Paul, modernly speaking

A modern translation of Paul's open letters to the believers in the Messiah


World's wisdom or God's foolishness - pick one

You are reading my open letter to Corinth, part: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15][16]

Greetings to all of you at Corinth! I'm here with my friend Sosthenes, and I'm sending you this letter in response to Messiah's call on my life. Jesus the Messiah sent me to you, Messiah's followers who have been cleaned up and set apart for God, you folks who call on God's name everywhere you go. Grace and shalom to you from our Father and our common master, the Messiah!

I'm constantly thanking God for the grace he gave to you folks in Corinth, the grace given in the form of the Messiah, Jesus. From what we hear and know about you, God made your lives deeper and richer. From this, we know Messiah is in you. I see all God's gifts evident in you as you wait for Messiah to be revealed once again. This same Messiah will see you through to the end. I'm entirely convinced that when the Day of the Lord comes, you'll be seen spotless and blameless because of God's faithfulness in Messiah Jesus.

Stop fighting amongst yourselves!

I have a serious matter to bring up, however, and I want to call you to action on one thing, my brothers and friends: unity. I've heard some disturbing reports from my friend Chloe that some of you folks have divided yourself into camps: a group that follows my teachings, another group that follows Peter, one that follows Apollos, and finally another that follows only Messiah's teachings.

Don't do that. Listen, Messiah wasn't split between me, Peter, and Apollos. I wasn't crucified for you. You weren't baptized in my name, were you?

After hearing about this nonsense going on, thank God I didn't baptize you all! As far as I can remember, I only baptized Crispus, Gaius, and Stephanas's family. So at least no one can go around saying, "I was baptized into Paul."

God didn't send me to immerse you in water or make a following for myself. He sent me to speak with plain boldness the Good News of Messiah, so that the death of the sacrifice lamb, the Messiah himself, wouldn't be rendered pointless. This powerful, central act God did for us should be the focus.

God has picked the foolish things of this world

That statement about his sacrificial death is foolishness and silliness to the folks dying of ignorance or unbelief, those folks hellbent on doing it their own way. But to us, that statement makes perfect sense; it's the most powerful work God's ever done on our behalf.

You know the world thinks lowly of us. We're the dumb ones, the unintelligent ones who believe foolish rubbish, they'll tell you. It's ironic that this is exactly what God planned - remember when he spoke hundreds of years ago to Israel,

I'll destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the intelligence of the intelligent I will bring to nothing.

God has indeed chosen the foolish things of this world in order to confound and confuse those who think so highly of themselves. It's no wonder it's always the lowly and the broken-hearted folks who turn to God! Rarely do we see those who think themselves intelligent and higher than others turn to God. No, only after God breaks something in the core of their being and brings them to a humble place do we ever see them turn back to God.

In this masterful plan, God's made the wisdom and intelligence of the world into true foolishness, and folded man's supposed foolishness into his plan.

In this so-called enlightened day and age, is there really wisdom? Where is it? Is there really anyone truly intelligent? I considered myself such a man once, having studied under the great Rabbi Gamaliel and learned man's latest doctrines; an intellectual by all means.

Yet God exposed man's intelligence -- even my own! -- as pretentious nonsense. The world in all its wisdom and knowledge remains clueless when it comes to knowing God. God's delighted in choosing what the world considers foolish -- preaching, of all things! -- in order that the high and mighty be laid low, and the low and humble be made righteous and upstanding before God. Thus, the world does not understand God.

As I write this, religious Jews ask for miracles, whereas you gentiles look for understanding and logic. So, when we preach Messiah's sacrificial death, it's a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks! But we preach the power of God through Messiah to both Jews and gentiles anyways, because God's "foolishness" is wiser the world's wisdom and intelligence. God's "weakness" is greater than the world's strength.

I look at you and I don't see many of the "best and brightest", not many influential, not many high-society families. Isn't it obvious that God deliberately chose men and women the culture overlooks and discards, exploits and abuses? God picked such "nobodies" to expose the hollow pretensions of the "somebodies". He picks the ones who are broken, suffering, lowly, humble. In doing this, God shatters the self-importance of the pompous "high and mighty" folks. The first will be last, and the last will be first.

The world will call you weak, unintelligent, and foolish for following God. Don't worry about them. God's picked the foolish things in order to put the world's wisdom to shame. The things the world hates and despises and has contempt for -- these are the things God chooses, as if to laugh in the face of those who think themselves so great.

If there are any who are great, let them be great not for the world, but great for God.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


Farewells and warnings

You are reading my open letter to Rome, part: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][[10][[11]][12][13][14][15][16]

Be sure to welcome our friend Phoebe in the way of the Master, with all the generous hospitality you're famous for. I heartily endorse both her and her work. She's a key representative of the assembly at Cenchrea. Help her out in whatever she asks. She deserves anything you can do for her. She's helped many a person, including me.

