Paul and The State

Never Resist, Except When You Should Resist

Brent Blackwell

God Ordains the Good and the not so Good

The Bible is rich in traditions of civil resistance and opposition against governing authorities. Hebrew midwives challenged the Egyptian Pharaoh, refusing to kill newborn sons due to their fear of the Lord (Exodus 1:17). Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego resisted Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to worship the golden image and were thrown into a fiery furnace for retribution (Daniel 3:5). Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin and explicitly instructed to discontinue their message of the risen Christ (Acts 4:18); yet they persisted in their preaching. If these examples of the richness of civic struggles in Biblical traditions are not enough, contemporary scholarship teaches us that among the few things we know about the historical Jesus, he was crucified for the act of sedition, a crime of rebellion against the state.

When we take this historical framework into account, it is clear to see why Paul’s words of universal submission to governing authorities in Romans 13:1-7 may be problematic. Essentially, in this passage Paul makes three logical arguments: 1) All governing authority has been ordained by God (v. 1); 2) a person who resists such authority resists God (v. 2) and will be punished or rewarded accordingly (v. 3-4); and 3) to avoid wrath and vengeance, Christians must be subject to authority (v. 5).

Essentially, Paul argues for the Roman Christians to fully humble themselves before authority for the honoring of the Lord. Interestingly, Paul provides no exception to this universal declaration. However, a superficial understanding of Paul’s words of submission is not enough; it must be examined in a larger context.

Before proceeding any further, it is first necessary to establish if Paul truly meant governmental authority, or if this is our imposition of the text. The recursion of the word κακός in 12:21 and 13:3,4 (translated as “evil” or “wrongdoing”) makes clear that Paul is addressing Christian relations to a non-Christian section of society (Thompson 9).  Furthermore, Paul’s arguments are almost identically parallel with Peter’s reasons for submitting to “human institutions… emperors… [and] governors (1 Peter 2:13-14).” Likewise, the Greek translation for governing authorities (exousiais hyperechousais) typically connotes political powers (Neufeld). Therefore, it seems safe to conclude that Paul is considering political and governmental powers. This has so been accepted that the Indonesian translation of the text (TB-LAI) actually uses the word “government”, in contrast to the English “governing authorities”.

Just as rhetorical analysis yields implications on our understanding of the text, so too does its literary context. Considering the entire Epistle of Romans, scholars have argued for the omission of this unit due to its seemingly discontinuity with preceding and following units. Such scholars have argued that it is an interpolation added after the times of Paul. In response to this critique, Luke Thompson argues that there are “contextual, stylistic, and historical reasons we should have no doubt Romans 13:1-7 (p. 8)” was intentionally included where Paul inserted it. Contextually, he argues that Paul’s encouragement of submission exists antithetical to 12:19-21, where Paul commands believers to resist revenge. Stylistically, there is a repetition of the Greek κακός and ἀγαθός in 12:21 and 13:3,4 as well as the anadiplosis of ὀφειλάς in v. 7 and v. 8 creates a continuing theme through 13:1 (Thompson 8-9).

Lastly, a historical understanding of the purpose of Paul’s words and the occasion prompting his writing reveals contextual understanding of 13:1-7. Writing to the Christian church in Rome, the capital city of the Empire, it is important to note that Jewish diasporic communities were expelled from Rome in 49 C.E. (Thompson 3). Scholars also believe that the Roman church included many Jewish converts who would, therefore, be sympathetic with these ostracized Jews. On top of this, Nero issued a new tax on Roman citizens in 54 C.E. Connecting the two issues, it could have been possible that the Christian converts were refusing to pay their tax as an act of solidarity for their expelled brothers. This view is further reinforced by Paul’s direct reference to paying taxes at the end of this passage (13:7). More abstractly, Matthew G. Neufeld believes that Paul’s words are not necessarily due to historical realities, but serve within a preventive purpose. Paul’s exhortation in chapter 12 is against “enthusiasm and that this carries over into chapter 13, where Paul is resisting that attitude which in virtue of heavenly citizenship views earthly authorities with indifference or contempt.” Yet, regardless of what historical events prompted Paul to include this message in his Epistles, most scholars agree that he did not intend to create a dogmatic system of church vis a vis state relations.

