We know how Saul was stopped on his way to Damascus and underwent a total transformation. Saul, who wanted to extinguish the Christians, became Paul, who turned to be a spark igniting the Gentiles (non-Jewish people) with the light of Christ. Besides teaching them orally, he encouraged and strengthened their faith by writing 13 Letters. In these letters, which form a part of the New Testament, he has given them the hope of salvation, imparting the following themes, which the Holy Spirit has inspired.

Suffering:

Paul’s ministry was not an easy. The cross (suffering), which he should carry, was already revealed to Ananias, who was sent by The Lord to baptize Saul: “… Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16). Paul feels proud to enumerate the sufferings, he experienced during his ministry (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:16-33) as having been stoned, lashed, imprisoned and shipwrecked. By sharing his own suffering, he reminds the people of the suffering as the only way to salvation. He reminds also how Jesus Himself endured suffering, so that our broken souls could be reconciled with the Father.

Joy:

Paul affirms that joy can be found by the believers, even in the midst of their suffering. Writing to the Philippians, he states how he rejoices in his suffering, because it is a means of deliverance: “… I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Holy Spirit … this will turn out for my deliverance, … as it is my eager expectation and hope that … Christ will be honored in my body…” (Philippians 1:19-21). In his letter to the Thessalonians, he instructs: “Rejoice always, … for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Discipleship:

Paul does not use the word “disciple” in any of his letters referring to the Christians. Rather he uses the words, “believers, followers, saints, servants or stewards of Christ”. The reason, could be that the word “disciple” would be confusing to the Jews, who considered themselves already as disciples of Yahweh. Whereas the words “believers or saints” would be referring only to those who followed Christ. According to Paul, the word believer or steward refers to a personal relationship and attachment with Christ, which results in an internal transformation. As followers (disciples) of Christ, the obligations are to serve Christ (1 Corinthians 4:1), to share the Gospel (1 Cor 1:17), to give witness (2 Cor 4:5) and to suffer in imitation of Jesus Christ (Phil 3:8).

Yet to be continued…

May God be praised

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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