Before his conversion, Paul was a bitter persecutor of the followers of Christ. But at the gate of Damascus a voice spoke to him, light from heaven shone into his soul, and in the revelation that there came to him, of the Crucified One, he beheld that which changed the whole current of his life. Henceforth love for the Lord of glory, whom he had so relentlessly persecuted in the person of His saints, came before all else. To him had been given the ministry of making known "the mystery" which had been "kept secret since the world began."[1 ROM. 16:25.] "He is a chosen vessel unto Me," declared the Angel who appeared to Ananias, "to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel."[2 ACTS 9:15.]
And throughout his long term of service, Paul never faltered in his allegiance to his Saviour. "I count not myself to have apprehended," he wrote to the Philippians; "but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ.[3 PHIL. 3:13, 14.]
Paul's was a life of intense and varied activities. From city to city, from country to country, he
journeyed, telling the story of the cross, winning converts to the gospel, and establishing churches. For these churches he had a constant care, and he wrote many letters of instruction to them. At times he worked at his trade to earn his daily bread. But in all the busy activity of his life, he never lost sight of the one great purpose,--to press toward the mark of his high calling.
Paul carried with him the atmosphere of heaven. All who associated with him felt the influence of his union with Christ. The fact that his own life exemplified the truth he proclaimed, gave convincing power to his preaching. Here lies the power of the truth. The unstudied, unconscious influence of a holy life is the most convincing sermon that can be given in favour of Christianity. Argument, even when unanswerable, may provoke only opposition; but a godly example has a power that it is impossible wholly to resist.
The apostle's heart burned with love for sinners, and he put all his energies into the work of soul-winning. There never lived a more self-denying, persevering worker. The blessings he received he prized as so many advantages to be used in blessing others. He lost no opportunity of speaking of the Saviour or of helping those in trouble. Wherever he could find a hearing, he sought to counteract wrong and to turn the feet of men and women into the path of righteousness.
Paul never forgot the responsibility resting on him as a minister of Christ; or that if souls were lost through unfaithfulness on his part, God would hold him accountable. "I take you to record this day," he declared, "that I am pure from the blood of all men."[4 ACTS 20:26.] "Whereof I am made a minister," he said of the gospel, "according to the dispensation of God which is given
to me for you, to fulfil the word of God; even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily."[5 COL. 1:25-29]
These words present before the worker for Christ a high standard of attainment, yet this standard all can reach who, putting themselves under the control of the great Teacher, learn daily in the school of Christ. The power at God's command is limitless; and the minister who in his great need shuts himself in with the Lord, may be assured that he will receive that which will be to his hearers a savour of life unto life.
Paul's writings show that the gospel minister should be an example of the truths that he teaches, "giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed."[6 2 COR. 6:3.] To Titus he wrote, "Young men likewise exhort to be sober-minded. In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine showing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity, sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you."[7 TITUS 2:6-8.]
Of his own work he has left us a picture in his letter to the Corinthian believers: "In all things approving ourselves as the ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labours, in watchings, in
fastings; by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honour and dishonour, by evil report and good report: as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and, behold, we live; as chastened, and not killed; as sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich."[8 2 COR. 6:4-10.]
Paul's heart was filled with a deep, abiding sense of his responsibility; and he laboured in close communion with Him who is the fountain of justice, mercy, and truth. He clung to the cross of Christ as his only guaranty of success. The love of the Saviour was the undying motive that upheld him in his conflicts with self and in his struggle against evil, as in the service of Christ he pressed forward against the unfriendliness of the world and the opposition of his enemies.
What the church needs in these days of peril, is an army of workers who, like Paul, have educated themselves for usefulness, who have a deep experience in the things of God, and who are filled with earnestness and zeal. Sanctified, self-sacrificing men are needed; men who are brave and true; men in whose hearts Christ is formed, "the hope of glory,"[9 COL. 1:27.] and who with lips touched with holy fire will "preach the word."[10 2 TIM. 4:2.] For the want of such workers the cause of God languishes, and fatal errors, like a deadly poison, taint the morals and blight the hopes of a large part of the human race.
As the faithful, toil-worn standard-bearers are offering up their lives for the truth's sake, who will come forward to take their place? Will our young men accept
the holy trust at the hand of their fathers? Are they preparing to fill the vacancies made by the death of the faithful? Will the apostle's charge be heeded, the call to duty be heard, amid the incitements to selfishness and ambition that allure the youth?