Paul's Master Passions
“Necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16).
“I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise” (Rom. 1:14).
“I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; that their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God . . . in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:1-3).
What a wonderful impression of Christ in glory at the right hand of God must Paul have received the day he was converted! “The light above the brightness of the sun” revealed to him glories that completely eclipsed, nay, that stood in sharpest contrast to, the glories of this world, which are like the soap-bubbles of the child, beautifully iridescent as they float in the air, but gone in a moment, leaving only a speck of dirty water to tell the tale.
Once converted, Paul was marked by two master passions—one, the proclamation of the gospel; the other, the teaching of the mystery of God to the saints. Behold him as he is presented to us in these two Scriptures! Would that they might affect us deeply.
See this man, eager, impetuous, dominant of will, his intellect like the edge of a razor, turned to God, and all that he was in powers of mind and body enslaved to the Christ, who had by that vision from glory captivated him. The stronger the love, the closer the bondage. The more intense the slavery, the more complete the liberty.
Liberty to be completely absorbed and devoted to the will of Him who had subjugated his will—liberty to be the most abject slave, this indeed was liberty of the sweetest kind.
See him carrying the gospel to strange cities and distant countries as zealously, and more so, as when he persecuted the church of God. God was making Himself known in the gospel, and the only happiness and blessing for man lay in that knowledge; nay, the gospel was part of a scheme in which God was to glorify Himself in the display of His wisdom and knowledge. “Woe is me,” cries the apostle “if I preach not the gospel.” He was debtor both to the Greeks—the civilized, the cultured, the esthetic, the intellectual—who needed it and without it were absolutely undone, and to the Barbarians, who were sunken in depravity and sin, needing it not more but as much as the others. So Paul preached as long as God gave him breath.
Then see the great apostle on his knees. He was often in tears. He reminded the Ephesian saints how he had warned them night and day with tears for the space of three years. He tells them how he served the Lord “with all humility of mind, and with many tears.”
Here he is praying for the Colossians and for those of Laodicea, and for as many as had not seen his face in the flesh. How intense is his expression—“conflict”—anguish of mind and soul on his knees. He was not content that his converts were safe for heaven. He would that their minds might be carried on to all the thoughts of God's purpose revealed in Christ. Shall we not be affected by the sight of the apostle on his knees, his cheeks wet with tears, his frame exhausted by the intensity of the conflict in prayer?
On every hand today we see Christians giving up the truth, lowering the flag of testimony, adapting themselves to the altered condition of things, infidel almost as to God's power to maintain His testimony by spiritual means. Where today are there the men who would burn for their principles?
May there be with all of us the full assurance of understanding to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, in which are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” For this there needs much exercise and prayer. The gain will cost us much, but it is infinitely worth it.
The subjects are vast. We can only draw attention to them and pray that by so doing we may all be exercised.