This week, I wanted to make this short and sweet. In Acts chapter 9, we learned about the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. To recap, here’s what we know about Paul prior to his meeting Jesus:
- He was a Greek-speaking, well-educated, Jewish man from the city of Tarsus.
- He was a Roman citizen.
- He was trained under the tutelage of one of the most sought after Rabbis in Jerusalem, Gamaliel.
- He was a Pharisee. This means that he was zealous for the Law of God to be upheld (e.g. – prayer several times a day, fasting at least 2x a week, not going places where or associating with people who would make him “unclean”––being deemed unclean would cut him off from worship in the temple).
The typical attitude of a Pharisee was: “My life is pleasing to God because I obey the Law. If you want to be pleasing to God too, then you also should obey the Law. If you refuse to obey the Law, then you are God’s enemy. If you’re God’s enemy, then I’m going to treat you like an enemy too.”
Saul’s entire worldview could be summed up like this:
“Because I’m doing what I need to be doing, God is on my side. I’ve earned God’s favor.”
This worldview caused Saul to become massively angry when people would not (or could not?) live their lives in the same way that he lived his life.
When the christians showed up, their message was quite different.
Their central proclamation was: “No one can really obey the Law or please God based on their own effort. Instead, Jesus came and lived in perfect submission to God on our behalf!”
Christianity says that Jesus came to earth, and went to the cross, to pay for the sin and rebellion of the world. He exchanged his righteousness for our unrighteousness. Sinners are not made right with God by following the Law, but by saying “I need help . . . Jesus, I need your life, I need Your power . . . You are the Promised One from God and the Law was really about you to begin with!”
Works-based righteousness and unmerited favor collided in the heart of Saul.
And his initial thought was . . . “The message of christianity is BLASPHEMY.”
In Acts, his anger kindled hotter and hotter against the Christians until he met Jesus. This week, we’re going to see what happened after Saul did meet Jesus. He IMMEDIATELY and publicly professed Jesus as the “Son of God.”
Previously, Saul’s message was “I did this, therefore I’m accepted.” If you think about it, what Saul was really saying was “This serving God thing, even the Scriptures, the point of all of this is me.”
Now, having met Jesus, he preaches something radically different. In fact it was so different, that people were “astonished” and even “staggered” by his message.
Saul, for the first time, was communicating that the point of everything was not his own glory, or his own works. Rather, the point of everything was God’s glory in the perfect work of Jesus Christ!
Saul was understanding that everything in the Scriptures was primarily about Jesus! (And incidentally, Jesus agrees with him––See Luke 24).
Below is a short video by Tim Keller that many of you have probably watched before. It’s a video about how the whole Bible is about Jesus. I’m asking you to watch this (even if you’ve watched it before) because I believe it’s pertinent to our study of Saul. Given Saul’s rich knowledge of the Old Testament, once he believed that Jesus really was the Messiah, thoughts must have exploded in his head like fireworks! The types of connections that Tim Keller makes in this video were likely the types of connections that the Holy Spirit was making in Saul’s heart, and then in the hearts of those who listened to his preaching.
When I watch this video I am staggered. I am astonished. I pray that you are too.