In many churches, the altar is framed by Paul together with Peter, and occasionally he has other partners, but he always carries a sword and nearly always a book as well. They both belong together. For this apostle is not only the author of most of the books in the New Testament, but by and large represents the Proclamation of the Word of God itself. According to the letter to the Hebrews it is  “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” The Word of God overcomes every obstacle and touches the innermost soul.

Paul’s letters, especially the letter to the Romans,  play an important part for Martin Luther and reformist theology. In it Paul explains that man stands before God as upright and good,  not as a result of his own achievements and good deeds, but solely thanks to the grace of God. Jesus Christ took away all sins on the Cross. Whoever believes in Him has eternal salvation.This ‘vindication theory’ is at the centre of evangelist theology. Faith, which alone makes one blessed, comes through listening to the Word of God (translated by Luther as ‘from preaching’). This is why Paul stands near the pulpit with his sword.

Picture:Paul on the pulpit altar of the hospital church in Bayreuth. His finger resting on the blade of his sword is a reference to his martyrdom.

The finger on the sword. A reflection on Paul by Pf. Hans Peetz may be found