It seems that Paul’s understanding of absolute submission to the state in Romans 13:1-7 it far too simplistic. He incorrectly assumes that governing authorities always reward good and punish evil (v. 3). Furthermore, he provides no exceptions for when it is acceptable to resist corrupt and evil governments and how Christians can do so and maintain their integrity. He also indicates that rebellious individuals are doomed to divine condemnation. Yet, surely Paul would not disapprove of the Hebrew’s midwives’ protection of newborns, despite legal commands. Surely Paul would not deny the faultlessness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the face of idol worship. In fact, according to Paul, these figures should suffer punishment from the state according to the ordination of God, but all of these people are rewarded with the Lord’s favor (Exodus 1: 20; Daniel 3:25).

Hence, it is important to note the importance of context in the use of Romans 13:1-7. There are times and events in history which demand a moral response of rebellion and resistance to governing authorities, while there are also times for submission and silence. The issue is not absolute and cannot be painted with a black and white brush; rather, it is up to the discernment of the community affected to decide what is the right response.

In this spirit of complexity, we will look at forms of civil protest which have been approved and disapproved by the American people. Afterwards, there will be considerations on the Indonesian and Zimbabwean manipulation of the text to justify their regime. Lastly, we will examine the life of John Wesley and his continual changing theology of politics throughout his life, prompted by significant events and challenges. By the end of this study of the use of Romans 13:1-7, readers will see that there is no universal declaration or absolute certitude that can be concluded in Romans 13:1-7, but is dependent upon our use of the sacred, yet problematic, Scripture.

Scriptural Malleability: Cultural Influences and Elitist Readings of Romans

Bree Newsome proudly clings to the top of the flag pole outside of South Carolina’s state house grounds on the 17 June, 2015. She waves the red, white, and blue flag that has historically represented rebellion and racism in the United States, removing it from the flagpole in the wake of the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. As she descends back into the crowd, she was arrested and carried to prison with charges of defecating state monuments. However, the American people called for her release and she was soon acquitted. Newsome’s actions were interpreted as an expression of inclusivity and a challenge of systemic racism in the United States.

Antithetical to this experience of approved civil disobedience, Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, was arrested when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Despite the Supreme Courts national legalization of same-sex marriage on 26 June, 2015 Davis believed that such actions would violate her conscious and religious principles. Nonetheless, she was charged with being contempt of court; yet, compared to Bree Newsome, the general American population did not approve of her actions. For most people, Davis overextended her authority and violated the legal rights of others. Gleaning from the patterns of protest in the stories of Bree Newsome and Kim Davis, it is clear that in any evaluation of civil disobedience context and clearly established criteria are critical.

To further illustrate the importance of circumstances in civil resistance, Emanuel Gerrit Singgih draws on his experience in Indonesian church. According to Singgih, there are two mainline interpretations of Romans 13:1-7; the first argues for the support of existing governments (called the “colonial interpretation”), while the second encourages individual’s rights despite governing authorities (called the “post-colonial interpretation”). Drawing on the writings of Karl Barth, he argues of the need for a post-colonial interpretation and only supports those sections of the state that share similar attitudes and sentiments with the Christian tradition. The colonial interpretation of Romans 13 was adopted during the Dutch colonization of Indonesia and continued in support of the Soeharto government. Civil disobedience is an acceptable alternative, especially considering that Paul’s original goal in writing this text was to gain support for his Spanish mission. Paul’s intention was not “to create a political ethic for all times and places in succeeding generations (Singgih).” Singgih contextualizes Romans 13 in a way that empowers all sections of society and justifies the use of civil disobedience for the advancement of social progress.

Yet, just Romans 13:1-7 has been used to justify resisting governing authorities, it has also been manipulated by social elitist to legitimize their power and conform social structures to their influence. Criticizing the “Christian sacralization of human authority” in Zimbabwe, Collium Banda and B.B. Senokoane point out the paradoxical growth of Christianity and political repression in their native country. As Christianity becomes more and more popular, President Robert Mugabe’s repressive rule becomes more and more harsh. For Banda and Senokoane, this reciprocal growth is the result of a colonial interpretation of Romans. Harsh social realities are not solely the result of President Mugabe, but also “the Christian leaders who have sacralized their authority and have been in the forefront of the legitimization of Mugabe (Banda and Senokoane).” In other words, authoritative figures interpret Romans as a submissive text as a tool to manipulate the general public in order to preserve their elitist power.

