Pastoral Theology in the Letters of Paul:The Basis for Paul's Pastoral Responsibility
Jonathan W. LO

This essay discusses the basis for Paul's pastoral concern through the study of the language, rhetoric, and themes Paul uses to refer to the church and his own responsibility in relation to it. The aim of this paper is to analyze this body of evidence within the Pauline letters in order to better understand Paul's pastoral expectations for his congregations, the nature of Paul's pastoral responsibility, and the contours of his pastoral concern. Paul's use of the language of progress, maturity, and growth with respect to the church reveals that he understands that salvation is not a punctiliar event but continuous. Paul's pastoral role is that of a parent who longs for a child's development and maturation; his task is to assist the church on their journey of faith. Paul's frequent use of the rhetoric of "being worthy" reveals that he considers the congregation's conduct to be of vital importance. The reason for this is the reality of the gospel of Jesus––those who accept this gift must also live in a manner worthy of it. The language of "calling" reveals that the power of the gospel enables Gentiles to become part of Israel, whom God called and elected to be his own people; God's people are to be holy as he is holy, and consecrated to his service. Paul also uses a sacrificial metaphor to describe the church, revealing his desire to present the church as a perfect and pleasing offering to God. By observing Paul's thanksgiving for his churches, one can observe what Paul values most, and what he wishes to promote in his communities. The phrase "faith and love" appears most often in Paul's thanksgiving, revealing Paul's concern for the church to continue and progress in a faith that is enacted in love. Finally, Paul's rhetoric of seeing the church as the grounds for his boasting in Christ reveals his joy in seeing the progress of his churches, who receive the word of God with joy, who endure under persecution, and who live as God's children in the world like stars shining in the night sky. The language Paul employs is highly illuminating for understanding his view of the church's identity and mission, as well as his own pastoral role with respect to the church. Paul has a vision of what the church should be, and an understanding of his role in fulfilling that vision. Inevitably, attempts to engage with Paul's pastoral concern and responsibility will lead to a better understanding of his thought and writings, and yield practical insights for the modern pastor that will contribute to a more Biblical vision of pastoral care.