Development of Christianity: Teachings of Paul of Tarsus

Paul of Tarsus is a significant figure that has contributed immensely to both the expression and development of Christianity. His contributions would be displayed in two forms, his preaching, and his epistles. He ventured on three missionaries in which he would preach about Christianity not only to Jews, as had been previously done by the disciples, but also to gentiles, effectively making Christianity into the dominant religion it is today. His epistles would also have an enduring effect to this day on the modern views in which adherents abide by in terms of the sacraments, namely baptism, and eucharist. Furthermore, it is through both his preaching and his letters in which we gain a more comprehensive understanding of Jesus Christ and his teachings. Thus, Paul's contributions have persisted throughout time all the way to modern Christianity in ways that affect the contemporary lives of adherents.

Paul effectively shifted Christianity from an exclusive religion into a universal and inclusive one that was able to forge itself into something more than just a Jewish sect. This was through his belief that it was through the internal faith one had rather than the external actions that one showed that defined a follower. Paul at the council of Jerusalem argued to Peter and James that those who wished to be followers of Jesus need not follow the strict Jewish laws such as circumcision and strict dietary requirements, for it was through the circumcision of the heart that signified the faith of a follower, as stated within Romans 2:29 “real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal” Moreover, he expresses that God's people are not just the Jews as seen in Romans 10:12, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him.” This was extremely effective in creating the early Christian communities within the Greek-speaking, Hellenic regions and gave Christianity the needed growth in order to reach its status as a worldwide religion. Therefore, it is through Paul's ideology of justification through faith rather than action and his belief that all people are equal in the eyes of God, that gave way to the contemporary reach of Christianity.

Another core contribution that Paul had to Christianity is his teachings regarding the sacraments of baptism and eucharist which affects adherents' understanding of the sacraments to this day. Paul stresses to a significant degree the importance of baptism as a ritual that identifies a Christian just like how circumcision signifies a Jew. Within Colossians 2:12 he says, “when you were buried with him in baptism, you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Here, Paul proclaims that baptism is done by the hands of Christ himself and how baptism is like spiritual surgery that unionizes adherents with Christ so that they can accomplish a ‘fullness in Christ’. Paul expands on this further within Romans 6:4-7 “we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. … We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin.” Paul conveys that baptism is necessary in order to be united with Christ in heaven and that in order for sins to be cleansed, baptism is required. This teaching by Paul has also been extended by fundamentalists in order to justify full immersion baptism as the specific terms, ‘buried’ and ‘raised’ implicate that the body must be immersed within the water and then raised from it. Similarly, Paul’s teachings around the eucharist have had lasting effects to adherents of today through the faith in the transubstantiation of the body of Christ as evident in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Paul teaches that the bread and wine during Eucharist are the literal body and blood of Christ and this quote by Paul has been used to reinforce Catholics' belief of the transubstantiation of the body and blood of Christ. Thus, Paul’s teachings around the sacraments allow Chrisitinaity to be a more living religion as adherents renew themselves with the practice of baptism and partake in the liturgy of the eucharist.

Paul through his preachings and his epistles communicates a more succinct understanding of Christ and his message and also strengthens this through his emphasis on the concept of agape love. It is through Paul that Jesus’ message of salvation becomes concise as he conveys that it is through faith in which adherents can achieve salvation. This is evident in Ephesians 2:8- 9, “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.” This has had a consequential and far-reaching impact as seen through its influence on Martin Luther who would utilize Paul’s teachings of faith and salvation in order to begin the reformation of the catholic church. Luther’s influence on the Christian world as a result of Paul’s teachings would come to create the Protestants which would become the second-largest Christian denomination in the world. Additionally, Paul expands on how adherents can express their faith through agape, the highest form of love. Demonstrated within 1 Cor. 13:4-5“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude” Paul emphasizes on the fact that love does not function for the good of a single individual but for a common collective and this perfectly parallels Jesus' commandment of love. This has perpetuated through time as modern Christianity adopts agape love within its own teachings in order to provide adherents a means to live a better life modeled by Jesus.

Overall, St Paul’s has made a profound and substantial contribution to the expression and development of Christianity. His contributions laid the foundation for the growth of Christianity as a worldwide religion and without him, Christianity would not be what it is today. His open approach to accepting gentiles would become one of the most crucial steps in achieving the early growth of Christianity. While his epistles and preaching would impact the way in which the Christian denominations forge their beliefs thousands of years later on such as through Catholics’ belief in the transubstantiation of the eucharist and the formation of the Protestants.   

07 July 2022
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