Alan Bandy writes an insightful article for “The Baptist Messenger” called “Imitating Paul the Missionary: Acts 20:24.”
Alan talks about how Paul’s life was completely changed by the appearance of Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. He understood the world, himself, and his purpose differently after that.
At one point, Alan turns to his own understanding of Paul. I thought this paragraph was very good:
I guess that I had unwittingly imprisoned Paul in the dusty office of a professor where he spent his days pouring over ancient texts and scholarly tomes. Professor Paul would eloquently expound on the finer points of theology and praxis as he writes to distant congregations. Missionary Paul, however, studies while traveling or during his visits to various cities. (perhaps he would frequent the library in Ephesus). Missionary Paul does theology in the context of communities of diverse ethnicity and background.Â Missionary Paul seeks to stay connected to congregations of believers with a fierce devotion and parental concern. The letters of Missionary Paul, then, reveal numerous insights into the Gospel that he preached, his concern to demonstrate the inclusion of the Gentiles into the people of God, the challenges he faced from opposing teachers, and various issues affecting congregations.
I think this can help us understand Paul. When Paul was writing his letters, he was not doing so in an academic environment. He was not separated from the mission of God, he was LIVING the mission of God.
The letters that he wrote to various churches and individual pour out of his relationship with Jesus Christ and his work (strengthened by God) on behalf of the churches.
Likewise, our teaching and proclamation should exist within a life of service and concern for others, fueled by our love of God and deep gratitude for our new relationship with him in Jesus Christ.