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"Master of St. Paul". The subject and title seems a bit ironic because of St. Paul's service and dedication to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Non the less I found this course to be informative and I enjoyed the weekly assignments. The teaching techniques used are effective in that they make the student research the course material. I do find however that Lesson 16 "Admitting that you are a Sinner", to be more of a sermon and less of a lesson. It seems to be a bit more personal to the instructor than to the student. The lesson would be better served in my opinion if the focus on sin was from various perspectives using more study on actual transgression as in the Old Testament on the transgression of law.
However when studying the life of arguably the greatest missionary, theologian and writer of the early church this course does a good job of covering Paul as one of the most important figures in the New Testament. Paul's gospel indicted all of humanity for the crime of rejecting God and His rightful authority. Under the influence of Adam's sin, mankind plunged into the depths of depravity so that they were utterly unable to the righteous demands of God and deserved only the wrath of God. Consequently, the sinners only hope was the gospel which embodied God's power to save those who had faith in Christ which was the focus of Paul's gospel. Paul affirmed Jesus' humanity and His deity and the fact the Jesus was a physical descendant from the from the line of David.
In his years as a Pharisee, Paul's initial and adamant rejection of Jesus as the Messiah may largely have been motivated by Jesus' ignorable death. Death by crucifixion was indicative of divine curse. Certainly the Messiah could not have died under the curse of God. But when Paul wrote his first epistle, this death curse was recognized as the grounds for substitutionary atonement. (Gal.3:10-14) Paul explained that the idea of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block to the Jews. This gospel would later lead to plotting his death and several attempts on his life. Yet through all of his life's challenges after his conversion he never spoke in anger or arrogance but always in love and patience. But he knew that he would suffer after his vision from God, "This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before Gentiles, kings and the sons of Israel. I will certainly show him how much he must suffer for MY name !".
Paul's missions were initially met with suspicion from Church leaders but Barnabas intervened in is behalf and when meeting with Peter and James, the Lord's brother, and he is on his way to teach for several years. The pillars of the Church Peter, John, and James approved the no-Law gospel preached by Paul and his focus on Gentile evangelism. "No-law" of course referring to Paul and Branabas' journey to Jerusalem to settle the circumcision matter. Still as a result of this matter, the Law-free gospel does not encourage unrighteous behavior in believers.
History tells us that Paul was probably a man of above intelligence considering his years of Rabbinic training and by his own words in Gal.1:14, "I advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among my people, because I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors". Though zealous, his knowledge would have taken a great deal of reading, work and study. Yet after Christ appeared to him as the resurrected and glorified Christ in blinding radiance on his way to Damascus, Saul immediately surrendered to His authority and went into the city to await further orders. There his blindness was healed and he received the Holy Spirit and accepted believers baptism.
I take great solace and comfort in the example set by Paul. His amazing display of courage and faith to endure the prison's, the death threats, ship wrecks and other situations that may have never been recorded in the annals of history are truly are a testament of his never ending faith and belief in God's work. His gospel of salvation that is so freely given to humankind through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our union with Jesus through faith is our liberation from sin, death, and allows us to help one another mature, to serve Christ, and glorify Him, which is the highest purpose.
I thank you once again for offering this course.
Gods blessings upon you all.
Rev. Dennis Zerull
The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.
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