by Richard Mansel
The Apostle Paul turned his life over to God completely. He is an example that everyone can follow. His diligence to be faithful against all odds led him to write, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, NKJV). He was continually preparing himself to walk ahead of others into the fiery trials he faced, making him a true hero of faith. And his confidence in his commitment led him to take others with him.
In Ephesians 2:2, Paul writes that formerly we “walked according to the course of this world.” Later, in Ephesians 4:1, he stresses that we must “walk worthy” of our calling as Christians. The word “walked” in 2:2 means that we regulate our lives after a standard. Sinners gauge their lives by the world’s cultural trends, while Christians regulate their lives by Christ. Paul takes being a Christian example very seriously as he calls us to discipleship.
God called Paul to be an apostle, suffering for the sake of God (Romans 1:1; Acts 9:15,16). “Paul was not telling them what he was called to be, but what he was,” at the core of his being./1 He was a man who had a profession, friends, and loved ones, yet, God’s will was his absolute focus. He was “separated to the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). God gave him the message so he could preach the word confidently, without fear (Galatians 1:11; 2 Timothy 4:1,2). God would not send Paul into the fields of battle without weapons and provisions (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Paul was ferociously committed to everything he did. When he was hunting down Christians and arresting them, he was like a “war horse who sniffed the smell of battle” in his persecution of the saints (Acts 9:1,2)./2 He “destroyed those who called on [God’s] name in Jerusalem” (Acts 9:21). The word “destroyed” is the “word for sacking a city. Just as an invading army might tear a city stone from stone and murder and slaughter right and left with almost sadistic brutality, so Paul attacked the church.”/3
Paul’s vigor turned to the cause of Christ, leading him to call his past “dung” (Philippians 3:8, KJV). He was now a bondservant of Christ bound to him forever (Romans 1:1). Accordingly, he was beaten, left for dead, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and a host of other calamities, because he would not stop serving God (2 Corinthians 11:22-28). Finally, when his journeys were nearly complete, he was ready to “be poured out as a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6). “At last he is released from the harness like the faithful horse at the end of the day’s journey. It will be sweet to rest from the toil and strife, but he is glad he has had his share of the work.”/4
His example, fleshed out in the pages of the New Testament, is an invigorating story of courage and resolve. We can easily say that emulating Paul is beyond our grasp. However, within our own opportunities and abilities, we can also be heroes of faith, just as he was. We can be saints that lead others to Christ just as readily as he did. We have people who will follow us who would not have followed Paul or, for that matter, anyone else. The insight we have into our own loved ones provides an opening that is uniquely ours. However, seizing it will require a measure of the courage that winged Paul through his battles. Yet, we do so with the power of Christ, so we can be firm, loving, and committed to absolute truth (Ephesians 1:19).
1/ Tom Wacaster, Studies in Romans (Pulaski: Sain Publications, 2005) 24.
2/ A.T. Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Paul (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 105.
3/ William Barclay, Ambassador for Christ, 39.
4/ Robertson, 313-314.
by Richard Mansel