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Thursday, October 10, 2013

The Insanity of Paul

R.C. Sproul is perhaps best known for his book on the Holiness of God. It is, without a doubt, an exceptional teaching. Regardless of what you may or may not think of the man, I highly recommend the book, the teaching series, the audio -- any way you can get it. Included in that subject is a discussion about "the insanity of Luther", where some have suggested that Martin Luther, rather than being a Reformer, was, instead, insane. Sproul argues to the contrary that Luther's clear understanding of the Holiness of God (I don't put a capital "H" in that without reason) made him appear crazy to those who don't get it.

I would like to suggest that Luther wasn't alone. I would like to suggest that another key player in Christendom was also "insane". That is, while he exhibited many characteristics that might be labeled as "crazy" today, he actually had such a good grasp of God's truth that our failure to understand Paul is an indication not of Paul's insanity, but of our shortfall of God's truth.

Why would I say that Paul was "insane"? Well, consider this:
For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake (Phil 1:29).
Get that? Paul is telling the Philippians, "Good news, guys! Not only is it a gift that you believe, but you are also being gifted with the chance to suffer!! Woohoo!" "Ummm, Paul, in what sense is that good news? How is that a gift?

And this:
I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ (Phil 3:8).
"Really, Paul? You consider your heritage, your health, your family and friends as loss? You even listed your zeal for God and your righteousness. Rubbish?" (Keep in mind that he actually called it "dung.")

And this:
We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, "The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me" (Rom 15:1-3).
"Oh, now, Paul, be real. 'Not to please ourselves'? How is that even reasonable?" It doesn't help, you see, if you read over in Philippians, "In humility count others more significant than yourselves" (Phil 2:3).

So you see, this kind of stuff is an easy way to label Paul a loon. Embrace suffering as a gift. Count all we have here as dung. Don't seek to please yourself, but consider everyone else as more significant than yourself. Everyone knows that's all just crazy talk.

It's insane indeed ... unless it's true. If Paul is right in his view, then he isn't crazy in his positions. If it is true that we are to set our minds on the things above and not on the things of earth (Col 3:2), then our entire orientation may change. If the primary problem we face is being more concerned about Man's interests than God's interests, isn't Paul actually more reasonable than our popular perceptions? If it is indeed a reality that we are, in everything we do, to glorify God (1 Cor 10:31), then it begins to make sense that Paul may be right. But consider this: If Paul is right, then doesn't that make the popular view insane? If Paul is correct in placing all emphasis on God and His glory, isn't it irrational to concern ourselves with our own glory and our own comfort and our own pleasure? Uh oh, we may have a problem here to consider.

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