Paul the Learned
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. 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
Even a great apostle needs to read.