I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done-- by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known. . .
Of all the followers of Jesus, Paul is the greatest missionary. He was chosen by a personal encounter with Christ on the Damascus road to take take the gospel to the Gentiles. His life and letters dominate the second half of the New Testament.
What did mission look like for Paul? Eckhard Schnabel outlines the goals of Paul's missionary work.
1. Paul was called to preach the message of Jesus Christ.
As a pioneer missionary he focuses his preaching on Jesus Christ and him crucified (I Cor 2:2). Paul was called to preach especially to the Gentiles. Yet he also preached to Jews (Rom 1:14).
2. Paul’s goal to reach as many people as possible.
His geographical travels describe an upper half circle from Jerusalem via Syria, Asia Minor, Europe and Rome to Spain (Rom 15:19-24).
3. Paul seeks to lead individual people to believe in the one true God and in Jesus Christ, the Messiah, Savior and Lord.
For Jews this meant they needed to acknowledge Jesus, the crucified preacher from Nazareth as Messiah and that his death is God’s answer to the problem of human sin—problem that neither the covenant with Abraham or the Mosaic law could solve—and that God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead.
For Gentiles this meant they must turn from their pagan gods to the God of Israel—the one true living God. They must believe in Jesus who rescues sinners from the wrath of God and accept the atoning significance of Jesus’ death on the cross. They must have their lives shaped by the Jewish scriptures and by Jesus’ and the apostles’ teaching as they wait for Jesus’ return (1 Thess 1:9-10; 1 Cor 1:18-2:5).
4. Paul established new churches.
He founded communities of followers of Jesus Christ—both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, free and slaves—and teaches the new believers the Word of God, the teachings of Jesus, the significance of the gospel for everyday living (Col 1:25-29).
Paul insisted on the evaluation of the teaching in local churches based on the truth of the gospel (Gal 1:6-9) and based on apostolic teaching (1 Cor 15:1-5), an evaluation that on occasion means the rejection of false teaching.
How is your understanding and practice of mission shaped by what Christ accomplished through Paul?