Paul an exemplar of resolve - Odessa American: Religion

Paul an exemplar of resolve

By Bob Campbell bcampbell@oaoa.com | Posted: Saturday, October 17, 2020 3:30 am

In one of the most abrupt turnarounds in the Bible, the Apostle Paul went from being a brutally determined enemy of Christianity to become perhaps its leading proponent other than Jesus Christ himself.

The Revs. Fernando DeLuna, David Day and Michael McGuire say it is a mystery why God chose Paul to serve as his apostle to the Gentiles, but Paul’s education and articulacy may have been a factor.

“I think he was appointed by God to bring the revelation of grace to all of us,” said the Rev. DeLuna, pastor of Primera Iglesia Bautista. “He was going to Damascus, looking for people to arrest and bring back to Jerusalem to be killed, when he received Jesus’s calling through a vision.

“His 13 letters in the New Testament are the true Gospel of real Christian life.”

DeLuna said Paul “went from being a really bad man to doing more than anyone except Jesus to spread the Gospel.

“He had been very severe in his Judaism,” the minister said. “He’d been taught by (Pharisee doctor of Jewish law) Gamaliel the Elder, so he was well-educated to go to the kings and priests and speak their languages.”

Citing First Corinthians 11:1, DeLuna said Paul is the only Biblical writer to call on people to “be imitators of me as I am of Christ.”

He said Galatians 2:20 is one of the New Testament’s most important passages, saying, “I have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.

“The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

The Rev. Day, executive director of Teen Challenge of the Permian Basin at Midland, said Paul “was a man who had been seeking to kill the Christian people, then all of a sudden he had the Damascus experience, meeting the Lord Jesus Christ and beginning to have a deep personal relationship with Jesus.

“He became a great minister of the Gospel,” Day said. “We see the individuals here at Teen Challenge headed into the darkness and then the light is shone on them and they begin to walk in God’s ways. The Bible says, ‘If you seek me you can find me,’ and Paul sought the Lord with all his heart.

“Moses was a murderer and David sent a man to be killed in battle so he could have the man’s wife. God uses those whom you would least expect to do things that would normally be beyond our capacity, but by his spirit we can accomplish the goals he wants us to accomplish.”

Day said another key to Paul’s success was that he “was very submissive.

“He said, ‘I am crucified daily not so I would live but that Christ would live through me,’” Day said.

“Paul said he was made strong through his weaknesses because the Lord was his strength. That’s what allowed him to be so mighty in the Lord.”

Quoting Romans 12:1, Day said, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

“Paul worked in the spirit and was spirit-led.”

Crescent Park Baptist Church Pastor Michael McGuire said God “will do something out of sovereignty just because he chooses to.

“He chose Jacob over Esau and said, ‘Jacob I loved, Esau I hated,’” the Rev. McGuire said. “Our work is not based on what we do, it’s based on what God does.”

Asked if Paul would have been an esteemed rabbi if he hadn’t become a Christian missionary, the minister said, “Yes, he was a Pharisee of Pharisees who had been taught by Gamaliel.

“In Philippians 3:5-6 he says he had been circumcised on the eighth day and was of the people of Israel, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law a Pharisee, as to zeal a persecutor of the church and as to righteousness under the law blameless.”

McGuire said God might also have designated Paul because, as is revealed in Second Corinthians 11:23-25, he was extremely tough, enduring 39 lashes with whips five times, being thrice beaten with rods and being stoned once and shipwrecked three times. “Paul was fearless,” he said.

“He was a very strong personality who was not swayed by public opinion as people are today. He had to defend his apostleship because people in his day didn’t accept him as an apostle. He may have been at the crucifixion and may have seen John’s baptism of Jesus.

“He was not one of the original 12 disciples, but he did meet the resurrected Christ on the road to Damascus.”