Reflections on Paul, the Apostle of Christ

Reflections on Paul, the Apostle of Christ

A good friend of mine, Jim, had a post not long ago that was of interest to me. I made a long reply there, but thought I would bring the topic to my blog for further discussion and development.

Here is part of Jim’s post:

‘Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord, I had no rest for my spirit, not finding Titus my brother; but taking my leave of them, I went on to Macedonia.’ [2 Corinthians 2: 12, 13]

Interesting. My response to these verses was, ‘Hmm. Wow.’

Let me get this straight. Paul was in Troas, telling people the amazing truth about Jesus. The Lord opened a door for him to do this. But because Titus wasn’t there, Paul ‘had no rest’ for his spirit. So, he left.

So I’m asking myself, ‘Would I have done that?’

Another thought comes to mind: For Paul, not having rest in his spirit because Titus wasn’t there was more important than preaching the Gospel in a place where the Lord had opened a door.

This act tells us something about Paul’s loyalty and feeling for his friends and how he viewed that in the context of God’s will and the importance of preaching the gospel. “

And here is my response:

I don’t think Paul was ever perfectly, totally, completely, and always in the will of God.

That may shock some, but needlessly, because Paul himself was very transparent about the fact that he was a sinner who struggled with his old sin nature. I am glad that Paul’s epistles let us know of his human side.

Paul had certain characteristics that allowed him to be a bold messenger for the gospel, but you can tell that he carried a certain amount of baggage about his past as a person who persecuted (and approved of the stoning of) Christians, by the name he gave to himself: chiefest of sinners.

Paul was prone to argument, certainly a by-product of his training as one of the P’rushim: he made arguments for himself based on that training (even though in another letter he made reference that he wished the Judaizers would go a step further than enforcing circumcision and that they would simply mutilate themselves); he had a volatile nature at times vis a vis his falling out with various other apostles, and he was quite opinionated, almost to the point of being in contradiction to the very teachings of Christ in matters concerning the strict customs and observances of the P’rushim. Yet, it is clear that he had great love for the brethren, and his dedication to Christ and to Christ’s Body can never be called into question.

Many Catholics think Paul could do no wrong. Not a few Liberal Christians think Paul was a misogynist. Others I have heard feel that Paul’s letters were far too influential, and they disqualify him as an apostle because they believe in no other apostles beside the original 12 (these are dispensationalists by and large). Even today, Paul is a divisive force within the Body of Christ: suggestive to me that the Spirit of Christ truly lived and worked within him because Jesus said he came to bring a sword, and not peace.

I think Paul had just the right mix of suffering and vision to bring the Gospel to many people and to be a great encourager, but I do not believe that every word that dripped from his tongue was perfect as Christ’s words were perfect. His decision to go to Jerusalem after Agabus’ warning can be taken several ways… that he was being warned and he was being given the opportunity to choose whether to suffer for Christ or not; or that he was head-strong and though being warned about what awaited him, and despite the pleas of his brothers in Christ, he felt the need to go in spite of it all. Did he go because he knew in his heart that this was God’s will? Did he go because he wanted to pay some sort of penance and prove to the Church that he was indeed faithful to Christ and not a traitor? Did he foresee his death and wish for a greater resurrection as a martyr?

Taking a look at the fruit, one wonders if Paul had the best use of his God-given time by being in jail when he could have been free to travel to the various churches and plant new ones. Was there something in Paul that needed to be perfected through suffering, and that was the reason he had to be imprisoned so that he could only write letters to the churches and receive few messengers and visitors? Put plainly, was Paul’s action in going to Jerusalem brash? God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes, so surely Paul had this understanding; even if Paul made a mistake by going against the pleas of his brethren and with the prophetic knowledge of what awaited him, certainly God made good come out of it for the entire Body of Christ.

That is not necessarily what I believe, though there was a time when it seemed that way to me. Of course, as I have grown and suffered, I have realized much more the value of the fellowship of the suffering of Christ. I have seen that some people who love comfort put far more value on the safety of their own skin, while those who have suffered often realize that suffering is a great tool for helping us to let the old man die and to allow the new man to grow into the likeness of Christ.”

I’d like to add this:

We will not know the full truth of the matter until we get to Heaven and meet the great apostle of Christ for ourselves. But as with any human being, we must always recognize the ability for error, for misapprehension, and for sin, whenever we consider the works of another follower of Christ. Peter denied Christ three times, and yet was forgiven and recommissioned, and later was accused of being two-faced because he wouldn’t eat with the Gentile converts when his Jewish brethren were around: a fact Paul attested to. Yet Peter was a great apostle of Christ, and in spite of his faults and fears, he was instrumental in bringing salvation, healing and deliverance to many. It is because of his nature and character that we can find hope, because if Peter can do it, so can we all.

In the same vein, if Paul can be forgiven for agreeing to the murder of Christians and become such a pillar in the Body of Christ, then it seems clear that all who seek to follow the Lord with great devotion, in spite of their faults and failures, can do so.

Pastora Covert

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