Video Transcript: Paul the Missionary Part 1
Unit 05 03 Paul the Missionary Part 1
Welcome to this presentation on Paul the missionary. Some people don't have positive opinion of the Apostle Paul. They think that he's a hardliner, always running around telling people what to do. He's against women, he's against this group of people. Well, if you fit into that camp, I hope that this presentation will change your mind. You'll walk away from here a lot more impressed with the apostle Paul, not only what he accomplished, where he went, but also his character. It is true that Paul sometimes could be harsh and strong. But it's also true that Paul could often be soft and gentle, It all depended on the circumstances and what was needed. But in any case, let's explore more clearly and in greater detail, this important figure in the New Testament Church, the Apostle Paul. Now, in answer to the question, Why study the life of Paul Raymond Brown, an influential Catholic scholar wrote this, next to Jesus, Paul has been the most influential figure in the history of Christianity. Although all the New Testament writers are working out the implications of Jesus for particular communities of believers, Paul, in his numerous letters does this on the widest scale of all that range. Plus the depth of his thought and the passion of his involvement have meant that since his letters became part of the New Testament, no Christian has been unaffected by what he has written, whether or not they know Paul's words, well, through what they have been taught about doctrine impiety, all children have become all Christians have become Paul's children in the faith. I'm struck by Especially that last phrase, all Christians have become Paul's children in the faith. Do you think of yourself that way? I mean, you have your own family, you think of yourself as a child of a mom or a dad? But do you think of yourself as a child of the Apostle Paul? Well, let's explore his life more clearly. So we can better understand our spiritual father. Now to do that, the sources we look at are threefold. One, we have what are often called primary sources, and these are the letters of the apostle Paul himself. Then we have Secondly, another source, a well known one to Christians, the Acts of the Apostles, and it is especially rich in sharing information about the life and the travels and the activities of the apostle. And in third, there are non canonical writings, writings outside the Bible. And we have to use those sources though, with some care. Now, I've divided Paul's life up into about 13 or so categories, in order to make it more manageable. Of course, these categories aren't all of equal length, but they are hopefully a helpful way for us to better grasp the Apostle Paul and his life. The first category that we're going to talk about is actually a rather important one and one that perhaps we don't give enough attention to. And that's Paul's early years. What do we know about the apostle before he became a Christian? What do we know about his life before he became a follower of Jesus Christ? Well, we know actually quite a bit. And a number of those information or data is crucial for understanding things that Paul did or happen to him later on in life. So for example, we learned something about his birth, he was born in the city of Tarsus, in the province of solicita. You can see there are a number of texts from the New Testament, where Paul claims to have originated from Tarsus of Cilicia. Now the city of solicita, is described by Paul in one of his text as no ordinary city. That's a special phrase used in the ancient world to describe the city of Athens Athens would would you would agree is a no ordinary city. Have you ever thought of yourself as that way? Have you thought about your hometown and described your hometown as no ordinary city? Well, that's the claim Paul made about his hometown silicea. And he wasn't exaggerating. So let's see a may not rank up there in the common knowledge of important cities like Alexandria, and Rome, and so forth. But so let's see a was an important city in the first century. It was an important commercial center.
