The Substance of St Paul’s Preaching

Below are a few encouraging paragraphs from the book Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours by Roland Allen (1868-1947), from chapter 7, titled The Substance of St Paul’s Preaching:

“We can easily understand how such a Gospel would appeal to the minds of St Paul’s hearers. To those who, among the conflicting and confused teachings of polytheism, were seeking for unity in the world of nature and of thought, St Paul brought a doctrine, at once simple and profound, of one personal God living and true, the Creator of all. To men who sought for some intelligent account of the world, its nature and its end, St Paul revealed a moral purpose in the light of which all the perplexities, uncertainties, and apparent contradictions, resolved themselves into a divine harmony. To men of high moral instincts, appalled and dismayed at the impurity of society around them, St Paul offered the assurance of a moral judgment. To men oppressed by the sense of sin he brought the assurance of pardon and release. To the downtrodden, the sad, the hopeless, he opened the door into a kingdom of light and liberty. To those who were terrified by the fear of malignant spirits he revealed the Spirit benignant, watchful and ever present, all-powerful and able at a word to banish the power of darkness. To men dissatisfied with the worship of idols he taught the pure service of one true God. To people whose imaginations were overwhelmed by the terrors and darkness of the grave he gave the assurance of a future beyond the grave in the bliss and peace of the Risen Lord. To the weak who needed support, to sinners bound with the chain of vice, to people unable to cope with the depressed morality of their heathen surroundings, he brought the promise of an indwelling Spirit of power. To the lonely he offered the friendly warmth and society of a company all eagerly looking forward to a bright day when Grace would come and this world with all its perplexities and troubles pass away. It is no wonder then that this Gospel of St Paul appealed to men, fired their imaginations, filled them with hope, and strengthened them with power to face persecution.

Yet to embrace this new religion was not easy. There was, as we have seen, in St Paul’s preaching a conciliatory, sympathetic attitude towards the heathen. There was no violent attack, no crude and brutal assault upon their beliefs, still less was there any scornful or flippant mocking of their errors. But, on the other hand, there was no weak condoning of the offence of idolatry, no eager anxiety to make the best of a false religion, no hazy suggestion that every religion, if only it is rightly understood, is a worship of the true God and a teaching which leads to Him. St Paul gave his hearers a perfectly clear, definite understanding of what was required of them. To enjoy the hope set before them they must be prepared for a complete break with the past. There was no easy road to Christ’s glory, no making the best of both worlds, no hope of salvation but in Christ, and no entrance into the Church except with the certainty of suffering persecution.

. . .

[W]e have lost the true conception of the nature and work of faith as preached by St Paul. As he taught, the one essential condition of life was faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. But faith in Jesus Christ involved, in itself, a breach with the past. Faith was not a mere intellectual assent to a new theory of religion which could be held whilst the life remained what it was before. It was not a mere acknowledgment of a new moral law, of a duty of following the example of a new Teacher which could be obeyed without breaking away from the old law. It was not a mere recognition of the beauty of the life and teaching of the Lord which might make a man love His character from a distance. It was an act by which a man came into personal contact with the Divine source of life. It was an act by which he opened his soul to the influence of a Spirit. It admitted to a vital union. It was the condition of a new birth. It resulted in a new creation. The moment a man had faith, life for him consisted in union with Christ. Consequently it meant the acceptance of a new source of life. It meant dependence upon Christ for the supply and maintenance of life. It meant the abandonment of the old conception of life, nay, of the very life itself as he before knew it. It meant the casting away of all the former things.”

Allen, Roland, “Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?”, p. 69-71


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s