15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him.2 Peter 3: 15-18
16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position.
18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
When I was young, I avoided reading the letters of Paul like the plague. My childhood pastor was one that Peter warned us about, someone ignorant and unstable who distorted the Scriptures to his own and many others’ destruction. And I don’t say that lightly, friends. His preaching drove me away from the Bible like it was my enemy, and yet God’s message of love has followed me my entire life. God has truly never let me go.
And here I am and wow, do I love the letters of Paul! My current pastor is preaching through Philippians, and so I’ve been working through the letters of Paul with new excitement. What I aim to do is uncover the ways in which Paul, as another type of Christ, is following in the footsteps of Christ and, in so doing, teaching us how to do the same.
Here’s the crux of the matter: The point is not Paul. Paul is not the point. There is a point, and it isn’t Paul. It is not Paul who is the point. The point? It ain’t Paul.
The point is always Jesus.
In other words, don’t stop at Paul. Stop at Christ. Paul tells us that very clearly, in another letter, doesn’t he!
Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.1 Corinthians 11:1
In Philippians 1, for instance, Paul talks about being imprisoned for the sake of Christ. We can find the account of this in Acts 16, where Paul and Silas very literally pattern their lives after Jesus.
They perform a miracle. Jealous men arrest them and drag them before the rulers and accuse them of breaking the law (this time, the Roman law).
The crowd participates, and Paul and Silas are stripped and beaten. They are thrown into a dark place to receive unjust punishment. The doors are flung open, and they are set free to preach the good news of salvation.
Remind you of anyone?
Yes, Paul is sometimes hard to understand. But the key to unlocking Paul is the same key we use to unlock any other part of Holy Scripture. We consider each text in light of the unfolding grand narrative before us. This message is preached to us from the first page of the Bible until the very last, a flawless unfolding flower of stories and truths in perfect harmony. The Apostles’ Creed summarizes that message rather wonderfully.
I believe in God, the Father almighty,The Apostles’ Creed
Creator of heaven and earth,
and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died and was buried;
he descended into hell;
on the third day he rose again from the dead;
he ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty;
from there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and life everlasting.