Commentary on "Thessalonica in Paul's Day"
Day 5: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 - Paul, the "Street Preacher"
The word of the day is "street preacher" and "philosopher", with reference to the apostle Paul. Jon Paulien compares the apostle with the philosophers who attempted to perform moral reformation in the life of people by challenging their thinking and changing their ideas. These philosophers were engaged in conversations on the street, and while Paul's goals and methods to similar with theirs in some respects, he differs from these street philosophers in that he built churches and communities by relying on God's truth and on God's power to transform lives. While many Greek philosophers exploited people for money, Paul sustained himself in order to evade any bad appearances, thus demonstrating that he truly believed what he preached.
What is missing from this picture is that the gospel that Paul preached was not a new method (supernatural) for personal transformation but a historic truth: Jesus life, death and resurrection for the atonement of people's sins. The gospel was an objective external truth, not a subjective internal experience. Paul was not interested in offering people a new way of attaining morality, but to bring them the good news of what God accomplished in Jesus Christ for people unable to be what they should be, even with divine help, and this truth, this good news brought people to repentance and faith.
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 ESV)
Because Jesus has risen from the dead, everybody is called to repentance, not to personal fulfillment. Because Jesus had cancelled "the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands" (Colossians 2:14 ESV) people are called to live in the light of this mercy, to repent of their sins and live a life of gratitude for what was done for them while they were sinners, enemies of God (Romans 5:8, 10).
The message of apostle Paul was NOT "Keep going, improve your morality, God helps those who help themselves", but "Your morality is futile, look at what your best achievements deserve in Jesus' death in your place." The Christian life is not a movement from vice to virtue but from virtue to grace. It is grace from beginning until end. From this perspective, the apostle Paul had not only a different method of attaining the goal of philosophers, he had an entirely different goal. The morality taught by philosophers was precisely the morality that Paul's message condemned, it was precisely the morality that led to the cross of Jesus, and if not renounced, it's the morality that will lead to a rejection of Jesus. By failing to notice this antithesis, Jon Paulien proves that he has yet to understand what grace truly is. He will bring later the subject of the Greek street philosophers and the later commentary is based on the fact that their teaching is antithetical to the gospel.
Copyright 2012 BibleStudiesForAdventists.com. All rights reserved. Revised July 16, 2012. This website is published by Life Assurance Ministries, Camp Verde, Arizona, USA, the publisher of Proclamation! Magazine. Contact email: BibleStudiesForAdventists@gmail.com.
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