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Apostle Paul — “All Things to All People”

Photo by Valentin Jorel on Unsplash

When I lived in Houston, I heard a story of a young man who was looking for a job. He found out that there was an opening at the local zoo. So he went to inquire about the job, but it was really hush hush.

They took him through this back room and made him sign a nondisclosure form, and, once he did that, they told him that their gorilla had died, and they needed someone to dress up and pretend to be a gorilla until they could get a new gorilla to replace the old dead gorilla. He thought it was a bit fishy, but the pay was good, and all he had to do was sit in the back of a cage, and, so, he agreed.

They brought in this gorilla suit, and they put it on him, and I’m telling you, it was crazy. He looked just like a gorilla.

They took him to his cage, and he sat in the back of the cage and was making money.

After a while, however, he just got bored of just sitting there, so he began to walk around. As he began to walk around, there were some people that came.

When they saw the gorilla, they began to clap and throw peanuts. It turned out that this teenage boy was hungry, and he liked peanuts and so he began to play to the crowd and as he began to play to the crowd, the crowd got larger and larger.

He climbed up a tree and the crowd began to yell.

About this time a group of attractive teenage girls came by. He wanted to impress them. So he grabbed a hold of a vine and swung from one end of the cage to the other. The crowd went crazy. They began to throw more and more peanuts.

And so continuing to play to the crowd, he began to swing higher and higher and higher.

As he got higher and higher and higher, the crowds got larger and larger and larger, as did the piles of peanuts.

All of a sudden when he got to his highest spot, snap!

The vine broke! The man in the monkey suit swung up into the cage next door—the lion’s cage. All of a sudden standing twenty feet from this teenager in the monkey suit was this hungry and ferocious lion.

The man began to yell, “Help, help get me out of here. I’m not really a monkey, I’m just a man in a gorilla suit!”

The lion pounced.

As it held the boy down with his massive claws and looked at him with his hungry eyes, he said, “Man, will you shut up? You’re going to get us both fired.” 

It’s funny, when I think of this story, I often think of the apostle Paul.

That may seem a bit random, but Paul had many different costumes. He had many different outfits. He had many different suits.

By his own admission he says, “I became all things to all people in order to reach some.” And in this class, we’ll talk about some of the different costumes, the many moods of Paul, or the various faces that Paul has. Different personas that he wears in order to contextualize the gospel in order to reach some.

And so what we’ll look at, we’ll look at

  • Rabbi Paul
  • Philosopher Paul
  • Apocalyptic Paul
  • Mystic Paul
  • Pastor Paul
  • Missionary Paul
  • Mishpat Paul (the word mishpat is a word for justice in the prophets).

And so we’ll look at these different costumes, the different moods and personas that Paul puts on so that we can understand his life better, so that we can understand his teachings better. And we will also look at the ramifications for us in our ministry, in our life, in our pursuit to love Jesus Christ as Paul did.

This has been an excerpt of Dr. Joseph Dodson’s course, The Many Faces of Paul
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How does your life help make the truths of God understandable to those who don’t yet belong to Him?