Guided by Grace

This is the Areopagus in Athens Greece.  This is where Paul stood when he addressed the Athenians about the Unknown God.

1Cor 16:23 The Grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.

1Cor. 16:23  It is always appropriate to pray that God’s grace will be with someone and guide them in all their life’s activities. The apostles frequently said this prayer in either greeting someone, or in sending them out on a mission.  We are to pray for others regularly. Ex. 2Cor.1:2, Romans 1:7

Read Galatians 1:15-16  Sometimes knowledge is given to us through God’s grace, that we don’t get from man’s knowledge.  For example, Paul was given knowledge of Jesus Christ through God himself, and not through the preaching of any living human being.  God demonstrated his grace to Paul on the road to Damascus.  Paul was actually on his way to Damascus to imprison and kill off Christians.   This was actually after Jesus had been crucified and raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He was stopped in his tracks by Jesus who asked him why he was persecuting his people.  This was a great conversion experience for Saul and he was renamed Paul.  He was always working for God as much as he knew how, even when he was killing Christians, but God corrected him, and he went on to be someone who truly spent the rest of his life doing God’s work and spreading the gospel through the world to the Gentiles.  The Gentiles are anyone who is not a Jew, just to be clear on this.  

Colossians 4:6 Season your words with God’s grace, so that you will always know how to answer someone correctly.

Read Ephesians Chapter 3  Note that this is a letter from Paul to the Ephesians, in which he outlines how he prays for their well being, and guidance, and understanding of God’s love/grace for them.  Although the word grace is not used in the prayer part of verses 15-21 Paul does use the word grace in verse 7 along with the same wording about God’s power working in him.  This indicates that in the prayer portion he is talking about Grace to the Ephesians.  This letter is thought to have been written by Paul at the same time approximately as Colossians, AD 60, while Paul was imprisoned under house arrest in Rome.

When I think of Paul I think of someone who was a fire and brimstone kind of guy.  He was a “no gray area” type of person.  He believed in what he believed and he followed through on his beliefs to the best of his ability.  When he believed that Christians were heretics and were distorting the word of God he wholeheartedly went all out to eliminate as many of them as possible.  Once he met with Jesus on the road to Damascus he found (much to his surprise, I am sure!) that he was entirely wrong about his approach and his beliefs about the Christians.  I find it interesting that he was blinded physically even while he “saw the light” spiritually!  His physical blinding was temporary, but I am sure that helplessness he experienced really was convincing to him that he was dealing with God.  It was also a form of justice to those whom Paul had made to feel helpless while he was persecuting them.   After all, who else could do something like that, and who else would speak to him like that?!!  Paul was not allowed to stay in his comfort zone either….God thrust him forward to the preach to the gentiles…we know that Paul was both a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28/Philippians 3:4-5) and a Jew, his father was a Pharisee and he was also a well educated Pharisee.

Paul seems to have been a somewhat inflexible person who was unforgiving of others who were not as committed to his mission as he was.  We know this from his refusal to take Mark with him on the second missionary journey.  (Acts 15)  This was because Mark started off with he and Barnabas on the first journey and then left them and went back home. (Acts 13)  It ended up that Barnabas took Mark on a second journey of his own, and Paul teamed up with Silas and they went on Paul’s second missionary journey.  Later on, we find that Paul has come to appreciate Mark because he says in a letter that Mark has been of help to him. (2Timothy 4:11).  Paul has come to see that sometimes people can change and become committed whole heartedly.

Another thing we know about Paul is that he was bold.  He walked into Athens and informed them all that he had seen a monument to the “unknown God” and he would make that God known to them.  (Acts 17:16-34). 

 Paul also didn’t go about flaunting his background unless he needed to do so.  He didn’t announce that he was a Roman citizen unless he needed to do so, even though announcing it would have opened doors all over the cities he was being a missionary in.  I can only believe that this was so people did not listen to him out of duress or obligation, simply because of his Roman citizenship.  After all, there was a Roman law that said if a Roman soldier asked you to carry his stuff you had to carry it for up to a mile outside of the city before you were free to give it back to him and go about your business.  Can you imagine how hard it would have been for him to actually, genuinely, share the gospel with a group of people who were in fear of him as a Roman citizen?  How would he have been able to tell if they were actually being converted?  Would they have had the nerve to ask him questions at all or engage him in conversation?

We can learn a lot from this look at Paul’s development as an Apostle of God.  Ultimately, we find that Paul was humble and loving toward others, and concerned about their well-being and their walk with God. He acknowledged that people around him were praying for him and that he appreciated it, and he attempted to comfort them about his coming death. (Philippians 1:21) He wrote many many letters to the different churches he had set up so that he could continue to guide them even if he couldn’t be there in person.  Many of these letters he wrote while he was being imprisoned in Rome.  He was actually waiting to be judged and it is traditionally held that he was executed by Emperor Nero around 64 AD by beheading, though that is not written in the Bible.

Ultimately, Paul was a man of great faith who consistently looked for opportunities to serve God and to spread the gospel and uphold the faith of others, no matter what situation he found himself in.  We can really learn a lot from how Paul allowed the Spirit of God’s grace to lead him in life!


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