How Did Paul Universalize Christ? Essay

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For centuries, the Jews had looked for a messiah who would liberate them from their captors. His advent had been foretold by the prophet Isaiah. The Jews distinguished themselves from the other nations by the strict observance of the “levitical” laws, most famous (or probably infamous) of which was the ritual circumcision of all Jewish males. The deliverance brought by the messiah was to be exclusively for the Jews, or so they thought. It was not for the uncircumcised or gentiles, derogatory names used to refer to the various non-Jewish peoples around them. In order to please Jehovah, their God, it was imperative that they kept themselves separate from the gentiles.
The arrival of Christ on the scene did not reach Jewish expectations, so while he was accepted by many as an influential prophet and teacher; he was largely rejected as the promised messiah. As a result, Christ’s ...view middle of the document...

During this time, he was instructed by Ananias and given a new mission which was to preach Christianity to the gentiles.
When his sight was restored, Paul embarked with renewed vigor on a series of missionary journeys to preach of Jesus the Christ and his resurrection to the gentiles. Dunbar (2003) attributes Paul’s ability to reach as vast and varied an audience as he did, to his tactic of preaching along common trade routes. At any rate, his extensive travels coupled with his message that Christ came to liberate all from the bondage of sin had widespread appeal. Some bible scholars suggest that the idea of liberation from bondage was especially attractive to those who were at the time under the bondage of the powerful Roman Empire.
Another aspect of Paul’s message that held universal appeal thus allowing him to reach the non-Jewish audiences was his teaching that while Jewish ceremonial laws had there place, strict adherence was not a prerequisite for salvation. Instead, salvation was available through grace, the unmerited favor of God himself. Hence, infant circumcision, animal sacrifices and the various rituals observed by Jews were no longer required. Also, one did not have to be born a Jew to receive grace and thus other nationalities such as Romans and Greeks could now also receive salvation. All that was needed was belief in Christ and faith in His saving grace. Needless to say, Paul’s message did not find favor with Jewish fundamentalist and he became a highly controversial figure.
Paul’s Journeys took him through Europe and Asia. He baptized many into the new faith and established churches wherever he went. He appointed bishops and deacons to administer the new congregations and before long, Christianity spread throughout the then known world and particularly Asia Minor. In fact, during the middle ages it was recognized as the official religion of the Roman Empire which pretty much dominated Europe, Asia and northern Africa. Today, Christianity in one form or another is one of the most popular religions around the world and its popularity is widely attributed to the missionary zeal and travels of Paul of Tarsus.

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