In response to Krister Stendahl’s salvation-historical reading of Paul, Ernst Käsemann, in his “Justificaiton and Salvation History in the Epistle to the Romans,” offers the following précis of Pauline theology and of the Christian life:
[T]he apostle does not understand history as a continuous evolutionary process but as the contrast of the two realms of Adam and Christ. Pauline theology unfolds this contrast extensively as the struggle between death and life, sin and salvation, law and gospel. The basis is the apocalyptic scheme of the two successive aeons which is transferred to the present. Apparently Paul viewed his own time as the hour of the Messiah’s birth-pangs, in which the new creation emerges from the old world through the Christian proclamation. Spirits, powers and dominions part eschatologically at the crossroads of the gospel. We thus arrive at the dialectic of ‘once’ and ‘now’, which is absorbed into anthropology in the form of ‘already saved’ and ‘still tempted’. In the antithesis of spirit and flesh this dialectic determines the cosmos until the parousia of Christ. Christians are drawn into this conflict all their lives. Every day they have through obedience to authenticate their baptismal origin anew. The churches, too, are exposed in the same way to the attacks of nomism and enthusiasm, which threaten the lordship of Christ. The church lives under the sign of the cross, that is to say, given over to death inwardly and outwardly, waiting longingly with the whole of creation for the liberty of the children of God and manifesting the imitation of Jesus through the bearing of his cross.