Online Bible College
Carelinks Home
FREE Literature
'Bible Lives' Home
Bible Books Home
Buy this Book!
Bible Lives  

14.  Paul

14-1 The Conversion Of Paul / Saul || 14-2-1 Paul And His Brethren || 14-2-2 The Weakness Of Paul || 14-2-3 Paul: A Character Study || 14-3 The Preaching Of Paul || 14-4 Saul Changed To Paul || 14-5 Paul's Relationship With Jesus || 14-6 Paul And Christ  (1) || 14-6-1 Paul's Use Of The Gospels  || 14-6-2 Paul's Quotations From The Gospels: Statistics || 14-6-3-1 Paul's Quotations From The Gospels: Analysis And Implications || 14-6-3-2 Inspiration: The Human Factor || 14-6-3-3 The Enigma Of John's Gospel || 14-6-3-4 The Nature Of The Gospel Records || 14-6-3-5 Memorizing Scripture || 14-6-4 The Supremacy Of Christ || 14-7 Paul And Christ (2) || 14-7-1 Paul's Use Of The Gospels: Further Observations || 14-7-2 Paul And The Parables || 14-7-3 Paul's Use Of The Sermon On The Mount (Mt. 5 - 7) || 14-7-4 Paul's Exposition Of Gethsemane || 14-7-5 Paul And The Characters In The Gospels || 14-7-6 Paul In The Gospels || 14-7-7 Paul And John The Baptist || 14-7-8 Saul, Paul And Stephen || 14-7-9 Following Elders || 14-7-10 Connections Between The Gospels And Epistles: Observations || 14-8 Paul's Heroes || 14-8-1 Paul And Moses || 14-8-2 Paul And King Saul || 14-9   Paul and Corinth || 14-10 Paul And His Weak Brethren || 14-11 Paul's Thorn In The Flesh || 14-12 Paul's Shipwreck  || 14-13 Paul’s Self-Perception || 14-14 Paul, Philemon and Onesimus || 14-15 Chronology of Paul’s Life

14-3 The Preaching Of Paul

There can be no doubt that Saul of Tarsus was the rising star of the Jewish world. There can be no doubt of his intellectual ability, of his personal charisma. The way Paul in Galatians could cite Old Testament passages which combine the words ‘right’ and ‘faith’ is not only due to inspiration- he would have memorized the Old Testament as many Jews did, and yet like a computer search program, was able to pull out passages combining certain words- e.g. the only one combining ‘curse’ and ‘law’ The Roman Governor Felix trembled at Paul's incisive logic- even in his prison uniform (Acts 24:25). Hardened Agrippa was almost persuaded by Paul, on his own public admission, to become a Christian (Acts 26:28). The Galatian converts would have pulled out their eyes from their sockets and given them to partially sighted Paul (Gal. 4:15). The aggressive crowd, baying for Paul's blood, were held in one of history's most uncanny silences by the sheer personality of that preacher. He beckoned with his hand, and " there was made a great silence...and when they heard how (Gk.) he spake...they kept the more silence" (Acts 21:39-22:2). Pagans at Lystra were so overcome by his oratory that they were convinced he was the god Mercury come down to earth; it took Paul quite some effort to persuade them that he was an ordinary man (Acts 14:12). This was the man Paul. He had undoubted ability as a preacher. In passing, the Corinthians mocked his weak physical presence; and yet Paul had undoubted charisma and power of personality, right up to the end. Was it not that he consciously suppressed the power of his personality when he visited Corinth? This was humility and self-knowledge indeed. Indeed, his reasoning in 2 Cor. 10,11 is that he could present himself to Corinth as quite a different brother Paul than what he did.  