The Quest for Wesleyan Political Language and Increasing Complexities

Theodore R. Weber writes of an experience during a workshop on Global Mission and Political Economy at the Tenth Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies in August 1997. Nearly 200 international church leaders gathered to consider the problems facing politics in a global context; but they were faced with one insurmountable obstacle: they lacked a common language through which the initiate the dialogue. Until this point, the Wesleyan tradition had failed to establish a clear, universal political language through which to interact with the world around them. Lutherans have the doctrine of two kingdom theology, Roman Catholics discuss natural law, and Calvinist talk of covenants and federalism. Yet, the Wesleyan tradition remains mute.

Political language, of course, simply means an avenue of communication that interprets political reality and establishes expected political behavior (Weber 17). Searching for this lost language, we must first journey to John Wesley’s, the founder of Methodism, reaction to his own political context in 18th-century England. To begin, Wesley sympathized with the grievance of the American colonies despite his English roots. However, this quickly changed when their complaints moved from legal English rights to threats of secession and independence. According to Wesley, civil disobedience was acceptable in the former, but not in the latter. Therefore, we already see inconsistencies in the attempt to reconstruct a Wesleyan political language.

Wesley’s initial support of the colonies and later support of the British monarchy was to be expected. Overall, he was a “thoroughly conservative man whose main political objective was to protect and preserve the institution of monarch ruling by divine right, and whose political ethic essentially was that of passive obedience to governing authorities (Weber 28).” Wesley adopted a Pauline response to governing authorities and believed political authorization descends from above, electing those who are to rule. Bearing this divine origination in mind, it is easy to imagine why John Wesley remained transparent on political issues during his early days. Writing to his friend, Walter Churchey, on 25 June 1777, Wesley said, “Loyalty is with me an essential branch of religion, and which I am sorry any Methodist should forget.”

Yet, with time Wesley experienced a progression framing his political ethics. Coupling Acts 5:29 with Romans 13:1-7, he began to understand the importance of holding governing authorities accountable in their role of reflecting the principles of the Kingdom of God. Eventually, Wesley moved towards political criticism and expected governing authorities to reflect the attributes of God more so than he expected citizens to wholly support authorities (Weber 234). At times, he moved the burden of proof from one receiving the orders to the one giving them. He did not simply adjust the traditional political ethic-he changed it- and in changing it invited more complexity into the process of moral reasoning (Weber 236). Wesleyan political language began to include political criticism and activism.

Therefore, even if we are unable to establish a clear political language, we can at least recognize the complexity of responding to governing authorities as indicated by Romans 13:1-7. Recognizing the problems associated with simplicity, Arnold T. Monera creates the ’13-13’ paradigm. Oftentimes, the Christian “response to governing authorities has been reduced to submissive confidence in the state (Romans 13) or deep resistance to the State (Revelations 13).” To wholly support corrupt governments is irresponsible, but “replacing the rule of law with the rule of conscience is a recipe for anarchy (David Koyzis).” Therefore, we must create a middle-ground approach. We must affirm those sections of government which are redeemable while challenging those that are damnable with whatever tools we have available. In the face of civil disobedience, we must be willing to accept whatever consequences follow our actions. A contextual evaluation is needed for every situation. Like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, times will be marked with pacifistic resistance to harsh political realities, but there will also be times marked with forced resistance and open rebellion. In the rediscovery of Costly Grace, we seek the Kingdom of God on earth, even if “Christ bids a man to come and die (Bonhoeffer 9).”

WORKS CITED

Aslan, Reza. Zealot: The Life and times of Jesus of Nazareth. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Banda, Collium, and Senokoane. “The Interplay between the Christian Sacralization of Human

Authority and Political Repression in Zimbabwe.” Religion and Theology 16.3 (2009): 207-45. EBSCOhost. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York: Macmillan, 1959. Print.

Hunsinger, George. Karl Barth and Radical Politics. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976. Print.

Koyzis, David. “Consider Civil Disobedience.” Christianity Today Apr.-May 2016: n. pag. Print.

