Tag Archives: Paul

The Apostle Paul: Two major salvation lessons

There is a fabulous paradoxical combo-lesson about salvation from the life of Paul: (1) If someone as bad as Paul can be saved, then so can we and (2) If someone as good as Paul needed to trust in Jesus to be saved, then so do we.  In other words, he was so bad but not beyond salvation and so good but couldn’t earn salvation.

I was reading Philippians last night and thinking about how I like the Apostle Paul.  I appreciate his writing and especially his passion in conveying the word of God.  He gets a bad rap for allegedly being anti-female, but if you read him properly and in the context of his culture, he was quite the feminist (in the good sense).  A woman in a Bible study once said, “I don’t like Paul.  He’s a chauvinist.”  I thought to myself, “I’ve got bad news for you.  You’re wrong, and he wrote much of the New Testament.” 

Paul had perhaps the most dramatic conversion experience ever.  He went from a full-time job of persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist for Christianity of all time.  That would be like Osama Bin Laden quitting terrorism to head up the Anti-Defamation League.

Paul’s life has at least two great lesson about salvation, though it is powerfully important how different they are:

1. If someone as awful as Paul can be redeemed, there is hope for us.  Jesus’ sacrifice covers all our sins if we will only repent and believe.  In Acts 9:5, Jesus said that Paul was persecuting Christ himself.  Paul went about terrorizing, jailing and murdering Christians as his day job.  If his sins can be forgiven, so can yours.

2. If an outstanding Jew like Paul still needed Jesus to be saved, then so does every other human on the planet.  Consider Philippians 3:4-6:

. . . If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” 

Paul had the ultimate Jewish resume — part of the chosen people, well educated, zealous, very righteous on human terms and so much more.  He had all that going for him but He still needed Christ.  If such a stellar Jewish person like Paul had to have faith in Jesus to be saved then, then so do we.  (Side note: What makes any Christian think we shouldn’t witness to Jewish people?)

Don’t swallow the stereotypes.  Read Paul (and more!) and learn for yourself.  Rejoice in the truth that just like him, you need to be saved and you can be saved.

From Paul to Saul? Not exactly.

It is a common view that the Apostle Paul had his name changed from Saul after his Damascus road experience.  I always assumed it was biblical.  But as our Associate Pastor pointed out one day, that is not what the text says.  Here is the grand total of verses about his name:

Acts 13:9-10 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?

That’s it.  No dramatic re-naming, just a note that he was also called Paul.  It was probably just a Jewish / Greek thing.

Now this isn’t a major issue, of course.  But it is a good lesson to read the Bible all we can and draw our conclusions from it and not to base our theology on non-biblical things.

The passage is also notable for how Paul whales on a false prophet and makes him blind for a time.  We could use a dose of that on the rampant false teachers in our day.

Colossians 4


4     Masters, provide your slaves with what is right and fair, because you know that you also have a Master in heaven.

Further Instructions

2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

There is so much I could say about prayer.  Sometimes I think it gets over-analyzed.  I read a book called Prayer by Philip Yancey, who is usually one of my favorite writers.  But if it is possible, I think I knew less about prayer after reading it! 

I heard a great sermon by John MacArthur that emphasized some basics of prayer and the freedom we have with it.  Pray to any member of the Trinity – or all three!  Pray any time, or all the time.  Pray with eyes open or closed.  Structured or unstructured prayers.  And so on.

3 And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. 5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

What great things to pray for – that God will give us opportunities to share the Gospel in a clear fashion!  I am convicted by the admonitions towards wisdom with outsiders.  Blogging is a challenge with so many hostile views out there.  I try to write the truth in provocative ways (especially on my other blog) without deliberately offending people.

Final Greetings

7 Tychicus will tell you all the news about me. He is a dear brother, a faithful minister and fellow servant in the Lord. 8 I am sending him to you for the express purpose that you may know about our circumstances and that he may encourage your hearts. 9 He is coming with Onesimus, our faithful and dear brother, who is one of you. They will tell you everything that is happening here.

Onesimus is the runaway slave written about in Philemon, a very short but impactful book of the Bible.

10 My fellow prisoner Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. (You have received instructions about him; if he comes to you, welcome him.) 11 Jesus, who is called Justus, also sends greetings. These are the only Jews among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have proved a comfort to me. 12 Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. 13 I vouch for him that he is working hard for you and for those at Laodicea and Hierapolis. 14 Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. 15 Give my greetings to the brothers at Laodicea, and to Nympha and the church in her house.

Luke is the one who wrote the Book of Luke and the Book of Acts.  He was a close friend and traveling companion of Paul.

16 After this letter has been read to you, see that it is also read in the church of the Laodiceans and that you in turn read the letter from Laodicea.

17 Tell Archippus: “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord.”

18 I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Again, Paul was in prison when he wrote this.  Yet consider his attitude!  We may not always be happy, but having true joy is one of our birthrights as Christians.  I have to remind myself of that because it is so easy to get pulled into the worries of the world.

Grace and peace to you all!

Colossians 3


Rules for Holy Living

3     Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

That passage reminds me of 2 Corinthians 4:17-18: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

We focus way too little on Heaven, in my view.  Focusing on Jesus and the glory to come can help us keep things in the right priorities here and now and help us endure.

