Intended to be a textbook on Pauline theology for college and seminary level students, Schreiner's volume opens with a brief Preface, followed by 16 chapters, with each chapter dealing with a specific aspect of Paul's thought and theology, and an Epilogue. In an attempt to offer a fresh structure that differs from other works on Pauline theology, Schreiner organizes his study around Paul as a missionary and Paul's apostolic suffering.
Chapter 1, "The Centrality of God in Christ in Paul's Theology," serves as the books introduction. Central to the discussion on this chapter is the notion of a house which Schreiner uses to establish the heart and soul of Pauline theology. Schreiner stresses that for Paul, God is the foundation of the house and Jesus as "the means by which the house is built" (p. 20). Additionally, Schreiner explores the idea of "unity and living with Christ" in Philippians and 2 Corinthians; the preeminence of Christ in Colossians, and the centrality of God in Christ in Ephesians. In his concluding remarks of this chapter, Schreiner notes that the supremacy of God in and through Jesus Christ was, for Paul, his passion in life, and the foundation and summit of his own vision.
The next three chapters of Schreiner's text focus on Paul's mission. In Chapter 2, "Proclaiming a Magnificent God: The Pauline Mission," Schreiner explores Paul's call and conversion, his commission to preach to the Gentiles, his apostolic missionary activity that entailed starting new churches in Gentile territory, and his ultimate desire, namely, that God be glorified by all. Schreiner's third chapter, "The Basis of Mission: The Fulfillment of the Promise to Abraham," develops further the theme of mission and shows how Paul links the promise of salvation made to the Gentiles to the promises made to Abraham in the Old Testament. Chapter 4, "Suffering and the Pauline Mission: The Means of Spreading the Gospel," looks at suffering as a prime experience in Paul's life and draws parallels to suffering in Jesus' life. Schreiner points out that for Paul, like Jesus, suffering was a necessary part of the proclamation and living out of the gospel.
The following two chapters have the law as their main theme. In chapter 5, "Dishonoring God: The Violation of God's Law," Schreiner explores what Paul understands by "sin" and law, and the relationship that exists between the two. In his concluding comments, Schreiner makes a rather uncritical and disconcerting statement that assumes a corporate stance toward humanity: "The Pauline gospel indicts us as sinners, uncovering our failure to do God's will and exposing our pride for what it is" (p. 125). Chapter 6, "Dishonoring God: The Power of Sin," continues the investigation into how human beings dishonor God through sin. Here Schreiner looks at Paul's letter to the Romans, and at times, it is difficult to distinguish between Schreiner's own voice and Paul's thought because their theological perspectives, as presented, sound one and the same without any critical distinction made. It seems that Schreiner assumes Paul's theology as his own in the course of the presentation of Pauline thought.
Chapters 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 shift the text's focus from sin to exaltation, hope, redemption, and salvation. Jesus is identified in Pauline theology as the person through whom God accomplishes the divine plan of redemption and salvation. Schreiner makes clear that the gift of righteousness is the basis for one's right relationship with God. Furthermore, one's capacity to respond to gospel imperatives requires, according to Paul, perseverance which is a gift of God's grace.
Chapter 12, "Life of Love in the Spirit: Exhortations and the Law in Paul," and chapter 13, "The Church and Spiritual Gifts: The Unity of God's People," both build on the discussions of previous chapters. Chapter 12 considers Pauline ethics and various exhortations aimed at "spiritual" people. Here Schreiner draws attention to one point in particular, homosexuality, and puts forth Paul's views on this topic. One wonders why Schreiner holds up for scrutiny this topic in particular, especially when there are a myriad of other ethical concerns that Paul raises, topics that would lend themselves to further conversation, none of which Schreiner considers in detail. Schreiner's concluding observation in chapter 12 is that for Paul, commands, freedom, and life in the Spirit go hand in hand. This focus on the Spirit is further developed in chapter 13. Here Schreiner examines Paul's teaching on church unity and the scriptural gifts. For Paul, the spiritual gifts given to the community are meant for the creation and building up of a new community in God and Christ Jesus, a theme picked up by chapter 14, "The Ordinances of the Church and Its Ministry: The Building Up of the Body."
The last two chapters of Schreiner's work discuss other points included in Pauline theology. Chapter 15 examines the social world of Paul and considers Paul's teachings on singleness, marriage, divorce, parents and children, slaves and masters, helping the needy, and government. Schreiner stresses that Paul's writings support a very public Christian life.
Chapter 16, "The Hope of God's People: The Fulfillment of God's Saving Purposes," focuses on Romans 9-11. Here Schreiner points out that Pauline theology offers believers tremendous hope. Paul, as a preacher of redemption and salvation, makes clear to believers that, indeed, Christ will come again, and God will fulfill the promises made to Israel in which both Christians and Gentiles share.
Schreiner closes his work with a very brief Epilogue that succinctly pulls together the volume's main points and Pauline themes, followed by author, subject, and scriptural indices.
This volume is a most comprehensive study of Pauline thought and theology. Its strength lies in its comprehensiveness and clear presentation of difficult material. Its weakness lies in the absence of critical thought on Paul's views and theology. In this regard, the volume would be stronger if, in fact, Schreiner did engage scholarship, to some extent, particularly from a hermeneutical perspective. The sheer denseness and layout of the volume invites such an engagement, especially since the volume resembles the style and format of a critical study rather than a textbook, which was the goal of the author. I would recommend this text for students at the seminary level to be read from a critical perspective. Because of its sheer density in thought and content, I would not recommend it for college students unless the text were to be used for theology majors or an advanced, upper division theology or Bible course that presupposes a strong background in NT studies and a firm understanding of both Old and New Testament biblical theology, as well as the Greco-Roman and Hellenistic worldview and Jewish thought.