There is much that I’ve seriously appreciated about Luke Timothy Johnson’s essay in Four Views on the Apostle Paul. In the following paragraph, he stresses the cosmic character of salvation and rightly places the salvation of individuals within larger frames of reference. I think he’s saying something very important here, but I’m not entirely sure I’d say it the same way he does.
What do you think of this?
Paul’s concern for the future is concentrated primarily on the victory of God in the world and only secondarily on the participation of believers in that victory. Apart from a handful of statements, his letters evince little interest in the destiny of believers after the moment of victory, and none in the eternal destiny of individuals. His language about salvation is almost entirely social in character. In distinction from Paul’s diction concerning righteousness, which addresses the character of the human relationship with God—and is available to Abraham as well as Jesus, to Gentiles as well as to Jews (see Rom. 3:21-4:23)—his discourse concerning salvation connotes participation in a presently-being-rescued community. To “be saved” in Paul’s letters does not indicate one’s future destiny with God, but one’s present inclusion in God’s visible people. Thus, Paul’s discussion of God’s call and “predestination” (8:29-30) in Romans 9-11 is misread when understood as dealing with the destiny of individuals, and Paul’s expectation that “all Israel will be saved” (11:32) does not mean that all Jews will go to heaven, but indicates Paul’s hope that all Jewish people will eventually be included in the people whom God is presently shaping out of Jews and Gentiles (pp. 88-89).