Sat, 23 May 2009
Biblical data on Paul's life in the first years after his conversion can be found only in Acts and Galatians. In the latter source, Paul affirms that the basis of his Gospel is Jesus Christ's personal revelation coupled with his rabbinical study. No individual, in Jerusalem or elsewhere, taught Paul the Christian way during these initial years. Parts of three years of his post-conversion life were spent in Arabia. Here he acquired some disciples, and taught the Gospel to all who were willing.
After returning from Arabia, he went up to Jerusalem to speak with Peter. The brethren quickly asked him to leave the city, considering him still to be a wanted man. Paul then returned to Silicia, the region of his birth for a lengthy period. By some reckonings, he may have spent eight or nine years in Silicia preaching a group of disciples and maturing. Though the Church has no specific knowledge of his activities during this period, one might consider this to be Paul's period of preparation for ministry.
Fourteen years after his conversion, he returned to Jerusalem. The motivation for his trip was likely to provide famine-relief from Antioch to Jerusalem. By this time, Paul had been preaching with Barnabas in Antioch for a year with wide acclaim. It is during this trip to Jerusalem that he finally received approval from the apostles to preach to the Gentiles.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Allegro, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Sat, 16 May 2009
In His Providence, God equipped Paul with many of the skills that he would need to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, long before he fell off his horse on the road to Damascus. Just a few of these skills included a great Jewish memory, proficiency in Greek, and training in philosophy.
Physically, this man of medium height and medium build had a thorn in the flesh that he thrice asked to be removed.
It is likely that Paul is in his late 20s or early 30s when he first appears in the Book of Acts. If Stephen died in A.D. 34, Paul would have to have been born sometime between A.D. 1-8.
His primary instructor, Gamaliel was a master of the Hillel school of Pharisaic Judaism. This tolerant and learned teacher of the Law would later remark that if the Christians continued to flourish, it is proof that they have Divine commission.
Paul was not nearly as tolerant as his old teacher, but a firebrand who was extremely zealous--to the point of violence. Phillippians 3:4-7 shows his extreme Pharisaic piety, yet he considers it rubbish when compared with the Gospel.
The Tarsus-born lad grew up in Jerusalem amidst a culture of religious extremism and fastidiousness. He learned from the Pharisees that Jesus was certainly a fraud that taught false doctrines. He considered those who followed ''the Way'' to be Jewish heretics whose errors needed to be vehemently opposed. He spent roughly a year rounding up Christians for the high-ranking Pharisees.
While on his way to round up Christians in Damascus he was struck down by a light brighter than the Palestinian mid-day sun. The three accounts of his conversion each provide key details. Taken together, they depict arguably the most dramatic conversion in the history of the Church. He fasts for three days in repentance, and is soon Baptized to wash away his sins. Immediately Paul begins proclaiming the Gospel, though he is too controversial to be employed by the Apostles in Jerusalem.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Andante, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Mon, 11 May 2009
Analyzing the years during which Passover fell on a Friday, Christ died either in A.D. 30 or A.D. 33. David Higbee tends to lean towards the latter. One of his main reasons is that Pilate would have still had a Roman protector in A.D. 30, thus his capitulation to the Jewish leaders in crucifying Christ indicates that the later date is more likely.
Using A.D. 33 as a bench-mark for the crucifixion places the stoning of Stephen at A.D. 34-35. His martyrdom marks the entrance of Paul into the Scriptures. His career as a Christian persecutor would not have lasted more than four years after this death.
Higbee will attempt to illustrate the mind and heart of God's missionary instrument, Saul of Tarsus, though it will not be in the style of a modern biography. His hands-on approach to the apostolic work was never fully recreated. The author of at least a third of the New Testament, his mark on the Church is unparalleled. Because few have Jewish-Christian origins, most all Christians are indebted to Paul, the apostles to the Gentiles.
The most controversial figure in the New Testament (excepting Jesus) seems to have been a short feisty fellow from Asia Minor. At first he is a Rabbinical student in Jerusalem who is focused and dramatically hateful towards his enemies. On the road to Damascus, Christ profoundly calls Him to repentance and discipleship.
Before his conversion, he advanced in Judaism above and beyond his peers. Acts 14 shows that he is mistaken for Hermes/Mercury, a short, quick, talkative man. The apocryphal works the Acts of Paul and Thecla may also reveal something of his physical appearance.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 2 in E Minor - Vivace, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com
Mon, 4 May 2009
Certain items stand out from a review of the Corinthian correspondences. So dynamic was Paul's pastoring of this dynamic and diverse community that in an initial eighteen-month mission and a four-year period of intercession and periodic communication that it has left a mark on Christianity forever.
He encourages Christians to separate themselves from the world and its uncleanness. He references the words of Isaiah 52:11, ''Depart, depart, go out thence, touch nothing unclean [...] you who bear the vessels of the Lord'' and reminds them of their identity as vessels of the Lord, temples of the Holy Spirit.
Fellowship among brethren, agape love, interaction between those who are married, and sexual morality are just a few of the other topics he aptly addresses. He also exhorts generosity for the sake of the Church and for the poor. Dispensation in the spiritual life and the experience of the Spirit in relation to the law appear with the attributes of a genuine apostolic ministry are key sections.
Paul shows it is necessary to uphold the standards of God in a congregation. He will not cover up sins within the Church and will not tolerate sub-standard missionaries. Even more powerfully, he rejects those who adulterate the Word of God. His instruction will be forever remembered and demands serious study.
Music: Boismortier's Sonata 6 in G Minor - Aria-Larghetto, from the album 'Six Sonatas for Flute and Violin - Opus 51 - Boismortier' performed by Duo de Bois. www.magnatune.com