By Kristen Johnson
But you have been called and continue to be called by Christ. You’re called to follow him daily in your life. You’re called to be an instrument of his love and grace. You’re called to live, give, and serve. As you answer that call, you will find that your own life and the world are changed forever. (Hamilton).
This is the overall message of the wonderful book, The Call, The Life and Message of The Apostle Paul, by my favorite theologian, Reverend Adam Hamilton. If you enjoy theology and love history, this is the book for you.
What I love most about this book is that Reverend Hamilton takes a look at the life of the Apostle Paul chronologically (as much as is historically possible) by using the books of Acts, and interweaving Paul’s letters in the appropriate timeframe. Although I attended church my entire childhood and again as an adult for about 5 years now, I can’t tell you how much I learned (that I never learned in church) about the book of Acts, Paul’s letters, and most importantly – the point of it all. The historical references (and contradictions or unknowns) are absolutely fascinating. Reverend Hamilton does an amazing job of discussing a wide variety of historical documents, archealogy, and Church tradition.
Some things that really stuck with me:
- We aren’t just saved by believing in Jesus to avoid hell. We are actually saved by believing in Jesus in the here and now, day after day. The Holy Spirit guides us everyday and basically saves us from ourselves, from guiding us away from sin. I never knew that or thought about that. I was always taught that we have to pound on people to get saved to avoid hell. Although that’s important, it’s incredibly important to be saved in the here and now and live for Christ everyday!
- The Apostle Paul and the Apostle Peter had a falling-out. Apparently they disagreed theologically at some point and they actually parted ways. How fascinating it is to think about these two great Church leaders disagreeing to the point of not speaking (one who actually followed Jesus when He was alive and one who preached His message far and wide after an amazing conversion experience though never met Jesus when he was on Earth). It’s absolutely amazing to think about these two men in real-world ways. They were human.
- Paul was very human and he had very human failings. He bickered with people. He parted ways with his mentor, Barnabas, at some point. Sometimes he rubbed people the wrong way. He sometimes contradicted himself in things like praising women for their work, after saying they shouldn’t speak in Church, etc. He failed God just like we do.
- His missionary journeys weren’t always wildly successful. He was thrown out of towns at times, jailed, and sometimes he only reached a few people. But, he had perserverance!
- He didn’t start his missionary journeys right away – I never knew that! Paul had to be patient. After his amazing conversion experience on the Damascus road, he had to wait until it was time to continue.
- The gospel message had economic consequences and that sometimes got Paul into trouble. For instance, when he preached in Ephesus, he called for the people to stop worshipping the god Artemis. Well, that certainly upset the people who sold her statues, as well as the loss of money from food, drink lodging and so forth for visitors. Just fascinating!
- Gentiles (non-Jews) and Jews (who believed in Jesus) had a number of squabbles over following Jewish law. Although I knew some of that, I didn’t know how bad the situation really was and how much Paul had to intercede on behalf of Gentiles. I think we non-Jewish Gentiles can still thank Paul today for our ability to hear the Gospel message even today.
Overall, this book is just beautifully written and filled with historical references and information. I really, really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it for my fellow Christians, and for anyone who enjoys history. Special thanks as always to Reverend Hamilton for taking such time and care in writing books like these that really just touch my heart. I can see your caring spirit and love in everything you write.
Proverbs 18:15 ()NRSV): An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
Serve all with love.
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