Wednesday, 9 October 2013

2 Corinthians: Damascus & Saul's 'Conversio-missioning'

Paul understood suffering for the sake of Christ as a central part of his calling as an apostle right from the beginning of his Christian experience.  Paul’s Damascus road Christophany and the events of the days that followed mark the miraculous conversion and commissioning of the apostle (Acts 9:3-19).  Though Luke records the chronological order of events which happened over three days, when Paul gives testimony of his conversion and commissioning as an apostle (Acts 22:6-21; 26:12-18), he speaks of it as all the same event.  Clearly Paul thought of his vision of the risen Christ (1 Cor. 15:8; Gal. 1:16; Acts 9:3-8), his three days of blindness, and his commissioning three days later (9:9-19) as part of the same conversion-commissioning event (we might call it his conversio-missioning).

Acts 9:15-16 ties Paul’s mission as Christ’s chosen instrument to carry his name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” together with suffering for the sake of the gospel.  The Lord says to Ananias in his vision, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).  This cruciform commission must have been in the forefront of Paul’s mind at all times, being, as it was, among the first words Paul heard as a believer.  Suffering was promised to him at the same time as his mission was outlined for him.  When God allowed Paul to suffer, Paul could rejoice even in the midst of it for it only confirmed that he was still in the faithful service of Christ, still suffering for his name, still preaching a world-defying gospel, still going to those who were blind as he had once been, and he was receiving just what Jesus had prepared him to expect, especially as the “least of the apostles” who had “persecuted the church of God” (1 Cor. 15:8-9; cf. Eph. 3:8).

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