The Apostle Paul was not perfect, this to his own admission. He talks about the mysterious “thorn in his side,” and sometimes he writes about his own shortcomings and failings. As we read his letters to the early churches, we must string our way through customs and norms of his day to the heart of his message, a belief and trust in our Lord for guidance.
Paul, through his letters, paints a picture of the true Christian ideal, the thought patterns and behaviors of a Christian community, willing and ready to join the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth, where it all begins.
This ideal does not happen through magic, and it does not necessarily happen only through our own competencies. It begins with the engagement of the individual to the in-dwelling Christ, who guides and corrects us as we travel through our relationship with Him. Paul has a lot to say. What he has to express has its beginnings only through Christ.
Paul contends, and so do many other followers, that Christian behavior is not a result merely of doing good works on the human level. Christ is the center of Christianity, and our Christian behavior and learning flows through Christ by means of the Holy Spirit. We may be enlightened and progress in our Christian walk through the Holy Spirit.
Paul writes in his letter to the Galatians, “Are you so foolish and so senseless and so silly? Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh? “ (Amplified Bible. Galatians 3:3.)
Christian behavior flows from within. It is a partnership, a parent-child relationship, a little like dancing on our father’s toes or learning to drive on our father’s lap as a child. It is that tiny mustard seed that grows into a plant as large as a tree, large enough to encourage the life of others.
And, most of all, Christian behavior grows and matures, just as our relationship with Christ matures. Sometimes I think that this is the reason we find so many more senior citizens in our church pews than any other age group. Our elders have lived, come to know Christ, and have progressed in thanksgiving and praise.
No, Paul was not perfect, but he is one of the best barometers we have in our Christian walk. Have faith.
Paul’s letters can be found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible, especially: Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.