Hello everybody, and welcome in to episode 58 of the Bible 2021 podcast. We are reading Acts 26 today and our focus is on why God would save a jerk like Paul. We are a daily 10 minute podcast, where we will dig in to the truth of the Word of God by reading one Bible chapter a day and discussing it. Welcome to new listeners in . Thanks for listening! Our goal is to encourage DAILY Bible reading, so you can jump in at any time and join with us. We want to invite as many people as possible to join us in daily Bible reading, so help spread the word and share the podcast Don’t forget about our new web-page, Bible2021.com – contact page, show notes, transcript and more – Click here for our reading plan
So – you might have recoiled a little bit from the title of today’s show. Paul – the apostle…a jerk? Well, the Bible never calls him a jerk, but I think makes the case that he was a vehement enemy of Jesus and Christianity early on. In previous episodes we’ve touched on a few things that made Paul a good witness – his ability to speak several languages, his single-minded focus, his writing ability and his courageous fearlessness. All practical reasons that God may have rescued Paul, but the fact remains that something really quite extraordinary happens in the book of Acts. God takes the primary #1 most aggressive enemy of Christianity and turns him into the most gifted spreader and proponent of Christianity that has ever lived, probably. Don’t believe me that Paul was something of a jerk? Consider a small part of our passage today:
I myself was convinced that it was necessary to do many things in opposition to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 I actually did this in Jerusalem, and I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests. When they were put to death, I was in agreement against them. 11 In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to make them blaspheme. Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities. Acts 26:9-11
That’s pretty rough, Paul! He put Christians in prison – many of them. He suggested they be put to death and either testified against them in their capital trials, or signed off on their deaths, somehow. He tried to make Christians blaspheme, which seems very underhanded and devious, considering blasphemy was a capital offense. He even went out of the country to pursue Christians and persecute them. WHY? He tells us very clearly in vs. 11 – He was ENRAGED with Christians – not just a little enraged, but TERRIBLY enraged! Elsewhere, Paul notes that he himself was a blasphemer and arrogant and hateful – a chief of sinners! Let’s read our chapter, listen to Paul’s testimony, and consider the grace of God that saves vicious sinners like Paul (and me!)
We are so used to Paul being saved and a chief spokesman for Christianity in the Bible, that we no longer marvel enough at the amazing grace that saved a wretch like Paul. It is such an amazing move by God – to confront and transform one of the very bitterest enemies of Jesus. Paul himself marvels about this in his letter to Timothy:
the grace of our Lord overflowed, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 This saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them. 16 But I received mercy for this reason, so that in me, the worst of them, Christ Jesus might demonstrate his extraordinary patience as an example to those who would believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:14-16
Consider what a great example of the good news of Jesus dying for sinners Paul is –
6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
John Newton, himself a former slave trader saved by the wonderful grace of Jesus, sees in Paul a wonderful pattern and exemplar of his future graces and intentions to save many enemies and lost wanderers. Paul made such a powerful spokesman for the gospel in part because he was such a powerful and unlikely beneficiary of that wonderful and undeserved good news! –
The Lord in showing mercy to Paul had a farther view than to himself. He designed him to stand as a pattern how he would deal with others. Had all the apostles and ministers been like Nathaniel, they might have preached the gospel, but could not have been such striking instances of its power, as Paul and those who, like him, have been stopped and changed in the height of open rebellion.
John Newton and Marylynn Rouse, 365 Days with Newton (Leominster, UK: Day One Publications, 2006), 91.
I emphasize this topic, which we’ve touched on a few times before, not to point out that Paul was a jerk before Christ, but to simply remind us all of the wonderful meaning of grace – undeserved favor. In Paul (and several others in Scripture) we have rich pictures of grace to warm our own hearts with the hope of grace.
End of the Show: Bible memory verse for FEBRUARY: Acts 9:31 So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
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