Lesson Verse: Romans 15:17
Questions and observations for discussion:
1. What sort of personality did Paul bring to his task as an agent of hope?
See Gal 1:6-10, Gal 1:13-14, Gal 4:19, Gal 5:12; Phil 3:2; 1 Cor 4:18-21, 1 Cor 13:1-13, all of which indicate both the positives and the negatives due to the intensity of his personality. Few could have endured what he did for the sake of the gospel. See 2 Cor 11:21-29.
2. Although a Jew, what background made him particularly suited for mission to non-Jews?
See Acts 22:3 (Tarsus in Cilicia was the third most important center of Greek culture and learning after Athens and Alexandria in the Mediterranean world!). See also Acts 9:30 and Gal 1:21-24 to Gal 2:1 where it indicates that after his conversion he spent many years again in Tarsus after his conversion and before his recorded missionary work.
His Greek is excellent. He can quote Greek authors such as Aratus — “We are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28), and Menander — “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Cor 15:33). He would have been among the top five percent of people in the ancient Greco-Roman world where illiteracy stood at approximately ninety-five percent. In 2 Peter 3:15-16 there is evidence that his sophistication of thought was not appreciated by everyone and was liable to some misunderstanding!
He studied at the feet of Gamaliel who would not have accepted any but the best Jewish students (Acts 22:3). So, not only was he intellectually gifted, but he was very much a Hellenistic Jew, i.e. a man of two cultures.
3. How should one regard Paul as an example to emulate today for those who would be missionaries of hope like him?
Paul had a dramatic conversion (Acts 9:1-10), he was celibate (1 Cor 7:8), and he ran a self-supporting mission for the most part (Phil 4:15) without insisting on his rights (1 Cor 9:15). Should one seriously consider whether any of these should be normative? What would be the advantages and disadvantages?
4. What are some of the most admirable characteristics of Paul? Would you like to have been his work associate? What features of what we know about him do you find the least admirable? How is this instructive as to how we should regard ourselves with reference to being or becoming agents of hope?
5. If one should try to boil down Paul’s message to one word, what would it be?