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Monday, October 27, 2014

Paul's Greeting (part 3): A Man of Three Worlds

(part 2)

We are considering the elements of Paul’s greetings, focusing attention on 2Corinthians 1:1-2. Last time we introduced the fact that Paul was a man of three worlds and we only looked at the first, exploring Paul the Jew. Let’s look into the second  and third worlds now and consider Paul the Greek and Paul the Roman.

We read in Acts 9:10-16 that God sent Ananias to help Paul after Paul’s conversion and God tells Ananias that Paul is God’s chosen instrument to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. When in Antioch of Pisidia, after Paul preaches his first sermon, we find that the Jews rejected the gospel, but Paul reiterated God’s call: (Acts 13:47) “For so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” Paul quotes the Old Testament passage of Isaiah 49:6, which show that the nations have always been on God’s heart. Paul understood the Jewish roots of the Great Commission! Was it an accident that Acts 18:6 records Paul standing in the synagogue in Corinth (of all places), saying “I will go to the Gentiles.” How was he qualified to do this, beyond God’s call? We ask because most of 2 Corinthians is Paul’s defense of his qualifications.

Paul was a citizen of Tarsus, a Greek city of historical drama established around 860 B.C. when Shalmanezer of Assyria listed it in his directory of conquests.  Alexander the Great nearly died here and Mark Antony prepared for war in Tarsus. This was a commercial city, the crossroads of trade into Asia Minor, known (among other things) for it’s  production of goat-hair felt, out of which people made tents, blankets, clothes, etc. (interesting that Paul was a tent-maker). Tarsus was also a university town, with an enthusiasm for learning that rivaled Athens and Alexandria. Commentator William Barclay noted “it was a city so cosmopolitan that none could walk the streets without coming into contact with the ends of the earth . . . If a man was destined to be a missionary to the world at large, there was no better place in all the east for him to grow to manhood than in Tarsus.”

But that’s not all! Paul was also a man of a third world: Paul was Roman. The more we read about Paul in the book of Acts, we find that Paul was a proud citizen of the Roman empire and never hesitated to appeal to his Roman citizenship or government. Now, there are different kinds of Roman citizenship: one could purchase citizenship to gain trade rights; one could be granted citizenship (such as military draft during times of crises); one could have “captured” citizenship (via conquest by the Empire); or, one could be born a citizen, and this was Paul’s case.

When we wrap up the three worlds of Paul, we have a Jewish man who grew up in a Roman neighborhood under Greek influence. In order for the gospel to go into ALL the world, God needed a unique person, and Paul was that person.

Who are you? What does your human portrait reveal? Does your life seem like a bunch of loose ends? Think for a moment about where you’ve come from, your experience and current activities. Is it difficult to tell who you are becoming? “I dunno, I feel lack of direction.”

Your background exposes opportunities for faithfulness in what He is doing, not failure-ness. No two churches are alike--you have a unique place, role in your local body of believers in fellowship. God is not too busy to be bothered by details of your life.

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