Lesson Two – Paul, Called to be an Apostle

Paul, Called to be an Apostle


In Lesson One of this Introduction of the Corinthian letters we learned how these letters fit into Luke’s narrative in the book of Acts.  They have their chronological, geographical and individual narrative recorded in Acts.  As we progress in our study from I Corinthians to II Corinthians we will need to keep in touch with the narratives in Acts.  The time, place and story in the letters will be intertwined with the story in Acts.  The Corinthian letters include the characteristics of narratives.  Therefore, in our application of biblical principles of interpretation we will need to apply the principles for reading a letter listed in Lesson One.  However, we will also want to apply the principles for reading a narrative.

The writer of these lessons has written a book of lessons entitled, “Jesus Christ’s Evangelism Program for God,” a study of Acts.  See Part I, Lesson Three, How to Read a Narrative.  The following is an excerpt from this lesson:

In all Biblical literature we look for structure and content.  The content is for us.  All content will fall into one of three categories:  Theology – Ethic – Practice.

All narratives have three basic parts: *

1.      Characters:  Protagonist — Antagonist — Agonist (the other major characters in the story).

2.      Plot (what is happening – theme).

3.      Plot resolution.

* For detailed information on how to read a narrative see “How to Read the Bible for all its Worth” by Fee and Stuart.

In the Bible story, God is the protagonist and Satan is the antagonist.  See my book, The Kingdom of God, Part I, “The Truth about God” and Part II, “Satan Rules the World and Satan in Action.”  All other characters in the Bible story have aligned themselves with God or Satan.  They are the agonists.  We are all one of them.

In our study of the Corinthian letters we will want to identify how the characters align themselves with God or Satan.  We will study God’s plot as Christ Jesus seeks to accomplish His Father’s will in Corinth via the Apostle Paul (I Cor. 1:1).  Of course, there would be no story without an antagonist.  Satan’s presence, as always, is active in this story as it unfolds in these letters.  See I Cor. 5:5; 7:5; II Cor. 2:11; 11:3, 14; 12:7.  He will be attempting to foil God’s plot to have the people He created as His children:

Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.  Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.   II Cor. 6:17, 18

God through Christ sent Paul to Corinth to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 20:25; I Cor. 4:20; 15:22-24).  According to Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, the Greek word “apostolos” has been transliterated into the English word “apostle.”  It is made from two words, “apo,” which means from and “stello,” to send.  We should be keenly aware of the power and meaning of this word as it relates to Paul in our study of the Corinthian letters.  We must not lose track of the fact that Jesus Christ was working to do God’s will by directing Paul to write these letters by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:10-13).

Paul wrote to bring about some level of “plot resolution.”  A problem had developed and he was trying to move God’s plot forward by solving the problem.  Satan tried to block Jesus from accomplishing the will of God in Corinth.  First he tried to use some stiff-necked Jews to stop Paul’s preaching in the synagogue.  Jesus intervened and protected Paul from bodily harm (Acts 18:9-11).  He had sent Paul there to preach the kingdom of God and build the church of Christ.  The members would be transferred from Satan’s kingdom into Christ’s kingdom and be identified as sons and daughters of God (Acts 26:18).

Jesus had been successful through Paul’s work; however, Satan never gives up.  We will need to identify the agonists on Satan’s team in the story in these letters.  Satan schemed to use certain people to unsettle the church.  We will want to always remember there is only one protagonist, God, and one antagonist, Satan.  Jesus Christ was working to do God’s will and Paul was working to do the will of his Lord, Jesus Christ.  God’s will was, and is, that He be the Father of the members of Jesus’ church.

For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live, and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.  I Cor. 8:5, 6  


Jesus maintained a “mobile apostle school” during His earthly ministry while He was preaching the kingdom of God to the Israelites (Luke 6:12-16).  After some initial training and “faith building” exercises He sent these twelve men out to preach the kingdom (Luke 8:22-25; 9:1-6).  Judas failed the course.   He was replaced by Matthias, a person who had been an active disciple from John, the Baptist’s ministry, until Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 1:21-26).  Paul was not one of the Twelve (I Cor. 15:7-11).  His late calling gave an opening for Satan’s “false apostles” to disrupt his ministry “to the Jew first and then the Gentile” in Corinth (II Cor. 11:13-15; 12:11-13).

Although the Twelve had the Son of God as their teacher, Jesus did not trust them with the task of fulfilling the will of God in these last days of time (I Cor. 10:11).  He told the apostles, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”  John 15:26.

The following are a few points for our consideration about Jesus’ use of apostles to carry on His ministry for God after He returned to heaven as Prince and Savior (Acts 5:31; 7:55, 56).

