The Qualities that Made Paul a Great Man of God
by Richard Mansel
The Apostle Paul scarred from the daily spiritual wars, sought release through the rest Christ promised (Hebrews 4:8-11). His arduous battle was at an end. Few would face the struggles he had endured. His body was tired and ached for relief.
Spiritually, his soul hungered for God and the glory he knew awaited. He had worked the entire day and soon the night would fall about them.
Paul’s fervor, fellowship and faith gave him the impetus to be confident in his eternal destiny. It explains his self-motivation as he endured his life of sacrifice.
A MAN OF FERVOR
Paul was a man who vigorously fulfilled his mission, no matter the orders. Whether it required the gore of persecution or the glory of God, he stood ready for duty. Isaiah said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).  Paul exemplified these words throughout his life.
“He embodies the words of Solomon, ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might’ (Ecclesiastes 9:10, NKJV). God saw his unyielding resolve and employed him for the mission to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; 2 Timothy 1:11). The early church stood tall because of his tireless labors.” 
Paul’s overwhelming desire for work and finality brought fulfillment to his life. His self-motivation and untiring zeal for truth were indispensable in the work of God. They would steel his resolve through the persecutions he would face. He would need them.
Paul is first seen in Scripture as Saul, the persecutor (Acts 7:58).
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison” (Acts 8:1,3).
He “was like a war horse who sniffed the smell of battle” in his persecutions of the saints.” . He signified the damage a wild boar would do in a helpless vineyard. .
In Acts 9:21, the people had “destroyed” those who were Christians. Barclay says of the word destroyed:
“It is the word for an army sacking a city. Just as an invading army might tear a city stone from stone and murder and slaughter right and left with almost sadistic brutality, so Paul attacked the Church.” 
As a Pharisee, Paul was just as dedicated and quickly rose to prominence. The son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), he advanced in his studies under the esteemed Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
“Learned men met and discussed scriptures, gave various interpretations, suggested illustrations, and quoted precedents. The students were encouraged to question, doubt and even contradict.” .
“Saul was a man of such vehemence and power that he was head in whatever circle he moved, whether as Saul the persecuting Pharisee, or Paul the laboring missionary” .
A MAN OF FELLOWSHIP
Paul’s deep and abiding love for his brethren led him to long for the grand renewal in heaven. It helped empower his confidence in death.
When his brethren were confused about the end of time, he told them to see heaven as a “gathering together” of the saints and a reason for comfort and hope (2 Thessalonians 2:1,17).
“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Phillippians 1:3-6).
He loved Timothy like a child (1 Timothy 1:2; Philippians. 2:19-20). He included greetings to a variety of people in his epistles (Rom. 16). They were his spiritual family.
Paul wrote the consummate chapter on the beauty of Christian love (1 Corinthians 13). His love for the church and for souls met in the unity of the brethren. Paul’s sole desire was to see everyone find salvation.
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1). He loved the Jews and desperately wanted them to be saved (Romans 9:2-3). “And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Corinthians 11:15).
Romans is a book where he largely writes to the Jewish and Gentile Christians to stop fighting one another and become one flesh. When accomplished, they would find transformation through the gospel (Romans 12:1-5).
Heaven will therefore be the ultimate fulfillment of unity. We will all be one as we enjoy eternity in the arms of our Lord. Unity on earth leads to an eternity together in the perfection of heaven (Ephesians 4).
“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).
A MAN OF FAITH
Paul’s fervor also fuels his faith. His faith is a powerful force that leads him to survive an extraordinary amount of hardship.
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2 Corinthians 11:23-27).
Paul had been a persecutor but discovered he was in error. When Paul realizes what he had done and been forgiven of, he becomes a fierce defender of the faith. God had said, “For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).
Paul knew exactly what he was getting into. He “was under no misapprehension of what was before him. He knew what he was to receive in lieu of what he had given up” .
When he writes about faith, it is far more than a mental acknowledgement. It is the core of a life committed to a cause.
Faith justifies us and leads us to live actively for the Lord (Romans 5:1-2; Ephesians 2:8-10). Faith transforms our lives as we walk in Christ (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:1). We are also protected from the schemes of the devil by the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:10-16).
Faith in Christ was enough of a motivation to Paul to do anything Christ asked. His love for God was so palpable that he never hesitated to be active in the fields of the Lord.
A MAN OF FINAL SACRIFICE
Paul was ready to offer the ultimate sacrifice by giving up his life (Acts 9:29; 25:11). He had lived life to the fullest. He was ready to be with his Savior for all eternity. “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18).
