For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother. (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. They only were hearing it said, "He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy." And they glorified God because of me. (ESV
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The Conversion of St. Paul
25 January 2016
There is a certain kind of theology that says that we Christians are absorbed mystically into Christ so that we might share in the benefits of his Person and work. Certainly, Scripture teaches that by faith the Christian is mystically united with Christ (Eph 3:17). But Scripture teaches that in the mystical union Christ comes to dwell in our hearts through his coming to us, not our coming or absorption into Him. Our coming to Him by mystical absorption is nothing other than crass synergism. Like everything else Christianity teaches the emphasis must be on Christ's coming, doing, working, reception, and giving.
His coming to us means that He takes all that is distinctly ours: our sin, our filth, our despising of God's gifts, etc. He gets so wrapped up in us and our lives that he by grace becomes identified with these things, so that when He dies for us He dies burdened by our sin and filth, so that He can take these things away from us. His union with us is not a mingling of essence or substance, as though we become literally gods by His indwelling (blasphemy!), but His union is salvific and gives us back our true created selves. We are freed to be truly Adamic humans in fellowship with our God, a fellowship initiated and maintained by Him. Our salvation becomes a re-creation of the world and especially humanity. In the new Adam, Christ, we become the renewed Adam.
This is the consistent witness of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation, that Christ is our great substitute, who comes to make satisfaction for us by His blood. He chooses to take our sins onto Himself not by commingling His Person with ours, but by free choice stepping into our place and being our substitute. His work makes us clean, free, and whole humans, not gods.
"All the prophets saw that Christ was to become the greatest thief, murderer, adulterer, robber, desecrator, blasphemer, etc., there has ever been anywhere in the world. He is not acting in His own Person now. Now He is not the Son of God, born of the Virgin. But He is a sinner, who has and bears the sin of Paul, the former blasphemer, persecutor, and assaulter; of Peter, who denied Christ; of David, who was an adulterer and a murderer, and who caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name of the Lord (Rm 2:24). In short, He has and bears all the sins of all men in His body-not in the sense that He has committed them but in the sense that He took these sins, committed by us, upon His own body, in order to make satisfaction for them with His own blood.
"Therefore this general law of Moses (Gal 3:13) included Him, although He was innocent so far as His own Person was concerned; for it found Him among sinners and thieves. Thus a magistrate regards someone as a criminal and punishes him if he catches him among thieves, even though the manhas never committed anything evil or worthy of death. Christ was not only found among sinners; but of His own free will and by the will of the Father He wanted to be an associate of sinners, having assumed the flesh and blood of those who were sinners and thieves and who were immersed in all sorts of sin. Therefore when the law found Him among thieves, it condemned and executed Him as a thief.
"This knowledge of Christ and most delightful comfort, that Christ became a curse for us to set us free from the curse of the law-of this the sophists deprive us when they segregate Christ from sins and from sinners and set Him forth to us only as an example to be imitated. In this way they make Christ not only useless to us but also a judge and a tyrant who is angry because of our sins and who damns sinners. But just as Christ is wrapped up in our flesh and blood, so we must wrap Him and know Him to be wrapped up in our sins, our curse, our death, and everything evil."
O God, by the preaching of Your apostle Paul You have caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. Grant, we pray, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, might show ourselves thankful to You by following his faithful teaching; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
For Vicki Butterfield, who is undergoing medical testing, that Christ the Physician would grant her strength healing
For Kalani Tschambo, daughter of Patrick and Jane Tshambo, that she would be kept safe until the day of her rebirth in the waters of baptism
For all our military troops stationed throughout the world, especially, Andrew Coulter, Jordan Listi, Jack Ogden, Troy Gaub, Heidi Baker, and Robert Baker, that they would know that they are appreciated and respected by the American people and that they would be kept safe in their calling by guardian angels
Art: SPEECKAERT, Hans Conversion of St. Paul on the Road to Damascus (1570-77)
© Scott R. Murray, 2016