  1. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was a disciple of John, the Baptist.  He and some others were looking for the Messiah.  When John said, “Look, the Lamb of God” is passing by in reference to Jesus of Nazareth, they immediately proclaimed, “We have found the Messiah.”  See John 1:35-46.  Jesus knew eleven of the twelve were the right kind of people to train to serve as apostles.  They were seriously looking for the Messiah to restore the kingdom of God to Israel (Acts 1:4-8).  Jesus also knew Judas Iscariot was a devil (John 6:70, 71).  He would serve to fulfill prophecy.
  2. Jesus did not change the character and personality of the apostles with any type of special endowments.  Each developed his own “self.”  Even after witnessing the power of God in so many life experiences, Peter denied he knew Jesus (John 18:27).  Even though the apostles had undergone three years of intense training, Jesus caught them disputing who was the greatest among them at their final Passover meal together (Luke 22:24).  They, no doubt, grew in faith, knowledge and wisdom as a result of being with Jesus, but they were still sinners saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8).  They, like all Christians, had to understand and have faith in the following:
    a.    The kingdom of God is spiritual and powerful (I Cor. 4:20).  Jesus is now Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
    b.   This kingdom can be inherited by faithful children of God who have been washed, sanctified and justified in the name of Jesus (I Cor. 6:9-11; 15:50; II Cor. 5:16-21).
    c.    There will be a resurrection of the dead followed by Judgment Day when Jesus makes His next appearance.  He will then turn His kingdom back to God (I Cor. 15:20-28, 42-44).     
  3. The apostles did finally come to understand and have faith in the foregoing about the Messiah and His kingdom.  They were strengthened to overcome the fear of death, so that they could serve the challenge of preaching their faith (Acts 5:29-42).  However, they, like all Christians, required the blessing of God’s new covenant via the Priesthood of Jesus Christ for their spiritual growth and well being (II Cor. 3:4-6).  They were still “in Adam, in Christ.”  I Cor. 15:45-49.  Like the Apostle Paul said, “I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”  I Cor. 9:27.  Peter, even after receiving a special vision to help him overcome his prejudiced “upbringing” about eating with Gentiles, was later overcome with the same prejudice (Acts 10:9-16; Gal. 2:11-14).
  4. When Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles were still not ready to fulfill the will of God on their own.  They would have been the “blind leading the blind” without the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 18:12-15).  The appearance of the Holy Spirit is one reason Jesus went away.  This is the only way Jesus could put God’s evangelism program in the care of the apostles (John 16:5-11).  There were also other good reasons for His going (John 14:12-14).
  5. Why did Jesus ordain Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles?  He did not give us a reason so we will need to use our own imagination with, perhaps, a little help from Paul.  One thing we can be sure of, Jesus made a wise decision (Acts 9:15, 16).
    a.    Even though Paul, admittedly, “was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man,” he told the Sanhedrin court, “My brothers, I have fulfilled my duty to God in all good conscience to this day.”  I Tim. 1:13; Acts 23:1.  Paul did not willfully violate his conscience, although he later came to know this did not mean he had always done right (I Cor. 4:4).
    b.   Paul was also looking for the Messiah; therefore, when he realized He was, indeed, Jesus of Nazareth, he was baptized for the remission of his sins, immediately.  He began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God (Acts 9:17-22).  Please take note; he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
    c.    Paul was comfortable in the presence of strong political leaders and kings (Acts 26:1-3).
    d.   He was what Jesus had instructed the Twelve to be when He first sent them out on their own to preach.  “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  Matt. 10:16.  Paul repeated a variation of this in his warning to the Christians in Rome about people who are in the “religious business” to satisfy their greed (Rom. 16:19).  We will be impressed with the shrewdness of Paul as he seeks “to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about.”  II Cor. 11:12.
    e.    Paul was a talented, hard working, brave and loving Christian who was keenly aware of his inner/outer being.  Self-sacrifice is what he was about when Jesus called him while on the road to Damascus and he got better at doing it as the years passed.  He did not preach Paul.

For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  II Cor. 4:6, 7

Questions for Discussion

  1. Why do we need to read the Corinthian letters in conjunction with the narratives in Acts?
  2. Identify the protagonist and the antagonist in the narratives in the Bible.
  3. What is God’s plot in His creation of mankind and the cosmos in which we live?
  4. Define the English word “apostle.”
  5. How does the term “plot resolution” relate to the Corinthian letters?
  6. In what sense did Jesus maintain a “mobile apostle school” while He preached the kingdom?
  7. What did Jesus not change in a miraculous way about the Twelve?
  8. List some points of faith the apostles had a strong need for clarification.
  9. Why did the apostles need the help of the Holy Spirit after Jesus ascended?
  10. Write a summary paragraph about why Jesus may have selected Paul as the apostle for the Gentiles.

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