5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Those are long lists of things to avoid!  But Jesus has given us freedom from sin if we will let the Holy Spirit work.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Verse 15 is sometimes taken out of context to justify decisions that we feel a “peace” about.  But this isn’t about how to make decisions.  We may make many Godly decisions that we don’t have peace about.  The proper interpretation is that we are to resolve conflicts with fellow believers. 

If you are here then you are obeying v. 16!

Rules for Christian Households

18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.

20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.

21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Peter and Paul give roughly the same marriage and family advice in several places.  Once again, our culture tends to overreact to the word submit but when they got this letter in Colosse it was probably just as controversial for the opposite reasons.  Women were property then, yet here Paul is telling husbands to love their wives and not to be harsh. 

22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. 25 Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for his wrong, and there is no favoritism.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

“Slaves” would be any employees in our culture.  V. 23 convicts me, because I often wonder if I’m working hard enough at my job.  The results are great, but they come so easy I feel like I should be doing more.

Colossians 2


2     I want you to know how much I am struggling for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. 5 For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is.

Just before I started this chapter I was reading a blog comment by a postmodernist who denies the traditional definition of truth (that which corresponds to reality).  He claims to be a Christian -and perhaps he is – but his idea that there aren’t universal truths is not Biblical.  His logical conclusion of his beliefs is that all religions are valid paths to God.  But this is intellectually bankrupt.

Paul’s purpose was for the church members to be encouraged and to gain an understanding of Jesus who has all wisdom and knowledge, and he wanted to prevent us from being deceived. 

The Bible teaches over and over that some things are true and some are not.  We should seek truth and hold onto it.

Freedom From Human Regulations Through Life With Christ

6 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

I love verse 8.  It describes the challenges of this culture so well.  There are so many false teachings.  The world’s philosophies are indeed hollow and empty.  They are meant to deceive.  They are not based on Christ.

9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

V. 9 has another direct claim of Jesus’ deity. 

The circumcision of our hearts is compared to the physical circumcision done by the Israelites and with the sacrament of Baptism.

13 When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

He forgave all the sins of believers – past, present and future.  One of the most destructive heresies is any concept such as purgatory where we have to do “our part” to have our sins taken away.  Jesus did it all on the cross.  The cross trumps sin; sin doesn’t trump the cross.  Hear the Good News!

16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

It is interesting that the Sabbath day is mentioned in this way.  Observance of the Sabbath is the only Commandment not specifically reiterated in the New Testament.  I think it is still a great habit, because God created us to need rest one day per week.  If you haven’t tried setting aside a day for minimal or no work and to focus on God, you’ll be amazed at how beneficial it is.  But it is not something we should be legalistic about. 

18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you for the prize. Such a person goes into great detail about what he has seen, and his unspiritual mind puffs him up with idle notions. 19 He has lost connection with the Head, from whom the whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow.

20 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Colossians 1

col1.jpgGreetings!  Let’s dive in to the short but terrific letter from Paul to the Colossians. 


1     Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,

2 To the holy and faithful brothers in Christ at Colosse: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, 4 because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— 5 the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel 6 that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. 7 You learned it from Epaphras, our dear fellow servant, who is a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf, 8 and who also told us of your love in the Spirit.

The Gospel is still growing around the world.  We don’t see it as much in the U.S., but it is growing rapidly in South America, Africa and Asia.  Why is it growing: For the same reason as in v. 6: People are hearing it and understanding God’s grace in all its truth.

9 For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

We often don’t think of how we please God, but verses 10-12 tell us how we can.  One of the ways is to grow in the knowledge of him.  Many liberal theologians act as if God can’t be known, but the Bible teaches that we can know him and that it pleases him when we do so.

We are not only rescued but adopted into his kingdom as well.  All because of what Jesus did for us, and not because of what we did (in fact, it is in spite of what we did).

The Supremacy of Christ

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

V. 15-19 are one of the clearest declarations of Jesus’ divinity.  He is fully God and fully man.  When it says he is the “firstborn” it doesn’t mean He was created.  It means he is preeminent or superior.

Jesus created all things.  He is the eternally existent God the Son.  Jehovah’s witnesses wrongly add the word “other” in front of “all things” multiple times because they falsely claim that Jesus was created. 

A good verse to share with the JWs is Isaiah 44:24 “This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.”  Since Isaiah clearly teaches that God alone made all things and JWs at least concede that Jesus made all “other” things, then Jesus must be God.

21 Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

Because of what Jesus did for us, we have gone from being enemies of God to being friends with him.

Paul’s Labor for the Church

24 Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. 25 I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness— 26 the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. 27 To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

28 We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. 29 To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me.

The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Again, Paul is writing so that we may know more about God and what Jesus did for us.  Paul clearly states that he is bring the word of God to us.  Thank God for that!

Colossians introduction

col.jpgGreetings!  Today we begin the Book of Colossians

The Apostle Paul wrote this short letter (4 chapters) around a.d.60-62 while imprisoned in Rome.  It was written to address a heresy that had arisen in the church at Colosse, where Paul had apparently not visited.  The heresy was the teaching that Jesus was not God. 

He also explained how Jesus was completely sufficient for us.  We don’t need anyone or anything else.  The world’s teachings are empty or even counter-productive. 

As he often did, Paul addressed doctrinal issues in the first part of the letter and Christian living in the second part.  He explains how we should live as spouses, parents, children and employees.

Please join us for the study!