Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Apostle Paul was a jerk!

There circulates among some the idea that the Apostle Paul was an ogre, a boorish, overbearing type who constantly harped on everyone to get their stuff right or else. They contend that the reason for which he often mentioned church discipline and for which he refused to allow John Mark to accompany him on his 2nd missionary journey b/c he had abandoned him the 1st time around and for which he was constantly contending for the faith w/ unbelievers, often in a debate setting, was b/c he was a power-tripping god-complex personality. I have posted the following Scriptural psgs in order to speak to that very idea.

Acts 18:18 -
18Paul stayed on in Corinth for some time. Then he left the brothers and sailed for Syria, accompanied by Priscilla and Aquila.
--Why did Aquila and Priscilla follow Paul? No mention of an order or a vision to do so. Could we not conclude that it was b/c they shared Paul's vision and loved him enough to go w/ him to do it? Why else would they work so long together as tentmakers?

Acts 19:9 -
But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus.
--Paul, for approximately 2 years in Ephesus, had a school for *discussion* and reasoning. Not just him preaching.

Acts 19:28-31 -
28When they heard this they were enraged and were crying out, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" 29So the city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed together into the theater, dragging with them Gaius and Aristarchus, Macedonians who were Paul's companions in travel. 30But when Paul wished to go in among the crowd, the disciples would not let him. 31And even some of the Asiarchs, who were friends of his, sent to him and were urging him not to venture into the theater.
--Paul originally wanted to go before this crazed group of maybe around 20,000 people to make a defense, but his friends wouldn't allow him. That tells us that 1) he was available to listen to others and have his mind changed; and 2) he had dear friends who didn't want to see him in harm's way unnecessarily.

Acts 20:1-2 -
1After the uproar ceased, Paul sent for the disciples, and after encouraging them, he said farewell and departed for Macedonia. 2When he had gone through those regions and had given them much encouragement, he came to Greece.
--It doesn't fit w/ this ogre personality when Paul spends so much time "encouraging" and "greatly encouraging" the brethren.

Acts 20:17-21 -
17Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him. 18And when they came to him, he said to them: "You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, 19serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; 20how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, 21testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ..."
--They themselves (the Ephesian elders) did indeed know this and so didn't challenge his assertion that he lived to SERVE THEM, working for his own wages, living among them w/ humility, spending his time teaching THEM, refusing to deal only w/ Jews, undergoing trials in order to continue to preach the Truth.

Acts 20:31-38 -
31"Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish everyone with tears. 32And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33I coveted no one's silver or gold or apparel. 34You yourselves know that these hands ministered to my necessities and to those who were with me. 35In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"36And when he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, 38being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.
--A very long period of time he spent w/ the Ephesians, admonishing them w/ TEARS rather than an I'm-in-charge-here attitude. He was concerned w/ their sanctification and not w/ their worldly riches. He took to heart that "it is more blessed to give than to receive," and the elders knew it and wept and kissed him b/c they knew they would never see him again. And they went w/ him to send him off at the ship.

Examples could be multiplied but I don't want to make this a lot longer. Romans 16. The letter to the Philippians. The letter to Philemon. The letter of 2 Corinthians. Ephesians 2.
Why do these people say this about Paul? I think it's partly b/c they want to discredit him and the things he said so that they don't have to deal w/ unpleasant things, like:
1) His frequent mentionings of judgment
2) His teachings on church discipline
3) His teachings on the necessity of preaching the Gospel to all
4) His insistence that we live pure lives, away from even controversial sins like homosexuality, drunkenness, adultery, pre-marital sex
5) His insistence that all human beings are corrupted and fallen, and thus evil (see Romans 3 and tell me he didn't teach that)
6) His insistence that God has spoken thru the Scriptures and that we are to be correctable by them over and above anything else, any other human tradition

It's easier to discard Paul b/c he was a mean and nasty person than to deal w/ the difficulty of changing a warped and liberal-tinged worldview to bring it into agreement w/ what the apostle wrote in the divinely-breathed Scriptures. But could it be that he actually *wasn't* the jerk that they claim and that God really *does* back up what Paul said in the Scriptures? An honest seeker will find the right answer.