Cruciformity: The Heart of Paul’s Experience of Christ
Paul was nothing if not someone overwhelmed by the love of God. He experienced the divine love, according to his letters, in Christ and by the working of the Spirit. In the visionary encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus Paul discovered a love that affirmed, deepened, and went beyond the love he already knew God had shown to Abraham and his Israelite descendants. In reflecting on this experience Paul felt ”taken over/apprehended/overwhelmed” by Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:12) and with awe exclaims, ”the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). This love became the driving force of Paul’s life when he came to understand how encompassing it was. Divine love experienced had to become divine love expressed.
What mattered most for Paul was not the experiences themselves, but what they meant for his life and the lives of others. Paul saw himself as a participant in and a continuation of the life-giving death of Christ Jesus, his Lord, that was narrated in the Gospel he preached and enacted in the worship of the communities he founded or with which he was involved. However, Paul does not limit this participatory experience in Christ’s death to himself and the other apostles. Paul makes it clear that conformity in the death of Christ—cruciformity–is for all believers.
Our Bible study this year will focus on Paul’s experience of Christ, his understanding of the experience, and what he thinks this means for all who follow Jesus as their Lord. Our study is a reflection on what it means for us to be ”in” Christ, ”with” Christ, ”according to” Christ, and ”for” Christ. We meet on the first and third Thursdays of the month.