As a skilled communicator, Paul in his mission work used the familiar to explain the unfamiliar. He took everyday features of the Greco-Roman world to illustrate the practical reality of new life in Christ. He drew especially from two areas of his converts’ world for his teaching metaphors—athletes with their games and the ever-present Roman soldier. Fondness for athletic accomplishments gripped Paul’s world, much as it does ours. Ancient Greeks transmitted their love of competition by holding, over the centuries, no fewer than four separate cycles of Olympic-type contests, located in different parts of Greece. Romans inherited and further promoted athletic competition. Foot races were the most popular events and included a race of men wearing full suits of military armor. Wrestling also was popular. Athletes trained assiduously, and winners were richly rewarded. Ethnicity, nationality, and social class mattered little, since endurance and performance were the goals.
What key lessons for the Christian life would Paul’s readers have found in the following passages? 1 Cor. 9:24–27, Gal. 5:7, 1 Tim. 6:12, 2 Tim. 2:5.
Starting with Marius, Roman emperors replaced temporary soldiers with full-time career warriors, garrisoned them across the Roman Empire, and upgraded and standardized their armor and weapons. By Paul’s time, soldiers were recruited from various ethnic and national groups, whether or not they were Roman citizens. In return for rewards at the end of their term of service, soldiers pledged total loyalty to the ruling emperor, who in times of conflict personally led them into battle.
In the following passages, what comparisons did Paul make between soldiering and the Christian life? 2 Cor. 10:4, 5; Eph. 6:10–18; 1 Tim. 6:12; 2 Tim. 2:3, 4.
In what is perhaps Paul’s final letter, he applied both soldiering and athletics to his own view of his life as a Christian missionary: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7, NIV).
In what ways is faith a fight and in what ways a race? How have you experienced the reality of both metaphors in your own Christian life? Which metaphor best describes your own experience, and why?
Adventist Sabbath School Lesson for Adults Q3 2015 «Biblical Missionaries» Lesson 12 – Paul: Mission and Message