Monera, Arnold T. “The Christian’s Relationship to the State According to the New Testament:

Conformity or Non-Conformity?” (n.d.): n. pag. EBSCOhost. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Neufeld, Matthew G. “Submission to Governing Authorities: A Study of Romans 13:1-7.”

Direction:. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.

Singgih, Emanuel Gerrit. “Towards a Postcolonial Interpretation of Romans 13:1-7: Karl Barth,

Robert Jewett and the Context of Reformation in Present-day Indonesia.” (n.d.): n. pag. EBSCOhost. Web. 17 Oct. 2016.

Thompson, Luke. “A Study of Romans13:1-7: With Emphasis on Historical Setting, Discourse

Analysis, and Grammatical Exegesis.” (2015): n. pag. EBSCOhost. Web. 18 Oct. 2016.

Weber, Theodore R. Politics in the Order of Salvation: Transforming Wesleyan Political Ethics. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

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Why Study the Apostle Paul?

Conversion

Hannah Homiller

Who is Jesus of Nazareth? Can he have really been resurrected? In what capacity is he God? Does this messiashship mean the coming Kingdom of God?

There are all questions pressing upon early converts of the Christian movement. The reality of this Christ figure bore different meaning upon different groups, and the definition of Jesus’ identity took century to define and institutionalize in the form of creeds. The life and letters of Paul of Tarsus bear important insights into the interpretations of the identity of Jesus Christ circulating within first-century Palestine. Furthermore, they bear witness to the development of Christ’s exaltation to God.

First, Paul’s writings are the oldest known writings about Jesus following his death around 31 CE. Take for example 1 Corinthians, which scholars believe was composed around 53 CE, twenty years after the death of Jesus. In this twenty-year gap, believers were left with no formalized meaning of who Jesus was and what his teachings meant. Therefore, we see in the writings of Paul an attempt to explain this Christological identity.

Secondly, at key points in the Pauline Epistles scholars have identified times in which Paul uses creedal statements in defining his beliefs. Take again 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. Scholars argue that portions of this sections come from an older creed due to structure and syntax. Therefore, in his writings we also have a window into what the earliest Christians believed without Paul influencing their interpretation of Christ.

Persecuting to preaching. Destroying to building. Death to life. The Apostle Paul is one of the most formational characters of the early Christian movement. His letters to early churches, known as the Pauline Epistles, compose most of the New Testament today and provide the doctrine that the Church has been built upon. However, Paul was not always a supporter of the Gospel. In fact, the author of Acts indicates that Paul was a Jewish religious leader whose mission was to destroy the Church (Acts 8:3). However, one day on the road to Damascus his life was irreversibly changed. What leads a person from killing Christians to dying for them? What leads a person from destroying a religious movement to becoming its strongest supporter? What leads a person to claim that they have been delivered from death to eternal life? Along with the above, here are six reasons why we propose the life of the Apostle Paul and his letters are worth studying:

  • Christological Identity– For many Jews, Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah; he was the one promised to usher in the Kingdom of God where the chosen people, the nation of Israel, would reign. Yet, Jesus’ death changed nothing and he left no indication of what was to come next. In other words, his premature death left a gap in his identity which his followers and the earliest Christians had to fill. In Paul’s writings, we find the earliest attempts to define Jesus’ identity within the Apostolic Church. In this case, Paul ushers in Jesus’ Christological identity, the understanding of Jesus as God on earth.
  • Protestant Theologian– Preceding the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther and John Calvin drew most of their theological challenges against the Roman Catholic Church from Paul’s Epistles, especially his letter to the church in Rome. Therefore, since Paul was so influential in the development of contemporary theology, we cannot understand the church today if we do not first attempt to understand Paul.
  • Early Church Documents– Paul’s writings are the earliest documents we have in the collected canon, written within 30 years after the death of Christ and before the gospels. Therefore, from his writings we can glean insights into what the earliest Christians believed about God, Jesus, and themselves. In a comparative reading of Paul’s writings against the gospels, and even other New Testament documents, we can attempt to trace the historical process through which the message of Jesus and his character took shape in the Ancient Near East.
  • Globalized Missionary– While the concept of the Church in the age of globalization is the context of the 21st century, a global Church was emphasized among the earliest converts. Paul traveled to many cities and communities where he planted churches and spread the message of free grace for all ethnic people. Paul’s identity as the Apostle to the Gentiles is the first attempt of the Christian movement spreading across ethnic and geographical barriers. Paul might serve as a model of cross-cultural ministry and services today.
  • Insight into issues the early Church faced– Understandably, Paul’s letters were written to church communities for the purpose of resolving conflicts and questionable matters. Ergo, if Paul was writing to resolve conflicts, we can identify what issues the early Church faced. For example, in 1 Corinthians Paul references the people of Corinth arguing over church leaderships. Obviously, this was a significant issue worth addressing at the time. Scholars identify that Paul’s letters are “occasional,” meaning that they are in response to an underlying concern to which the reader does not necessarily have access. Therefore, through a reconstruction of Paul’s life we can also gain access into aspects of the earliest churches.

