Paul: Background and Call

Sabbath School Commentary for discussion on Sabbath, September 12, 2015

If awards were given for the inspired writers of Scripture, Paul would be nominated and likely win in quite a few categories: Most Prolific, Most Foreign Mission Trips, Most Amazing Conversion Story, just to name a hypothetical few. From what Paul reveals in Scripture of his character, however, he would likely demur all these awards. He is, as he states in Romans 1:1, a slave of Jesus Christ. Not a prizewinner for Christ. Enslaved to Him.

So many aspects of Paul’s ministry are amazing to me. This week’s lesson examines the underpinnings of it all: from whence he came and how he was called. Paul’s robust ministry continues to inform many of today’s Christian mission efforts. And God began it with a man whose beginnings are among the most unlikely.

As Paul confirms in his letter to the Philippians, he was a Pharisee (Phil. 3:5). The word Pharisee probably borrows from the Hebrew word prs, meaning separate or detach. The Pharisees were a separate class in many respects. As Sunday’s lesson indicates, Pharisees “were known for insisting that all the laws of God, both those written in the books of Moses, as well as those handed down verbally by generations of scribes, were binding on all Jews.” Their strict adherence to Jewish laws set the Pharisees apart from their contemporaries: Jews and Gentiles. Paul no doubt knew and abided by these laws, making his embrace of multiculturalism later in life so significant.

We know that Paul felt especially led to share the Gospel with Gentiles. His witness as a former Pharisee and one who formerly condemned Christians—even to the death—was a powerful one, showing how God can humble and restore a former enemy of the faith.

Paul had a passion for grafting Gentiles into the Christian church. He sought to dispel myths that they were unwelcome because they did not fit the mold of Jewish believers in Christ. Thursday’s lesson takes us through Paul’s letter to the Galatians in which Paul goes to a conference in Jerusalem (Ch. 2), likely to have his Gentile mission evaluated by the apostles. Paul brings Barnabus, an esteemed Jewish Christian, and Titus, a Greek Christian, to the conference. The trio are symbolic of the widening diversity in Christianity at the time. At the conference, Paul seeks certitude about that which is causing division in the church: do Gentiles need to be circumcised as Jews first before being accepted into Christianity? Here, Paul makes an important distinction in the law and the verses are so well-known to many of us that we may forget their gravity.

I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. - Galatians 2:20-21

Paul, who at one point in time may have found his identity deeply rooted in Jewish ceremonial laws, has found freedom from this identity by being found in Christ. He stands to embrace all who want to be found in Christ, as well.

Is the Seventh-day Adventist Church taking a similarly active stance? Embracing all who want to be found with Christ living inside of them?

Recently, the Pew Research Center reported that the Seventh-day Adventist church is the most diverse religious group in the U.S. Yet, members of our church know well the racial segregation struggle of U.S. churches and conferences. How can such a diverse church still be widely unintegrated? Perhaps the ministry of Paul can instruct us in how the Gospel of Christ can better unite us. While bureaucracy may persist for reasons that go well beyond racism, including economic feasibility, the Gospel that unites us should never be impeded by that which cannot save us alone, e.g. ceremonial laws or regional organizations. Paul’s willingness to champion the cause of inclusivity as it advances the Gospel should be our inspiration and our touchstone.

This is not merely an ideal written idly by a Pollyanna Adventist. I have experienced this unity most profoundly. As a convert to Adventism from a fairly orthodox Catholic upbringing, I can attest that I was well-loved into the Adventist church. I am a Caucasian woman from the Midwest who found herself attending a Korean Adventist church in New England for the better part of ten years. By virtue of our proximity to so many universities, and because of the famous weekly “potluck ministry” of the Korean elders, the congregation had a steady flow of college students who were Haitian, Zimbabwean, Indonesian, Jamaican, as well as Korean. Our fold was enriched by this diversity and our view of the world church was ever enlarged. We were small in number but great in diversity and Christ was our common glory!

I believe that it is possible to advance the Gospel even further when we share the fruits of our diverse gifts, talents, and cultures. I know because I have experienced it and it was a foretaste of Heaven.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7069

the openness of Paul is largely over looked in favor of Moses, Daniel and John the Revelator by Adventism. Christainty is established in The Gospel of John, Romans, Gslaiabs, Ephesians, Philippians, Hebrews, and the three letters of John. The major fault is in their definition of the human nature of Jesus. from there they stand in direct opposition to Paul. Tom Z

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If the Adventist founders had spent more time in the NT, especially Paul, rather than the OT, what a difference it would have made! There would be no arbitrary observance of the Jewish Sabbath; no concentration in Daniel’s prophecies which were about the future temple’s destruction; and no detailed interpretation of Revelation which has so many times been wrong in predictions.

There would not be the consistent emphasis on the papacy as the devil incarnate and all other Protestant churches as daughters of a harlot. Painting all other Christians as wrong has only fostered exclusivity and “we are right” syndrome.

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Paul, more than any other Bible writer has been responsible for more MISERY on this planet than Hitler and Stalin combined.

These despots only impacted their own generation.

