Paul positions love as the action we must have for God and each other. God’s plan in salvation history exhorts believers in living holy lives until they see the day of the Lord. Thus, the parousia motivates believers to lives of virtuous moral conduct. These ethics are experienced individually and corporately as a believer encounters the saving grace of Christ.

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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), Ph.D. (Regent University), has served as a pastor with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) for 34 years and psychiatric chaplain for 32 years. He is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Biblical Studies in the Oral Roberts University College of Theology and Ministry. He has researched the growing Disciples of Christ churches in Puerto Rico and has an interest in the significance of the Stone-Campbell churches in American Christianity. His article, "My Church is a Mental Hospital" appeared in the Summer 2015 issue of Healing Line. He is the author of The Wisdom of the Cross and the Power of the Spirit in the Corinthian Church: Grounding Pneumatic Experiences and Renewal Studies in the Cross of Christ (Pickwick, 2018) and The Call: My Mission and Our Ministry at Trinity United Christian Church, Lower Burrell, PA (Word Association, 2019). Twitter: @cletus_hull, Facebook,

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