Paul

<<influential NT leader>>

Next to Jesus, Paul had the greatest influence in shaping Christianity by working tirelessly, suffering intense persecution and authoring at least 13 NT books from Romans to Philemon.

Although from the tribe of Benjamin and a fanatical Pharisee, he was born a Roman citizen (Act 16:37, 23:6; Rom 11:1). He was not one of the original disciples or apostles (probably not having actually met Jesus face to face) but became the Apostle to the Gentiles, the non-Jews (Act 9:15; Rom 11:13; Gal 1:15,16). While born as ‘Saul of Tarsus’, after his dramatic conversion, he was known as Paul and worked alongside many of the early church leaders, particularly Peter (the Apostles to the Jews), Barnabas, Timothy, Silas, and John Mark. His story is told in Acts 7:58-28:31, and throughout the NT books. He was beheaded in AD 66.

Lessons from his life: * He was transformed from a fanatical persecutor of Christians to a passionate follower of Christ and worker for the Kingdom of God (Act 8:3, 9:1-13, 9:41; 1 Cor 15:31; Gal 2:20, 6:14). Paul counted everything else worthless, compared to knowing Christ, and fully gave his life to fulfilling his calling regardless of the cost involved (Phil 3:7-14). Whatever he did he gave it his all, there was nothing half-hearted about him. How determined am I to do God’s will for my life?

* He said, “I became all things to all people that I might win some for Christ” by reaching out and associating with the different levels of society (1 Cor 9:19-23). How much has Christ’s love and message transformed my life? Do I make an effort to identify with different cultures and people groups with the motive of sharing God’s love with them?

* Many people had come to salvation and were established in the Christian faith through him, yet Paul did not consider taking the liberty to live off his ministry; instead he supported himself by engaging in a money-earning 'secular' profession of tent making (Act 18:3, 20:33,34; 1 Cor 9:12; 1 Thes 2:9).   While he said it was acceptable and normal for those involved in any occupation to live off the proceeds, he chose to be an example of those who “work hard by our own hands night and day” so there would not be any hindrance to the gospel (1 Cor 4:12, 9:4-18; 1 Thes 2:9; 2 Thes 3:8-12; 1 Tim 5:18). Am I as conscientious in meeting my responsibilities and pulling my weight as I am in ensuring my rights are met?

* Several times Paul challenged his readers, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 4:16, 11:1; Phil 3:17, 4:9). He was walking in such close relationship with God and obediently living out the lifestyle of Christ that he could say ‘do as I do’. A good leader should humbly practice what they preach, besides dealing with any character flaws in their personality. Just as natural children take on many of the same characteristics as their parents, so it is in the spiritual family with those who are leaders in the faith. What are the traits that I am picking up from those figurehead authorities in my life, and what am I passing on to those who look up to me? Is the true image of Christ’s character being formed in them, or is it a cheap worthless substitute that won’t stand the test (1 Cor 3:10-15; Gal 4:19)?

* Paul wasn’t hesitant in sharing about Christ or giving testimony to how he was converted.  He openly confronted and preached boldly (Acts 14:3, 20:20-27, 28:31). “I was not disobedient to God’s call” infers ‘I’m doing what God told me to do’ (Act 26:19). “I’m ready to die for Christ” (Act 21:13).  He wasn’t put off or intimidated in anyway, by anyone.  How is our devotion to Christ and His call on us? Paul’s preaching was backed up by miracles (Act 14:10, 16:18, 19:11, 20:7-12, 28:3-5,8). Whether God uses us in a miraculous way or not we should be just as devoted to God.

* He was a ‘chosen vessel’ to take the Gospel message to the lost - involving immense personal cost.  This included hardship, suffering and ultimately his life (Act 9:15,16, 14:19, 20:23, 21:11; 2 Cor 11:23-27).  He gladly suffered for Christ, as reflected in his writings, recording such words as “through many tribulations we will get into heaven...when suffering rejoice in God...glorying in tribulations...delight in insults and persecutions...to live is Christ and to die is gain… “ (Act 14:22, 16:22-25; Rom 5:3; 2 Cor 12:9; Phil 1:21). In comparison how do I measure up?

* He continually reached out to those who had not heard the gospel, embarking on three arduous missionary journeys (Act 13:1-14, 15:26-18:22, 18:23-20:38).  He followed up those reached by revisiting, sometimes staying for months to instruct these new believers, for his desire was to see strong, mature groups of believers established and thoroughly grounded in the truth (Act 11:26, 14:28, 18:11, 19:10, 20:2).  Several of the NT letters were addressed to the churches he had planted. Does the plight of those without Christ urge me on to share the Gospel with others and see them grounded in the faith?

* Paul reported what God had been doing through him and his companions to glorify God, and give feedback and encouragement to those who sent them out (Act 15:4).  There needs to be open communication with honest accountability to those who have invested in another’s ministry – especially regarding finance, as well as in practical matters to fuel prayer support.

See also: Barnabas, church, doctrine, John Mark, Peter, Silas, tent making, Timothy.

 


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