What was it about Paul that God loved?


The modern church loves Paul for many reasons.  Modern Christians respect leadership, conviction, assertiveness, loyalty and intelligence, and Paul embodied all of these. Paul was a leader.  People listened to him and followed his example, and he was never afraid to confront anything that got in the way of his message about Christ. We like to think of Paul as being a fellow warrior, someone who would be there for us no matter what, the kind of person we could talk to about difficult subjects, a man who stood firm in the face of adversity.

Some Christians have made Paul out to be hard—nosed, tough and aggressive.  As modern Christians we like this. We want to be like Paul and give our opinions and not back down. We want to boldly proclaim that we, like Paul, are "not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). And while it is good to stand up for something and be strong in our faith, we really need to be asking, why did the Bible like Paul?  What was it about Paul that God loved?  

The answer can be found in 2 Corinthians 12 where Paul said, "To keep me from being conceitedà there was given me a thorn in my flesh" (2 Corinthian 12:7). Three times Paul asked for this thorn to be removed. The first time Paul received no answer from God. Dead silence. Paul prayed again for his thorn to be removed and again received no answer. Paul prayed one more time, and God answered: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Corinthian 12:9). In Paul's response to God we begin to see why the Bible loves Paul. Paul essentially responds, "I get it God. If you are made strong when I am weak then I will magnify my weakness."
Far too often we try to hide our sins.  As Christians we should not be afraid to talk about how messed up we are so we can talk about how great Jesus is. This is what Paul did. The more holy and righteous Paul became the weaker he understood himself to be without Christ. Throughout the Bible it is an individual's response to God that makes him "a man after [God's] own heart" (1 Samuel13:14) or not.

Take the example of David. After David was caught in sin with Bathsheba and Nathan confronted him with the story of the stolen lamb, David was broken and responded accordingly, humbling himself before God. Many of us would have been defensive and anything but contrite.

David is comforting to us because he was a murderer and an adulterer and yet he was still called a man after God's own heart. We feel better about ourselves because of David's sin, but when all we focus on is David's sin and what it means to us, we often miss the big picture. David is indeed to be admired, but not because his sin makes us feel better about ours. Rather, we should admire David because of his humility and the way he responded to God.

When we respond to God out of our weakness, he is able to meet us where we are, and as Christians we will be stronger as a body when we learn to love each other through our weakness, remaining strong in the gospel.

Dave Pillow
Vice President of Global Advancement

Answer by Dave Pillow

Dave Pillow is the Vice President of Strategic Development at Third Millennium Ministries