There is no doubt that the Apostle Paul is the most influential Christian in the history of the church. I have to admit from the beginning that, aside from Jesus Christ, he is my favorite character in the entire Bible. His writings have survived centuries of scrutiny and speculation, and yet they continue to inspire Christians even today. There is not one Christian who has ever lived who has not been inspired or challenged by the writing of this great apostle.
The Apostle Paul has been very influential, but he has also been greatly misunderstood. Many of his verses have been twisted and taken out of their proper context to support a “preacher’s” version of the gospel. This is no surprise since the Apostle Peter said that this was happening in his own day (2 Peter 3:16). The sad thing is that the words of Paul have even more power when understood in their original context. There is absolutely no need to take them out of context.
Let’s start with a little background shall we? For those who don’t know the story of Paul, he was formerly known as Saul. He was a persecutor of the first century church and, in his own words, a “Pharisee of the Pharisees.” That is, until he got knocked off his horse on his way to Damascus and came into contact with the risen Jesus. That interaction changed his entire life.
From that point on, the Apostle Paul made it a goal to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. He traveled thousands of miles over the span of about 30 years telling people about Jesus wherever he went. He suffered imprisonment, shipwreck, betrayal, beatings, and many other things, and yet he continued to preach. Something within Paul drove him to the breaking point on several occasions, but he refused to break. His passion simply would not die.
Any person who has ever achieved anything great in life has had to overcome obstacles somewhere along the way. Paul simply saw things differently than other people. Where other people saw obstacles he saw opportunities. Where other people saw weakness he saw God’s sufficient grace. Paul was constantly haunted by a feeling that he didn’t deserve what he had received, and yet he continued to reach for the prize.
The truth is that anyone who has been in Christianity for any length of time has felt exactly like the great apostle. None of us deserve what we have received, and yet we still continue to reach for that prize. Our constant desire is to know Jesus more, and as Paul said himself, “to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Paul is an incredible example, not only of God’s sufficient grace, but of passion that is directed by purpose.
There are many lessons that can be gleaned from the life of Paul. My goal in the following series is to point out some of those lessons, and to restore some things that have been taken out of context and put them back into proper context. There is no possible way for me to breakdown an entire book written by Paul in a blog format. The book of Romans itself would require hundreds of blogs!
For those who read my blog series on the Minor Prophets, this series will be very similar to that one. I will seek to provide contextual information and a simple overview of the book, as well as what we can learn from it today. My desire is that whoever reads this blog series will be inspired to research Paul’s writings for themselves. When you read his books with an open mind they will change how you view everything!