On the Plains of Moab Blog
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June 23, 2011, 8:02 PM

About that Paul...

One of the things that drives me a little nuts as a pastor is hearing Christians say things like, "Well, I like the New Testament; but I have no use for the Old Testament."  Over Christmas, I had the audacity to suggest to my in-laws that I might preach a series from the book of Leviticus.  Oh, you could have heard the gasps of disbelief and the howls of derision at least two rooms away.  How could I even think of preaching from such an irrelevant book?  What an offensive book!  In the back of my mind, I kept thinking, do these well-churched, unapologetically Christian people realize that everything we cherish about the mission of Jesus is given meaning from what is described in Leviticus 16 -- the introduction of the Day of Atonement?  Apparently not. (By the way, I still hope to preach a 7-UP Series some time next year in Leviticus.  I'm thinking of calling it, "Leave It To Leviticus.")

More to the point, I also hear the same song, different tune in the form of this:  "I like the Gospels; it's that Paul I can't stomach."  "Paul was anti-woman."  "Paul was judgmental."  "Paul was a slick salesman."  And on and on it goes.  It distresses me that so many Christians really think it's okay to pick and choose what they will accept as Scripture from the Scriptures.  My friends, it is one story from Genesis to Revelation.  It has stuck together all these years, even with determined detractors from time to time.

Remember Martin Luther and the book of James?  "That right strawy epistle"?  Luther also had no use for the book of Revelation. (Shame on him!)  One half of the early Church hated the book of Hebrews while the other half of the world cherished it.  One early Christian heretic, Marcion (not "My Favorite Martian") despised the Jewish Old Testament and a good deal of the New Testament -- although he loved Paul! (Go figure.)  And yet, despite all of the attempts to edit the Scriptures, to make them more palatable and acceptable... we still have today a virtually intact Canon.

[Definition of Canon:  A collection of books accepted as holy scripture especially the books of the Bible recognized by any Christian church as genuine and inspired.]

As the Reformed Confessions like to wax poetic in correcting Rome:  The Church did not create the Canon; the Church merely recognized it!

Back to Paul.  No, he was most definitely NOT anti-woman.  He was NOT judgmental.  And he definitely wasn't the inventor or creator or salesman of a newly emerging Jesus sect from Judaism.  Paul was a very content Jew, and doing very well before he met Jesus, thank you very much!  Paul was called directly by the risen Jesus and entrusted with the message of the Gospel to the Gentiles.  We have been united to Christ largely through the efforts of Paul!  The reality is this: Jesus gave him a pretty thankless job -- of which he is still, to this day, held under a cloud of suspicion by far too many in the Church.

My challenge to you is to start with a healthy regard for the Scriptures.  They are the Word of God written.  Think about it, we wouldn't know Jesus apart from them.  We wouldn't have a clear understanding of God's will without them.  We wouldn't know what kind of God created us without its persistent witness.  We couldn't make sense of the world if it weren't for the Story.  And, so with that much import riding on it -- we need to wrestle with, and work at our understanding of the Word from beginning to end.

Sunday's sermon will be a step in the right direction as we look at the life of the apostle Paul and hopefully, give us all a greater appreciation for his mission and the Christ he so faithfully sought to introduce to the world.



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