For two millennia since the Pauline epistles, millions of slaves, countless abused women and a multitude of mistreated gays, can rightly confront Paul, demanding why he caused them so much agony and anguish.

Why did he make such intemperate and despicable comments condoning slavery? Countless Christian slave owners justified themselves using Paul’s apparent approval of the slave trade.

Why did his misogynist messages demeaning and denigrating women, give husbands carte blanche to physically abuse their wives?

Millions of gays can attribute “gay bashing”, murders and other mistreatment to Paul’s homophobic rhetoric.

The heretical Headship Dogma, not historical with Adventism, but recently imported from suspect Calvinist sources, has as its underpinnings, Pauline texts disparaging women. This perverse persuasion gives husbands almost despotic and kingly power over their spouses.

A senior women pastor informs me that wife beating is pervasive in Adventist congregations.

And now the fallout from Paul’s miserable, misguided messages continues, causing division, dispute and disruption in Adventism over the WO issue.

Apologists absolve Paul saying his wrote “for his time and place”.

In that case why would the GC wantonly apply his texts to current times?

PAUL LEAVES A GRIM AMD TROUBLED LEGACY,

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There would have been no Adventism without all these aspects. Which would be okay, because no denomination is needed to add to the Gospel. It stands on its own.

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Robyn, your comments regarding the Apostle Paul demonstrate that you have not studied his writings and learned the three most important ideas from him.

What can we learn from the life of the Apostle Paul? First, we learn that God can save anyone. The remarkable story of Paul repeats itself every day as sinful, broken people all over the world are transformed by God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. Some of these people have done despicable things to other human beings, while some just try to live a moral life thinking that God will smile upon them on the day of judgment. When we read the story of Paul and know what he had done, it is difficult for us to believe that God would allow into heaven religious extremists who murder innocent women and children. Today, we might see people on death row as unworthy of redemption because their crimes against humanity are just too great. Yet we live our lives in a sinful manner, expecting that God will be impressed by the fact that we haven’t killed anyone. The story of Paul is a story that can be told today—he isn’t worthy in our eyes of a second chance, yet to God he is worthy. The truth is that every person matters to God, from the “good, decent,” average person to the “wicked, evil” degenerate. Only God can save a soul from hell.

Second, we learn from the life of Paul that anyone can be a humble, powerful witness for Jesus Christ. Arguably, no other human figure in the Bible demonstrated more humility while sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ as Paul. Acts 20:19 tells us that he “served the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to [him] through the plots of the Jews.” In Acts 28:31, Paul shares the good news of Jesus Christ: “Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul was not afraid to tell others what the Lord had done for him. This verse is the very definition of Paul’s newfound life in Christ. He would spend the rest of his days working tirelessly for the kingdom of God.

Finally, we learn that anyone can surrender completely to God. Paul was fully “sold-out” for God. “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear” (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul was in prison when he wrote these words, yet he was still praising God and sharing the good news. Through his hardships and suffering, Paul knew the outcome of a life well lived for Christ. He had surrendered his life fully, trusting God for everything. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). Can we make the same claim?

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“

Paul had a passion for grafting Gentiles into the Christian church. He sought to dispel myths that they were unwelcome because they did not fit the mold of Jewish believers in Christ”

So much so that he accepted the gentiles invitation in ACTS 13:42 and preached the next Sabbath (ACTS 13:44) instead of segregating them from the Jews by having them meet on the supposed "LORD’S Day

"

Paul, who at one point in time may have found his identity deeply rooted in Jewish ceremonial laws, has found freedom from this identity by being found in Christ. He stands to embrace all who want to be found in Christ, as well.

Is the Seventh-day Adventist Church taking a similarly active stance? Embracing all who want to be found with Christ living inside of them?

"

What does found in Christ mean to the unchurched?

"How can such a diverse church still be widely unintegrated? Perhaps the ministry of Paul can instruct us in how the Gospel of Christ can better unite us. "

And how does that happen?

“While bureaucracy may persist for reasons that go well beyond racism, including economic feasibility, the Gospel that unites us should never be impeded by that which cannot save us alone, e.g. ceremonial laws or regional organizations.”

What percentage of SDA think that ceremonies and organizations save them?

"We were small in number but great in diversity and Christ was our common glory!"


What does “Christ was our common glory” mean?
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No, he was NO misogynist - wrong tarnslation into the Vulgata and later translators following this “verson” thoughtlessly made him one in Christan eyes.

I read 1. Cor 7 : 1 : About the matter you have written to me ,( that means) it is not good for a man to touch a woman ( I say ) : for your nature evreyone should have his wife - - a man should show his wife the benevolence as it is his obligation; the wife should show her beneovolence to the man - - -

and furtheron to the verse 9

That all of coures is noz romantic, but practical - and maybe out of his very own experinece - or at least compassion…

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the most comprehensive commentary on the Apostle Paul is Janes Dunn "The Theology of Paul, The Apostle. 733 pages of affirmation of the Gospel. Tom Z

The loaded question is, what was Paul’s relationship, as a follower of Christ, to the Torah as a whole…not just Jewish ceremonies. I don’t think there is an easy answer. But, I do think that the later, traditional Protestant and Adventist splitting of the law into moral, civil, and ceremonial components, seems to miss the boat entirely. The Sabbath, viewed by Adventists as lying solely within the “moral law,” had a copious amount of “ceremonial” and sacrificial aspects attached to its observance. OTOH, temple ritual was seen by Jews to also be moral in nature, in that it was offered in obedience to God, whether it was offering animal sacrifices, observing clean and unclean distinctions, or circumcision. The Torah was thus a whole entity, not viewed by Jews in neat subdivisions, as has been done in later Christianity.

