Monday, July 21, 2014

The Second Most Controversial Person in the New Testament

The Second Most Controversial Person 
in the New Testament

Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God.  Romans 1:1 (NKJV)

I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise.  Romans 1:14 (NKJV)

Some people seem to always be at the center of a storm.  They are lightning rods. The most controversial person of history is Jesus.  He is certainly the most controversial in the New Testament.  The second most divisive has to be the Apostle Paul. Like Jesus, he still stirs strong emotion today.  He is either loved as a great apostle or hated as a pious imposter -- studied as the prime interpreter of the Gospel or disdained as a corrupter of truth.

The Apostle Paul by Bartolomeo Montagna

Paul Then

In the early church, there was a teacher by the name of Marcion who so admired Paul that he re-arranged the entire Bible -- nearly declaring Paul to be divine.  But there were others who called him a devil, accusing him of destroying Moses and the Law.  An entire church council had to be called in Acts 15 to face the fuss Paul was stirring up as he preached to Gentiles.

Paul Today

Today, we find Paul just as provocative.  I have had individuals tell me they simple do not like Paul!  Jesus, YES.  Paul, NO.  (As if you can cut up the New Testament cafeteria-style)  "Paul is anti-women," they say.  "Paul is anti-gay," they shout.  "Paul is anti-Jewish law."  There is a line of thought that says Paul wrote all the divisive parts of the New Testament while Jesus only spoke of love and peace.  So -- AWAY WITH PAUL!

What Do You Think?

So, we must decide.  What will we do with the Apostle Paul?  Here are the facts.  Though not one of the original 12 apostles, yet he wrote 13 of the 27 books we call the New Testament.  He was perhaps the greatest church planter of all time, seeding faith communities across the Roman empire.  He was the driving force that brought Christianity from being a small sect of Judaism to being a free-standing force in the world. Edgar Goodspeed writes, "When Christianity seemed in danger of withering into just another sect of Judaism ... one man appeared who saw far more."  He took Christianity to the nations.

Paul Writing His Epistles by Valentin de Boulogne

A Self-Description

Romans is Paul's greatest letter -- his magnus opus.  If we would digest the message of Paul we must know this book.  So we say, "Paul, speak to us!"  The first thing we read is, in fact, Paul's description of himself. He tells us in Chapter 1 three things about himself we should know.

He is ...
1. a bondservant.
2. an apostle.
3. a debtor.

What an introduction.  What do these mean?  If you were describing Paul, would you use these terms?  Let's take a moment to dig into these.  They contain keys to the man -- pictures of his heart.

Questions about Identity:
1. How do you see yourself?  What words would you use to describe yourself?
2. How much does pride figure into the way most folks portray themselves?
3. Why in the world would the first description Paul uses be BONDSERVANT?

Questions about Paul:
1.  Do you accept the apostolic authority of Paul, or do you see him as a little lower on the ladder than the other apostles?
2.  Do you see a disagreement between Paul and Jesus?
3.  Why do you think Jesus chose Paul to do such an important job?

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