It was also an important university town. And Paul grew up in that particular place, and no doubt was influenced by that particular historical context. Now in terms of his education, he went to Jerusalem to study. It's somewhat ambiguous whether you went there as a little boy or more likely as a young man, but he went to what I would like to call the home Harvard School of Judaism in other words, he studied at the feet of Gamaliel. And Camillia, was the most famous Jewish teacher of that day. Harvard is not an easy school to get into today, you have to have connections, you have to have often money, and to become a student of Gamaliel, was the same thing. And so the fact that Paul was a student of Gamaliel, says something not only about the promise that he already showed, then in terms of education and learning, but probably also reflects something of his family, and maybe the influence and wealth and power that they must have had, even though they were Jews living far away from Palestine, in the city of Cilicia. And Gamaliel, was indeed an influential Jewish leader, the Bible itself acknowledges that fact and acts 534, it says, the millenial, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people. And so Paul, at a young age, likely as a young man moved from the province of selenia, the town of Tarsus, and moved to the Harvard School of Judaism, he became a student of Gamaliel. Now, in terms of his religious orientation, we have to identify him as a Pharisee. Now, don't make the mistakes that many Christians do nowadays, and kind of lumped the Pharisees, the Sadducees. All together, these were all distinct groups within Judaism. I mean, on one hand, they had a lot in common in terms of a belief in the one God and the importance of the Torah and things like that. But there was within Judaism, a variety of groups with their own passionate beliefs and distinctive identity. And Paul belong then to the Pharisees. And he appealed to that a number of times in his life, for instance, when he was toward the end of his life brought before the Sanhedrin. And the Sanhedrin is that Jewish body made up of primarily two groups, the Pharisees and the Sadducees. And Paul didn't want to be tried by them, because if he was tried by them and found guilty as he almost surely would have been, he would have been punished with death. And so Paul desperately wanted to be freed from Jewish authorities and brought back under Roman control. And so he very cleverly appealed to his Pharisee background. He nodded all innocently with all calculation, he stood in front of this mixed body of the Sanhedrin and said, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees, and I stand on trial because of my hope and the resurrection of the dead. You have to realize, of course, that Sadducees, the other half of the Sanhedrin, denied the bodily resurrection. And so Paul was clever in saying this and dividing the group against itself. And thus Paul was spit back into Roman control. So Paul was indeed a Pharisee. But you know what the word Pharisee means? It means the separated ones. Just think about that for a minute, that says something important about the mentality that Paul and other Pharisees had. They were separated not only from Gentiles, lots of Jews wanted to do that. But they wanted to separate themselves, even from their fellow Jews. Because you see, the Pharisees were a conservative group of people. And they were upset with their fellow Jews who didn't follow the rules
of holiness, to the degree that they aren't, after all, God had commanded his covenant people already at Mount Sinai to be a kingdom of priests, right, and a holy nation, a kingdom of priest. And so the Pharisees, even though they weren't priest, they said, We're going to live as if we're priests, we're going to follow the rules of holiness, just as if we were priests. And so they were ultra conservative. And so Paul belonged to that particular group, the Pharisees, those who had a very conscious identity of being separate even from their fellow Jews whom they did not consider to be holy enough. And Paul is not just a Pharisee conservative that way, he is, by his own admission, a zealous fellow Pharisee. You can see there a text from both acts and Galatians, where he talks about he was zealous for God, he was zealous for the traditions of my father, and as for zeal, he persecuted the church. And that word zealous or zeal is a key term to for understanding the apostle Paul, because the word zeal or zealous automatically makes you think of an Old Testament story, the story of Phineas, it was a well known embarrassing story in Israel's history, when the men of Israel were sleeping where they were having sex with the women of Moab, and in fact, we read there in numbers 25 There was one Israelite who kind of in a brazen way, took a woman Midianite woman and and brought her in In front of all the elders and took her to his tent. And then we read in numbers 25, that Phineas was filled with something. He was filled with zeal. And he took his spear and he put that spirits for both the man and the woman in the tent. And then the interesting thing is, how does God evaluate this action? How does the Bible record this action? Well, we read the numbers 2513, that Phineas and his descendants will have a covenant of everlasting priesthood. Why? Because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites. That's an important phrase, that means that, that almost any act if it's done under the motivation of zeal for God, well, that's a positive act, even murder isn't murder, if you're zealous for the God for God. Our text says that, that Phineas made atonement for Israelites, he, he, in a sense, paid for their sins with this act. And so if you're armed with this mentality, you become an extremely dangerous person, a person who's not only ultra conservative, but but one who is zealous and really believes that you can do almost anything and you're free from impunity, as long as you are zealous for God. Actually, we