Brent Blackwell

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Is Paul’s Life and Work Reconstructible?

In the previous blog, we took a look at the significance and importance of Paul, but mainly on his letters rather than his persona. Although Paul wrote extensive letters to different churches, it is difficult to know about his life through those writings. We can say that reconstructing Paul’s life can be similar to reconstructing the life of Jesus. How so? Well, although Jesus left no writings, we struggle to understand his teachings, life, and certain events during his time by reading different Bible passages. On the other hand, Paul left us his letters but even those are critically analyzed.

Paul had many limitations during his journey that made him seem extraordinary. The time, society, location, all played a big role in Paul’s life and therefore in his letters. During the 1st few decades the most important areas of conversion where in what is not middle eastern countries of Syria, Turkey and Greece. Apart from the geographical spread, Paul had to go through the difficulty of spreading conversion across ethnic lines. Pagans, gentiles and other ethnic groups which were to believed to be bad, were Paul’s main focus. What does this tell us about Paul? Paul looked for everyone, not just Jews. This was another challenge for him due to the fact that back in those days it was believed that the only way to convert to Christianity was by being Jewish first. How silly. It is surprising to read that someone during those times cared for the marginalized. Paul wanted equality.

In order to get a glimpse on Paul’s life we first have to choose which of his letters are reliable and consistent to his way of writing and other criteria.

Pauline Pseudepigrapha

According to Ehrman and other presumable scholars, plagiarism was not frowned upon back in Paul’s and Jesus times. We encounter many writings under false names, this is known as pseudepigrapha. Pseudepigrapha did not only occur in Paul’s name, but with Jesus and past Jewish events as well. So, with pseudigrapha in mind, is there an unfailing way of knowing about Paul? The answer is yes and no. There will always be doubt and skepticism when reading biblical texts. Paul left 13 letters, not all of them are believed to be his and it is also important to say that there were more letters under Pauls name that did not make it to the New Testament. This makes us question the criteria in which the 13 letters were chosen. The 13 letters are broken down in the following groups:

Pauline Corpus

 

Undisputed Pauline Epistles

Romans

1 Corinthians

2 Corinthians

Galatians

Philippians

1 Thessalonians

Philemon

 

Deutero-Pauline Epistles

Ephesians

Colossians

2 Thessalonians

 

Pastoral Epistles

1 Timothy

2 Timothy

Titus

The Undisputed Pauline Epistles are almost certainly authentic, meaning Paul did write them. The Deutero-Pauline Epistles are possible Pseudonymous, meaning they could have been written by a second writer in the accounts of Paul. Last we have the Pastoral Epistles, which are thought to probably pseudonymous. Theses sources limit us to only 7 letters of which are ‘authentic’. Back to the concept of comparing the difficulty of reconstructing the life of Paul we can argue that similar to the life of Jesus, Paul’s letters, although inspired by his ministries, were not all dependable.

You may wonder, but how did scholars come up with these three categories? Well there are 4 criteria of which were consistent with much of Paul’s letters which could confirm the authenticity. The writing style, vocabulary, theology, and historical context were all used to find the authorship of the letters. Now that we have found a concrete source we could begin to learn about Paul and finally reconstruct his life. With the undisputed Pauline Epistles we could have some what of a clear idea of who Paul was, but the content on the book of Acts in the Bible makes us doubt and question Paul once again.

