Under study in Part 1 were the attributes of Jesus, the word, a (plural noun) defined as “a quality or feature regarded as a characteristic or inherent part of someone or something, trait, character and mark being also synonyms”. They were viewed from three distinct perspectives, first, by those having to do with His Divine Nature, secondly, those shared with the other two members of the Godhood and thirdly, those associated with His true human nature. Part 1 for the present remains available at http://mountaineagle.com/stories/attributes-of-jesus-the-christ-ingrained-in-the-apostle-paul-part-1,24333?
The apostle Paul will be the focus in this article, prior to Acts 13:9, he’s referred to as Saul, my objective being, as space allows, to show in three phases how this self acclaimed chief (foremost) of sinners 1 Tim. 1:15, was so influenced by Jesus Christ, that he could say without any hint of reservation “according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” Phil. 1:20 NASB. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” 2 Tim. 4:7-8 NASB. I couldn’t think of a more diligent character than Paul on the pages of the New Testament, who demonstrated a more concerted effort in his pursuit to serve the Lord to his fullest.
Phase one, begins in Acts 7:58 where we find the first mention of a young man, named Saul, then around 30+/-, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of my fathers, being zealous for God just as you all are today” Acts 22:3. ‘Circumcised the eighth day of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee Phil. 3:5. Geographically, today the city is in the Turkish province of Mersin, Tarsus of the first century, was a major port city and the capital of the Roman province of Cilicia, which was located on the southern Mediterranean coast.
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people” Acts 6:8 as a result of his preaching, he was caught and carried to the council Acts 6:12, and being permitted to speak; Stephen, voicing the words of the Holy Spirit, delivered a scathing rebuke, to the hearers gathered, his historical prosecuting sermon is recorded in Acts 7:2-53. Some years ago, I learned from bro. Johnny Ramsey that it can be reduced to three points, first, the Jews had rejected Joseph, secondly, they had rejected Moses and thirdly, they had rejected Jesus Christ.
Upon their hearing, “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did so do ye” Acts 7:51, they gnashed on him with their teeth verse 54 and stoned him, their garments being laid at the feet of a young man named Saul verse 58. In the following passages, the young Saul of verse 58 was now much more than a bystander, “Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles” Acts 8:1NASB. “But Saul began ravaging, the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put in prison” Acts 8:3 NASB. He was not content, to remain in Jerusalem Acts 9:1-2, due to his inflamed hatred for Christians , his every breath encouraged to him to persecute the disciple of Christ, so he journeyed toward Damascus, a distance of 150 miles, even uninterrupted would have taken two weeks, or so.
Phase two, while Saul and the men with him continue their way to Damascus, an abrupt event takes place, as they near the city, suddenly a great light from heaven, flashed around him, and he fell to the ground, and there heard a voice, which said unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me?” Saul’s reply was also in the form of a question, “Who art You, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting; but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do” Acts 9:3-6 NASB. Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing, and leading him by the hand, they brought him into the Damascus”. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” verses 8-9. In a vision, the Lord spoke to a disciple by the name of Ananias, explaining to him about Saul. Ananias had previous knowledge of him verses 10-14. “But the Lord said to him, “Go for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My names sake” verses 15-16. ” So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit”. And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened” verses 17-19. As a side note, if Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, as is affirmed by many, he didn’t know it, the Lord didn’t know it nor did Ananias know it.
Phase three, Saul emerges as a changed man, a Christian, a child of the King, the veil of the Law of Moses had now been removed 2 Cor. 3:15-16, which had years prior, been nailed to the cross when Jesus died, Col. 2:14, now under the perfect law of liberty James 1:25, constrained by the love of Christ 2 Cor.5:14-15, “and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus” Acts 9:19 NASB, “and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, He is the Son of God” verse 20. “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ” verse 22.
When news of his conversion became known, “the Jews plotted together to do away with him”, “they watched the gates day and night so that they might put him to death”, so he was “let down through and opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket verses 23-25. Such would he face for the remainder of his life, but he never drew back Heb. 10:39.
Regarding the persecutions, difficulties and distresses, experienced by the apostle Paul, a number of New Testament passages could be cited, but the most definitive list is found in 2 Cor.11:23-28, one might ask, how could one withstand such? Though more could be said, I’ll close with Paul’s reasoned answer for his fortitude, which should be of great encouragement to the faithful Christian, to keep on, keeping on, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity (cowardice), but of power and love and discipline (sound judgment). Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord or of me His prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day’ 2 Tim.1:7-12 NASB.
Don Craven is a member of the McArthur Heights Church of Christ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.