I feel a special kinship with Paul the Apostle who authored the bulk of the New Testament. I don't mean that in any sort of pious sort of way. Paul was great, and I don't feel like I am even remotely in Paul's 'league.'
But, I can really relate to Paul and his teaching perspective. Paul was a super-sinner by everybodys' account, as well as by his own admission. Paul was Chrisitian hater numero uno during the time of Jesus. In Acts 9, the Bible teaches that it was Jesus himself, not God, who spoke to him from the sky, on the road to Damascus, Syria in the days and weeks after Jesus' ascension to heaven following the resurrection. Paul was headed to Damascus to literally stir up dissent amongst the people of what was then a major city, about "the pesky Christian problem" that was growing in Jerusalem. Paul broke down and turned around. Paul's 180 degree turn is probably unparalleled in human history. God chose Paul to be his numer one Apostle for reasons- that on the surface- may not be readily apparent to some.
But, like everything else, all is made clear if you read the scriptures. Paul himself describes that unlikely choice in 1 Timothy 1:15
"Here is a trustworthy saying that demands full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst. But, for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life."
Yes, Paul was an unlikely choice and he predictably received a cool reception from the other apostles- initially that is- until he opened his mouth and began to preach. At that point, Paul began to shine, and his power was immediately observed. Paul was clearly a genius. Intellectually, Paul could 'out Plato' even Plato. He could 'out Socrates' even Socrates. Sigmund Freud. Kurt Vonnegut. Ann Rynd. Paul could give them all a run for their money. Often, Paul speaks in simple words. At other times, he is lucid; combining metaphors, hyperbole, history, first and second person perspectives; invoking sarcasm then speaking literally, then figuratively and using personifications- all in the same paragraph. Yes, you better put that crack pipe down if you are going to read Paul's writings, because he can be hard to follow at times. You need a clean mind. Often you have to go back and read the beginning of the passage, just to remember what the original point was! He subreferenced as much as Dennis Miller. Paul. The 800 lb. gorilla of the first century A.D.
If Jesus stirred up a fire in the ancient world, then Paul came along carrying a can of gasoline everywhere he went. Paul was flogged, imprisoned, hated, and loathed by many. And he made many converts. Without Paul, Christianity would probably not be where it is today. Paul's writings have even become timeless, and used by people who don't even have a clue who he was - "money is the root of all evil" as an example.
Paul was so good at what he did simply because he had been on both sides of the fence- or as in the parlance of today- "been there done that." Paul was unique and in a unique situation. As Jack Kinsella of the Omega Letter writes: "...Paul must have had a hard go of it- being chief of the sinners AND chief of the Apostles..." But that is exactly who he was. Consider his classic scripture about struggling with sin- Romans 7:14. This passage probably contains the largest number of pronouns and three letter words in one single passage in all of literary history!
"We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do- this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it."
Paul definitely struggled with sin. I find comfort in this knowledge- that even the Chief of the Apostles was not immune from the basic troubles that we all face as Christians.
It has been said that before you can truly sing the blues, you have to first feel the blues. In this respect, the apostle Paul is much like a former drug addict, speaking to a group of high school students. His personal perspective- of having been there and done that- validates his authority to speak out against it- having walked the walk. That fact commands that the listener take notice. This is not someone who has just studied something in a text book. This is a person that can be identified with because he has shared the same experience as his listeners.
It is in this respect that I can identify with the apostle Paul. I have been chief among sinners in my own circles. I too have been converted, and my former passion for things that were bad, is now exceeded by a passion for things that are good. But like Paul, I am not home free. I too struggle. But there is comfort in knowing Jesus Christ will always be by our sides, and we ALL can effectively manage sin through faith in the Lord.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
by Charles Lance Bailey 2003©
"leading people to Jesus Christ"
(scripture quotes - NIV)
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I, too, am a Paul fan. Just a suggestion on this fine article, that you run a spell check. I've seen a number of spelling errors and that is the least of our communication problems we need to be concerned about. God bless, Vic