Who is your favorite person in the Bible? Why are they your favorite? Was he a man of faith or a man of action? Was her life a model of purity, or did she boldly assert herself at her own peril? Everyone has a favorite person or “character” in the Bible. David, the shepherd boy who slew the giant and would become King of Israel, is the hero of many young boys. For others, it may be Jonathan who repeatedly defied his father to stand in the right. Perhaps your favorite is a man like the prophet Micaiah who stood before kings and false prophets speaking only “what the Lord saith unto me” (1 Kings 22:14). For some of the ladies, their favorite may be Vashti who refused to be degraded before the king, or Ruth whose devotion stands as a supreme example for us all, even today.
Some may look to the New Testament to find their favorite person in the Bible. Levi, who forsook all to follow Jesus (Luke 5:27-28), comes to mind. John the Baptist, who preached with the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17) and turned the hearts of the people back to the law of God, is certainly a man to be highly regarded. But if I were asked to write about my favorite Bible character, I would have to choose Paul. Paul was a man for the time. He was a man chosen by God who devoted his life to the cause of Christ. With the exception of Jesus, Paul has done more for the Christian faith than any who has ever lived. Let me tell you just a few reasons that Paul is my favorite person in the Bible.
Paul is my favorite Bible character because he was a man of zeal. Few men of the Bible stand in comparison to the zeal and enthusiasm of the apostle to the Gentiles. He approached every aspect of life with great passion. Concerning the traditions of the law, Paul was a Pharisee (Phil. 2:5; Acts 23:6), the strictest sect among the Jews (Acts 26:4-5). Held up to the standard of righteousness in the law, he was found blameless (Phil. 3:6). Being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of his fathers, Paul advanced faster and further than his contemporaries. When the gospel found great success among the Jews of Jerusalem, Paul’s zeal drove him to seek the destruction of the church (Phil. 3:6; cf. Acts 8:3; 9:1-2; 22:4, 19; 26:9-11; Gal. 1:13; 1 Tim. 1:13).
As a Christian, no man labored as diligently or sacrificed more readily than the apostle Paul (2 Cor. 11:23-27). His boundless zeal motivated him straightway to preach Christ, the Son of God, after his baptism (Acts 9:18-20), and he never relented. Paul is my favorite Bible “character” because he was a man of zeal.
Paul is my favorite character because he was a man of love. If Paul was motivated by a boundless zeal, he was even more guided by the love of Christ. And at the heart of his affection was the cross (Gal. 6:14; 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2; Gal. 2:20). He loved the cross more than comfort and the riches of Christ than a reputation among men. Paul often hazarded his own life to further the cause of his Lord. Heralding the cross, he labored with great strife, often being beaten and cast into prison (2 Cor. 11:23; cf. Acts 16:23-24). Knowing that true solace was in the Savior, he hazarded his own life to preach the gospel (Acts 11:23-25). In Lystra, Paul was stoned and left for dead; coming to himself, he rose up and continued his labors of preaching and strengthening the disciples (Acts 14:19-22). Recounting the opposition he faced in Corinth, Paul would write, “I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” (1 Cor. 2:4). And he likened the strife he endured in Ephesus to fighting beasts in the theater (1 Cor. 15:32).
Paul summed up his love for Christ, the gospel, and the souls of men in his words to the elders of Ephesus:
And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: Save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:22-24).
Because of his love for the cross, Paul is my favorite Bible character.
Paul is my favorite Bible character because he emphasized the importance of leadership. Paul knew that without proper leadership, the flock of God was in peril. A flock without shepherds is vulnerable, easy prey for the enemy. Thus, Paul admonished the Ephesian elders to “shepherd the flock” and warned them to beware of wolves that would appear, both without and within the church (Acts 20:28-31).
A church without leadership is lacking. In wisdom, Paul left Titus in Crete to “set in order the things that were wanting” or lacking (Titus 1:5). Without shepherds to lead and protect the flock, the churches of Crete were open to “vain talkers and deceivers” (Tit. 1:10). There can be little doubt that one purpose for Paul taking men such as Timothy (Acts 16:1-3), Titus (2 Cor. 2:12-13; 7:6, 13-15; 8:6, 16), Erastus (Acts 19:2; 2 Tim. 4:20), Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25), Sopater, Aristarchus, Secundus, Gaius, Tychicus, and Trophimus (Acts 20:4) was to mentor them and develop them into much-needed leaders for the church. Paul is my favorite Bible character because of the importance he placed on leadership.
These are just a few reasons Paul is my favorite Bible character. We could also note his boldness when brothers were wrong (Gal. 2:11-14) but his tenderness when they were right (Phile. 10), or his willingness to acknowledge his sinful past while not letting it hinder his working in the present (Phil. 3:13-14). And Paul’s willingness to accept whatever the circumstances (even when they were not to his advantage) and magnify God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:7-9) is a characteristic that endears me to this great man of antiquity. Nevertheless, let us remember that Paul, like all others mentioned, was a man! A man with faults whose example is to be imitated only as much as it is an imitation of Christ. And if Paul were with us today, he would tell us precisely that (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1). Just another reason that he is my favorite Bible character!