There is something about the Gospels which has universal relevance,
to all times and places. It's as if in them we see every category
of human character, and their response to the Gospel. Paul's mind
was so saturated with the Gospel records that he seems to have seen
the people in his life, both in the world and in the ecclesia, as
having their counterparts in the characters presented in the Gospels.
His familiarity with those records enabled him to make sense of
life, it held no surprises for him, he saw all human behaviour as
fitting in to the patterns and responses which are chronicled in
the Gospels. By studying those same records we too can find a similar
stability and framework for understanding life as God would have
us do. The following are examples of what I mean:
- Lk. 1:30 = Heb. 4:16. When you ask for forgiveness, be like
Mary in her spiritual ambition in asking to be the mother of Messiah.
Mary herself was an inspiration to Paul in his trial (Lk. 1:45
= Acts 27:25).
- Lk. 1:6 = Phil. 2:15; 1 Thess. 3:13. Have the serene spirituality,
all down the years, of Zacharias and Elizabeth.
- Mt. 21:21 = Rom. 4:20. Paul saw Abraham as being like the man
in the parable who had the faith to throw mountains into the sea.
- Often Paul sees similarities between the Pharisees' behaviour
as recorded in the Gospels, and that of people he brushed against
in his life (e.g. Mt. 15:2 = Gal. 1:14; Col. 2:8; Mt. 15:9 = Col.
2:22; Tit. 1:14; Mt. 16:6 = 1 Cor. 5:6,7; Gal. 5:9; Mt. 23:31,32
= 1 Thess. 2:15). And time and again Paul warns his brethren not
to behave like the Pharisees did in various incidents in the Gospels
(e.g. Mt. 23:4 = Acts 15:10; Mt. 23:25 Gk. = 1 Cor. 7:5, where
Paul is saying 'If you lust inwardly but outwardly appear to have
rejected marriage for the sake of the Gospel, you're like those
condemned Pharisees). Let it be noted that the danger of Pharisaism,
of spiritual hypocrisy, of adopting a hard line on issues which
in essence we too fail in, was a great theme with Paul.
- Mt. 11:25 = 1 Cor. 1:19. Paul saw the simplicity of the Corinthian
believers as the sort of thing Christ referred to in Mt. 11:25.
- Lk. 2:37 = 1 Tim. 5:5; 2 Tim. 1:3. Widows in the ecclesia should
model themselves on Anna.
- Lk. 10:41 = 1 Cor. 7:32. Be aware that married life will tempt
you to be more like Martha than Mary. And Mary was the more commendable.
- Lk. 8:23 = 1 Cor. 15:30. Paul felt that if he gave up his faith,
he'd be like those faithless disciples in the storm on Galilee.
- Lk. 19:9 = Rom. 4:11,12. If you have real faith, you'll be
like Zacchaeus. You'll have his determination, his unashamedness
to come out in the open for Christ your Lord.
- Mk. 12:43 = 2 Cor. 8:12. Paul saw those generous ecclesias
as the widow with one mite, and also as rich Mary giving what
she had (Mk. 14:8 = 2 Cor. 8:11). This reveals his sensitivity;
he knew some of them were poor, some rich. Yet he saw they were
all making a real effort. And he understood this in terms of characters
in the Gospels.
- Mt. 5:7 = 2 Tim. 1:16. Paul saw Onesiphorus as the merciful
man of Mt. 5:7; and the Jerusalem ecclesia (Heb. 10:34) as the
persecuted people of Mt. 5:12.
- Mt. 20:22 = Rom. 8:26. This is an example of where appreciating
the links with the Gospels opens our understanding of Paul's letters.
Paul is implying that we are like the mother of Zebedee's children,
in that when we pray, we know not what we ask for in the sense
that we don't appreciate what we ask for. I know what
to pray for: my redemption, and that of others. Read wrongly,
Rom. 8:26 implies we haven't the foggiest what on earth to ask
God for. But we do know what to ask for; the point is,
we don't appreciate what we are asking for, just as that
woman didn't appreciate what she was praying for when she asked
that her two boys would be in the Kingdom.
- In addition to these, there are many significant allusions
made by Paul to John the Baptist and Peter. These have been commented