Limitations and Possibilities

How could there be any limitations to reconstructing the life of Paul when we have his authentic writings? According to the book of Acts, Paul was inconsistent with his qualities and characteristics. Or was the book of Acts the inconsistent one? Luke is believed to have written Acts, and Acts gives us a personal encounter with Paul. Some people don’t argue the personification of Paul in Acts, others doubt it, and lastly some completely disregard the appearance of Paul in Acts due to the emphasis being in Paul and not in the events of Jesus. We could say that the book of Acts is as reliable of the life of Paul as it is of the life of Jesus. The Gospel of Luke talks about Jesus with Luke’s beliefs and theology in between. Same with Acts and Paul. Acts limits us to reconstruct Paul’s life because we have to exclude all of Luke’s perspective.

Paul’s  life was hard to examine even in his 7 authentic letters. We have to remember that these letters were written to different churches regarding issues that would arise in the community. This limited Paul into writing about his beliefs, his practices, and perspectives. The richness of the letters is in the context, the historical background, the window we get into the communities of those times. It is possible to reconstruct Paul’s life by starting here, with the occasional context of his letters.

Ivonne Ramirez

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Paul’s Early Life – Six Words

Once asked to summarize his life in a single sentence, American author Ernest Hemingway wrote, “For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Creatively and powerfully, this renowned author expressed a lifetime of experiences and knowledge in six words. This same approach may also be taken with the Apostle Paul, reconstructing the knowable facts from his writings and other, credible sources in order to help us better understand him today.

Surfs-up. Saul, only later to be known as Paul, was born between 6-10 C.E. in the city of Tarsus, the coastal province of Cilicia. Though he was raised in Jerusalem, Paul’s early years in Tarsus bears certain implications. Due to its coastal boarder and commerce, this city offered a place where Greek and Semitic cultures could meet and enjoy vital reciprocity. Foundationally, Tarsus was most known for its philosophical schools, which came to challenge even Athens and Rome at the time. Gleaning from this encounter, it is evident that Paul would have not have left for Jerusalem unaffected by the rich cosmopolitan legacy of Tarsus. This experience is most seen in his ideas, knowledge of Greek and Hebrew, apparent acquaintance with Stoic philosophy, and his Roman citizenship.

Priestly Robes. Leaving Tarsus, Paul moves to Jerusalem to study under rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). According to Philippians 3:5-6, he was proud of his Jewish heritage, being a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” and joins the religious elite by becoming a Pharisee. He displayed a deep understanding of the Torah and militarily defends its traditions and was “faultless” in upholding the law.

Eyes Opened. Zealously, he persecuted people of the new Christian movement believing them to be heretical, until one day on his way to Damascus, his understanding of the world drastically changed. Today, we still wonder and speculate of the man that Paul was up to his life recorded in Acts. Was he the saint that we make him out to be? How do we reconcile his scandalous past with his priestly mission?

Brent Blackwell

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Apostle to the Gentiles

(written as if Paul is the narrator of the events that occurred along his journey as an Apostle to non-Jewish communities in the Grego-Roman world)

Hello world, it is Paul, aka, the “Apostle to the Gentiles” here. Many of you may already know the encounter I had along the road to Damascus. The supernatural encounter I had with the glorified Christ? Yep, that sparked my mission to preach the news of salvation to through faith in Christ. I did not just preach this gospel to ANYONE though; furthermore, my mission was specifically assigned to preach the gospel to the non-Jewish believers, the Gentiles. If I crossed paths with you today, then would I preach the gospel to you?

Some people ask, “Paul, why are you known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles” rather than the “Apostle to the Jews and the Gentiles”? Well, it’s simple. The Jews and devout converts of Judaism originally rejected my preaching. While my missionary companion, Barnabas and I were in Antioch, these people who rejected our teaching began to persecute us and expelled us from their region. So we shook the dust off our feet and we went to a different region (Acts 13:50-51). Another reason why I am known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles” is because the Lord’s divine call of my missionary purpose is to be a light for the Gentiles, that I may bring salvation to the ends of the earth (Acts 13:47). What is your divine call?  Similar to the Lord’s divine plan that He revealed to me on the road to Damascus, have you encountered God and received understanding for the Lord’s divine purpose in your life?

