I’m geeking out here because I just finished a ten-week study over the life of the Apostle Paul. I’m blown away by so many things, but perhaps the most profound aspect of Paul’s life is that God began molding Paul for his ministry from his early years.
Because he was raised a Hebrew, by the age of six he would’ve memorized Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which was fastened to his doorpost on a tiny scroll called a Mesusah. Before Saul’s tenth birthday, he was required to memorize Psalm 113-118. That’s impressive for such a young man. At the age of thirteen, Saul took his first trip to Jerusalem to study under Gamaliel, who was considered the best Rabbi of that time. He studied under this brilliance until he was eighteen and became a Pharisee.
Interestingly, Saul left Jerusalem for Tarsus about the time John the Baptist entered the scene to “prepare the way for the Lord.” Soon after, Jesus began His teaching in the same synagogue where Saul studied all those years. Likely, the very Pharisee’s Jesus rebuked were many of Saul's study buddies.
So, Saul was raised to abide in the letter of Hebrew Law. He studied, memorized, and debated the Scriptures and the law from the time he could read. He was taught by one of the greatest teachers of all time, aside from Jesus of course. Are you seeing the picture yet? When Jesus entered the scene, He turned those very laws on their heads.
Everything Saul was taught was under question by the new Teacher in town. Saul wrote of himself in Philippians 3:6 that regarding legalistic righteousness, he was faultless. He knew the Law forward and backward and lived it to the letter.
When Saul learned about the “secular” group that followed the Way of Christ, he (Saul) sought letters from the high priest to go on a killing and jailing rampage. How dare anyone call into question Saul’s laws? He wouldn’t have any part in that. You know about Stephen’s death and the people Saul terrorized in his efforts to eradicate Christians from the globe.
What makes all this come full circle is that when Saul had his heavenly encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus, Jesus only needed to connect the dots on His Identity through what Saul already deeply knew–the Old Testament.
Then Saul became Paul and he realized Jesus was the Messiah from the Scriptures. Most of us know the rest of the story: he had three missionary trips, traveled far and wide to preach the Good News of Christ. He endured prison time, beatings, starvation, and trials of many kinds during his tenure.
Many of our readers attend The Good Fight Church. While this is not the reason for the name of our fellowship, Paul’s words have historical significance. Paul was executed under Nero, but Nero had a heck of a time establishing a reason to kill Paul because he was a Roman citizen. As a result, Paul sat in a Roman prison awaiting certain death.The only person in that cell with him was Dr. Luke. Oh, the faithfulness of God to have a doctor with Paul in his final days!
Paul was executed in A.D. 67. In that same year, Nero decided to enter the Olympics. He was in no way prepared or athletically inclined whatsoever, but who would challenge the crazy emperor? As a result, Nero fell from his chariot, had to have help getting back on, and didn’t even finish the race. They, of course, awarded Nero with the prize.
When Paul learned of this, he penned these words in his last letter, 2 Timothy 4:7-8...“I have fought the Good Fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me.”
I just have to say, mic drop! What a way to go out. Paul was executed merely days later. The story of his death is told as follows: two soldiers came to deliver Paul his death warrant. When they came to Paul, they asked him to pray so they could receive Christ. Afterward, they walked Paul to the guillotine and before the sword lowered, Paul prayed. Even to his very last breath, he introduced people to the Love and Grace of Jesus Christ.
I don’t know about you, but I long to live a life like Paul. I’ll strive to tell anyone and everyone, until the breath is out of my lungs, the Goodness of the Jesus I know and love. Paul also wrote in Philippians 3:8, “More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.”
These are goals I’ve learned from studying the life of Paul. I asked myself many questions when I closed the book after finishing this morning.
What has God been preparing me for? What am I doing to imitate Paul, while he imitates Christ? What is my goal?
My prize is surely knowing Christ to the best of my ability. More than simply studying Paul, I understood a man who deeply loved Christ in such a way that made me fully analyze my own heart.
We have one shot at this life--let’s be a church full of Pauls and spread far and wide, to anyone who will listen, Jesus Christ and His Message of Love and Grace. We will make mistakes. We will even fail, but let us never grow weary in doing Good! In a world full of darkness and hatred, be a Light shining on a hill! Be the love of Jesus!
Posted on Sun, March 4, 2018
by Tiffany Gobble