Part #1 of #4
“When Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles said, ‘Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me’, was he being heretic?”
Paul the apostle makes a similar statement in [1 Corinthians 11:1], but this time with a little change:
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ”.
Was Paul the apostle looking to create a personal following like so many cults we see today?
Could you or I make a statement like that today?
What if I were to say, “I don’t follow Jesus in the Gospels, but I follow Paul in the epistles”?
Would you find that shockingly heretic and even blasphemous?
Well, to the one who does not fully understand the role of Paul, it certainly would sound very blasphemous.
On the other hand, if one ‘did’ understand Paul’s calling and mandate, it wouldn’t sound heretic or blasphemous at all.
In fact, it would be perfectly in line with God’s perfect will.
So how could Paul the apostle to the Gentiles, our “Grace Age” apostle, make such a bold and sure statement?
Tracking Down The Man Paul
It all started with a young man, “whose name was Saul”, appearing in Scripture for the first time [Acts 7:58].
His introduction to Scripture here is not exactly a good one.
The Jewish religious order had just stoned to death a Messiah believing innocent fellow Jew, Stephen, outside the city of Jerusalem.
And Saul is standing there holding the garments of those that threw the stones.
He was a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious supreme court of that day. And he had consented to the death of Stephen by stoning.
Because Stephen had believed the Messiahship of Jesus Christ and was preaching that message to the nation of Israel.
In [Acts 7], Stephen is showing Israel through its own history, that this Jesus Christ they crucified was indeed their Messiah.
He was showing this to them through their own Scriptures, beginning with their founding patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Stephen showed them, in spite of the constant disobedience and stubbornness of their forefathers, God still sent their promised Messiah.
“Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears”, he addressed them in a nice way! [Acts 7:51-54].
“Ye do always resist the Holy Spirit: as your fathers did, so do ye”, he tells them boldly.
“When they heard these things they were cut to the heart”, and gnashed their teeth.
They didn’t like being told the truth about themselves.
So they stoned him!
They stoned Stephen gruesomely to death outside the borders of their city, Jerusalem.
And God was watching all this, but in His Divine providence and purpose, He allowed it.
Saul Of Tarsus Goes Berserk
Having consented and voted to the murder of Stephen, this Saul, of Tarsus, then goes berserk.
He begins to persecute every “Christ Messiah” believing Jew to the uttermost, every single one he can lay hold of.
Saul, a fanatically religious Jewish zealot, hated Jesus. He thought this Jesus was an imposter and a blasphemer, and had come to upset the Jewish religious order. The rest of the other religious leaders had the same mind set.
And so he gets legal authorization from the Sanhedrin and begins to track these Christ believing Jews down.
As a result of this, these believing Jews then scatter to other surrounding nations for their safety.
Damascus was one of them, which was a part of the then Roman Empire, outside the borders of Israel.
Now these religious hierarchies of the Sanhedrin had a lot of clout and influence with the Roman authorities.
So, Saul, with this authoritative backing of the Sanhedrin, decides to track down these fellow Jews in Damascus and extradite them back to Jerusalem
But God Was Tracking Saul Too
What Saul did not know, as he headed out for Damascus, was that God was tracking him too.
So while on the journey, there on the road to Damascus, the Ascended LORD JESUS CHRIST intervenes in His Glory.
HE stops Saul of Tarsus right in his tracks.
It was a powerful, mind-blowing, eye-blinding encounter recorded in [Acts 9:1-22].
As Saul falls to the ground, he hears this voice, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
Immediately realizing it was the LORD, Saul asks, “Who art thou LORD?”
The response was, “I AM Jesus Whom you are persecuting”, the Voice said.
“It is hard for you to kick against the goads”. In other words, Jesus was telling him, “it is in vain that you’re trying to resist”.
Shaking and trembling, Saul realized the astonishing truth!
The God he had so zealously revered and worshipped his entire life, was the very same One he was persecuting.
“THAT BROKE HIM!”
The Next Question
Realizing the Truth, Saul’s very next question was, “LORD, what wilt thou have me do?”