With the divine calling that I faithfully responded to, I was persecuted for following the Lord by that did not stop me. Although we were persecuted and expelled from the region of Antioch, arrival to this place marked the beginning of the most important phase of my life and work as an apostle. Not to mention the Jerusalem Conference resulted in a lot of success along this missionary journey. It was at this conference that Barnabas and I were authorized to go into the Gentile world. I also developed a strategy to gather a collection of money from the members of the Gentile mission for “the poor” at Jerusalem by encouraging giving and complimenting generosity. And of course, along this journey I ALWAYS preached the gospel everywhere I went. Furthermore, it wasn’t until the incident in Antioch that I shifted focus of my missionary activity to another geographical region. Have you ever been so passionate about something that you would do anything and overcome any obstacle by standing your ground and having confidence in yourself, what you are worth and what you have been called to do? That passion and drive is what kept me going throughout this journey.

From Antioch, I set out on three missionary journeys. I traveled into the region of Galatia, Macedonia then to Ephesus. I worked in Galatia, gave mission speeches throughout Ephesus, and developed my missionary excursion further into the region of Macedonia and Achaia. When we traveled into the city of Philippi, my traveling companions and I were shamefully whipped and thrown into prison. However, we still treated them with gratitude and respect, thanking them for their financial support before we left to Thessalonica. While in Thessalonica, I encouraged the Thessalonians for their steadfast faith in the face of persecution. Shortly after my arrival, I was forced to leave this region and I moved on to Athens. Although I do not have record of a letter to the Athenians as I have letters written to the Philippians, Thessalonians, and Corinthians, I continued to give magnificent mission sermons throughout Athens (Acts 17). From Athens, I traveled to Corinth where I stayed and established a house-church for Gentiles to gather for fellowship and worship. From Corinth, I retraced my steps back toward Ephesus. While I was in Ephesus, I wrote a lot of my letters such as 1 Corinthians, letter fragments of 2 Corinthians, Philippians and Philemon. I returned to the regions of Corinth, Ephesus and Macedonia several times, and returned for the last time to Corinth. During my last visit in Corinth, I wrote the most mature and lengthy letter to the Romans. In today’s society, how would you have reacted if someone treated you wrong, mocked you or persecuted you for what you believe? How do you think other people would react? Do you think they would react with grace, love, and patience or anger, revenge and destruction?

I took a final journey to Jerusalem where the Israelites from Asia claimed to the crowd that I had been speaking everywhere against the Law and the temple. Furthermore, they tried to beat me to death and even plotted to kill me, but thankfully the Romans saved me! I traveled to Rome as a prisoner and spent two years there under house arrest, but I still continued to be an active missionary preaching openly and unhindered prior to the end of my missionary journey. Can you imagine being thrown in jail for two years? What would you do? What do you think others around me or the people of television crews would be there?

People may have a difficult time classifying me and my apostleship to the Gentiles as they confuse my demeanor with the message of my letters. What can I say? I am only human and am not perfect. Aren’t we all human? Yes, I can be short, testy and get frustrated with people sometimes, but my true intention as an apostle is written in my letters as a person who “follows the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). Do some of the same things affect you in your daily life such as getting frustrated with people? How do you react? Despite my short fused patients, my authority in the Gentile Churches was expressed in love, in which my commands were to the churches who I loved and wanted to see grow through love. Furthermore, I was a charismatic leader among the Gentile Churches who was a divinely appointed apostle that believed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and freedom from the law of Torah commandments. Needless to say, my mission as an “Apostle to the Gentiles” was very successful. Can you think of successful pastors who you look up to and admire for their way of preaching the Gospel? Do you all believe being charismatic as a leader helps to make a person successful in their area of discipline?

Britanny Gaddy

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Apostle Against Apostles

“Am I not an Apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord (1 Cor. 9:1)?” “Paul, an apostle, sent… by Jesus Christ and God the Father (Gal. 1:1).”  Consistently in his writings, Paul misses no chances to reinforce and remind readers of his Apostolic authority. This only makes sense if there were an occasion pushing Paul to define his credentials, such as other Apostles questioning his authority. Contrary to this, most readers of the New Testament today see Paul as one of the most significant leaders of the early church. He is so loved today that surely he was loved in his original contexts. However, is this truly the case? Did the other Apostles support Paul’s authority?

