ISSUE: 2012, Volume 9, Issue 3
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Paul the apostle was a man of many talents. He reminds me of the Action Man figures from my youth. A plastic hunk could be transformed in a moment from a soldier to a chauffeur, with a quick change from khaki combats to a blue suit and peaked cap. More seriously, Paul effectively performed many different roles throughout his Christian service. In this article we will explore some of these roles, discuss why Paul adopted them, and find a personal challenge for us today.
Paul the Scholar
Tarsus, Paul’s home town, was a well-known centre of learning. However, Paul left Tarsus to attend Gamaliel’s finishing school in Jerusalem, Acts 22. 3. Paul’s specialist subject was Jewish religious law, but he was equally at home quoting Greek poetry, Acts 17, debating philosophy, Col. 2, and recounting history, Acts 13. Paul was a first-class student, no doubt. But what were his studies for? Getting high up the career ladder? No – he used his education for something much more worthwhile.
Paul the International Traveller
Paul was a Roman citizen, Acts 22. 27. He called Tarsus home. He was proudly Hebrew, Phil. 3. 5, so Jerusalem would be a spiritual home to him. However as a friendly, outgoing traveller, he seemed to acquire a good network of contacts in major cities around the Roman Empire. He would have been fluent in Latin, Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. What did his globe-trotting experience help him with? A wide choice of holiday destinations? No –he used his travels to accomplish something much more worthwhile.
Paul the Worker
Paul was not afraid of hard work. Like all Jewish boys, he learned a trade. Paul was a tentmaker, Acts 18. 3. This may have meant he was a leather worker, or a weaver of his native Cilician goat hair. Paul relied on this tent-making craft to support himself financially when visiting new places, such as Thessalonica. He worked long hours, ‘labouring night and day’, 1 Thess. 2. 9, sounds more intense than our usual 9:00 to 5:00. What did he do with the profits from his business? Boost his bank balance? No – he used his money to invest in something much more worthwhile.
Paul the Adventurer
Paul’s escapades have a distinct Hollywood feel to them, 2 Cor. 11. 23-27. In and out of prison, chased away by hostile audiences, regularly shipwrecked, fighting wild animals, bitten by a poisonous snake, appearing before Caesar. Was Paul an adrenaline junkie? Far from it – his adventures were the by-products of a much greater quest.
Why did Paul spend his life so gladly for Christ? We will identify two reasons from his letters. First, an evangelistic reason: Paul wanted ‘by all means [to] save some’, 1 Cor. 9. 22. He wasn’t worried about the cost to himself personally; he would go anywhere, do anything, and be anything for God in order to bring the gospel message to others. This first reason reveals Paul’s love for the lost.
The second reason is devotional. Paul’s over-riding ambition in life was ‘to be well-pleasing unto Him’, 2 Cor. 5. 9 RV. Paul wanted to bring joy and pleasure to His Master, the Lord Jesus Christ. This second reason reveals Paul’s love for the Lord.
After considering Paul’s lifestyle and motivation, now we turn to think about ourselves. Are we cosy and complacent? Have we settled down to a self-contented lifestyle, without thinking about the work God may have for us to do? Let’s try to recapture a love for the lost, and a love for the Lord, following Paul’s enthusiastic example.
Thinking practically, what can we actually do? First, I suggest reading more about Paul’s clear direction in his Christian service. Perhaps read a chapter where Paul gives an account of his motivation, e.g., 2 Cor. 5, Phil. 3. Then I suggest prayerfully asking the same question that Paul did, at the start of his Christian experience, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’, Acts 22. 10. God always has work for His servants to accomplish.
Jesus, Master, will You use
One who owes You more than all?
As you will, I would not choose;
Only let me hear your call.
Jesus! Let me always be
In Your service glad and free.