Say hello to Priscilla and Aquila, who have worked hand in hand with me in serving Jesus. They once put their lives on the line for me. And I'm not the only one grateful to them. All the gentile believers also owe them plenty, to say nothing of the assembly that meets in their house.

Hello to my dear friend Epenetus. He was the very first follower of Jesus the Messiah in the province of Asia.

Hello to Mary. What a worker she has turned out to be!

Hello to my cousins Andronicus and Junias. We once shared a jail cell. They were believers in Messiah before I was. Both of them are outstanding leaders.

Hello to Ampliatus, my good friend in the family of God.

Hello to Urbanus, our companion in Messiah's work, and my good friend Stachys.

Hello to Apelles, a tried-and-true veteran in following Messiah.

Hello to the family of Aristobulus.

Hello to my cousin Herodion.

Hello to those who belong to the Lord from the family of Narcissus.

Hello to Tryphena and Tryphosa—such diligent women in serving the Master.

Hello to Persis, a dear friend and hard worker in Messiah.

Hello to Rufus—a good choice by the Master!—and his mother. She has also been a dear mother to me.

Hello to Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas, and also to all of their families.

Hello to Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas— and all the followers of the Messiah who live with them.

Holy embraces all around! All the assemblies of Messiah send their warmest greetings!

One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Messiah. They're only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren't above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents.

And so while there has never been any question about your honesty in these matters—I couldn't be more proud of you!—I want you also to be smart, making sure every "good" thing is the real thing. Don't be gullible in regard to smooth-talking evil. Stay alert like this, and before you know it the God of peace will come down on the evil one with both feet, stomping him into the dirt. Enjoy the best of our Messiah, Jesus our Master!

And here are some more greetings from our end. Timothy, my partner in this work, Lucius, and my cousins Jason and Sosipater all said to tell you hello.

I, Tertius, who wrote this letter at Paul's dictation, send you my personal greetings.

Gaius, who is host here to both me and the whole assembly, wants to be remembered to you.

Erastus, the city treasurer, and our good friend Quartus send their greetings.

All of our praise rises to the One who is strong enough to make you strong, exactly as preached in Jesus the Messiah, precisely as revealed in the mystery kept secret for so long but now an open book through the prophetic Scriptures. All the nations of the world can now know the truth and be brought into obedient belief, carrying out the orders of God, who got all this started, down to the very last letter.

All our praise is focused through Jesus our Messiah on this incomparably wise God! Yes!

Labels: ,


Jew & gentile, praising God together

You are reading my open letter to Rome, part: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][[10][[11]][12][13][14][15][16]

If you've got strong faith, give a helping hand to those struggling. Do it even if it's inconvenient for you. Build each other up. Messiah did this very thing for us. Scripture put it this way:

I took on the troubles of the troubled.

Even though this Scripture was written long ago, it's still applicable to us today; teaching us and encouraging us, helping us endure to the end.

I hope that God -- the same one who gives endurance and encouragement -- will unify you with his Spirit, becoming one in Messiah, so that we can give our Father the glory from our hearts and from our lips.

Messiah of Israel,
Messiah of the whole world

So, accept each other just like Messiah accepted you. Jesus the Messiah held true to the old covenants and promises given to Abraham and Israel, confirming their truths as he became a servant to the Jewish people. And out of this came an amazing reality: you non-Jews spread all over the world came to know the God of Israel through Messiah, glorifying the Father in the process. Amazing! Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true by what you gentiles do:

Then I'll join gentiles in a hymn-sing;
I'll sing to your name!

And this one:

Gentiles, rejoice with God's people!

And again:

Praise the Lord, all you gentiles,
and sing His praises, all peoples, all nations!

And Isaiah's word:

The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
the gentiles will put their hope in him.

God is awesome! Oh, let the God of hope make you break forth in joy, filling you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of His Spirit, will brim over with hope!

Well done!

It seems to me you Roman believers in Messiah are currently filled with goodness, knowledgeable and competent, able to instruct each other. So, just because I've been bold and blunt with you doesn't mean I'm criticizing. I'm just walking out this assignment God's given me to teach His ways to you gentiles, so that you'll be acceptable as an offering to God through His Spirit.

Such teaching is part of my servant status to the Master. I'm not bragging; I don't boast about anything other than what Messiah has accomplished by my obedience! And what boasting we can do: all the signs and wonders God's done right in front of our eyes, through the power of his Spirit. From Jerusalem to Illyricum, Israel to Greece, I've spoke what God's led me to speak: this good news of Messiah. It's has been my desire to blaze a new trail outside of Israel, outside of Greece, somewhere where Messiah has never been heard of. This is why it's difficult for me to journey to you personally. Take comfort in the Scripture that is being fulfilled,

Those who were never told about him--they'll see him!
Those who've never heard of Him--they'll understand him!

There's little left for me to cover in this region; since I've looked forward to visiting you for so many years now, I'm planning to visit. I plan to visit you on my way to Spain, you can help me on my journey as I enjoy your company. Right now, however, I'm headed back to Jerusalem, to help out the poor people there who love Messiah. This is possible thanks to the contributions made by those in believers in Greece, who donated happily. It makes sense though, gentiles owe it to Jews: gentiles have shared in Jews' spiritual blessings, gentiles can at least share in material blessings.

