The Pauline corpus is nearly a treatise of Christian mysticism. Of course here when we speak of mysticism we do not speak of magic and fairies, but rather the personal encounter with the Divine that one may experience through sacred ritual and revelation. This is not to say that Paul invents this mysticism, but rather Paul, like no other New Testament writer, expresses it. It is Paul that teaches us that the baptized “put on Christ.” That it is through the bread and wine of the Eucharistic feast that we become “one body” and participate in the Divine office of priesthood. If one takes an objective look at Christianity, particularly that which is expressed by Paul, one would have to admit that it is mystical – and this from first to last.

An exhaustive treaty of the Christian mysteries is beyond the scope of this article, but it is a needed concept to introduce the point of this article. This being a text that I would contend is the cornerstone of Pauline mysticism and theology. This text is Galatians 3:16:

16The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say, “and to seeds,” meaning many, but“and to your seed,” meaning One, who is Christ.

While this passage is quite straight forward in its wording, it is often overlooked in its meaning. Paul does not mince words. The seed to whom all the promises were spoken was not the “many” but rather the “one”. Least the point is missed he clarifies “and to Thy Seed – which is Christ.” This a profound and, again, mystical statement. It is profound because it captures and defines essential terms that relate to prophecy and the nature of God’s Covenant with Israel. Whatever promise might have been extended to Abraham, Paul posits, were given to one singular individual – Christ. This one point is so utterly important that the rest of Pauline theology rests upon it. Paul consistently argues several points throughout his epistles. He argues that all of Israel had sinned and fell short of God’s glory. In the opening of Romans, in fact, he shows that both Jew (those who had received the Law and Covenant) and Gentiles, those outside of the Covenant, had sinned. He speaks specifically to “the Jew” in this epistle. His point: that “all have sinned” and that “none is good, no not one.”

The above Pauline contention is important because it essentially disqualifies the entire people from receiving the blessing promised to Abraham, and the inheritance of the Prophets. A sinning Israel cannot be blessed with Abraham. Yet they had sinned, and sinned to the fullest. Crucifying the very “Lord of Glory” and demanding that the blood of the Just One be exacted upon them. Israel, according to Paul, was not just disqualified, they were in line for the most severe of judgments. This is not a lone sentiment from Paul, it was the commissioned Apostolic warning from the beginning:

“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross…Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Here Peter preaches the message at Pentecost, and this is the tenor of the Apostolic preaching which the Jews claimed was intended bring the guiltiness of blood upon them:

“We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name,” he said. “Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and are determined to make us guilty of this man’s blood.” Acts 5:28

Christ Himself proclaims that the present generation was “guilty of all the righteous blood shed”. Why? Because they would kill the Just One and bring condemnation upon themselves through unbelief. It is to this Paul speaks in Romans 11 when he says says “God did not spare the natural branches”, he adds that they were “they were broken off because of unbelief.”

Therein lies the dilemma, the tension, of Pauline mysticism. The entirety of God’s Covenant with Abraham, a Covenant that was promised to bless all people, was in jeopardy. There was only one obedient Son of Abraham, and only one of his descendants worthy to inherit the promise. Paul says:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. Gal 3:16

The entire Covenant and promise of God to Abraham came to one obedient Son – and they killed Him:

Finally, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38 But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and take his inheritance!’ Matt 21:37

What a dark day when they laid the hope of Israel and all mankind in a tomb and covered Him with a stone. The promise was crucified and buried. Yet, God’s Word cannot be bound – death could not hold Him. On the third day Christ rose again and Israel rose from death with Him:

“He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day,That we may live before Him. Hosea 6:2

Christ is the true heir, the one Seed of Promise. Risen from death and forevermore alive. Israel has risen in Christ. The branches had been broken away, but just as Aaron’s rod, that which was dead sprung to life:

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. Isaiah 11:1

Israel is risen in Christ, the Covenant is established forever because he lives forever. Yet we hear the cry of the ancient prophecy “who will declare His generation, seeing that He is cut off from the living”? Yet even in the prophecy we are promised that “he will see his offspring and prolong his days.” How would Christ have any offspring having been crucified and never having any biological offspring? We are given a clue in the Petrine epistle:

For you have been born again,not of perishable seed,but of imperishable,through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:23

Here we see a concept of progeny that has nothing to do with biology. A lineage that is not dependent upon corruptible seed, but rather on the “enduring word of God.” Paul confirms this in Romans 4:

 

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not. Rom 4:16,17

Here Paul declares the offspring of Abraham to be those who are of the faith of Abraham. Notice that Paul asserts that “God gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” This reminds us of the words of John the Baptist:

 

9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. Matt 3:9

God may call those things that are not as though they were. God may speak life to that which is dead. God may raise up from the stones children unto Abraham. Not only does God not need corruptible, biological seed, Peter tells us that this is emphatically not how we are born into God’s family. We are born again through the abiding word of God – the declaration of God. Paul quotes the Old Prophecy:

25As He says in Hosea: “I will call them My people who are not My people, and I will call her My beloved who is not My beloved,” and, “It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” Rom 9:25,26

We are here reminded of the words of Mary when she asks “how shall these things be seeing that I know not a man?” The angel replies “the Holy Spirit shall come upon you.” Surely this is the tone to which all the Gospel and Covenant is sung. “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” Paul contends. This promise would not be through human will and sexuality, it would be by the power of the Holy Spirit.

We should be convinced that God, who gives life to the dead, could give life to those dead in sins. Particularly Israel who had been cut off from the Covenant for their sins; culminating in crucifying the very Christ. Israel was dead in sin beyond doubt, but God was able to raise them from the dead:

12And having been buried with Him in baptism, you were raised with Him through your faith in the power of God, who raised Him from the dead. Col 2:12

Paul invokes the mystery of marriage. In his epistle to the Ephesians he says:

31“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church. Eph 5:31, 31

Through faith we are married to Christ, and become one with Him. Paul says:

You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal 3:27,28

It is through the mysteries of the Christian faith that those of us who were dead are joined to Christ and made one with His body. We are the Bride of Christ. We are “bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh.” Because we are joined together with Christ, then we become joint-heirs with Him of the promise:

The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17And if we are children,then we are heirs: heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ — if indeed we suffer with Him, so that we may also be glorified with Him. Rom 8:17

So then the dilemma is solved. Israel’s hope was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, suffered and rose again on the third day according to the scriptures. Israel’s hope died with Christ, and rose with Christ. Christ who calls all men to Him. To be joined with Him in Divine marriage and to inherit the promised blessing of Abraham. The Seed has been blessed and multiplies unto the number of the stars of heaven and the sand of the sea shore. Amen.

After this I looked and saw a multitude too large to count, from every nation and tribe and people and tongue, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands. 10And they cried outin a loud voice: “- Salvation to our God, who sitson the throne, and to the Lamb!” Rev 7:9,10

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