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The apostle Paul used his education to teach the Bible creatively

April 12, 2024

Daily Scripture

Acts 22:3, Deuteronomy 21:22-23, Galatians 3:10-14

Acts 22
3 Paul continued, “I’m a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia but raised in this city. Under Gamaliel’s instruction, I was trained in the strict interpretation of our ancestral Law. I am passionately loyal to God, just like you who are gathered here today.

Deuteronomy 21
22 Now if someone is guilty of a capital crime, and they are executed, and you then hang them on a tree, 23 you must not leave the body hanging on the tree but must bury it the same day because God’s curse is on those who are hanged. Furthermore, you must not pollute the ground that the Lord your God is giving to you as an inheritance.

Galatians 3
10 All those who rely on the works of the Law are under a curse, because it is written, Everyone is cursed who does not keep on doing all the things that have been written in the Law scroll [Deuteronomy 27:26]. 11 But since no one is made righteous by the Law as far as God is concerned, it is clear that the righteous one will live on the basis of faith [Habakkuk 2:4]. 12 The Law isn’t based on faith; rather, the one doing these things will live by them [Leviticus 18:5]. 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—because it is written, Everyone who is hung on a tree is cursed [Deuteronomy 21:23]. 14 He redeemed us so that the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, and that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

In Acts 22, Paul said he had learned from Gamaliel, the greatest rabbi of his day. Deuteronomy 21 likely was a passage that at first led him to reject Jesus as the Messiah. But in Galatians 3 he used his education in a more critically thoughtful way. “Paul… makes a theologically nuanced and complex argument that parts of the Law no longer applied to his Gentile audience. He certainly did not hold a kind of ‘God said it, I believe it, that settles it’ approach to interpreting scripture.” *

  • Scholar E. P. Sanders helped us see how skillfully Paul applied his rabbinic learning in Galatians: “[Paul] cited the only passages which combine ‘right-’ and ‘faith’, and the only passage which combines ‘curse’ and ‘law.’ The modern reader requires a concordance [or computer!] to learn this, and an ancient would have needed a mastery of the text equal to Paul’s.” ** How did God use Paul’s learning to guide all Christians’ deeper understanding of the good news?

  • Paul answered teachers who said, “Genesis 17:10 means God won’t accept any man who’s not circumcised.” His answer ranged across all of the Hebrew Scriptures, with varied voices and themes sustaining his God-given big idea— “the blessing of Abraham would come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus.” Like Jesus, Paul said one solitary bit of Scripture can’t block God’s main message of love and acceptance. How can his example inform a whole range of church conflicts?


O God, master and guide, I need your help today and every day as I dig more deeply into the Bible. Equip me more and more each day to love you and my neighbors. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe

Darren Lippe serves as a Couples Small Group co-leader & Men's Group Leader, while volunteering in a variety of other capacities at Resurrection. He and his wife, Doris, first met in a Resurrection Single Adult Sunday School class in 1997 and were married in what is now the Student Center. They are empty nesters with 2 college-aged sons, Matthew and Jacob.

As we consider today’s theme, I thought we might “visit’ with Dr. Munn-Resoarse, an expert on job placement/interviewing & author of the book, How to Jibber-Jabber Your Way to a Job.

DL: Dr. Munn-Resoarse thanks for your time. What do you think is the key to a successful job placement process?

Dr. Munn-Resoarse: Please call me Hugh. [Editor: Groan–I knew that was coming.] Successful pairing of jobs & applicants requires the interviewer to accurately describe their expectations for the role & for the interviewee to be truthful about their qualifications. I love the video of the frightened sheep dog being chased by a herd of sheep accompanied by the caption, “When you lie on your resume.’”

DL: What are your thoughts about the typical interview process?

Hugh Munn-Resoarse: Well, the interview setting can be a tad artificial, which encourages feelings of stress & provides odd responses like these:

  • A young woman is asked where she sees herself in 5 years & she responds, “I think my strongest skill is being a good listener.”
  • Or the young man who is asked if he can perform under pressure & he responds, “I’m not a huge Billy Joel fan, but I’ll give it a try.”

DL: Considering today’s theme, what stands out to you?

Hugh Munn-Resoarse: One has to really question God’s selection of Saul/Paul as His ambassador for Christianity. I mean, just look at the terrified reactions of Ananias in Acts 9:13-14 & the Disciple’s reaction in Acts 9:26. Conventional wisdom would suggest that Paul is probably not the best candidate for this task & surely God made a huge mistake.

DL: Yet what might we conclude in hindsight?

Hugh Munn-Resoarse:  God knows what He is doing. God recognized Paul’s unique background & skill set was perfect for this gig & we are living proof of the wisdom of Paul’s selection.

DL: What might this mean for us today?

Hugh Munn-Resoarse: There are 2 things to remember about God. First, we can’t begin to fathom how enthusiastic God is about recycling people. When worldly wisdom condemns someone as being without value or worth, God looks at the same person & imagines the perfect scenario for this person to become an asset for His plans. God loves to reclaim, recover, & reuse people for His purposes. In short, His proverbial trashcan is always empty.

DL: I get the picture. My wife, Doris, is like that as well. I can’t clean the garage without her reclaiming some item designated for the trash & saying, “Thanks. I’ve been looking for this.” So, that old director’s chair with no fabric now has new purple material & a “Wildcats” appliqué on the back & is ready to donate to a charity auction.

Hugh Munn-Resoarse: Similarly, God’s creativity & imagination is limitless. The second thing is that each & every one of us has a unique life-story, a distinctive education, & a special skill set that is going to be absolutely essential to His Kingdom. I’m a firm believer that while our abilities & skills are constantly changing throughout our life journey, our value to God remains constant. Yes, some of our talents from our youth may diminish, but new abilities will begin to take their place. So, regardless of society’s assessment of our potential, God is always dreaming of the next great possibility for us.

DL: So, in effect, every time God sees us, He says, “Thanks, you’re just what I’ve been looking for.” That’s great. Now if you’ll excuse me, I told a joke in a meeting at work last week that was apparently so hilarious, HR wants me to share what I said with them.

Hugh Munn-Resoarse: (Wincing) Um.

Editor: Here is a picture of the re-claimed chair:

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Hamilton, Adam, Wrestling with Doubt, Finding Faith (p. 42). Abingdon Press. Kindle Edition.
** Sanders, E. P., Paul: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (pp. 69-70). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.