Part 4 of the 2018 Kistemaker Academic Lecture Series in honor of late Professor Emeritus Dr. Simon Kistemaker at Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando featuring Dr. Grant Macaskill, Kirby Laing Chair of New Testament Exegesis, University of Aberdeen. The four part lecture series is entitled “I No Longer Live, but Christ Lives in Me: The Reformed Self in Paul.”
These lectures will ask an unsettling question: are our ways of thinking about the Christian moral life less evangelical, less “gospel-shaped,” than we assume them to be? We will argue that this is widely the case, and that the problem lies in a defective modern account of Christian identity that is a long way from Paul’s representation of the Christian self who serves God. For Paul, the identity of the Christian self is being transformed into one that at every point is constituted by the personal presence of Jesus Christ, to whom we are united: to live is not just “to follow Christ” – to live is Christ. If, at any point, we consider ourselves and our actions apart from him, we slip into a form of idolatry and self-attentiveness that may still have the outward appearance of obedience. If we think of any given moral challenge without beginning with Paul’s words—“I no longer live, but Christ lives in me”—we have already conceded a place of rule to what Paul calls “the flesh.” This recognition will allow us to think in more subtle ways about the nature of Christian sanctification, but also about the ever-present risk of legalism, which is encountered across the New Testament, even in the descriptions of Christian communities. The basic problem represented by legalism, or “works righteousness”, is not principally a distorted view of the law, but a distorted view of the self who responds to it. As such, even those who believe they proclaim a message of grace can, in truth, be proclaiming one of works, if they fail to direct their hearers at every point to the person of Jesus.