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Character of Paul

Hello Ms. Anderson, our study group is discussing the "character of Paul" in the Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles, his habits of preaching and the recurring themes in this writing. Would you summarize your thoughts on Paul's character in those terms I mentioned plus in terms of the theological philosophies that he offers to the audiences of the letters - i.e., marrage/celibacy, ritual observance like circumcision, the Law, Lord's Supper, Christian Freedom and its conception of love. Thanks for your help.

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I will answer your question in the order that you presented them.

RESPONSE:

1. "Would you summarize your thoughts on Paul's character in those terms of his habits of preaching and the recurring themes in this writing... plus in terms of the theological philosophies that he offers to the audiences of the letters - i.e., marrage/celibacy, ritual observance like circumcision, the Law, Lord's Sumpper, Christian Freedom and its conception of love."

A. Paul's habits of preaching

Paul's habit of preaching was as a bold firm spiritual leader, but yet prayer and meditation was very much a part of Paul's preaching style. He was an obvious spiritual leader, a divinely appointed spiritual leader who had a Godly mission to fulfill. In fact, in the New Testament God used human leaders to bring blessing and feeding to the church. From the day of Pentecost, the apostles acted as de facto leaders. They, including Paul, preached, taught, (Acts 2:42) and ruled on issues that came up for debate (Acts 6:1,2). They were able to delegate leadership to others (Acts 6:3,4), including Paul. Paul devoted his attention to grounding the believers in truth, rather than high profile evangelistic ministry.

What did Paul's preaching and spiritual mission encompass? Acts depicts Paul as a diligent worker of God, who pressed on with courage even in tough situations. We see this time and time again in Paul's missionary journeys (see attachment). God chose the apostles and made leaders out of ordinary people. Paul was an apostle, and an obvious leader. He served in Antioch with a group of men who were said to be "prophets and teachers." (Acts 13:1) These were probably the elders in Antioch, though never says that. It does record that "they" [probably the same men] laid hands on Paul and Barnabas and sent them off on the first journey." The reason they chose Paul and Barnabas was divine election (see below). On that first journey we see them appointing elders in the new churches they planted. (Acts 14:23) The fasting and prayer that preceded these appointments suggests they were seeking God's choice for leaders. These appointments ware made during their return trip through these cities, indicating that some time had passed (probably only weeks) since their original visit.

During the second journey, Paul added Timothy to his band, likely leading to Timothy's eventual recognition as an apostle. Although this is never actually stated, Timothy acts in the role of an apostle in appointing elders and overseeing elders according to 1 Timothy. (Ch. 3; 5:17). The only criteria given in Acts for why Paul chose Timothy is that "The brothers at Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him." (Acts 16:2) However, in 2 Tim. 1:6 Paul refers to bestowing gifts on Timothy by the laying on of his own hands (most likely the gift of apostleship). This is also referred to in 1 Tim. 4:14 where Paul reminds him of his gift, "which was bestowed upon you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery." Thus, if a prophetic utterance was the occasion of Timothy's choosing, we again have a case of divine election.

Both Timothy and Titus are given the job of appointing elders. Of interest is the fact that Paul has left them behind to do this work, implying that it was not possible to select elders when he was there. This suggests that they wanted to see these men actually living out leadership roles before making the choice to recognize them as elders. Likewise, Paul cautions Timothy about deacons: "They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons." (1 Tim. 3:10)

B. "...The recurring themes in this writing..."

(i) The Apostles were chosen by Christ.

The correct context of John 15:16 (You did not chose me, but I chose you) is not unconditional election or irresistible grace, but election to the role of apostle. Likewise, God's choice is evident in the story of Paul's conversion (where his future ministry is already envisioned) and in the story of the Spirit speaking to the leaders at Antioch in Acts 13. Timothy was apparently named an apostle by a prophetic message from God. (1 Tim. 4:14) We find, therefore, that in the main role of leadership in the New Testament, the key is whether or not God has chosen the person.

Paul comments on his own credentials for leadership in the book of 2 Corinthians 3:1-3: "Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, as some, letters of commendation to you or from you? You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts." Here, Paul contrasts human credentials (letters of commendation) to his own credentials, which are nothing less than the marks of divine election. Instead of humans writing his letter, he says the Spirit of God wrote it on human hearts.

Notice Paul's reference in 2 Cor. 10:12 to "the field God has assigned to us." God apparently assigns fields of ministry, and Paul's proof that he was assigned the field in question is that he had done the work there, as the context makes clear.

According to Rom. 12:8, there is a gift of leadership. Likewise, Eph. 4:11,12 says, "It was he [God] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses the "character of Paul" in the Epistles and the Acts of the Apostles, including his habits of preaching and the recurring themes in this writing, as well as the theological philosophies that he offers to the audiences of the letters on these issues: marrage/celibacy, ritual observance like circumcision, the Law, Lord's Supper, Christian Freedom and its conception of love. Supplemented with two articles discussing Paul's character and how he represents women in The Book of Romans.

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