Paul, apostle to Gentiles

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Paul saw his encounter with the risen Christ as a call to apostleship, with a special mission to proclaim the gospel to the Gentile world. Paul’s complete dedication to Jesus Christ made his own personal weaknesses a vehicle for the power of God.


Paul’s calling as an apostle: origins and implications

His calling began with his encounter with the risen Christ

Galatians 1:15–16 KJV 1900
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
See also Ac 9:3–19; 1 Co 9:1

His calling involved his being sent to the unevangelised Gentile world

Galatians 2:9 KJV 1900
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.
See also Ac 22:21; Ro 15:18–21; 2 Co 10:13–16; Eph 3:7–9

His calling put him under an obligation to preach the gospel

1 Corinthians 9:16 KJV 1900
For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!
See also Ro 1:14–15; 2 Co 5:11–14

Paul’s commitment to his apostolic calling

He supported himself in order to present the gospel free of charge

1 Thessalonians 2:6–9 KJV 1900
Nor of men sought we glory, neither of you, nor yet of others, when we might have been burdensome, as the apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children: So being affectionately desirous of you, we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us. For ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God.
See also 1 Co 9:3–18; 2 Co 12:13

He put the gospel before everything else

2 Corinthians 4:5 KJV 1900
For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.
See also Ro 9:1–3; 1 Co 9:19–23; Php 1:12–26

He boasted in his weaknesses

2 Corinthians 12:7–10 KJV 1900
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
See also 2 Co 4:7–10; 2 Co 6:3–10; 2 Co 11:21–29

He experienced God’s power at work through him

2 Corinthians 12:11–12 KJV 1900
I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
See also Ac 13:6–12; Ac 19:11–12; Ro 15:18–19; 1 Co 2:4–5; 1 Th 1:4–5

He had a confident attitude to death

Philippians 3:10–11 KJV 1900
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.
See also 2 Co 5:6–10; Php 1:20–24; 2 Ti 4:6–8

Paul and the example of Jesus Christ

His appeal to Jesus Christ as an example to the churches

2 Co 8:9 Paul here uses the example of Jesus Christ in order to encourage the Corinthians in their giving.
See also Ro 15:1–3; Php 2:5–11

His own exemplary imitation of Jesus Christ

1 Corinthians 11:1 KJV 1900
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
See also 1 Co 4:14–17; Php 3:12–17; Php 4:8–9; 2 Th 3:6–9

His sharing of Jesus Christ’s sufferings

Col 1:24 Paul is not suggesting here that there is any deficiency in Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Rather, there are some aspects of suffering which Christ could not experience because they arose only as a result of people preaching the message of the cross and suffering because of it.
See also 2 Co 1:5–9; 2 Co 4:7–12; Ga 6:17

Paul and the churches

His integrity in dealing with the churches

2 Corinthians 1:12 KJV 1900
For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.
See also Ac 20:17–21; 2 Co 2:17; 2 Co 4:1–2; 1 Th 2:10–12

His love for the churches

Philippians 1:8 KJV 1900
For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
See also 2 Co 11:7–11; 2 Co 12:14–15; 1 Th 3:12

His prayers for the churches

1 Thessalonians 1:2 KJV 1900
We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers;
See also Ro 1:8–10; Eph 1:15–19; 2 Th 1:11–12

His dependence on the prayers of the churches

1 Thessalonians 5:25 KJV 1900
Brethren, pray for us.
See also Ro 15:30–32; Eph 6:19–20; Phm 22

Paul’s imagery of apostleship

As Jesus Christ’s ambassador

2 Co 5:20; Eph 6:19–20

As a builder

Ro 15:20; 1 Co 3:10

As a farmer

1 Corinthians 3:5–9 KJV 1900
Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

As a father

1 Co 4:15; 1 Th 2:11–12

As a mother

Ga 4:19; 1 Th 2:6–7

As God’s captive

1 Co 4:9; 2 Co 2:14–16 Paul portrays God as a victorious Roman general, with himself as a captive, bringing up the rear of the triumphal procession.

As Jesus Christ’s slave

The word translated “servant” in these verses commonly meant “slave”:

Ro 1:1; 2 Co 4:5; Php 1:1; Tt 1:1

Paul’s successors were to safeguard the truth of the gospel after his death

2 Timothy 2:1–2 KJV 1900
Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.
See also 2 Ti 1:13–14; 2 Ti 3:10–4:8
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