“If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” (1 Corinthians 15:14)
On Monday we took a look at the “embarrassing” evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the testimony of the women and on Wednesday we unpacked the “enemy” evidence provided by the religious leaders. Today we will look at Saul of Tarsus, who described himself as “a Pharisee of Pharisees,” and who was a true enemy of Jesus and the Gospel.
For more than two thousand years, no skeptic has ever been able to explain in any reasonable and plausible fashion how or why Saul, the savage persecutor of the church, became Paul, the pastor, preacher, and disciple of Jesus Christ, who penned much of the New Testament.
Saul of Tarsus was greatly feared among the first-century church. He was relentless in his persecution of the followers of Jesus, and he testified to that fact in several of his epistles (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13; 1 Timothy 1:13), frankly admitting his great zeal in persecuting the church (Philippians 3:5). Along with his epistles, the book of Acts records Saul’s efforts to destroy the church. Then something happened on the road to Damascus.
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 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. As he neared Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:1-6).
There may very well have been no greater enemy of the early church than Saul of Tarsus. Scripture reports that he held the coats of those who stoned godly Stephen to death, giving his full approval to their actions (Acts 7:58, 8:1). Saul was blinded by his self-righteous, false religion, and he did everything in his power to extinguish the light of the Gospel . . . but to no avail. The resurrected Jesus showed up and transformed Saul the persecutor into Paul the preacher.
How do we explain this incredible transformation? There is only one way; it happened just as the Scriptures say it happened. Time and time again, an honest reading of the Bible and of history confirms that the Scriptures are historically true and accurate.
One more thing. It is beyond contestation that Paul was martyred under the emperor Nero for his faith in Jesus. The early church fathers, Polycarp, Tertullian, and Clement of Rome all testify to this truth. The only way anyone could go from killing Christians to being killed for being a Christian is because of a heart-altering encounter with the risen and resurrected Lord. From embarrassing testimony to enemy attestation, God has given us powerful, plausible proof for the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
So the question is: Do you believe He is risen? He is risen! He is risen indeed!
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!