Follower of Christ Explained
So, yesterday you might have heard me say “follower of Christ” to describe Paul and not “Christian.” It’s not because I think he wasn’t, because he was. It’s just that I think it’s important for us, as we hear his words and interpret his life, to realize that, in the deepest sense possible, Paul was a Jew, and never stopped being a Jew. On the Damascus Road, when he was called to Christ, he was not called away from Judaism (see Kruse, 3); he was not called away from the people of his birth. In fact, at that time in history, there would have been no difference between the religions of Christianity and Judaism. There was no such religion as Christianity yet. It was still a part of Judaism. Paul didn’t live long enough to see them split. For people in the first century, comparing mainstream Jews and Messianic Jews would have been like comparing Pharisees and Sadducees, or, for us, Methodists and Baptists. It wasn’t until the second century that we find Christians being distinguished from Jews. And so, Paul was called toward Christ and not away from his Jewish brothers and sisters. This is important to realize this, because he speaks to us all about God’s grace from a deep conviction that God’s grace is for everyone. Paul’s Jewish brothers and sisters did not want to include Gentiles, like us, but Paul fought them so that we might be included in the Church. Paul fought for us. He knew that God loved us no matter who we are or how we were born or who our parents were. God’s love is for us. We are welcome to it. So that’s why I call Paul a follower of Christ more often than any other description – because it points to God’s grace and Paul’s courage that he found in Christ.
Colin G. Kruse – Paul’s Letter to the Romans