Anyone who desires to preach the gospel would do well to examine the sermon content, the manner, and preaching methods of those great preachers of whom we read in the Scriptures. One preacher to be emulated is the apostle Paul. The apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13), seemingly had one magnificent obsession – that of converting every Jew and Gentile to Jesus Christ. In order to accomplish this noble objective he was willing to “spend and be spent” (2 Cor. 12:15), suffer intense persecution and deprivation (2 Cor. 11:23-27), and ultimately to even die a martyr’s death (Acts 21:13; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). The apostle Paul was one of the greatest (if not the greatest) preachers that ever lived.
Paul became a child of God in the same way as Christians do today. He heard and obeyed the exact same gospel (Mk 16:16). When the Lord appeared to him on the Damascus road it was not to save him, but to make him a “minister and a witness” of the things which he had seen and of the things he had yet to reveal to him (Acts 26:16). To become qualified to be an apostle, as one “born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:8), Paul had to see the Lord (1 Cor. 9:1). Being an apostle, he was able to speak that which God “revealed . . . through his Spirit” (1 Cor. 2:10). Paul did not learn his message at the feet of the other apostles; rather he received it “through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:12). Paul was an inspired writer and was an apostle in every sense of the word, and even his hearers could bear witness to the fact that, through “signs and wonders and mighty deeds,” Paul demonstrated “the signs of an apostle” (2 Cor. 12:12).
The underlying secret of Paul’s unflagging determination to preach the gospel (as well as his effectiveness as a preacher) lay in the fact that he was a Christian! (Acts 26:28,29) His conversion was genuine. He never forgot the terrible sins of which he had been guilty (1 Tim. 1:15), but from which he had been forgiven by a gracious Lord. He had been a forceful personality when he was a persecutor of Christians, but now as a genuine Christian he could truly say, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). To “gain Christ” he had suffered the “loss of all things” which were formerly near and dear to him; yet compared to what he found in Christ he counted those things as “rubbish” (Phil. 3:8).
Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” and he had strong faith in its “power” to save (Rom. 1:16). He believed in the headship and the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:22,23 f; Rom. 10:9). He was willing to “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Tim. 2:3,10). He strongly believed in prayer and was not embarrassed to ask his brethren to pray “for me” (Eph. 6:19). He worked with others, and trained them to succeed him. He was “set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:17). He was determined to magnify Christ in his body, “whether by life or by death” (Phil. 1:20). Anchored by hope (Heb. 6:19), he never lost sight of the “crown of righteousness” (2 Tim. 4:8) for which he was constantly striving to obtain.
Paul was bold and straightforward in his speech. When Elymas the sorcerer withstood Paul and Barnabas seeking to turn Sergius Paulus, (the proconsul), from the faith, Paul looked intently on him and said, ‘0 full of all deceit and all fraud, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, will you not cease perverting the straight ways of the Lord?'” (Acts 13:7-10) Paul simply did not mince words. He was zealous for the truth!
Paul endeavored to reason with the people which would bring honest people to a realization of the truth about Jesus Christ (Acts 13:14-40). Paul rightly “divided the word of truth,” proving that the law of Moses has been superseded by the gospel of Christ (Gal. 2:16 cf; 3:16-29; 4:21-31 f; Col. 2:14-17; etc.). He was not opposed to telling those who were returning to the law that “you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
Paul preached what was needed, when it was needed, to whom it was needed, and where it was needed. To unbelieving Jews who rejected Christ, beginning with their law, Paul preached the truth about the person of Christ. In idolatrous Athens, Paul preached the truth about the one true God and thereby showed the folly of idolatry (Acts 17:16-33). In the presence of the grossly immoral Felix and Drusilla Paul “reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come” (Acts 24:25).
Paul declared “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). He was not one to withhold vital truth on any subject for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Paul was not adverse to calling names. He mentioned Hymenaeus and Alexander whom he “delivered unto Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme” (1 Tim. 1:20). He called the names of Hymenaeus and Philetus who had “strayed concerning the truth” (2 Tim. 2:17,18). He said “Demas has forsaken me” and that “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm” (2 Tim. 4:10,14). Just ask the apostle Peter whom he withstood face to face because of his hypocrisy (Gal 2:11-14).
Paul was no compromiser! He could get upset when anyone perverting the gospel. Witness his conduct at Antioch (Acts 15:2). Concerning this incident at Antioch where some false teachers ought to spy out his liberty in Christ, Paul said with regards to these teachers, “to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5).
Paul was concerned about the purity of the church. He wrote to Corinth where the brethren were tolerating a known fornicator. Paul charged the brethren to “deliver such a one unto Satan,” declaring “that a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor. 5:5,6).
Yet, Paul was humble. He referred to himself as the “chief” of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15). He referred to himself as “less than the least of all saints” (Eph. 3:8). He preached “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2); without elevating himself.
Paul preached when the brethren supported him (Phil. 4:15,16) and when they did not. He was willing to labor “night and day,” not being a burden to anyone, in his effort to preach “the gospel of God” (1 Thess. 2:9). He was not one to say, “I can’t preach because I have no support.” He taught that brethren ought to support men who preach (1 Cor. 9), but this was not a factor in determining whether or not he would preach!
Paul was not a quitter. Though his labors had been abundant and with great success, Paul could say, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:13,14).
Paul was constantly in trouble. Paul got into trouble because he preached the truth that troubled people in sin. In trouble with false brethren, false teachers, and the civil authorities. He was beaten, maligned, persecuted, and imprisoned. It was not uncommon for him to be run out of town. He ultimately died a martyr’s death. It is highly probable that very few churches of Christ today, if any, would tolerate a preacher like Paul! Truly, all churches need at least one apostle Paul present with them at all times, keeping them focused to the race set before us and the prize we all hope to win (1 Cor 9:24-27).
Paul was tactful. His letters often began by saying, “Grace to you and peace from God your Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” It was customary for him to compliment people for the good things they did before he reprimanded them for the bad things they has committed. The truth he preached often offended people, but he didn’t try to be offensive as a person.
Paul was a happy man. Happy, though in prison! Happy because he was fruitfully working in a cause larger than himself. Happy because he was constantly reaching out to others. Happy because he served God, enjoyed peace of mind, had no fear of death, and had a joyful anticipation of receiving a crown of righteousness.
Many today spend their time attempting to remake Paul into an uninspired, callus, hateful and unremarkable preacher which we should not follow (1 Cor 11:1). Preachers, perhaps it is time that many of us pause long enough to take a long hard look at ourselves! Are we drifting with the tide? Have we lost our spiritual nerve? Are we really “telling it like it is” or “telling what others want to hear? Have we exchanged idealism for realism? Are we preaching for financial security, or for the security of our soul and the ones we teach? It is an indictment against any generation which rejects the preaching of the beloved apostle Paul!
Just how well do we measure up when we are placed alongside the apostle Paul? Paul was a Christian, an inspired apostle, a preacher, a teacher, and one who has secured a crown of life (2 Tim 4:7,8) Let us all emulate the apostle Paul and preach the gospel in and out of season (2 Tim 4:2-5) “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you? (Acts 19:15)? If not followers of Paul we shall be numbered among the lost! May God give us the humility to examine ourselves, the integrity to admit our failings, and the courage to make needed changes when change is needed (2 Cor 13:5)