Was Paul: 1. The Preacher of salvation by grace from the burden of the Law?
2. The Preacher who proclaimed God's reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel?
3. Was he a social conservative that opted for celebacy and temperance based on the teachings of Christ?
4. Was he a social radical that opted for a new, liberative lifestyle based on the teachings of Christ?
Paul was all of these things but none of them completely. He had a lot to say about grace, he seems conservative in a few spots, like in the Pastorals, but yet radical in Corinthians. I will, however, focus on Paul as a “Preacher who proclaimed God’s reign by breaking through in Christ the Messiah of Israel. I lean this way because of the letters to the Galatians and Romans.
Through Christ the law is fulfilled. The law was like a nanny that watched over the world and without it Paul would not have known sin. But Christ makes God’s grace known and levels the field as Gentiles and Jews, once separated, are now grafted together onto one tree. God promised that all people will be blessed through Abraham, and Christ fulfills that promise. The law of Moses is still valid in Paul’s eyes, but is now beside the point as if you “put on the mind of Christ” you are doing the law.
When Paul talks about the Law, there are some inaccuracies. Inaccuracies are always occurring in marketing, and Paul is a marketer of Christ to the Gentiles. This happens in our modern times too as the new Apple notebook doesn’t use less power than a 25 watt light bulb (unless it’s in sleep mode) nor is the law slavery like Paul would have us interpret it in Galatians when he brings up the Sarah and Hagar story. His interpretation is way off the mark, however, it is written to Gentiles and this Paul’s inaccuracy has a point. Namely, Gentiles don’t have to first become Jewish to experience the Reign of God in Jesus Christ… One simply needs to follow Christ, period.