Key Texts: 1 Cor. 1:22-24; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 4:7; 1 Cor. 15:12-22; Acts 15 38-41
Q. – “What are the key elements to Paul’s mission and message?”
The lesson today is again about the Apostle Paul. It begins with a stirring couple of verses – “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do; forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Phil.3:13, 14 NKJV. Here we see reflected the ethos of Paul’s missionary sentiments. Drawing together Old Testament prophetic messages, Jewish culture and history, the life and teachings Jesus, Paul forged out a Christian understanding of salvation history centered on the person, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In his writings, Paul not only explicated the message, he applied it to believer’s lives. His missionary activities encompassed a large territory from Jerusalem, to Syria, up to Italy, and perhaps even to Spain.
One of the major challenges Paul faced – which missionaries today face – was a highly diversified audience. A good example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 – “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Here we run into several things worthy of our attention:
- Notice the differing expectations here between the Jews and the Greeks. The one looked for signs, the other for a rational basis on which to rest their understanding.
- How did Paul successfully reach out to each group? (Use of history and prophecy vs. logical narrative?)
- Notice Paul’s common usage of soldering and athletic metaphors enabling him to engage people from two of the major fascinations of the ancient world, particularly the Greeks. What do you think of characterizing faith as a fight?
- What is the role of analysis and even philosophy in mission?
Paul also had a lot to say about the Law. The word “law” in his writings carries several meanings so it is not always easy to figure out what he had in mind. In some cases it seems to indicate a broad reference to religious rules to include ceremonial, civil, health, and even purification laws. Paul speaks also of the Law of Moses, of the law of sin, and, of course, the moral law of 10 Commandments. As we might expect, when dealing with the lesser forms of law, Paul sees them as having value fixed to a certain time and place. But when he comes to the moral law, he sees them as inviolable and enduring.
We could not, when speaking of Paul, pass by the cross and the resurrection in his thought and mission. When coming to the Corinthians, Paul made his famous statement, “For I am determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2 NKJV). And in 1 Corinthians 15:12-22 he gives a heart-felt explosion on the resurrection and how crucial it is the believers.
- Explain the significance of the cross.
- Explain the significance of the resurrection.
- What is the relationship of death to the resurrection particularly if you understand humans to have inherently immortal souls?
We might look at one last thing pertaining to Paul and the way he went about doing mission. That last thing is the way he could get along with different people. Paul was a hard-working, intense person with a strong personality and very strong opinions. How did he get along with others?
- Notice that he had numerous close friends – see Acts. 13:2; 15:22, 37; 16:1-3’ 19:22, and more. He had at least either friends we know about.
- Notice how Paul sent personal greetings to several people, found in various personal words in his letters.
- What shall we make of those occasions where Paul withstood certain people to their face and contended with them sometimes sharply? Is this a reflection of his humanity or is it a necessary thing in life and mission sometimes?
- We might reflect particularly on the experience of the young John Mark whom Paul at first rejected but then took under his wing again.