Shaul of Tarsus: Saint or Salesman?

The New Covenant, not the scriptures but the actual promise from God, is found in Jeremiah 31:31, and it will be fulfilled through the Messiah.  It is a promise made by God, through the prophet Jeremiah to the Jewish people. God has also said, through other prophets, that the Messiah will also be a light to the Gentiles, which means that the Gentile New Covenant is the same one that God gave to the Jewish people.

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That being said, the New Covenant (now I am talking about the scriptures) tells us about the Messiah who came to deliver the new covenant we read in Jeremiah. The 4 Gospels tell us about the Messiah: his birth, life, ministry, teachings, his death, and his resurrection, through which we can all receive forgiveness of sin.

Yet, the story of the Messiah is less than 1/3 of the entire NC scriptures! In fact, nearly 2/3 of the scriptures that have served as the foundation for Christianity are letters written by a Jewish tentmaker to the Messianic congregations he formed throughout Asia. His name was Shaul of Tarsus, but most people know him as Saint Paul.

But was he a saint, or a salesman?

I was a professional salesman for quite a few years, and I can tell you that the general picture of a salesman is someone in a loud suit with a glib manner of speech whose purpose in life is to do and say whatever he needs to in order to get his commission. That is not true…well, not always true. In fact, the best salesmen are the ones who listen more than they speak, and who are truly interested in getting their clients what the client really needs.

The first step to making a “righteous” sale is to ask the client the proper type of questions to find out what it is that they really need. You see, people don’t buy what they need, they buy what they want. Once we know what someone needs, we then present our product, assuming it meets that need, in such a way that they want it. That is the essence of a good sale: provide what the client needs and to do so in a way that will make them want it.

Now consider the problem Shaul had: he was going to a class of people who had been practicing a religion based on the precept of multiple gods, who had the same weaknesses as humans, and their rituals involved hedonistic activities such as gluttony, cult prostitution, and sexual perversion.  Now here comes this little, Jewish Pharisee telling them that it is better for them to give up all that fun and turn from their self-centered religion to one that preached selfless giving, righteous love, and a single God who sent his son to allow them to be forgiven of sins.

Now that has got to be a hard sell!

If you don’t like me telling you Shaul was a salesman, he said it, himself! In 1 Corinthians 9:19-22 (NIV):

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.  To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

Essentially, he is saying is that he will adjust his spiel to his audience, and we can see that in his letters. Each letter is to a congregation where Shaul is, in truth, trying to “save the sale.”

When a sale is made, people often have what is called “Buyer’s Remorse”, which happens because the excitement of finally getting to have what they’ve always wanted to have suddenly disappears the moment they recall the amount of the check they wrote. Shaul’s congregations all had their own unique battles: the Corinthians were arguing about who to follow, the Ephesians were having trouble relating to the message, the Galatians were being duped into legalism…each congregation was in trouble and in danger of apostatizing. Shaul was trying, constantly, to bring them back into the same mindset they had when he convinced them of their need and their desire to worship God and accept Yeshua as their Messiah.

In his letter to the Ephesians, Shaul often talks about the secret knowledge that he has been given regarding salvation. This is a clear and unmistakable reference to the Gnosticism that was prevalent in Ephesus.  He is tuning in to his audience and using terms and ideas that they can relate to. He doesn’t talk about “secret knowledge” in his other letters, except in 1 Timothy, but (then again) Timothy was ministering in Ephesus at the time.

I am not trying to degrade or insult Shaul. Quite the opposite: I acknowledge that what he did was ingenious. He was able to be anyone to everyone, and when it comes down to it, people buy from people. Bonding with the client is an absolute essential if you want to make a sale that will not only “stick”, but to get referrals. Shaul was referred by the leaders in Jerusalem (we call that Third Party information or a “Bread and Butter” Letter) so that those who were not familiar with him, or had heard the bad reputation about him, would be open to hearing him. And, because he could relate to them, they listened.

Each one of us has to realize that we must utilize sales techniques in order to be able to get the word of the Lord out to people who may not be open to hearing it. We have to Match and Mirror, we have to ask the proper type of leading questions, we have to ask questions we already know the answers to in order to get small agreements along the way before the final close, and most important of all, we have to know our product! Which is, of course, the word of God.

You will be unsuccessful in telling someone what they need to do. The moment most people hear, “If you don’t, then…” their defensive shields will be up and you will have lost your opportunity to save them. You must be patient, use discernment, ask questions to help them realize what they want in life, identify what they are missing in their life and get them to agree they want it. Then, and only then, will they listen when you tell them how God can fill that emptiness.

Most people convince themselves they are OK when they aren’t, and it is up to us to open their eyes to what they are really longing for, then show them how God can give them what they want.  Everyone needs salvation- that is a given, even those who don’t believe in God still need to be saved. It is up to each of us to be a good salesperson and help those who are spiritually blind and deaf to see and hear.

Yeshua did it physically by the power of God, and we can do it spiritually by the power of good salesmanship.

Of course, it is really God who will close the deal.

Thank you for being here and please subscribe. I welcome comments and look forward to our next time together.

Until then, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!

Comments welcomed (just be nice)