“For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.”
The apostle Paul arguably had the best attitude of any man written of in the Bible. He was absolutely single-minded in his devotion to Christ and to the ministry entrusted to him (1 Corinthians 9:16). He labored in ministry and suffered for his testimony at least as much as any other apostle (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-30). Though he was known to be a gentle person (1 Thessalonians 2:7-8, 11), he would not hesitate to confront error and sin publicly if need be. This he did to no less authority than the apostle Peter. “But when Peter was come to Antioch,” wrote Paul, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14). The confrontation, awkward and uncomfortable, was nonetheless necessary. Peter received correction and instruction, and, during the first church council at Jerusalem, Peter’s own opinions and judgments sounded a lot like Paul’s (Acts 15:7-11). Paul’s attitude shines best, I think, with respect to his own ministry. Paul loved his countrymen, the Jews, and desired above all things that they would find salvation in Christ (Romans 9:1-3). As an expert in Judaism, Paul would seem to be the best man for the job of evangelizing his nation (Acts 22:3; Galatians 1:14; Philippians 3:4-5). What’s more, Paul was sure his people would hear him since he himself had been a violent persecutor of the church (Acts 9:1-2; Galatians 1:13). While in Jerusalem, the Lord instructed him to get “out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me. And [Paul] said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.” But the Lord insisted, “Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles” (Acts 22:18-21). As today’s verse passage reminds us, Paul chose to make the best of his ministry call, determining to win so many Gentiles to the Lord that the Jews would have to take notice. Paul’s hope was that they would be moved to desire the salvation the Gentiles enjoyed. May Paul’s positive attitude and steadfast resolve be an example and an encouragement to us all.
God bless you, dear saints,