have a modern example of this kind of attitude. Not so many years ago, it was the sad event of the Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak rubbin, who was assassinated, he won a Nobel Peace Prize, but within his own country, especially among the the Zionist, he was perceived as being a betrayer. And he was assassinated by, by, by what kind of person? Well, it wasn't some just dumb, hick person, you know, who was manipulated by some leaders to commit an act? No, this was a well educated, trained lawyer, and his family wasn't embarrassed or felt bad about what he had done. No, he was, in a sense, zealous for God in this assassination of Yitzhak Rubin. And if you think about Paul, now, this way, you have a better appreciation for the kind of guy he was, in those early years. He was a bad guy for the church. I mean, it's an intimidating thing to have Paul, after you in those early days, he was gifted, he was well connected. And maybe Worst of all, he was zealous, he was zealous for God. And he was willing to do almost anything in the mistaken belief that he was doing the will of God. Well, not surprisingly, then he also became then a persecutor of the Christian church. Armed with that kind of mentality. He naturally reacted with anger and hostility toward the early church. And very early on, you can see, Paul is introduced in acts as kind of approving of the first martyr Steven in his stoning. And then he himself took a leadership role in persecuting the church, and he freely admits to that, for instance, in Galatians, one, he
says, You have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, not just how I persecuted but how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. They only heard the report, the man who formally persecuted us had ended up and in Philippians, and First Timothy two, he talks about being a persecutor and a violent man. What did Paul look like? That's maybe not such a crucial question, but it may be an interesting one for us to consider. And it does have some other intriguing possibilities. Paul, of course, and nowhere else in the scriptures is this explicitly identify before is this statement in Second Corinthians 10. That's a bit interesting to think about. Paul says for some say his letters are weighty and forceful, but in person, he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing. You have to understand that this is especially true because remember, these are the Corinthians So so the Corinthians the some people saying are people in Corinth that well, you know, he writes pretty well. You know, we admit that Paul's letters are pretty powerful. But you know, in person right in in public speaking, you know, he's not very impressive. You see, public speaking in the first century was a public sport. People went to school and studied hard to talk good. I actually, you know, that's not right, right to talk well, and it wasn't just rules for speech by which you could impress people and then hopefully, they would hire you to teach their children or maybe you'd be hired by a city to serve as some kind of Ambassador and to make their case before the Roman Empire or the governor or something like, like, like that. But you had to not only talk well and make sure your speech was impressive, but you had to be impressive in person too. We read about how these public speakers would, would do things like shave the hair off of all of their body, and they would maybe rub their body with oil because they had to look impressive as well as speak impressively. And Paul, apparently, from this text, not only spoke in an unimpressive way, but it says in person, he was unimpressive. So there's not a lot there. But there's at least a strong hint that Paul wasn't a stud, we would say he wasn't the best looking guy. And the iconography seems to bear that out. Now, the iconography, of course, is not always reliable. But it is interesting that the images of Paul are fairly consistent, and those images had to come from somewhere. And we always see Paul the same way as you see this on the screen, maybe not so different for me with the receding hairline, and other features as well. Now, we do get a description of Paul, not from the biblical account, but from post biblical accounts. So we have to be careful how we use this source. It was obviously written by a Christian it goes like this. And he saw Paul coming man small in size, bald headed, bendy lay kind of noble mean with eyebrows meeting rather hook nose. But then we get the Christian description, but full of grace, sometimes he seemed like a man. And sometimes he had the face of an angel. There is a organization and Investigation Bureau in Germany that use computer technology, and what leather limited sources, we have to reconstruct a picture of Paul, and this is their proposal, which may be helpful for you, as you picture, Paul, in your mind as you have an image of the apostle. Well, when we think about Paul's early years, we also have to think about his legal status, the fact that he was a Roman citizen, that too is an important key to understanding Paul's life. Now, you need to know that only a small percentage of the people of that day enjoyed Roman citizenship. And there were three ways you could become a Roman citizen, you could receive it as a ward as a reward if you did something important for the Empire. And they would give it to you as as a gift as a payback. You can buy it but only at a great, great price. Maybe remember what the Roman commander in Jerusalem, this is at the end of Paul's third missionary journey, and there was kind of a ride in the temple, and the soldiers stationed there, in a sense, rescued Paul. And in the conversation, the commander said, Oh, I had to pay a lot of money for my citizenship. Or the third way is you could inherit it through birth. And that was the way that Paul inherited his citizenship, his parents had citizenship. And this is another clue that Paul likely came from a rich and powerful or well connected Jewish family.
