Knowing the Future of your Role
Why is it important to Paul that his communities know how to locate themselves in the theological story? Because whatever role one plays, that role carries with it very concrete implications for the future. The story within which the members of the Apostle’s churches understand their existence extends beyond their present towards the eschatological consummation of God’s creation. So if Paul’s hearers can identify both where their present lies in the time line of the story and their own narrative role, they need only look at how that role fares further on in the story in order to know the kind of end they can expect to meet.
The stakes are high. Depending on what role they play in the story they will either be sheltered from wrath or left to bear its brunt in the coming judgment. Paul knows that because of the Corinthians’ faithfulness their “labor is not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:58), knows that one who raised Jesus will raise them as well (2 Cor. 4:14), and knows that if their earthly home is destroyed they have an eternal home in the heavens (2 Cor. 5:1). It is because the story provides such insights about the future of its various characters that Paul can rejoice in Phil. 1:19 and claim to know that his present sufferings will eventually result in “salvation”. Because he knows that “all things work together for good for those who love God,” those who are called,” the Apostle can assure the Romans who play this role that their future is secure (Rom. 8:28). On the other hand, those who act out the role of the “wicked,” who stand outside God’s saving action in Christ, will be excluded from the eschatological kingdom and face judgment instead (see, e.g., Rom 2:2; 1 Cor 6:9). The end which awaits human beings is entirely determined by the role which they play in the theological narrative.
Paul’s way of knowing
by: Ian W. Scott