apostle Paul, roman prison, risen christ, third heaven, greek scriptures

Paul the Learned

Paul lecturingLook at the Apostle Paul sitting in his Roman prison. What a career. This man has seen the risen Christ. He has been graciously granted a glimpse into the third heaven. He has heard ineffable declarations of God. He has suffered for the sake of God like no other, save the Lord Himself. As the apostle to the nations, he has inaugurated a new era of grace. He has completed the revelation of God, meaning that he has written the better part of the Greek Scriptures.

Old man Paul. Mr. Scripture. He is suffering now in a Roman prison, the crown of his career. It has been graciously granted him to be counted worthy to suffer shame for the sake of the gospel and for the sake of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Now this champion of faith is going to write one more letter, to his friend Timothy. Here is what one may have expected him to write:

The Romans are ill-mannered, Timothy, as a lot. The one guarding me is a near exception, except he does not bathe. I have talked to him repeatedly about this, with little effect. Yet it is my purpose to suffer.

This is the right way for me to end my career. I am happy to be counted worthy to suffer for His sake. Here I am, reflecting on it all now. I have seen our Savior, Timothy. I have seen things heavenly, things that a human being ought not see, such was their glory. Easy to get puffed up, but God has the solution to that: unwashed Romans.

Am imparting my knowledge to them, as they certainly need it. I thought,
no sense keeping this to myself. It has never been my habit. So it occurred to me nearly a fortnight ago: you're a man of leisure now, Paul. What better way to spend your days than teaching these barbarians; a few have good hearts. So I started in earnest last Tuesday. Amazingly, some are getting it. My guard, for instance. To God be the glory for that. I always give Him such. Others? They scoff. Others threaten to stop using deodorant, should I persist. It is an empty threat, for there is nothing like deodorant anywhere in the province. Their obvious bluffs have not put me off.

But these were not Paul's words. These words suggest a Paul finished with his own knowledge, now hoping only to enlighten others. These words suggest a Wise-Man of the Mount, toward whom spiritual aspirants ascend.

But, no. This is not the Paul of Scripture. Never did this man consider himself above further light.Paul reading Though he was an elder in the Lord, a favored man of God, a gifted ascertainer of divine wisdom, yet never was this man satisfied to draw a finish line for knowledge and truth.

Here, instead, were among the last words of the greatest apostle who ever lived:
When you come, bring the traveling cloak which I left in Troas with Carpus, and the scrolls, especially the vellums." (2 Timothy 4:13)

He has seen the risen Lord ... yet he wants his books. He has seen the third heaven ... yet he wants his books. He has heard the declarations of God... yet he wants his books. He has written the better part of the Greek Scriptures ... yet he wants his books.

Our conclusion is modest yet profound:

Even a great apostle needs to read.