Now, Paul made good use of his citizenship during His ministry. The story in Philippi is one example of of how once Paul, once the authorities in Philippi found that Paul was a Roman citizen, they realized they hadn't treated them right. And they were ready to, to send them go was like, Oops, you know, are bad, you know, let's just pretend this thing didn't happen. The pulse is not so fast, because Paul wants to make sure that the Christians who are left behind in Philippi didn't have any negative strike against them. He was concerned that from a legal point of view that Christianity, Christianity, and this movement was in a sense, exonerated from any kind of charges, Jerusalem, it also became helpful for Paul, that's the story I just told you about, at the end of the third missionary journey, when Paul was accused of doing something that he didn't really do, of bringing this Gentile into the inner court of the temple. And the mob that descended on Paul surely would have done him harm. But the Roman soldiers stationed there, because if you want to control Israel, you want to control the temple. And so there was a garrison right there. They, in a sense, rescued Paul. And during that conversation, Paul mentioned and appealed to his Roman citizenship, and that, in a sense, guaranteed his safety. And maybe the best known example of Paul appealing to his Roman citizenship is when he was in sesor. Ria, he was in assessories, under house arrest for two years, and just when things were looking bad for him, that's when he appealed to Rome. That's what he could do as a Roman citizen. And so then that led to his long trip to Rome, and his ultimate appearance before the Roman Emperor himself. So Paul's Roman citizenship is also an important part of Paul's life. It also impacted the nature of his imprisonment, because he was a Roman citizen, he he didn't get thrown into any old jail and what's more, actually, the Romans didn't spend a lot of time and effort on prisoners. It was too expensive to do so they would just knock them off. They would just kill them rather than feed them and take care them. But because Paul was a Roman citizen, both in assessories, where we just said he was for two years, and in Rome where he was for two years, he technically wasn't in prison. We often talk about Paul's imprisonment. But to be more accurate, he was in house arrest. So he was limited in terms of his movement, but he had some freedom. So for instance, in Serbia ax 24 says that they were to give Paul some freedom and permit his friends to take care of his needs. And similarly in Rome, we read and now Luke is with him. So he uses the first person he says, when we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself with a soldier to guard him. For two whole years, Paul stayed there in his own rented house, and welcomed all who came to see him. So Paul's Roman citizenship helped him a lot because he could carry on his ministry even while he was in house arrest, he could receive representatives from the various churches that he had founded, and others who came to Him for guidance and question, he could write letters still while he was under house arrest, and he could have helpers whom he could send and carry out his ministry in that way. Finally, in terms of Paul's early years, we need to talk about his trade or his skill, the fact that he was a leather worker. And this isn't surprising given Paul's Jewish and rabbinic training, because it was common for Jewish teachers to have some kind of practical skill to provide for themselves. And we read, For instance, in Corinth, how he connects with Priscilla and Aquila, this Jewish couple who got kicked out of Rome, and for a period went to Corinth, and Paul worked with them and access because they were tent makers. Now, because tents were often made with leather, that's why it might be better and more accurate to call Paul, a leather worker. And therefore he made tents, but maybe some other kind of leather goods as well. And Paul's skill or his trade was also an important part of his life and his ministry. It was important for Paul because he used it to avoid the accusation that he was involved in the gospel ministry only for money and selfish reasons. And he must have been sensitive to this because it comes up in a number of times during his life. For instance, when he talks to the Ephesian elders, toward the end of his life, or at least, he thought it was the end of his life, although he still had a few years after that. He said to them, x 21, I have not coveted anyone silver or gold or clothing, you yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. Right, Paul sounds like he's a bit defensive there.
He says, you know, despite apparently what other people are claiming that I haven't been greedy, I haven't coveted other people's money or their possessions, but rather that I work with my own hands and supplied my own needs. And Paul does the same kind of defensive argument in First Thessalonians. Two, he says, we work night and day in order not to be a burden to any of you while we preach the gospel to you. And the larger context of chapter two is Paul is defending himself. In terms of false motives that Paul was only a charlatan, he was kind of like a used car salesman in the ancient world. This idea of preachers or speakers or philosophers who go from place to place and it will say anything and do anything. In order to win over the praise or the money of people. Paul was aware of that stereotype, and he used his work in order to guard against it. And he also uses his work as an example for other Christians to follow. In Second Thessalonians. He deals with the problem of the idlers, these are people in the church who are sponging off of the generosity of fellow Christians. Instead of working, they were just living for free or, or, you know, taking advantage of whatever food or other gifts that fellow Christians my gift. And the problem, even though Paul dealt with it at the beginning of His ministry in Thessaloniki, and briefly dealt with it again, in his first letter, the problem got worse instead of better. And so in the second letter, he has to have a whole long section, second, Thessalonians three from verse six, all the way to 15. And during that time, he says, you know, he not only tells the church how they ought to discipline these members, but he says, we provided an example for you, right, you should follow my example working night and day in order not to be a burden to any of you. And so Paul's ministry, his part of me his his skill, his practical working day job, so to say, was an important part of Paul's ministry and understanding his life. While we leave that first category of the early Paul, I move to the next category, which I've been titled Paul's conversion.