So, after I personally see to it the Jewish poor receive the donations by the gentiles, I'll make my way over to you. I'm hoping this visit with you will be one of Messiah's more extravagant blessings!

I need to ask one more thing of you, my friends: pray for me. There are a lot of people who hate Messiah in Israel, so I ask you to pray God's protection and deliverance for me. Also, pray that the relief offering to the impoverished Messiah-followers in Jerusalem will be accepted in the spirit in which it is given. Then, God willing, I'll be on my way to you with a light and eager heart, looking forward to being refreshed by your company. God's peace be with all of you. Oh, yes!

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Don't condemn people because of theological differences

You are reading my open letter to Rome, part: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][[10][[11]][12][13][14][15][16]

My friends, I've already told you this, but let me reiterate because it's so critical: there's no need to be judgmental, especially of your brothers and sisters in Messiah. Why attack others for their faults when you've got your hands full with your own struggles?

There are some people who don't eat any meat, for example, while you may be convinced eating meat is entirely acceptable. Either way, don't judge the other guy -- God's accepted both vegetarians and meat-eaters; it's not your place to pass condemning judgment on them over differences like this.

Or maybe some of you celebrate certain holidays, while the rest of you treat all days as equal. Instead of condemning each other for doing and not doing, focus instead on strengthening each other.

Now, it's true that God has set some days as holy, and it's true there are some meats God told us to refrain from. I'm not canceling out those things. Rather, I'm telling you to live in the peace and love of Messiah, differences aside. You can hold strong opinions on those things and have strong theological stances on them, just be sure they take a back seat to love in Messiah. I keep coming back to this theme of love because it's so important: It's the whole purpose of the Law and the prophets, everything in Scripture! Loving each other and loving God fulfills it all. Keep that in mind before you condemn your brothers and sisters in Messiah over your theological differences.

It helps to remember where you're headed: kneeling in front of the Judge, our Master, Jesus the Messiah. Can you picture yourself saying, "But Master, surely you can pardon my wrongdoing, after all, I ate only vegetables!" Or will you proudly proclaim, "Lord, have mercy on me, for I condemned everyone who didn't celebrate the holidays!"? Such things aren't going to help you out when your time comes.

Now that I've put it in that context, I hope you see the trivial nature of these things.

So, if your brother is weakened by what you eat, stop eating it. If he stumbles because you drink wine, stop drinking wine. Love him and help him out -- after all, Messiah's life-giving sacrifice paid for both of you equally. Then you can settle your differences.

Standing up for what's right

Don't be confused, I'm not telling you to roll over and let your convictions fall by the wayside -- if you're convinced what you're doing is right before God, don't let others call it evil. You can and should stand up for what's right.

What I'm saying is this: love first. If you stand up for what you believe is right, do it in love and not out of condemnation.

And when you do make a stand for what's right, do it as if God's standing right next to you, listening to every word. Do it out of faith and love, not out of some selfish desire to be right while boosting your ego. Stand up for what's right using faith and love, and ultimately you'll be fulfilling the Law even if your theology is off.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Applying Love in the Real World

You are reading my open letter to Rome, part: [1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][[10][[11]][12][13][14][15][16]

Obey the rulers who have authority over you. God is the giver of authority, and he puts these rulers in their places of power to maintain order. People who oppose authorities are often opposing what God has done, and they will be punished. Right rulers are a threat to evil people, not to good people. There is no need to be afraid of such authority. Just do right, and they will praise you for it. After all, they are God's servants, and it is their duty to help you.

Do you want to be on good terms with the government? Be a responsible citizen and you'll get on just fine, the government working to your advantage. But if you're breaking the rules right and left, watch out. God also has an interest in keeping order, and he uses them to do it. That's why you must live responsibly—not just to avoid punishment but also because it's the right way to live.

That's also why you pay taxes—so that an orderly way of life can be maintained. Fulfill your obligations as a citizen. Pay your taxes, pay your bills, respect your leaders.

The Law = Love

Instead of running up debts, keep only the huge debt of love you owe each other. When you love others, you complete what the Law has been after all along. The Law—you know, those commands telling us not to sleep with another person's spouse, or take someone's life, or take what isn't yours, or be wanting what you don't have, or any other "don't" you can think of—finally adds up to this: Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can't go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the Law, the sum total is love.

Shed those old vices and sinful habits

My friends, you should already know this: the time and the hour has come for you to wake up from your sleep. Salvation is closer to us now than when we first believed! The night is almost gone; the day is close at hand. With that in mind, let's walk honestly in His light, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, nor in quarreling and jealousy. It's time to break your old flesh-pleasing vices. Shed off those old ways of the night, and put on new clothes: the armor of light, our Master, Jesus the Messiah!

Labels: , , , , , ,