Mentoring: The Heart of Paul the Apostle

What prompted Paul to be so strong in his letters to the Corinthians?  Why was he so compassionate with the Philippians?  I thing that Paul had captured a concept from the Scriptures that many of today’s Christians have missed.

We have long been focused  upon getting people “saved.” moving quickly from meeting to meeting and revival to revival, counting the salvations and, in some cases, even taking the credit for them.  The fact is, we can’t save anyone.  That is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Paul displays the concept of mentoring and it’s importance throughout his New Testament epistles.  He knew that the value of our work, as Christians, was in the imparting of truth to our brothers and sisters in the Lord; to help them grow or mature in their faith walk.

A well-known example of this if found in 2 Timothy 3:14 – 17, where Paul is telling Timothy of the importance and use of Scripture in all situations.  In verse 14, Paul states:  “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them.”  There are two points which stand out from this:  1)  There is certainty and truth in the Scriptures, and it is up to us to continue to walk in the assurance of the truth; and 2)  Timothy has learned these truths from Paul, who has taken the time to build into Timothy’s life (knowing from whom you have learned them.)

So, why does Paul take such time to write to the churches to encourage and admonish?  Again, I believe Paul has understood one of the spiritual truths that many of us have missed.  Paul is consistent in his reference to the edifying of the saints as his inheritance.  One such example is found in Ephesians 1:13 – 14, where he refers to the Holy Spirit, who sealed them with a promise as the guarantee of is (Paul’s) inheritance.  Also, in his writings of 1 Thessalonians 2:19 – 20, he says: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing?  Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?  For you are our glory and joy.”

Paul learned this from Barnabas, who, at the time when no one else would help Paul fresh after his conversion, poured himself out so that Paul would realize the error of his ways as a Pharisee, mature and prosper in the things of Christ Jesus.

It’s interesting to note that humans go through a stage early in life called “imprinting.”  It is a time from about 1 1/2 to 8 years of age, where we develop who we will be for the rest of our lives.  The people most influential to us in the process are our parents, coaching or mentoring us through this time, usually by example.

Barnabas has done the same with Paul during Paul’s spiritual infancy.  Barnabas was willing to be with Paul and bring him to the other disciples in Jerusalem, when the others were still afraid of Paul.  The Message Translation says, in Acts 9:27:  “Then Barnabas took him under his wing.  He introduced him to the apostles and stood up for him . . .”  Barnabas was willing to forget about who Paul was (Saul, the persecutor) and help develop him into who we know as the Apostle Paul, author of much of the New Testament.  The deposit Barnabas made into Paul has translated into great blessings through the spiritual lineage.  Paul went on to mentor Timothy and Titus, as well as many others in the same way.

Dr. Howard Hendricks stated, during his 1993 Promise Keepers address:  “Each of us must have a Barnabas, a Paul and a Timothy in our life.  The Barnabas is someone who will pour their life into ours, sharing their experiences and encouraging us.  We need a Paul in our life to look us in the eye and be “straight up” with us in all situations; someone to share with and be encouraged by.  We need a Timothy in our life so that we can pour ourselves into someone else’s life, to pass on the experiences that we ourselves have encountered.”

The Apostle Paul has set the example for us in many areas of our Christian walk, but I dare say, none is as important as this!