Paul famously declared that Christ Jesus came to save sinners, adding “Of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15). Paul qualifies as chief of sinners because he was a “blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor” (v. 13). That Jesus would save this sinner is a demonstration of His “perfect patience,” so that Paul becomes a type or pattern (hupotuposis) of the grace of Christ. Other sinners take heart from the fact that Jesus saves even Paul.
Paul, though, means this in a more specific sense. He is not only a type of sinner-saved, but specifically a type of Jewish-blasphemer-and-persecutor-saved. Sinners in general can take heart from Paul’s deliverance; Jews who rejected their Messiah can also find hope in Paul’s salvation. To turn it around: Paul finds hope for Jews in his own experience. He is part of the firstfruits of the harvest of Israel. More: What happened to him is a pattern or type of what will happen to Israel. “All Israel shall be saved” is not some strange appendix to Paul’s gospel. It’s the basic meaning of his conversion.
It’s also worth noting that Paul is aware of the fact that his life functions typologically. He knows that his conversion from blasphemer to apostle sets a pattern for others, and he preaches so that his life experience can be replicated in Israel as a people. If Paul was aware of being a type, isn’t it possible, even likely, that others in Israel’s history recognized the same thing about themselves?
posted by Peter J. Leithart on Thursday, May 31, 2012 at 4:00 am
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