What made Paul tick- Manure, money or the mercy of God?
On Thursday evening at our Bible study we did something a bit different as I did a short PowerPoint on the life and ministry of the Apostle Paul up until, and including, his second (after his conversion) visit to Jerusalem. The reason I did this is that if you read the first two chapters of Galatians it can get a bit confusing trying to keep up with Paul especially if you are trying to connect his Galatian statements to the history Luke gives us in his ‘book of Acts’ (which is the first church history ever written and what we are covering on Sundays).
In my presentation I tentatively suggested the following-
The Conversion of Paul -AD 32-33
He immediately starts preaching in Damascus
During the next 2 to 3 years he evangelizes in Arabia
Returns to preach in Damascus
Goes to Jerusalem for 15 days and is introduced to the rest of the Apostles by Barnabas- AD35/6
Paul’s Syria/Cilicia Ministry- AD 36-45. We really know very little about these years as he preaches the Gospel in his home province.
Barnabas gets Paul to help him lead the Church in Antioch- AD 45/6
2nd visit to Jerusalem- AD 46 this is the visit mentioned at the beginning of Galatians 2.
By the way if anybody is interested in seeing the actual PowerPoint please let me know as I have it on my laptop and would be happy to show you.
One of the things which I took away from this study is just how much Paul suffered in following Jesus. Not only were numerous attempts made on his life but, in all likelihood, Paul was disowned by his family and his previous friends, possibly divorced (a man was expected to be married by Paul’s age in the first century Jewish world), hated by his fellow countrymen and lost just about everything that men count as valuable. But is it a case of ‘poor Paul’? Not a bit of it! Listen to his words from Philippians 37+8;
“ But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for the sake of Christ. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish (one old translation as ‘dung’), that I may gain Christ”.
In comparison to knowing Jesus all the treasures that this world could throw up were about as appealing to Paul as a heap of farmyard manure. This wasn’t because Paul was ‘super spiritual’- it was simply because he had seen the all surpassing beauty of Jesus.