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
He was “ready to be offered.” The phrase is “figuratively used of one whose blood is poured out in a violent death for the cause of God” . “The possibility of his execution is vividly present to his own mind” . “The passive voice hints that the apostle is the victim, being offered” .
He was giving his life as the ultimate sacrifice. He had taught the Ephesians that our lives and mission were to be about bringing glory to Christ (Ephesians 3:20-21). To insert himself and his needs at the forefront of his mind would obviate what he had instructed. In all things, Paul wished to be consistent.
Drink offerings served a purpose during the Old Law. In Genesis 35:14, we find Jacob offering a drink offering to God after His blessing.
“And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land” (Genesis 35:11-12).
Jacob wanted to express his reverence and joy at such a blessing.
Drink offerings were a part of the Mosaical Law (Exodus 29:40; Leviticus 23:13). They were commanded in Numbers 15 as commemorating the entrance into the promised land. “When you have come into the land which you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you” (Num. 15:2). They were to do so as a “sweet aroma to the Lord” (Numbers 15:7).
Paul was ready for his departure. The word refers to “a metaphor drawn from loosing from moorings preparatory to setting sail” and “breaking up an encampment” . “At last he is released from the harness like the faithful horse at the end of the day’s journey. It will be sweet to rest from the toil and strife, but he is glad that he has had his share of the work” .
The imagery of the drink offering signifying the entering into the promised land and the onset of the departure on a journey signifies the differences between Israel’s physical homeland and the spiritual homeland of heaven.
The promised land given to Israel was temporal and had to be conquered. Our promised land in heaven will be sinless and is being built personally by the Lord (John 14:1-6). Israel’s land may have been a “land that floweth with milk and honey” (Deut. 6:3) but our promised land is resplendent beyond all the imaginations of men (Revelation 21; 2 Corinthians 12:4).
Paul knew the weariness of sin (cf. Psalms 32:3-7). He wished to enjoy release from its bonds.
“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me” (Romans 7:15-20).
Ovid said, “I see and approve the better; I follow the worse.” Paul suffered through the same temptations we all face and he was sick of them. He understood that “The inner man must be educated, trained, and brought under the elevating and purifying of the word of God to such an extent as to control and keep down all excessive demands of the flesh” .
Paul knew his crown awaited his arrival in heaven. It is a “garland of green leaves for the victor,” given to those who persevere against the ravages of the spiritual wars .
While Paul was ready for the end of his journey, he still had his thoughts on the mission and his brethren. He wanted nothing more than to know that his brethren would be safe after his journey ended (Acts 20:28-31; 1 Tim. 4:1-2; 2 Tim. 3:10-14; 4:14-15).
“Paul still has interest in earthly affairs, but his heart is in the hills on high. He looks away to the mountains. His feet are growing restless and the sun is setting in the west. Jesus is beckoning to him and he will go” .
Paul gave his life for the cause of Christ. Scripture says nothing of his death, so history will have to suffice.
“According to the historical records available, God’s apostle to the Gentiles was beheaded at Aquae Salviae about three miles outside the city of Rome on the Ostian Way. The murder of Paul was most probably a result of Nero’s general persecution against Christians, which began during (or shortly after) A.D. 64” .
Paul’s extraordinary life is replete with personal applications we can add to our lives. We pray we will learn from them.
1. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references will be from the King James Version.
2. Richard Mansel, “Zealous for God” http://www.forthright.net/square_one/zealous_for_god.html August 23, 2008.
3. A.T. Robertson, Epochs in the Life of Paul (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 105.
4. William Barclay, Ambassador for Christ (Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1973), 39.
6. Warren Doud, “The Apostle Paul” http://www.realtime.net/~wdoud/topics/paul.html August 23, 2008
7. Robertson, 1.
8. Robertson, 57.
9. Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1977), 583.
10. Ralph P. Martin, Philippians, vol. 11 of Tyndale New Testament Commentary Series ed. Leon Morris (Inter-Varsity Press, 1987), 123.
11. Wayne Jackson, Before I Die (Stockton: Christian Courier Publications, 2007), 281.
12. Thayer, 39.
13. Robertson, 314.
14. David Lipscomb, A Commentary on the New Testament Epistles, vol. 1 (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1965), 137.
15. Jackson, 282.
16. Robertson, 314.
17. Jackson, 302; cf. Robertson, 316-317.