Nurturing/ Teaching Courses
The Challenge of Paul the Apostle
by Dr Alex Tang
“What is the relevance of Paul to our lives?”
1. Paul in Acts 27-28
1.1 Paul’s Journey to Rome as a Prisoner, c. A.D. 60-61
(1) Paul sets sail for Rome in custody of the Roman centurion Julius (Acts 27:1)
(2) Paul allowed to visit friends at Sidon (Acts 27:3)
(3) At Myra the prisoners board another ship, bound for Italy (Acts 27:5-6)
(4) Contrary winds force them south of Crete (Acts 27:7-8)
(5) The ship proceeds despite Paul’s warning of injury and loss (Acts 27:9-18)
(6) Precautions are taken to avoid driven aground on the sandbanks of the Syrtis (Acts 27:17-19)
(7) Storm batters the ship 14 days (Acts 27:19-27)
Paul, being the most experienced traveller, made three calls:
· The call to keep up their courage (27:21-26)
· The call to stay together (27:27-32)
· The call to take food (27:33-38)
(8) Ship is wrecked on Malta; Paul heals the sick; party remains three months (Acts 27:28-28:11)
(9) Ship stops at Syracuse three days (Acts 28:12)
1.2 Paul at Rome
Three years before, Paul has written to the Christians in Rome that he intended to visit them.
(1) Road by which Paul approached Rome (Acts 28:15)
(2) Headquarters of the Praetorian Guard, whose commander had custody of accused citizens appealing to the emperor.
(3) While awaiting his first trial, Paul remained in his own hired house; site unknown (Acts 28:30-31)
(4) During the first imprisonment Paul wrote to Philemon, and to the Philippians.
(5) Passages in his various letters indicate that Paul was brought to trial, released and allowed to work unhindered for possibly three years. Arrested again, Paul was imprisoned the second time, and later suffered martyrdom (2 Tim 1:8, 4:6-7)
(6) Nero burned the Christians at his circus after the fire (A.D.64). Paul was evidently freed before this.
(7) Some traditions place Paul in the Mamertime dungeon during his second imprisonment.
(8) During his second imprisonment Paul wrote 2 Timothy (2 Tim. 4:6-7)
2. What does Paul mean to us?
What lessons can we learn from Paul? How did Paul interact with the culture and society of his time? How does Paul translate being ‘in Christ’ into his everyday living and ministry?
I would like to suggest a few models of interactions between Christians and the world.
(a) Separation Model
The separation model draws on biblical emphases such as Christians being ‘aliens and exiles’ in the world (1 Peter 2:11), and that we are not to ‘love the world’ (1 John 2:15). It is characterised in history especially by the pre-Constantinian church and the Anabaptists. It emphasises the Christian’s separation from the world and withdrawal from public life. The danger is that we can be too separated from the world that we withdraw into a Christian ghetto. In the United States, we have Christian pre-school, Christian schools and even Christian universities. Some parents have resorted to home schooling.
(b) Identification Model
The identification model draws on Old Testament examples of Joseph and Daniel, in public life and on Jesus’ incarnation as an expression of his concern to identify with the world with all its contradictions. Historically it is represented by the Constantinian church and civil religion. This model sees the Christian as living simultaneously under God’s law in two realms, the church and the state (representing the world), since both are ordained by God. But this means that the Christian is often caught in the tension between the two. Caught in the conflicting demands inherent within this model, the danger for the Christian is to slide into accommodation with the world.
(c) Transformational Model
The transformational model draws
on images such as Christians being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ (Mat 5:13-16) and the
total thrust of biblical teachings. It is identified with Augustine and Calvin
historically. This rejects the idea of withdrawal emphasised by the first model
and that of the accommodation in which the second model often slips. It accepts
the distinction of the Christian living in two separate realms, the church and
the world, but sees the church as being in position to convert and change the
structures of the world into something which is more in tune with God’s laws.
Unfortunately, as we look around us, the church has less and less influence on
the world. In places where the church does have some influence, the church
itself becomes riddled with conflicts and legalism. Too much salt make food
unpalatable. Too little salt allowed food to be spoilt.
(d) Incarnational Model
The above three models are rooted in some aspect of biblical teachings but tends to emphasis one at the expense of another. The fourth model is the incarnational model following the example of Jesus Christ. Webb wrote.” Jesus identified with the world; was separate from the ideologies that rule it; and by His death, resurrection and Second Coming assured its transformation. “ Identified with the world, Jesus accepted slavery, divorce and Roman taxation and He seek to transform the world by changing people.
Paul followed his example. In his years of ministry, Paul ‘grew where he was planted’. From his tentmaking shops, he discipled people with the empowerment provided by the Holy Spirit. He mixed with the common people and worked in the marketplace.
Gordon Fee, in his massive tome, God’s Empowering Presence, wrote that the reason why the first century Christians are more effective than us was because we have marginalised the Holy Spirit. It is his belief that the first century Christians especially Paul was very in tunes with the Holy Spirit and thus was so much more effective than we do today. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit is fruit, witness and gifts.
In little more than 10 years, Paul established churches in 4 provinces of the Empire: Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. Before AD 47, there were no churches in the province. In AD 57, Paul spoke as if his job has been done and was planning to go further afield.
Each of us has to choose our context of interaction with the world. We can adopt the separation, identification, transformation or incarnational model. But choose we must. God has placed us, His people in the marketplace for a purpose. He did not call all to be ‘full time’ workers. He, with His supreme wisdom has placed us where He wants us to be. We are here not by chance. The influence we yield in our business or our profession is given to us for a purpose.
3. The Challenge
The challenge is for us to be like Paul, to live an incarnational lifestyle in the context of where we are, in our homes, our workplace or our places to study. To be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and be energised by our own Damascus encounters.
Soli Deo Gloria
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