This semester I’m teaching a class on the life and ministry of Paul. But if it is true that Paul himself “determined not to know anything among you but Christ, and him crucified,” why would we take a semester and study, well, Paul?
Here’s a few reasons I shared with the class.*
Study Paul because he is the model Christian.
How does that assertion strike you? Of course we know Paul is important—most of us know that God used him as the human author much of the New Testament—books like Romans and Ephesians. But the idea that he is the model Christian—where does that come from? Well, it actually comes straight out of the Bible. The New Testament itself teaches that Paul is to be our pattern.
- “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16)
- “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.” (Philippians 3:17)
- “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)
- “For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you. . . . Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9)
- “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1)
- “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
I really appreciate the sermons series “Paul Your Pattern” that my pastor, Mark Minnick, preached back in 2009. You can access that series here.
Study Paul because his teaching is foundational.
Paul was taught by God, and after his incredible conversion he gave his life to testifying of Christ—to taking what we read about in the Gospels about the life and work of Christ, and expound it, and show the implications, and to be a channel of God’s further revelation about it all.
Just take out the table of contents of your New Testament and look at all that comes to us from God’s use of Paul. 1 and 2 Corinthians. Romans. Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians. 1 and 2 Thessalonians. 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus. Philemon. Maybe Hebrews. I am staking my life and eternity on the truth of these books!
The nature of the inspiration of Scripture, the way these books came to be, drives me to want to know more about Paul. Think about this. When God breathed out Scripture He did so in a way that used the personalities, the experiences, the vocabulary of the authors He chose. Only God could do something like that, and probably only God could come up with such an incredible and wonderful plan. God’s exact words, through a human messenger, guided by him, but not in such a way that the messenger’s personality is erased.
And so because of the very nature of inspiration, I have God’s very words before me and they came to me through the pen of a human being. The more I learn about that human being and what God did in his life, the better I can understand these words that mean everything to me. Those are Paul’s words and God’s words, and I want to understand, to cherish, those words better. I want to know more about Paul.
Study Paul because his ministry is normative.
Paul models right ministry. “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” he could say. To his fellow laborer Timothy he could write,
But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. (2 Timothy 3:10-11)
His example is one I want to follow so that one day I too can say,
I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Should we study Paul? The Scriptural answer is a resounding yes!
*I am thankful for teachers before me who shared the main headings of this article with me. These main points are not original to me.