This has been the same question for everyone who has had an encounter with the LORD. In some way or the other, the encounter is irresistible. It’s like you have no other “willing choice”!
“Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do”, was the LORD’S response.
It was straight and to the point!
The Calling And Mandate
Through a Messiah believing Jewish disciple, Ananias, Saul receives his calling and mandate for the rest of his life.
“Go thy way, for he (Saul), is a ‘chosen’ vessel unto me” the LORD tells Ananias in a vision.
This was well before Saul gets to Damascus.
The New Testament uses the word “chosen” twenty eight times.
Most of them derive their original meaning from the Greek word, “eklegomai”, which in its primary sense means, “to select”.
However, in Saul’s case, the original Greek word is, “eklogē”, which means, “Divinely selected”.
It is a ‘decreed act” of God’s free will ‘before’ the foundation of the world.
“AWESOME” is the word! This certainly was no ordinary mandate.
The purpose was, “to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel”.
Awesome as this calling and mandate was, it was not to come without a heavy price.
Here is how Luke, the author of Acts puts it:
“For I will show him (Saul) how great things he must suffer for My Name’s sake”, the LORD tells Ananais
And my! Suffer he did indeed, for the rest of his life, for the sake of the “Glorious Gospel”.
A Glimpse Of Paul’s Sufferings
[2 Corinthians 11:23-28] lays out a glimpse of what Paul the apostle suffered.
23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.
24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.
25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep;
26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;
27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.
28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.
And after all that suffering, Paul ended up being beheaded by the Roman emperor Nero.
Saul Becomes Paul The Apostle
Shortly after his conversion experience on the Damascus road, “Saul of Tarsus”, now becomes, “Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles”.
It’s no coincidence that the name “Saul” means, “asked for” or “prayed for”, and “Paul” means, “mild” or “humble”.
This man Paul, who ended up being hated by his own fellow religious Jews, became a mighty instrument in the Hands of the Living God.
He was going to turn the world upside down.
It was only to this man Paul, the Ascended Lord Jesus Christ in Glory, revealed the “Gospel Of Grace”.
“I certify (or make known to) you brethren”, says Paul the apostle in [Galatians 1:11-12].
He continues, “that the Gospel preached of me not is after man”.
In other words that, “it is not a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard”.
“For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it”, he says.
Paul, during his earlier days, sat at the feet and learnt from Gamaliel.
Gamaliel was the greatest known Jewish Rabbi at that time [Acts 22:3].
But now he says, “there was no man involved here”.
And then he tells us, how exactly he received this great glorious Gospel of Grace for our salvation:
“But by the revelation of Jesus Christ”.
The Revealed Gospel
This “Revealed Gospel” was a “mystery, which was kept secret (by God) since the world began” [Romans 16:25].
This hidden Gospel is not found anywhere else in the entire Bible, except here in [1 Corinthians 15:1-4]:
“ Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received”.
Paul specifically emphasizes “the gospel” and not “a gospel”, for there is only one Gospel.
We just saw how he had, “received it”, and then tells us, “and wherein ye stand;”
“By which also ye are saved”, says Paul, concerning the coming wrath of God and our eternal destination.
He continues, “if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain”.
In others words, Paul is saying, “really know, in your innermost core, why you believe in what you believe”.
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received”, reminding us again how he received it.
“How that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;”
This event of Christ’s death and what follows was all foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures.
Blinded by their own traditions, they never picked it out.
Now here it comes, the very backbone of the True Christian Faith:
“And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day (and how?) according to the scriptures:”
The Power Of God
This glorious Gospel contains the very “power of God”, Paul tells us in [Romans 1:16].
“I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ”, says Paul.
Then he boldly declares, “for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth”.
Who is “everyone”?
“Everyone” is you, me and anyone without any reservation whatsoever, who will only “BELIEVE + NOTHING ELSE”.
>>>> To be continued in Part #2 of #4 >>>>> “ACCORDING TO THE PATTERN”