I started explaining that Paul has different ways that he conceptualizes the act of salvation – how the death and resurrection of Christ restores a person to a right relationship with God. The judicial model that I laid out can be found in several of Paul’s letters, especially Romans and Galatians. But he has other ways of understanding how salvation works, other models involving Jesus’ death and resurrection. The other BIG one can be called the Participationist model. Here is what I say about it in my textbook on the New Testament:


The Participationist Model. Most of us today have no trouble understanding how a judicial process can be seen as analogous to the act of salvation. The participationist model, however, is much harder to get our minds around. This is partly because it involves a way of thinking that is no longer prevalent in our culture. Under this second model the human problem is still called “sin,” “sin” is still thought to lead to “death,” and Christ’s death and resurrection still work to resolve the problem. But — and this is a point that has to be emphasized — in this second model, sin, death, and Jesus’ death and resurrection all mean something different from what they mean under the judicial model.

Consider the following things that Paul indicates about “sin” in the book of Romans:

— “Sin” is in the world (5:13)

— “Sin” rules people (5:21; 6:12)

— People can serve “sin” (6:6)

— People can be enslaved to “sin” (6:17)

— People can die to “sin” (6:11)

— People can be freed from “sin” (6:18)

It should be reasonably clear that sin in these verses is not simply something that a person does, a disobedient action against God, a transgression of his laws.  Sin is instead a kind of

This is a key for understanding Paul’s thought — but not at all obvious or much talked about outside of scholarship.  If you want to see how it works, join the blog!  Click here for membership options