Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Paul’s conversion informed his disciple-making method.

Paul exhorted Timothy to not be ashamed of the testimony of Jesus Christ, “who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” Paul had heard the gospel testimony many times prior to salvation. We know of at least one instance. Stephen’s costly account of Christ’s coming, life and atoning death in Acts 7 is surely indicative of similar occasions as a pre-conversion Paul punished and imprisoned Christians in his religious zeal prior to the Damascus road conversion. But the Gospel was the substance and agent of his transformation, not behavior modification. He was well schooled in the Scriptures in their original languages and the religious law. But it wasn’t until the Spirit of God germinated the truths of God in Paul’s heart that his eyes were opened to Jesus as the King. Paul knew who saved him. It was an act of the proactive compassion of God, initiated through the Gospel as evidenced in the lives of other believers. In Galatians 1, Paul’s states his disappointment that they had deserted Christ, who had called them by grace and were turning to a different gospel, which is not a gospel but a distortion of the gospel. He then goes on to confirm that his education as a disciple was Gospel-centered (Galatians 1:8-17).

I want to be careful to not portray the idea that I am talking about sitting around with people going over the Romans Road continually. The gospel informed every component of Paul’s relationships as he sought to present others, male and female, mature in Christ. Paul kept looking back to Christ to learn how to handle adversity, suffering, conflict and even prosperity. As a result, Paul’s intentional efforts to communicate propositionally by pen and to portray by proximity served as an example of how the gospel is being worked out in his life. It wasn’t pretty, comfortable or even desirable to many but it beckoned to hearts of longing seekers to consider the claims of Christ.  His example served to encourage the daily walk of other disciples to rise above crippling shame, guilt, doubts, fears and worries and continually submit to the will of a gracious and sovereign God who is, at once, personal, concerned and involved in our lives through the power of the gospel.  “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Phil. 4:9

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