Having looked at how Paul was a competent scholar, modeled lifelong learning, led by teaching and was one of the few leaders recorded in the Bible who finished well, I ask the question: “What was the impact of the life of Paul of Tarsus? “
Not only was he largely responsible for turning the world of his time upside down (Acts 17:6) and establishing many churches (2 Corinthians 11:28), his writings have been a primary source for multitudes to experience spiritual freedom. Saint Augustine and Martin Luther were but two men who attributed their radical change of mind and life to Paul’s teaching on justification by faith alone. In Second Corinthians 3:17 Paul writes, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Freedom in Christ by means of the Spirit is still the greatest message anyone can hear and believe!
Many a person has set his or her heart to study the life of Paul. Of the many scholars we can read, none do a better job that F. F. Bruce. In his introduction to Paul: Apostle of the heart set free, (p. 15) he provides this perspective:
For half a century and more I have been a student and teacher of ancient literature, and to no other writer of antiquity have I devoted so much time and attention as to Paul. Nor can I think of a writer, ancient or modern, whose study is so richly rewarding as his. This is due to several aspects of his many-faceted character: the attractive warmth of his personality, his intellectual stature, the exhilarating release effected by his gospel of redeeming grace, the dynamism with which he propagated that gospel throughout the world, devoting himself single mindedly to fulfilling the commission entrusted to him on the Damascus road (“this one thing I do”) and laboring more abundantly than all his fellow-apostles – “yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me”.
In his final sentences (p. 474) Bruce states:
Campaigner for spiritual liberty that he was, he gave one thing precedence even over liberty, and that one thing was love. But spiritual liberty is not really diminished by love; both together are imparted by the Spirit, and to serve in love is perfect freedom. In this, as in so many other respects, Paul has remained unsurpassed in his insight into the mind of Christ.
After Paul’s heart was set free, he set the world ablaze. He sought to increasingly know Christ and to make Him known. Although few, if any, of us followers of Jesus will have the impact of Paul, we all have the same transforming and empowering Spirit within us. What will we do with this precious gift? How will we steward the message entrusted to us? Who or what will stop us? When and how will we finish our race? And, whose face will we be looking for as we run and when we cross our finish line?
We all have the opportunity to make an impact on our generation. We do so as parents with children (and grandchildren), as neighbors, as work associates and as friends. Living a life set free by the Spirit will enable us to model and share this transforming message to others.
Grace and peace to us all through Jesus Christ our Lord!