After his conversion, we sense from the record that the preaching Paul was in his element. The record of his early preaching in Damascus and Jerusalem is recorded with the same rubric: he preached " boldly" , and on each occasion it seems he would have gone on, utterly oblivious of the fact he was heading for certain death, had not the other brethren " taken" him and quietly slipped him out of those cities (Acts 9:27). The same word translated " boldly" occurs later, years later, when Paul asks his converts to pray for him, that he would speak " boldly, as I ought to speak" (Eph. 6:20). He has already asked them this in v.19; he asks for the same thing twice. And he confessed his same problem to the Colossians (Col. 4:4). As he got older, he found it harder to be bold. First of all, in those heady days in Jerusalem and Damascus, it was the most natural thing in the world for him. But as time went by, it became harder for him to do this. Acts 18:4,5 implies that when Paul first came to Corinth, he concentrated on his tent making business, and confined his preaching to arguing with the Jews at synagogue on the Sabbath. But when Silas and Timothy came, their presence made him " pressed in the spirit" to launch an all-out campaign. No longer was he the self-motivated maverick. He needed the presence of others to stir up his mind and prod him onwards. He admitted to those he converted in Corinth as a result of this campaign that such preaching was against his will, he had had to consciously make himself do it (1 Cor. 9:17). Indeed, the Lord Jesus Himself had had to appear to Paul in a vision and encourage him not to suppress his preaching on account of his fear of persecution (Acts 18:9). Therefore he later told the Corinthians that he feared condemnation if he gave in to his temptation not to preach (1 Cor. 9:16). On the voyage to Rome, it was only after much " abstinence" that Paul openly preached to the crew and other prisoners (Acts 27:21)- as if he struggled against a shyness in public testifying.  

Yet we have seen that initially, Paul was a bold, fearless preacher. By the end of his life, he had to fervently pray to have that boldness he once had. He asked at least two ecclesias to pray for him to continue to have it. He says in 2 Cor. 10:1 that now he tends to be more bold in written words, rather than in personal presence. And he tells Philemon (v.8) that although he could be bold in his writing to him, he isn't going to be; he's going to beseech him, " for love's sake...being such an one as Paul the aged" (Philemon 9). Yet Paul knew himself well enough to be able to say that he was always bold (Phil. 1:20; as confirmed in Acts 26:26 Gk.; 28:31 RV; 19:8; 1 Thess. 2:2; Rom. 15:15). He was practising what he preached in Heb. 3:6; 10:35: the need to hold fast our initial boldness (Gk.) steadfast unto the end.  

Paul could only do what he once did so effortlessly through a great spiritual effort. Moses likewise was " mighty in words" for 40 years in the court of Pharaoh. But at age 80, he complained that he was not mighty in words to go and speak to Pharaoh. Yet, eventually, he did. He did what was now against the grain for him. On a surface level, it's clear that the unbridled enthusiasm for preaching of our early months after baptism is difficult to maintain; yet maintain it we must. But there is a deeper principle here. We are being asked to pick up the cross, to do what is difficult for us, as an act of the will. If we find one aspect of service easy, it often becomes harder. If Moses had to speak to Pharaoh at age 40, it would have been easier than at age 80, after 40 lonely years in the wilderness. If Paul had to preach boldly just for his first few years, it would have been easy. And so with each of us. Entertaining brethren and sisters, going to meetings...what was once easy and natural becomes more difficult, it requires more will power and conscious motivation, as time goes by. We are being taught, by the changes in our own personality and situation, to pick up the cross, to walk out against the wind, to cut against the grain . I think we'll each perceive some element of this as we look back over the years. And as a community, we are being made, yes made, to face up to issues which once seemed so easy, but are now altogether more painful to cope with.

Paul As A Nazarited Preacher

Paul was called to be a preacher of the Gospel, and yet he speaks of his work as a preacher as if it were a Nazarite vow- which was a totally voluntary commitment. Consider not only the reference to him shaving his head because of his vow (Acts 18:18; 21:24 cp. Num. 6:9-18), but also the many descriptions of his preaching work in terms of Nazariteship:

-         Separated unto the Gospel’s work (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:15; Acts 13:2)

-         “I am not yet consecrated / perfected” (Phil. 3:12)- he’d not yet finished his ‘course’, i.e. his preaching commission. He speaks of it here as if it were a Nazarite vow not yet ended. Note the reference to his ‘consecration’ in Acts 20:24.

-         His undertaking not to drink wine lest he offend others (Rom. 14:21) is framed in the very words of Num. 6:3 LXX about the Nazarite.

-         Likewise his being ‘joined unto the Lord’ (1 Cor. 6:17; Rom. 14:6,8) is the language of Num. 6:6 about the Nazarite being separated unto the Lord.

-         The reference to having power / authority on the head (1 Cor. 11:10) is definitely some reference back to the LXX of Num. 6:7 about the Nazarite.

What are we to make of all this? The point is perhaps that commitment to active missionary work is indeed a voluntary matter, as was the Nazarite vow. And that even although Paul was called to this, yet he responded to it by voluntarily binding himself to ‘get the job done’. And the same is in essence true for us today in our various callings in the Lord’s service.