The Crucial Pillars of the New Perspective

Going back to the original question, what is the gospel according to Paul? N. T. Wright has made a career out of answering this question. In his research, Wright has identified several crucial pillars that uphold Paul’s fundamental framework for doing theology. These pillars can be summed up in the three interrelated concepts of Covenant, Cross, and Kingdom. These three concepts form the outline of this book. Each chapter will analyze holiness in light of the greater, first-century, Judaic Pauline theological framework. While these concepts stand as separate points for organization of the content of this project, it’s absolutely crucial to note that they interconnect and overlap one another. This is simply unavoidable.

The Covenant

The concept of covenant is absolutely essential for Paul, as the New Perspective has effective demonstrated (and is certainly clear in Paul’s writing). In regard to extra-Pauline literature, the NT also accentuates the concept of convent as being central in understanding God’s World Renewal Project. But how did Paul understand the covenant as the major thread tying the work of Jesus together with God’s covenant with the people of Israel through Abraham? This is the essential question. The New Perspective, N. T. Wright especially, accentuates the single plan of salvation through Israel, as being one of, if not the central pillar, of Paul’s thought and theology.

So how does this impact Paul’s concept of holiness? As chapter one will illustrate, the covenant is the historical framework through which God’s world renewal project is manifest. The covenant is the means by which holiness becomes achievable. There is no call to holiness if there is no covenant. Paul stresses that holiness is covenant holiness for a covenant people. Holiness is what makes God’s corporate covenant people set apart from the world and from the old era of sin and death.

At the same time, the holiness of God is not only for God’s covenant people, but through God’s covenant people. As the chosen people of God take on the loving character of God through being members of the Messiah-Faith Covenant People (this is a term that will be explained in chapter one), their own holiness becomes the fuel for fulfilling the mission of God in the world. In much the same way that holy love drove Jesus to the cross for the salvation of the world, so the holy love of Jesus channeled through the Jesus-Faith Covenant People drives its own cross-bearing mission to continue God’s world renewal project. This very concept leads directly into the next two pillars: cross and kingdom (to come).

(this is an excerpt from a working manuscript titled Holiness in Fresh Perspective: Covenant, Cross and Kingdom. All Rights Reserved)


Matt Ayars

President of Wesley Biblical Seminary

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