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March 17, 2013
Paul, a Pattern
Paul was, in his own estimation,the chiefest of sinners (1Timothy 1:15). Yet, he became a prime example to show the longsuffering of Christ and the grace of God—even he could be saved. The idea that Paul expressed to Timothy is that if the gospel could save him, it could save anyone.
Paul was a pattern worthy to be followed in many respects. He encouraged others to follow him in the right paths. “I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” (1Corinthians 4:16). “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1Corinthians 11:1). “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” (Philippians 3:17). Characteristics in Paul’s life are worth noting.
“It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.” (1Timothy 1:15). Paul was a pattern in his confession of sin. People are never going to come to Christ until they admit that they are sinners. Most people seem to think that they are pretty good ol’ boys and girls like they are. That is one of the main obstacles in preaching the gospel. The gospel was given to save (Romans 1:16), but why would those who don’t think that they are lost ever need it?
“I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.” (Galatians 1:14). Paul was a pattern in his zeal. This was illustrated in his life (Acts 8:3). Paul’s zeal was misdirected. There were many Jews who were like him. Paul realized the truth. He certainly retained his zeal after becoming a Christian. Paul prayed for those who shared his characteristic of zeal. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.” (Romans 10:1-2).
“Paul, looking intently at the Council, said, ‘Brethren, I have lived my life with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day.’”(Acts 23:1). Paul was a pattern in his sincerity. We must all be sincere. “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9-10). Proof of sincerity is not difficult to see. The actions of the Christians in Corinth toward brothers and sisters in Christ proved their sincerity(2Corinthians 8:8,9).
“Now why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” (Acts 22:16). Paul was a pattern in his conversion. Many in the religious world stop the telling of Paul’s conversion at his encounter on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6). However, Paul tells us the rest of the story. He tells of the instruction he received and of his obedience to it. Would you be content to be converted like Paul was?
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39). Paul was a pattern in his conviction. Too many give up at even the slightest hint of distress. How much Paul’s pattern of conviction is needed by so many!
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14). Paul was a pattern in his determination. Paul “pressed on.” What an intense word! Paul knew the intensity well. The same word was used as he spoke of his misdirected actions: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons” (Acts 22:4). The same determination with which he struggled against God became the determination to reach “the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Can you honestly say the same?
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2Timothy 4:6-8). Paul was a pattern in his farewell. He fought. He finished. He kept. This is the only way to receive the crown of righteousness. How we should all pray that our farewell can be like his!
Have you acknowledged sins in your life? Do you have that strong desire to follow the One who can provide redemption? Are you sincere in your efforts? Have you truly been converted—that is heard the truth and obeyed it so that a life change has come about? Are you convinced that as long as you put your trust in God that His love is there? Are you determined to follow the path of faithfulness as God requires? Are you willing to fight the fight, finish the course, and keep the faith so as to receive the crown of righteousness? Would you follow Paul, the pattern?
—S. Scott Richardson Sr.