With this in mind, what did Paul mean when he said that when he was with those who were without law/Torah, that he became as one without the law, although he considered himself still under the Law of the Messiah? While it is clear that he is speaking of being with and working amongst Gentiles (those outside the covenant of the Torah), he certainly doesn’t mean that he got himself uncircumcised…a literal impossibility. So, what did Paul mean? How did he change his behavior amongst them, to reach them, as opposed to when he was amongst Jews? What aspects of his Judaism, and of Torah observance, did he see as negotiable, or as culturally, ethnically, and time conditioned? Did food laws, and Sabbath, long viewed as visible, Jewish cultural and covenantal badges, fall under this heading, along with circumcision, in Paul’s mind, life, and ministry? And, what was the “Law of the Messiah,” to which he refers. It does not seem to be a simple reiterating of the ten commandments/moral law, especially since Paul would have seen that the ten were the foundation of the Sinai covenant…a covenant he goes to great lengths to show that Gentiles were not under.

I don’t think this article goes far enough in exploring these questions. It seems to be looking to avoid a third rail of Adventism.

Thanks…

Frank

To the web ed…I think this new commenting policy has become a real hindrance, rather than a help. The limiting of one comment per article has served to limit discussion…period. Many of the articles don’t even make it into the lounge, so discussion can’t even take off on those. I, for one, miss the free wheeling nature of the older format. If the objective was to repress this, and to send people to other sites to be able to discuss freely, it can be considered a success. I think a rethinking of this policy is in order. Thanks for listening.

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That should be directed to the Spectrum board, I believe - and I agree.

To understand Paul we should look to the book of Hebrews, even though there is serious doubt that Paul wrote it; nevertheless, it would be a summary of how the Pauline Christianity viewed its Jewish roots. At this point in time, it didn’t seem to matter if you were a Jew or Gentile within the Christian community, as long as you understood that Christ superseded all that the Jews held dear within their religion and their culture.

Paul knew that it would be next to impossible for the Jew to give up his traditions as they were also his cultural benchmarks. This is why Paul was able to say “let each be settled in his own mind,” when it came to keeping holy days, including the Sabbath; while shifting the “Sabbath rest” to a rest “in Christ”, echoing Jesus’ words - “Come to me and I will give you rest”, coupled with Hebrew 2 , which tells the Jews, themselves, that their traditional Sabbath rest didn’t really do it - that there remained a
Sabbath rest, even for the people who considered themselves "people of God.

Also in the book of Hebrews the entire Jewish system of prophets and priests is transferred to Christ as the fulfillment of every aspect of the Jewish religion. Adventist, however, have turned this on its head; and, instead of seeing the Old Testament religion being fulfilled in Christ; they try to validate the OT ritual religion by pointing to Christ, as its meaning. Our job, as Christians, is not to validate the OT religion, but to “preach Christ and Him crucified”. This makes the “Law of the Messiah” Jesus’ answer to those who tried to trip him up by asking which commandment was the greatest of the all. His answer was, of course, “Love God; and love your fellow man” - which was the basis of the ten commandments as well, as God’s law applied to the Hebrews at that time.

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How do I address it to the board, Sirje?

Thanks…

Frank

I’m sure someone is trolling the site to see if the maneuver has “worked”. According to Charles Scriven, he’s checks things out occasionally, and thinks things are going just fine. I guess it all depends what the intended goal is.

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Sirje
As you noted there are 2 Sabbath “rests”.

  1. Physical
  2. Spiritual and Emotional.
    In the Jewish Book of Common Prayer I recite with my Jewish friend at services on Friday night at Synagogue it has this thought in one of the readings.
    The Peace of the Sabbath is to be such that one can eventually transfer it to each day of the week. To maintain this “spiritual and emotional” Sabbath rest all week, into every day.
    So even today, the Jewish liturgy is recognizing what the writer of Hebrews was attempting to say about “Sabbath rest”.
    It is more than just taking the “day off” from work.
    It is more than just going to services on Sabbath.
    It is a mind-set. And, a mind-set that is easy to miss, and not capture. Miss the whole meaning of “Rest”.
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Yes. If the intended goal was to repress free, and easily accessible discussion, then they’ve done their job. If all articles were also available in the lounge, it wouldn’t be as bad. But, they’re not. All I see is less discussion, less to freely comment on, and to discuss back and forth, and just a sense of redundancy.

I’ll probably be told I’ve exceeded my comment limit, now. Lol!

Thanks…

Frank

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And, Hebrews point is that this is only possible through the salvation/new covenant experience in Christ. This is the true, existential, sabbath rest for the people of God.

Thanks…

Frank

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