We don’t know what the Apostle Paul looked like, for that matter we don’t know what Jesus looked like either but it really doesn’t matter. What matters is the testimony they left and what happened next. Next to Jesus, the person I look forward to meeting most is Paul. Jesus is our saviour, He is the Son of God. Paul on the other hand is just an ordinary guy like you and me. Well using the word “ordinary” is probably a bit of an understatement, Paul was anything but ordinary.
You’ll recall in Acts 1:20-26 how the Apostles needed to find a replacement for Judas and how Matthias was elected. Strangely enough, that’s the last time that the New Testament mentions his name. Yet Paul called himself an Apostle (1Corinthians 1:1, 2Corinthians 11:5, Galatians 1:1, Colossians 1:1, 1Timothy 1:1, etc.) numerous times in the Pauline Epistles.
The New Testament nowhere condones or condemns the way the apostles made the decision in Acts 1. Casting lots was a biblically allowed method of making a decision (Proverbs 16:33). And, while Matthias is never again mentioned in the New Testament, the same can be said for most of the other 11 apostles. Church history records that Matthias died as a martyr for Christ, as did all of the other apostles, except John. Yes, Paul was definitely more prominent than Matthias, but Paul was more prominent than any of the 12 apostles, except for perhaps Peter and John. Also, Paul would not have been qualified based on the apostles’ criteria (Acts 1:21-22). So, a conclusive biblical case cannot be made for the 11 apostles’ choice of Matthias being invalid.
Further, God is sovereign. If it was not His sovereign will for Matthias to be chosen, Matthias would not have been chosen. It could be argued that, while it was God’s sovereign will (what He ordained) for Matthias to be chosen, it was God’s perfect will (what He desired) for the apostles to wait for Paul. But, this would be pure speculation, as, again, the Bible nowhere condemns Matthias being chosen for the 12th apostle.
So, what name will be written on the 12th foundation in the heavenly Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14)? The Bible does not explicitly say. Ultimately, though, we will have to wait to find out.
Paul’s testimony is obviously unique. Jesus wanted Paul to be working for Him. The rest of course, is history.
As you recall, Ananias had come to him, healed him: “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:14–15 NIV). So Paul was called, Paul was specifically chosen.
Paul delivered his witness through his actions, his example, his obedience, and his message. The verbs used in the King James Bible to describe Paul’s ministry paint a stirring portrait of Paul. For example, He “witnessed” (Acts 22:15; 23:11; 26:16), “confounded” (Acts 9:22), “disputed” (Acts 9:29; 15:2), “waxed bold” (Acts 13:46), “returned” (Acts 14:21), “sang” (Acts 16:25), “testified” (Acts 18:5), “strengthened” (Acts 18:23), “taught” (Acts 20:20), “declared” (Acts 20:27), “wrote” (2 Corinthians 2:3–4), “withstood” (Galatians 2:11), “imparted” (1 Thessalonians 2:8), and “exhorted and comforted and charged every one . . . as a father doth his children” (1 Thessalonians 2:11).
Do you ever stop to think what the Apostle Paul would have to say if he spoke in one of our churches today? I do. I’m thinking it wouldn’t be pretty. I’m thinking there would be a lot of wrist slapping going on, and my own would be among them. Of course, few were called to be Apostles, we would fall into the “brethren” category, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be too long after Paul got into his exhortation that we started to catch his drift.
Yet as pointed as Paul could be, there is a tenderness about him that draws me to closer to Jesus and in the end, this is what God’s Word is all about, drawing closer to Jesus.
Paul was a witness of the need for patience and long-suffering in the work of God. When God replied to Ananias’s concerns over the conversion of Saul, the Lord said, “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my names sake” (Acts 9:16).
In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul gives a résumé of his suffering for the cause of Christ. He speaks of labours, prisons, floggings, beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, journeyings, perils, false brethren, weariness, painfulness, hunger, thirst, fastings, cold, nakedness, and “the care of all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:23–28). In conjunction with the list above, seven recorded instances tell of attempts to take Paul’s life (see Acts 9:23; 9:29; 14:5; 14:19; 21:30–31; 23:12; and 25:3).
I don’t know about you but this kind of puts my own suffering for the cause of Christ into perspective. Hardly even on the same ball field. When I look at the life of Paul and my own, the words of James come to my mind :…..My brethren, these things ought not so to be.” (James 3:10).
If someone were to ask me what I thought was the main character trait of Paul I would have to say he was totally focused. Nothing stopped him from following God’s will for his life, nothing. I try to be mindful of the focus that I need when I say my prayers, as limited as my witness is, it still needs to be focused, hour by hour, day by day.
I’m also grateful that Paul acknowledges that he is not perfect, that even he still has a way to go. (Philippians 3:12-14 NIV). “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
A lot of us can identify with him, actually all of us can if we stop to think about it.
Just thought I would share a “reference point” for the day.
Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!