I have not always been eager to preach from Paul’s Epistles. Sometimes I find his writing confusing. Sometimes he makes me mad. Sometimes I discount him because he was such a product of his culture. I am writing this article the week after VBS, and I want to tell you that working with the adult class last week gave me a new appreciation for some of Paul’s writings.
For example, Adam Hamilton and some of the other writers I read to prepare for the class, wrote about how Paul changed his mind about things and contradicted himself from time to time in his writings. That made him more real to me – more human.
But think about it for a moment. The theology of the time came from the Jewish scholars. Rabbis had interpreted the Torah up to Paul’s time, based on their study of the Hebrew scrolls. Decisions about the practice of the Hebrew faith had been developed, including theological thought about things like resurrection.
However, the Christian church was brand new. As Paul (and, of course, others like Peter) planted churches throughout the Gentile world, and as the churches began to worship in new ways and learn what it meant to live The Way, theology, though not a blank slate, was taking shape. Leaders were bound to change their minds based on what they heard from God and what they saw as the church developed. Moreover, several of the Epistles of Paul also were specific to the behaviors of a particular church, and even though many of the things Paul wrote about had general implications, they were also intended to speak to specific circumstances.
Remember that Paul wasn’t always a Christian! However, after his conversion he was among those trying to figure out what it meant to be the church in an environment where most of the people who were Christian before Paul believed that you had to become a Jew before you could be a Christian. As you may know, Paul was a Jew who was a black-and-white, law-and-0rder Pharisee. If you didn’t follow the Jewish Law the way he thought you should or if you were part of The Way (what they called Jesus’ followers at the time), he was going to do his dead-level best to have you punished, even to the point of death.
Don’t get me wrong. I still don’t always agree with Paul, he can still make me mad and can still confuse the heck out of me. I probably never will agree with him in every aspect of his teachings. But I am eager to study his life and ministry together with you so that I can grow in my own spiritual journey.
I hope you will join me on The Way!
Blessings on you,