Saturday, 5 October 2013

2 Corinthians: Seeing, he was blind; once blinded, he began to see

Scholars often discuss the Damascus event in terms of Saul’s vision on the road (Acts 9:3-6) with somewhat less particular attention given to his commissioning in Damascus (Acts 9:10-18), in which Ananias is sent by the Lord to bring a message and to impart the Holy Spirit to Saul (eg. Seyoon Kim, The Origins of Paul's Gospel, 55-66).  But the three intervening days of blindness in which Saul neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:8-9) are, along with the Christophany and later reception of the Holy Spirit, no doubt central to Paul’s understanding of his calling as an apostle.  In 2 Cor. 4:4, Paul describes in “graphic metaphor” his own “direct and intense” experience of how unbelievers are blinded to the light of the gospel of Christ (Dennis E. Johnson, The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption, 112).  Paradoxically, Saul was blind to the truth of Christ until Christ blinded him on the road, where Saul, in his total physical blindness, began to see clearly for the first time.  In Paul’s robust theology of union with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-11; Gal. 2:20), we can see that Paul saw the story of Christ’s salvation event in the story of his own Damascus event.  In the Damascus event, in the vision of Christ and the words the Lord spoke, Saul died to self and to his old perceptions (Phil. 3:4-11), and in three days he was raised to resurrection life when he received the Spirit, his eyes were opened, his gospel mission was explained to him, and he was baptized.  In fact, the way Paul speaks of baptism makes it clear that the Lord taught him the theological meaning of baptism through this experience (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12). 

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