The Pauline Epistles – Part Three

The greatest quarterback in the history of the National Football League is nearing the end of his remarkable career. He has won more Super Bowls than any other quarterback and has set many other records that will probably never be broken.

Throughout his career he has played with what people call “a chip on his shoulder.” He did not have a stellar college career so hundreds of other players were drafted before him. This has motivated him to play well at the professional level to prove people wrong. Now every football fan will know who I am talking about but for those of you who don’t, his name is Tom Brady. Throughout his professional career Tom Brady has played with a chip on his shoulder.

The same might be said of the Apostle Paul. Throughout his “playing career” aka, his ministry, he was criticized because he was not one of the original twelve apostles chosen by Jesus. So in a sense he served the Lord with a chip on his shoulder, constantly trying to prove himself. In I Corinthians 15:8-10 Paul talks about his situation:

“Last of all, as to one untimely born, he [Jesus] appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. [10] But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” (I Corinthians 15:8-10)

And Paul’s career was remarkable. He wrote 13 of the 27 books of the New Testament and is considered second only to Jesus in shaping the Christians church.

Paul, also known as Saul, was highly educated and accomplished in Judaism: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem), educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.” (Acts 22:3)

Even before his conversion to Christianity he was a standout: “And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.” (Galatians 1:14)

Paul’s conversion to Christianity happened when the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him on the road to the city of Damascus. Paul went from being a persecutor of Christians to being a devout Christian himself.

Yet we may never have heard of the Apostle Paul after his conversion were not for a man by the name of Barnabas. Barnabas realized that the Lord had truly changed Paul. When Paul came to Jerusalem, “Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 9:27)

Later, when the church in the city of Antioch was in need of help, Barnabas brought Paul to Antioch: “Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people.” (Acts 11:25-26) Later, the church in Antioch sent Paul and Barnabas out to do mission work and they courageously brought the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.

Who was your Barnabas? Who reached out to you and called you to serve and follow the Lord?

Or, on the other hand, to whom can you reach out? Maybe there is someone like Paul who is very gifted and could be a great blessing to the church who just needs someone to come and encourage them in service to the Lord.

Paul’s own assessment of his life in Acts 20 rings with the humility of a forgiven sinner: “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

Finally, there are his words at the end of what is considered his last letter, his second letter to Timothy:

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Paul had fought the good fight and kept the faith. The crown of righteousness, something of far more value than a Super Bowl ring, awaited him. The same reward is promised to all believers in Jesus who fight the good fight of faith even if they do so with a chip on their shoulder.


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