07 December 2012

Who Is This Guy? The Apostle Paul

I've spent a lot of time recently reading and studying the Epistle to the Romans. It's a fascinating book. Over the next few months I'll be sharing some of my thoughts (occasionally) on the epistle and it's human author.

John Calvin a trained humanist lawyer, as methodical and organized as humans get, wrote this in his commentary on Romans, his first commentary,
The whole Epistle is so methodical, that even its very beginning is framed according to the rules of art. As contrivance appears in many parts, which shall be noticed as we proceed, so also especially in the way in which the main argument is deduced: for having begun with the proof of his Apostleship, he then comes to the Gospel with the view of recommending it; and as this necessarily draws with it the subject of faith, he glides into that, being led by the chain of words as by the hand: and thus he enters on the main subject of the whole Epistle justification by faith; in treating which he is engaged to the end of the fifth chapter.
The subject then of these chapters may be stated thus, — man’s only righteousness is through the mercy of God in Christ, which being offered by the Gospel is apprehended by faith.
So, who was this guy whose writing Calvin referred to as "methodical"? Paul was a very interesting man. A Pharisee, who persecuted the first generation of Christians, Paul was converted dramatically as he traveled to the city of Damascus to further abuse and oppress the faithful. See Acts 9:1-19.

This letter is not about Paul, nor is it about the saints at Rome. It is about God, whose Gospel is being declared. Let’s look at the introduction of Paul.

Who is Paul? Read Romans 1:1. We know that at this point, Paul had never been to Rome. Yet, he’s not writing to a totally unknown group. There are people there that he knows. There are people there who had been in Jerusalem when the HS appeared at Pentecost. Here in the very 1st verse Paul describes himself using three terms:

  • Servant. δουλοσ.  “a slave, bondman, man of servile condition  1a) a slave  1b) one who gives himself up to anothers will; those whose service is used by Christ in extending and  advancing his cause among men  1c) devoted to another to the disregard of one's own interests  2) a servant, attendant.” Paul was a willing servant to God. We know that he was called by grace; but he didn’t have to be a willing servant…
  • Apostle. Αποστολοσ. A delegate; messenger; one sent forth with orders. Might seem at odds with the “willingness” of the "servant" description above, but Paul was “called” to this role. By whom? Look at 1 Corinthians 1:1.
  • Set Apart.  ἀφωρισμένος. Marked off. Like yellow tape at a crime scene. He’s roped off so that he can perform his one function of apostolic work without interference (although certainly men TRIED to interfere).
So, Paul was "sent" to further our understanding. He was "set apart," to do this job. It wasn't exactly an easy job.

Look at Acts 13:1-3. Once again we see Paul (still known as Saul; along with Barnabus) was "set apart."  The work begins at verse 4 (now read the rest of the chapter: Acts 13:4-52). This is what happened after the ceremony in which people laid hands on them and prayed for them. For the next two years Barnabas and Saul traveled (as we read in the next two chapters of the Book of Acts) from Antioch to Seleucia to Salmis & Paphos (on Cyprus); then to Perga, Psidian Antioch, Iconium, Lystra and Derbe, then back to Lystra, Iconium, Psidian Antioch, Perga and on to Attalia and eventually returning to Antioch in Syria.

They traveled over 1,000 miles, averaging – on good days – 16 miles. This was over rough terrain; crossing the Mediterranean Sea several times in small, leaky boats. They had no furlough; no email; no phone.

Along the way they faced:

  • Opposition from a sorcerer (Acts 13:8)
  • Abuse and persecution (Acts 14:45, 50)
  • Threats to their physical well-being (Acts 14:5)
  • Stoning (Acts 14:19,20)
And this was only the first two years – the first missionary journey!  

So, that's Paul. He's the guy God chose to set forth this great doctrine of justification. What has God set YOU apart for?


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