We welcomed Pastor Vince Giardino back from his travels today at Adult Sunday School. To help Pastor rest up and recharge his batteries, Bernie Wheater was asked to lead our Sunday school session, just as he did last week. This gave Brother Bernie a chance to finish last week’s lesson on Paul the Apostle since he had so much material to get through. Bernie’s focus for the morning was to explain why Paul was so important in the New Testament.
Again like last week, he assigned scriptural verses to individuals in class to read. This time, prophecy verses dealing with Gentiles were chosen, most of which came from Isaiah. Bro. Bernie pointed out that 30 times in the Old Testament Gentiles is mentioned, 15 of which are in Isaiah. These verses deal with the salvation that is to come to the Gentiles. In Isaiah 60:3, we read “And the Gentiles shall come to thy light”. That someone will bring the Word of salvation to the Gentiles is more than implied and that someone was Paul.Last week’s teachings were reviewed, such as Paul’s Hebrew background, Jesus appearing to Paul, Paul’s conversion, and Paul’s ministry journeys. “Outside of Jesus, Paul was the most significant person in the early church.”, Brother Bernie said. The reasons for this was Bro. Bernie’s point of emphasis.
1. Paul’s Roman citizenship allowed him to preach the gospel throughout the Roman Empire, including Rome itself. The other apostles did not have this advantage. Paul knew the law of Rome and how to word things to keep him out of trouble. For example, this what Paul said as he was about to be scourged,“And as they bound him with thongs, Paul said unto the centurion that stood by, Is it lawful for you to scourge a man that is a Roman, and uncondemned?” Acts 22:25. When the chief captain and the centurions understood Paul was “free born”, they released him. Paul knew when to claim to be a Roman, Christian, or Jew.
2. Paul was born and grew up in Tarsus, which was a prosperous trading center of a quarter million people largely influenced by Greek language and culture. Merchants from Tarsus were well know, the area had many resources, and Paul was a maker of quality tents. The city was a university town with many educated people and Stoicism (i.e. the rational unemotional investigation of questions) was a major influence on the population. Thus, Paul took advantage of the education system. Paul was fluent in Greek and his writing style and terminology showed Greek influences. This made Paul’s letters in the bible stand apart from the rest, having a unique style. Many of the cities Paul taught in were predominately Greek speaking, so knowing Greek was an important advantage for Paul. Paul used his Greek style of teaching and his broad knowledge to reach the Greek Gentiles.
3. Paul knew the Hebrew law like no other. Prior to his conversion, Paul was a zealous Jew and a “Hebrew of Hebrews” in regard to the law. Because of this, it is thought Paul is the person most likely to and most capable of writing the book of Hebrews. The letter’s audience was to Jewish Christians. With the Jewish people, Paul often used the old testament prophecies to show the relationship to the risen Christ.With Paul’s Roman citizenship, his knowledge of the Greek language and culture, and his broad knowledge of Hebrew law, “he had the ability to do what no other apostle had the ability to do.”, Brother Bernie explained. Nobody in the bible could come close to his capabilities to reach the Hebrew, Roman, or Greek. “Paul had all the tools he needed to establish churches throughout the empire.” Bernie taught, “He was the perfect choice to be the apostle to the Gentiles.”