The Role Of Suffering In The Mission Of Paul And The Mission Of The Church -- By: Robert L. Plummer

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 17:4 (Winter 2013)
Article: The Role Of Suffering In The Mission Of Paul And The Mission Of The Church
Author: Robert L. Plummer

The Role Of Suffering In The Mission Of Paul And The Mission Of The Church

Robert L. Plummer

Robert L. Plummer is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. where he also earned his Ph.D.

Dr. Plummer has written or edited several books, including Paul’s Understanding of the Church’s Mission (Wipf & Stock, 2006), 40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible (Kregel, 2010), Journeys of Faith (Zondervan, 2012), Paul’s Missionary Methods (co-edited, InterVarsity Press, 2012), The Story of Scripture (Kregel, 2013), and Understanding the Bible (Kregel, 2013). He also serves as an elder at Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, KY.


While Paul has traditionally been understood as expecting the churches to engage actively in outward-focused evangelism, this view has been increasingly challenged. It must be admitted that there is a lack of explicit imperatives to evangelize in Paul’s letters. Nevertheless, a number of texts, however small, do seem to indicate that Paul both commended and commanded outward-focused missionary activity from the churches (1 Cor 4:16; 7:12-16; 11:1; Eph 6:15; Phil 1:12-18; 2:14-16).1 As I have written elsewhere, Paul’s presentation of the word of God as a dynamic entity which propels its bearers outward in mission provides the most significant theological basis for the missionary activity of the church in his letters.2 The same dynamic word that indwelt Paul as an apostle also indwelt his churches. This word determined both the church’s identity and evangelistic activity in the world.

If the thesis I have outlined briefly above is a correct understanding of Paul, then one would expect the apostle to describe both himself and his churches as undergoing some of the same experiences and participating in the same missions-related activities. That is, if the word of God inevitably propels its bearers in mission, then one would expect to find Paul describing in similar fashion the missions-related activity of both apostle and church. Parallels can be drawn in a number of areas (e.g., teaching, praying, edification of the church), but for the purposes of this article, I will focus on one significant parallel—suffering in the life of the apostle Paul and the life of his churches. What does Paul’...

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