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Monday, March 20, 2017

"Spirituality of Paul" (Leslie Hardin)

TITLE: The Spirituality of Paul: Partnering with the Spirit in Everyday Life
AUTHOR: Leslie Hardin
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2016, (192 pages).

We have all heard of the famous Apostle Paul, how he turned from persecutor to persecuted; from Judaism to Christianity; from Pharisaic behaviour to Christlike follower. He is a theologian, a disciple, and a powerful orator. He is a visionary who has "intense religious" experiences." Much have been written about Paul, his epistles, his history, and the many heroic descriptions of his life. The same however cannot be said about his inner life. What is Pauline spirituality? How is the Apostle's spiritual life? What can we learn from Paul with regard to Christian Spirituality or Spiritual Formation? Is there a way in which we can find out about how Paul lives in the Spirit? Are the epistles in the Bible sufficient for us to understand Paul's spirituality? Compounded by the fact that ancient writers seldom write about themselves, it makes the task of describing Paul's inner life more challenging. Moreover, the purpose of Paul's letters is more about God's will for the Church and for the people he had been called to minister to. In this book, author Leslie Hardin gleans most of his material from Paul's epistles and the book of Acts. The others comprise secondary sources, other scholarly works, and historical evidence. He looks at nine spiritual disciplines before outlining the six marks of Paul's spirituality. These nine disciplines are:

  1. Prayer
  2. Evangelism and Proclamation
  3. Discipleship
  4. Corporate Worship
  5. Scripture
  6. Holiness
  7. Caring for one another / Building up other believers
  8. Spiritual gifts
  9. Perseverance under suffering

Each chapter begins with a familiar phrase from one of Paul's epistles. Instead of going deep into any one epistle per chapter, Hardin strings together common themes from all of the letters, tying Old Testament themes together with New Testament teachings. Understanding Paul also requires the historical traditions of old, his Judaism upbringing, ethnic identity, and personal details. Paul's prayer is filled with wisdom and biblical principles. It is also personal and relational. He disciples people from all walks of life, both Jews and Gentiles. He uses his writings to disciple others which could instruct us on how we communicate and disciple others in this technological era. He was always looking for someone to disciple. Paul's understanding of worship goes beyond meeting in a physical place toward offering his life as a testimony of worship. He participates in services both in public places as well as private homes. Paul's understanding of holiness is not about a list of do's and don'ts. It is a set of principles based on exposition of the Ten Commandments. Hardin does a good job in telling the story of Paul's spiritual life through these nine disciplines. It is a systematic exposition of Paul's personal life. After breaking down the nine spiritual disciplines, Hardin attempts to integrate them back together through the six marks of Paul's spirituality. They are:

  1. He is faithful to Scripture
  2. He is an imitator of Christ
  3. He lives in freedom and in grace
  4. He glorifies Jesus
  5. He is committed to unity
  6. He is a spiritual man

Recently, there has been a spate of interest on the life of Paul. Many of them describe his life either through individual epistles or some historical quest like the Jesus quest. The scholar NT Wright has also written a lot on Paul which deserves a wider audience. That said, not many deal directly with the spirituality of Paul, which is where this book fills a gap. Learning the way Paul works through the various spiritual disciplines may be more relevant for those of us who want another way to approach spirituality. Many have written about the spirituality of Jesus and how great Jesus is. Some may prefer to learn from His disciples instead, for whatever reasons. By learning from the ways of Paul, we are given an alternative model toward Christlikeness.

Leslie Hardin is Professor of New Testament at Florida Christian College. He has been a pastor for over 15 years.

Rating: 4.25 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of Kregel Academic without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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