Michael J. Gorman. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2015.
—Reviewed by Ezekiel O. Ajani, PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, Illinois.
Go on in the work where to God has called you, and He will do all things well. I hope our preachers preach and live the gospel—I am.” These were the words of John Wesley in a letter to George Merryweather on December 20, 1766. Here, Wesley expresses the desire that preachers would live the gospel they preach as he did. With a focus on Paul, Michael J. Gorman addresses a similar issue of living or becoming the gospel that we preach.
In this monograph of eight chapters, Gorman, who holds the Raymond E. Brown Chair in Biblical Studies and Theology at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore, Maryland, succinctly presents an exegetical treatment of Paul’s letters. This book is the third in Gorman’s works on Pauline writings. The central theme of Becoming the Gospel: Paul, Participation, and Mission and its precursors by the same author is that as early as the first Christian century, “Paul wanted the communities he addressed not merely to believe the gospel but to become the gospel, and in so doing to participate in the very life and mission of God” (p. 2). Thus, Paul’s letters invite Christian communities both then and now to participate in the mission of God by becoming the gospel.
‘Becoming’ relates to the transformative effect of the gospel. God’s purpose in the world is transformation—making a new creation. As we believe and become the gospel, we join God in his mission in the world. Therefore, the life of the Church cannot be separated from its witness to the world. Our participation in mission is a natural and necessary consequence of the salvation we have in Christ.
In the subsequent chapters of the book, the author discusses from Paul’s writings some important themes on participatory mission. Paul advocates the need for all Christians to participate in missio Dei in their respective contexts. Scripture not only encourages believers to participate in this mission, but also equips and empowers them for this task.
Much is to be appreciated in this book. One of its important insights in contemporary times is the need for Christians to be unabashed in living out their faith in Christ. (Although, we must admit that the author does not clearly indicate what that means.) Our salvation in Christ is not just a private matter; it is meant to be lived out in our daily activities and relationships. It is for this reason that Gorman notes that a “more robust understanding of the gospel radically alters everything without losing the message of forgiveness and eternal life” (p. 298). Our vertical relationship of salvation in Christ must be translated into our horizontal relationship ‘becoming’ in action the gospel in which we have believed.
Check these titles:
Gorman, Michael J. 2001. Cruciformity: Paul’s Narrative Spirituality of the Cross. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
______. 2009. Inhabiting the Cruciform God: Kenosis, Justification, and Theosis in Paul’s Narrative Soteriology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.