Overview--1 | Overview--2 | Early Paul--3 | Mature Paul--4
The Missionary Heart of the Apostle Paul: Overview--1
compiled by Bob Young
Note: The lessons in this series were originally developed for presentation at Seminario Baxter (written in English to be presented in Spanish). The lessons treat the life of Paul with an introductory overview, a survey of the early life of Paul, and conclusions drawn from the later, more spiritually mature Paul.
Because of the context for which the lessons were prepared, the focus is on evangelistic and missionary endeavors. Paul's letters served as a primary source of information, coupled with background knowledge of early Christianity, and selected missions resources.
Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, by F. F. Bruce, was used as a primary resource in determining the outline of the series and much of the content.
The Apostle Paul, Who Is He?
The God whose grace Paul proclaimed is the God of great wonders. He creates the universe from nothing, he calls the dead to life, he justifies the ungodly. For Paul, the third truth is greatest wonder of all. Creation and resurrection are consistent with the power of the living, life-giving God, but justifying the ungodly is an obvious contradiction to the character of the righteous God, the judge of all the earth who by his own declaration in Exodus 23:7 will not justify the ungodly. This foundation is at the heart of understanding God, and is essential for understanding Paul's overwhelming gratitude in God's actions. In His divine grace that extends salvation to undeserving sinners, God demonstrates that He is both just and justifier (Romans 3:25-26).
I. The Initial Message of Paul--Jewish Leader Now Christian [Acts 13]
Paul ties God's work in this world into history; this is the message he must proclaim. In Acts 13, Paul sets the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus into God's work in history, perhaps in parallel to Jewish struggles and persecutions. This is the universal message to both Jew and Gentile. This is the message of the cross.
II. The Motivations of Paul
What drove Paul?
A. Grace, 1 Cor. 15:8-10, 2 Cor. 12
B. The love of Christ, 2 Cor. 5:13-15
C. The cross, that Paul was broken by the cross, Gal. 2:19-21
D. Paul's call to ministry by God, Gal. 1:11ff; Acts 9, 22, 26.
E. Paul's sense of obligation, Rom. 1:14-15; 1 Cor. 9
F. The gospel, 1 Cor. 15:1-4
G. Being in Christ, Christ is central, 1 Cor. 15:1; Gal. 3; Phil. 3. [Christ and the cross are central in Paul's thought; "being in Christ" is a major distinct marking, 2 Tim. 2:10.]
H. Life in the Spirit, the indwelling Spirit, Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 5:16ff; 3:1-3
I. The second coming of Christ, 1-2 Thessalonians
III. The Mysteries of Paul
When we come to study Paul, we see a marvelous transition from the historical Jesus to the exalted Christ. It is in relationship to the exalted Christ with whom Paul claimed personal, profound acquaintance, that we best introduce the heart and soul of Paul the missionary.
At least four foundation truths about Jesus provide an understanding of Paul's King and Lord. We must begin with the early Pauline history and see the understanding that undergirded his life once he became a Christian.
These four things Paul knew well as he reflected upon the Damascus road experience. These concepts are reflected in his earlier writings. These were the foundation of (1) his vibrant hope and expectation in early ministry, and of (2) his mature certainty in later ministry.
- A. The Revealing Christ: The Glorious Light
We have little description of the form the exalted Christ took on the Damascus Road, but it was for Paul a life-changing event. "Radiant light" is Paul's recollection. That light was so glorious that Paul remembers it well when he speaks of the ministry of the new covenant entrusted to him (2 Cor. 3). The beginning point of faith is seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, so the light might shine out of the darkness (2 Cor. 4:4,6). This shining light dispels the blindness of unbelief.
Because of this glorious "light experience" on the Damascus road, Paul looked forward to the parousia, the manifestation in glory, since this appearance would be of the same character as the Damascus road event, except that what was only a mere momentary flash would become a more enduring experience, accompanied also by the glorification of his people, whether by transformation or resurrection.
- B. The Resurrected and Reigning Christ: The Exalted Lord
Paul makes coextensive the identity of the earthly Jesus and the exalted Christ, distinguishing their modes of existence (1 Cor. 15:47), and extending the same principle to all spiritual creation. A personal union is necessary, not unlike the closest personal union in this life, for this union with the Lord makes us one spirit with him (1 Cor. 6:17). So it is that when Paul affirms that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom, it is as true of us as it is of Jesus. Our problem is to separate this "one spirit" with Jesus from the "one Spirit" in whom all the people of Christ are united into one body. This will become clearer soon.
The exalted Lord will make all enemies his footstool (1 Cor. 15:25), including his victory over death, and then the reign of Christ will merge with the eternal reign of God. The reign of Christ, the age of the Messiah, exists for Paul between the present age and the endless age to come, and from certain viewpoints the two may overlap.
When minds are liberated by faith in the crucified and risen Christ, then the bondage imposed by the weak and beggarly elements is broken, and the strength of sin and the fear of death can no longer bind. The destruction of these principalities and powers may be described figuratively, but the reality is release and freedom for the believer who shares in the exaltation in the heavenly places.
- C. The Redeeming and Resurrecting Christ: The Lord and the Spirit
This description, based on the phrase, "the Lord who is the Spirit," comes from 2 Corinthians 3:18, based on Exodus 34:29-35. The fading glory on Moses' face is contrasted with the unfading glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4). The inferior glory is passing so the surpassing glory will be evident to all. The Pauline experience suggested to him that Christ would never be completely known or understood apart from the spirit nor the spirit known apart from the Christ. Something similar occurs in John's narratives concerning the Comforter (John 14-16). The last Adam becomes a life giving Spirit (Romans 5), a description of the Spirit of life in Christ (Romans 8:2). This Spirit quickens our mortal bodies, addresses the death-dealing problem of the law, and is the source of our renewal (2 Cor. 4:16; Eph. 3:14ff) as we become one spirit with Christ (1 Cor. 6:17). We are united with the Lord by faith, deriving eternal life now and hope of glory to come. Since life and hope are mediated through the spirit life and hope, Paul can speak of the Spirit as pledge and seal.
- D. The Reflecting Christ: The Image of God
Christ is the very image of God. God's purpose in human creation in the Old Testament (Gen. 1:26-27) is fulfilled in Christ. Colossians 1:15 must be balanced with 1 Corinthians 11:7. The same truth appears in Hebrews 1:3.
Consider Colossians 3:4. When the people of Christ in resurrection share fully in the glorious light and image of their exalted Lord, the Spirit's ministry is fulfilled. The Spirit who fulfills this ministry is the Spirit who empowered Jesus without measure, and for Paul, the exalted Lord whose risen life and power are conveyed to his people by the indwelling Spirit thus dwells in our hearts by faith (Eph. 3:17).
Last updated November 3, 2011