Scripture: 2Corinthians 11:23-31; Romans 13:1-7
This week for our series, Church and State: The Rise of Early Christianity, we are focusing on the first real persecution of Christians for which we have some evidence from sources other than the New Testament. To begin digging down into this persecution, we need to give you some background on the events leading up to this persecution because they did not just happen out of the blue.
Of course, the person we need to focus on is Paul, because as effective as his ministry has been, his mission has not been free from difficulty. Paul himself says, “[I have had] far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning.” (2Corinthians 11:24-25)
So all this raises a really important question: what exactly did Paul say or do that made people so upset that they felt the need to whip, beat, and kill this man? Well, if Paul’s letters are any indication, tact was not exactly Paul’s strong suit. Indeed, it seems Paul didn’t really know when to back down and shut his mouth. Some scholars believe that the reason why Paul endured so many trials and tribulations is because he had a talent for antagonizing and provoking the people around him.
Because Paul was influenced by Greek philosophy, Paul treated Christianity like philosophy and would argue it out with people. Paul probably wouldn’t have endured nearly so much punishment if he hadn’t angered so many people with his rhetoric. In other words, Paul was inviting the pain and suffering he endured because he would keep prodding the authorities to the point where he basically said, “I’m right, you’re wrong, so go ahead and take your best shot.”
This Sunday we’re going to discuss Paul’s motivation for why he did this and how his good intentions resulted in some unintended consequences for the Christian faith. I hope you have a lovely weekend and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday!