Sunday 7th May 2017 – Easter through Paul’s Eyes
- At the time of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus Saul of Tarsus was a young man – an up and coming Jewish leader
- A zealous, strict legalistic Pharisee firmly committed to Jewish traditions and meticulous religious observance
- Don’t know where he was at the time – in Tarsus where he was born or in Jerusalem where he trained under Rabbi Gamaliel.
- If in Jerusalem, even just for the Passover, he may well have been in the crowds shouting ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’
- If he had heard the rumour about the resurrection he probably believed and propagated the stolen body theory.
The first reference to him we have is about 8 or 9 years later in Acts 7:58-60 at the stoning of Stephen – the witnesses to the first Christian martyr laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
- He was an observer and an eager supporter, if not an official witness who threw the stones
- He had listened to Stephen’s anointed sermon and seen his face shining with the glory of God
- He had heard how Stephen prayed “Lord do not hold this sin against them” as he died.
Shortly afterwards we find him taking a more aggressive role to try and stamp out this new Christianity.
Acts 9v1,2 “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”
Then God stepped into his life dramatically!
Acts 9:3-6 “As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’5 ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. 6 ‘Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.’
- Jerusalem to Damascus – probably a week long journey
- About noon a light brighter than the noonday sun!
- He fell to the ground and heard a voice ‘Saul Saul why do you persecute me?
- He knew this had to be God but to be sure he asked ‘Who are you Lord?’ Kurie Gk – The word the Gk version of Jewish bible (LXX) used for the Hebrew Yahweh.
- Aware of God’s amazing appearance to Isaiah.
- He must have been shocked to the core at the response ‘ I am Jesus’ ego eimi – the Gk equivalent of the Heb ‘I am’ – the name by which God revealed himself to Moses
- An astounding revelation to a Jew who believed that God is One and there is no other
- This Jesus whom he was persecuting in the believers was none other than Yahweh –his God!
- Blinded in order to see. This revelation of who Jesus really is, is the foundation on which Jesus builds his church – as Jesus told Peter.
- This appearance convinced Saul that Jesus was alive again and was none other than God. Listed in 1 Cor 15 as one of the resurrection appearances of Jesus
Immediately he began to preach about Jesus.
Acts 9:20-22 ‘At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. 21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who caused havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ 22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.
- But he had a lot more revelation and understanding to receive – 3 years in Arabia
- He now believed the facts of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus
- But he needed to understand their significance – why did Jesus die? Why did He rise again?
His first recorded sermon at Antioch in Pisidia (Modern Turkey) Paul preaches a clear message about the fact of the resurrection and its significance.
Acts 13:37-39 “But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.38 ‘Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. 39 Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.”
- Forgiveness of sins and justification by faith – the core of the Gospel message
He enlarges on these in more detail in his letter to the Romans esp Rom 3:21-28
- All have sinned and fallen short – missed the mark – lost the glory of God in whose image and likeness they were made. Retained the image – lost the likeness. Eg Adam – shame and fear instead of glory. We all fall short of the glory we see in the character of Jesus. Rom 3:23
- God’s wrath is directed against man’s sin
Rom 1:18 ‘The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness,’
A Just God is angry at injustice eg Jesus.
Mk 3:5 “He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
- The death of Jesus was a sacrifice of atonement
Rom 3:25 “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith.”
3 dimensions to this sacrifice – at-one-ment –
Expiation – the removal of sin by an act of vicarious sacrifice
Propitiation – the turning away of God’s wrath for his face to shine on us in blessing and favour
Reconciliation with God
- The wrath of God that was my due, upon the Lamb was laid. And by the shedding of his blood, the debt for me was paid.
- Some neo-evangelicals want to do away with the doctrine of penal substitution and instead just talk about the love of God. An inadequate theology to describe the profound nature of what Christ has done for us.
- Faith in Christ’s sacrifice brings us justification.
Rom 3:26 “he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”
- God is declared Just because our sin has been punished. Forgiveness does not mean that God just lets us off the hook. Christ paid a high price to forgive us.
- Our sins are not counted against us 2 Cor 5:19. They were transferred to the account of Jesus. He bore our sins in his body on the tree! 1Pet 2:24 Penal Substitution.
- We are declared righteous by God – justified – just as if I’d never sinned!
- 2 Cor 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sinfor us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” One of the most astounding verses in Scripture!
- We receive this justification as a free gift of God’s grace.
Rom 3:24 “and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. We can’t work for it, earn it, contribute to it. We just believe it, accept it, thank God for it and live in the good of it.
This is the Gospel –the Good News –that removes sin and guilt and gives a brand new life.
Paul links all of this to the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Rom 4:24,25 “to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.
- The death of Christ was the atoning sacrifice which provides salvation for us
- The resurrection of Christ was God’s validation and proof of God’s acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf that guarantees our justification and peace with God.
- Paul asserts that had Christ not risen we would still be in our sins. But then goes on to affirm categorically Now is Christ risen!
- He saw him alive and had his life transformed as a result.
- He spent the rest of his life as a witness to the risen Christ and his life transforming power and even laid down his life for this glorious Gospel.
- Have we truly and fully believed in the fullness of the Gospel as Paul proclaimed it?
- May our understanding expand through revelation of the Holy Spirit to see the full scope of what Christ has done for us!
- And may we embrace in faith the fullness of the righteousness that is ours in Christ.