Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Paul's Greeting (part 2): A Man of Three Worlds

(read Part 1)

The Apostle Paul began each letter in a nearly identical way, and each word is loaded with meaning, so he’s saying much more than, “howdy, readers!”

Know what’s special about the FedEx logo? Its not the colors, but the arrow between the “E” and “x”. Sometimes we miss details.  One feature we often miss when we read 2 Corinthians 1:1-2  is that God inspired two authors to write the letter: Paul and Timothy.

What do we know about Paul? We know that he was a man of three worlds:

First, Paul was Jew. Jesus said He would build His church so He commissioned a handful of living stones to take the gospel into the world; however, the gospel is rooted in Judaism.

The Roman perspective was that Jews were bad people, had bad ideas and gave bad advice. The Roman senator Tacitus called the Jewish nation “the vilest of all people.” The Roman Philosopher Cicero said that the Jewish religion was “a barbarous superstition.” Josephus records a popular idea that Moses actually commanded Jews to show good will to no man, to always give advice, destroy altars and overturn established order, disrupt whenever possible. The gospel, rooted in Judaism?

Of course, a majority of Jews at that time also had a perspective: Gentiles were created by God to fuel the fires of hell. The gospel, rooted in Judaism? Really?

God has a perspective of both Jews and Gentiles: John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." God’s only Son, Jesus, also had a perspective: go into all the world with gospel. This is what Paul did. We will find Paul stating very clearly later in this letter “Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I.” (2 Cor 11:22). Paul was “Hebrew” meaning he could still speak Hebrew though most Jews scattered at this time forgot their native language and were speaking Greek. Paul was an “Israelite”: a member of God’s covenant nation. Paul was “of the seed of Abraham”: ethnically pure. Paul the Jew was dedicated to keeping the law, but he was not blameless. Remember that his name was “Saul”, before “Paul.” He had a Reputation (persecuting followers of Christ) but he also had a transformation in that he was changed by Christ. How did the change begin? 

A good Jew knew the law and the law revealed Paul’s heart as sinful (Ro 7:7), “I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

How does God see your heart? What do you do with the gospel? 

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