The most significant contribution of our understanding of Paul’s life comes from Luke’s writing of Acts. Essentially, this section of the New Testament is a biography of Luke’s mentor; but scholars agree that Acts betrays a deliberate, if ahistorical, attempt to elevate Paul’s status in the founding of the church. Yet, it seems that even Luke does not consider Paul to be an Apostle. Luke is clear that there are only twelve Apostles, with the exception of Matthias filling the position of Judas Iscariot. Other than this, Apostleship is closed, since criteria included someone who “accompanied [the disciples] all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, starting with John’s baptism, right up to the day [Jesus] was taken from us (Acts 1:21).” Clearly this eliminated Paul from the running since he did not convert to the movement around 37 C.E., but this does not keep Paul from demanding to be called an Apostle to the church in Corinth (1 Cor. 9:2).

Seeing that Luke did not necessarily consider Paul as an Apostle, how did the other Apostles feel about his self-assertions and vice-versa? Regarding the latter, an interpretive reading of Paul implies that Paul may have dealt with feelings of jealousy and saw himself superior to them. “Are they Hebrews? So am I! Are they Israelites? So am I! Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I! Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one, with greater labors, more floggings, more imprisonments, and more often near death (2 Cor. 11:22-23).” Particularly, Paul holds contempt for the three leaders at Jerusalem, James, Peter, and John; whom he sarcastically calls “those esteemed as pillars (Galatians 2:9).” Furthermore, he even writes that “whatever they were makes no difference…they added nothing to my message (Gal. 2:6).” Paul obviously is dealing with some negative emotions and presumably avoided Jerusalem after his conversion (Gal. 1:17) because he was worried how leaders there would respond to his calling. To justify himself, he writes that he was “set apart from [his] mother’s womb (Gal. 1:15)” preceding the other’s authorities. In other words, Paul considered himself to be the first Apostle.

Three years after preaching about a man whom Paul has never met, he decides to travel to Jerusalem and visit the leaders who knew the Savior Paul professed (Gal. 1:12). This first visit to Jerusalem, around 40 C.E., would be marked with praise and compassion. James and Peter praised God because the man who had formerly persecuted the faith now preached it (Gal. 1:23). However, Paul would be summoned to Jerusalem nearly a decade later, and this trip would prove to be far less peaceful. Paul has to appear before the Apostolic Council and defend his self-proclaimed mission to the Gentiles and radical Christology. Though Luke seeks to record the meeting as a time of peacefulness and harmony (Acts 15:1-21), Paul seems to indicate the opposite. Paul claims that those who stood against him to be “false believers [who] had infiltrated our ranks to spy” and challenge Paul’s message of uncircumcision (Gal. 2:3). Paul refuses to submit to their authority (Gal. 2:5) and they eventually approve his message to the Gentiles. But, James’ actions following this meeting seems to convey otherwise. Almost immediately after Paul left Jerusalem, James sends his own missionaries to Paul’s congregations in Galatia, Corinth, Philippi, and any other place where Paul had established his authority. Their goal was to correct the unorthodox teaching of Paul (Gal. 2:11-12). How do we interpret this petty reaction to Paul’s preaching? Do we draw a line? Either Paul or the Jerusalem Council was right, not both?

Paul correctly interprets these acts as attacks on his authority and message, which is evidenced in his continual appeal to his credibility. Not only does this power struggle help readers to understand Paul’s continual self-justification, but it also helps to explain his continual attack on the leaders of Jerusalem. He writes that they are “disguising themselves as apostles of Christ,” and compares them to messengers of Satan (2 Cor. 11:13-15). He also encourages his audiences to refrain from “turning to a different gospel” message that challenges his authority (Gal. 1:6-8). Instead, they should obey Paul, and only Paul.

So who do we listen to? Do we emphasize the Epistles of James and Peter over Paul since they had greater apostolic authority? Or do we continue to stress the importance of the Pauline Epistles as they are in the Protestant and Pentecostal Churches? Can we still assert that the Bible is morally authoritative knowing that its authors could not even get along?

Brent Blackwell

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FOTORACIONES

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