Paul’s authority in the Tradition of the Church is undisputed. He is also the most hated because of his uncompromising stand in defense of the Gospel. The Church has the Apostle Paul and the four Evangelists to thank for its confessional principles of interpretation. Paul's confessional approach to meaning is the single true approach, but it has many rivals today in the Western Church. Rival interpretive approaches have caused much confusion in the Church.
What is meant by Paul’s “confessional hermeneutic?” Clearly, what is not meant is “Reformed” apologetics. The Reformation came long after Paul and emerged out of an entirely different cultural context. A review of Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis reveals that Luther’s argument with Rome centered on his understanding of the Blood of Jesus. The Pope had claimed saving equality with the Blood of Jesus and this political claim overthrew the integrity of the Priesthood. This is what Luther disputed in the first eight of his thesis.
Disputation On The Power And Efficacy Of Indulgences Commonly Known As The 95 Theses, by Dr. Martin Luther.
“Out of love and concern for the truth, and with the object of eliciting it, the following heads will be the subject of a public discussion at Wittenberg under the presidency of the reverend father, Martin Luther, Augustinian, Master of Arts and Sacred Theology, and duly appointed Lecturer on these subjects in that place. He requests that whoever cannot be present personally to debate the matter orally will do so in absence in writing.
1. When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said "Repent", He called for the entire life of believers to be one of penitence.
2. The word cannot be properly understood as referring to the sacrament of penance, i.e. confession and satisfaction, as administered by the clergy.
3. Yet its meaning is not restricted to penitence in one's heart; for such penitence is null unless it produces outward signs in various mortifications of the flesh.
4. As long as hatred of self abides (i.e. true inward penitence) the penalty of sin abides, viz., until we enter the kingdom of heaven.
5. The Pope has neither the will nor the power to remit any penalties beyond those imposed either at his own discretion or by canon law.
6. The Pope himself cannot remit guilt, but only declare and confirm that it has been remitted by God; or, at most, he can remit it in cases reserved to his discretion. Except for these cases, the guilt remains untouched.
7. God never remits guilt to anyone without, at the same time, making humbly submissive to the priest, His representative.
8. The penitential canons apply only to men who are still alive, and, according to the canons themselves, none applies to the dead.”
It is not a coincidence that Martin Luther came to these conclusions from reading Paul’s Epistles.
What is the Pauline Confessional Hermeneutic?
Paul’s confessional hermeneutic is centered on the Blood of Jesus. He never allows philosophical speculation to lead the Gospel away from the comprehensive reality of the Blood of Jesus. All the things of God are realized in His Blood. All suffering, which many religions attempt to explain apart from Christ, or to avoid through asceticism and enlightenment, are made meaningful by His Blood. All worldly striving is shown to be futile by His Blood.
In Lutheran theology, this focus on the sacrifice of the Lamb of God is called “the centrality of the Cross.” Historically, the greatest strength of Lutheran theology has been this insistence on the centrality of the Cross. The deficiency is that the Cross is too often seen as bloodless, which is to miss the point. Or, the Cross itself is regarded as the vehicle of salvation, which also misses the point. Jesus’ death could have taken place in many ways. He could have been beheaded or driven through with a spear. He died on a cross in fulfillment of the prophecies that he would be hanged on a tree. Jesus’ Cross is the new Tree of Life, from which we were driven by our sin in the beginning. The shed Blood of Jesus must be regarded as “restorative”. By His Blood we are restored to Paradise and to the divine image. Referring to Moses lifting the staff with the serpent, Jesus tells his disciples, “When I be lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:34. Also see John 3:14.)
In a very real sense, the waters of baptism are Jesus’ Blood, which makes us clean. I first perceived this in a vision that I had in 1990 while sitting in church. Suddenly, everything around me disappeared except for the stone baptismal font, which had replaced the altar, front, center and elevated. An angel appeared above the font, and from a golden pitcher poured blood into the font. I knew that it was the Blood of Jesus and I slipped to my knees, overwhelmed by the presence of holiness.
Remembering that the Apostle Paul was thoroughly steeped in the Afro-Asiatic worldview, we must look there for an explanation as to how it is that blood can be both contaminating and purifying. Linguists are able to trace the linguistic connections between many languages in the Afro-Asiatic Dominion, which extended from West Africa to the Indus River Valley. Here is a significant finding: The Hebrew root "thr" = to be pure, corresponds to the Hausa/Hahm "toro" = clean, and to the Tamil "tiru" = holy. All are related to the proto-Dravidian "tor" = blood. Hausa and Hahm are languages of Nigeria and Tamil and Dravidian are languages of India. (See essay posted below.)
So it is that the Apostle Paul refers to the Blood of Jesus no less than twelve times in his writings. Because God makes peace with us through the Blood of the Cross, he urges “Take every care to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together” (Eph. 4:3). Paul's confession of the saving Blood of Jesus informs his understanding of Baptism and the Body of Christ. He continues: “There is one Body, one Spirit, just as one hope is the goal of your calling by God. There is one Lord, one Faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, over all, through all and within all” (Eph. 4:4-5).
The blood of the saints is precious to God because it is the Blood of His eternal Son, by which we are restored to union with God. "But now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far apart from us have been brought very close, by the blood of Christ. For He is peace between us, and has made the two into one and broken down the barrier which used to keep them apart, actually destroying in His own person the hostility caused by the rules and decrees of the Law. This was to create one single man in Himself out of the two of them and by restoring peace through the Cross, to unite them both in a single body and reconcile them with God. In His own person He killed the hostility... Through Him, both of us have in one Spirit our way to come to the Father" (Eph. 2:13-14).
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