Letters from Asthenes
Peace and grace to you from our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. I want to commend you for your wonderful work of preaching Christ and Him crucified. Your compassion and concern for the jailer at Philippi was inspiring. I also appreciate your comment, "I have been crucified with Christ...who loved me and gave Himself for me." What wonderful words of comfort. Thank you.
I have a concern though; a concern that you may not have noticed, but others have. I know this to be so because I have discussed it with them and they feel the same way I do. I want you to be aware of it so your service to Christ may be even more effective, more fruitful. My concern is this, your poor attitude and actions toward others on some occasions not all but some. It seems to be driving people away from Christ instead of drawing them near. This cannot be good under any circumstances, can it? Let me give you specific cases.
The other day, I received a copy of Luke's version of the beginning of the church and your many travels. In it he said you blinded a man. Now, I understand that he was opposing the things you taught, but doesn't everyone have a God-given right to their own opinion? Why, Paul did you strike this man blind? Why did you not try to first talk to him and let him know about the love and compassion of Christ? Why did you have to be so harsh? Don't you know you likely drove him away from the Savior forever? It amazes me that the proconsul believed after this incident. You are lucky he continued to listen to you.
Also in Luke's narrative, I read that you upset the Jews at Antioch and drove them away from the good news. Paul, I know these Jews and they are devout people. My cousin lives there, though I do not know if he was among the crowd you upbraided, and he is a good man no one is more sincere and devoted. This seems to be a pattern with you. If it was isolated, I could understand, but it is not. You even alienated Barnabas. Paul, why can't you get along with people any better?
By the way, I am not just picking on you. If Stephen were alive today I would also write him with my concerns. Don't get me wrong, I know the people he was addressing were in the wrong, but Stephen could have put it in a nicer way. I can understand why they were upset, though I don't agree with their subsequent actions.
Furthermore, Paul, I also have a copy of the letters you wrote to the Galatian churches and the Philippian saints. Both letters have many good points in them. However, you don't even greet the Galatian brethren properly. You come across cold and callous. You even made reference to men mutilating themselves in the private area of their body. I could not let my wife or mother read such things. Your language is too crude. In the letter to Philippi, you call some men dogs. Paul, don't you see this is why more people don't listen to you. They hear harsh, mean things like this and it turns them off. Haven't you heard that Jesus said to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Would you want to be called a dog? Why then do you call others dogs? Surely, you can do better. I know you can do better.
Another thing that has been bothering me are your letters to Timothy. A brother here has a copy of each and I am supposed to get copies soon but I have read them. I know you love Timothy, but it seems to me you are setting a poor example for this young man. You not only encourage him in militaristic terms ("wage a good warfare," "fight the good fight of faith," "soldier of Jesus Christ"), but you also give the names of men who, in your opinion, teach error or have otherwise strayed from the faith. Did you not know others would read the letters you wrote to Timothy? Don't you think your language is too agressive? Did you personally talk to the men you named and let them know you were going to inform others about your opinion of them? Paul, it seems to me that love for these brothers would demand you hide their faults. The wise man said, "love covers all sins." I don't understand, Paul, how you could give the names of brethren and publicly shame them. After all, does it really matter whether or not you believe the resurrection is already past or not? I mean, does your salvation depend upon believing the resurrection is past or in the future? No matter what anyone believes, it won't change the reality of it will it? These men still believe in Jesus and baptism. They still believe and teach the one true body of Christ. They still stand against drunkenness and sexual immorality. I know one of them is strong on divorce and remarriage, because I heard him preach on it a few years ago; best sermon I ever heard on the subject maybe you could get his notes.
Further, I wrote Demas over in Thessalonica to ask him about what you said about him "Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world." He wrote back and said you are misrepresenting him. He doesn't love this present world. He insists you are not being fair to him and have a personal vendetta against him. Paul, how can you spread such things around about a brother in Christ?
Finally, I want you to know my love for you, the Lord and our brethren. As you have acknowledged, you don't have long on this earth. It won't be long before you have no more opportunities to right all your wrongs well, maybe that word is too strong you don't have long to mend fences with some you have alienated. I don't mean to judge here, but it seems you could do something to help the situation. Maybe you could write a letter addressing all my concerns and I will share it with others to let them know you have changed.
May the Lord Jesus be with your spirit.
May the grace of our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ be with you always.
I write to you with great love and respect. Your work in the Lord is well known by me and many others, and we appreciate all you have done. I thank you for being there when my sister-in-law needed encouragement. She often mentions you and the love you manifest toward her. Our family will always be grateful.
I want to apologize for Paul's actions. I know he is a good man, but sometimes does things that bring shame upon others and himself. I recently read his letters to Timothy and noticed you were twice mentioned in an unfavorable light. He accused you of making shipwreck of the faith and doing him harm. I find this hard to believe, knowing your past work. I have written him to let him know my disappointment in him. He seems to have a habit of alienating brethren and lost souls. He also likes to call names. I am sorry that you are one of his casualties. Maybe he will change in time.
I do not want to belabor the point, but it really bothers me about all the negative actions of the apostles and others, not just Paul. I wonder if they realize what they are doing. I'm sure you have seen their writings, as well as heard them speak on many occasions, but I hope you will bear with me as I get this off my chest.
I was shocked when I read John's first letter and he called some former brethren "liars." Yes, they may be what he calls the "antichrist," but it seems to me "liar" is a strong word. How could the "apostle of love" say such? I'm not sure that is an appropriate description of him anymore. Doesn't "liar" carry the idea of purposely deceiving others? How can John know this? He impugns the motives of many good men.
I also do not know what Peter has been thinking lately. Maybe his age is getting to him, or his old, unstable self is coming back. He described some men as "natural brute beasts" and returning to their own vomit. This is too blunt. He also said there were some who "twist" the scriptures to "their own destruction." He seems awfully judgmental considering his past failings. And, how in the world can he speak favorably of Paul after what he did to him at Antioch? Anyway, do you see what I mean?
Jude is just like Peter. Peter must be telling him what to say or sending him outlines. I have often wondered if Jude is actually Peter's disciple and not the Lord's. What do you think? Anyway, I do not understand how he could be so pushy and tell brethren to "contend" for the faith. Paul says we are not to be contentious. Jude is also very judgmental. He calls men "ungodly" and "spots in your love feasts." Then he said they were grumblers, complainers talk about grumbling and complaining! I can't stand it when "men of God" are so hypocritical. The worst of it is that he said they "cause divisions." If anything is dividing the saints it is the poor attitudes and harsh words of men like Jude, Peter, John and Paul.
Again, I am sorry for the way you have been treated not even given an opportunity to answer Paul's charges. Hope this letter encourages you some. By the way, if you are ever through this way, bring some of your copper wares I want to surprise my wife with a gift.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you.