Learning from the life of the apostle Paul

apostle paulThe life of the apostle Paul serves as a model for Christians who want to develop a deeper and more sincere walk with the Lord. Paul’s writings are rich with insight that encourages, corrects, and teaches the basics of our Christian faith. The imagery used by the apostle Paul allows him to explain even the most difficult concepts in a manner where those who seriously desire a more fulfilling relationship with the Lord. Continuing from the most recent post, “The Greatest Race of Our Life“, we shared how that great follower of Christ had to come to the same point we all do – he had to recognize he was a sinner, he had to repent of his sins, and had to accept Jesus as his personal savior before he could be called into the ministry by the Lord.

Teaching Timothy what he knew

As Paul knew he was facing death, he wrote to Timothy, a younger-in-the-faith young man who had surrendered his life to serving the Lord. He had been called as a preacher, and Paul had taken Timothy under his tutorship to train him for the role in ministry that the Lord had set before him. In his second letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote: I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing (2 Timothy 4:1-8). Even during the lifetime of the apostle Paul, false teachings were already beginning to creep into Christianity.

In his letter to the Christians living in Jerusalem, the apostle Paul wrote, For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12). Paul chose his words to use a common item as a type of imagery to explain the power of the Word of God.  Paul chose to use this imagery for a couple of reasons, the first being that basic swordsmanship is a difficult skill to master. To become a true master of the sword, one had to know the parts, where the center of balance was, and had to spend considerable time familiarizing themselves with their weapon. The Roman soldiers of Paul’s era were true expert swordsmen and because of their training, could easily take on two to three less-experienced swordsmen. The Roman soldier’s knowledge of swordsmanship allowed the Roman Empire to expand and control much of the known world.

Paul’s own discipleship

The apostle Paul chose to use the sword’s imagery because as a Christian and a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, Paul could not be used by the Lord until he had mastered a basic understanding of the scriptures available and the teachings of Christ that were passed on by oral tradition during his days.  The book of Acts does provide the following account of the discipleship of Paul: But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.   And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus (Acts 9:15-19). Paul, out of obedience to the Lord, presented himself to Ananias, was baptized in obedience, and spend time in Damascus learning from the disciples – the same men that had walked alongside of the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthly ministry. Paul was not immediately sent out on a great missionary journey, or called to complete some great spiritual quest. The Lord, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, led him to a place where he, too, could become a disciple of Christ.

Paul, after his salvation and dedication to follow God’s plan for his life, was like any young Christian that has just come to know the Lord. We notice that before Paul could proceed further in his Christian walk, he was baptized. Baptism does not save, and outside the four Gospels, there is no clearer picture of this than the book of Acts: And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him (Acts 8:36-38). Baptism, as seen in this example, is the first step of discipleship. There’s nothing magical about it, it does not save. It symbolizes openly the change that has happened in our heart. We are publically identifying – without shame or reservation – the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. A Christian who is not baptized will not be able to complete the mission God has called them to do, or will not progress in their Christian life any further than a “Babe in Christ” until this is done.

Continued on next page.