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The Power Of The Gospel


          I have a theological "man crush" on the Apostle Paul.  There...I said it!  I can't help it, I am just completely intrigued by the man.  I have more resources in my theological library devoted to the Apostle Paul, than any other single person or subject (I guess with exception of Jesus...since it's all ultimately about him).  Here's the proof...

          If you asked me what it is that draws my attention to Paul, I'd probably point to things like his intellect, the depth of his thought and writing, his mastery of the Gospel, or the strength of his faith and conviction, among other things.  And while all of those things are true, when I really take the time to think about what most draws me to Paul, the honest answer is his testimony.

          I think that the story of the life of Paul, pre and post-conversion, is perhaps the greatest single proof for the reliability and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Volumes of books have been written by scholars on the historical Jesus (who he was, the non-Biblical evidence of his existence, the historical context of his ministry, etc.), and the first four books of the New Testament (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are devoted to much of the same, but to me, there is no greater evidence for the truth of Jesus than the story of Paul.

          Paul was born and raised as a Pharisee, was taught by the greatest teachers of his time, and as such was a master of the law and the scriptures.  In terms of knowledge of and obedience to the word of God, there were none more accomplished than the Pharisees, of which Paul was one of the foremost.  As a Pharisee, Paul was a part of the Jewish upper class, and held a great deal of respect and power among his people.  Additionally, Paul was a Roman citizen, which afforded him additional rights and privileges.

          As the religious leaders of their day, the Pharisees should have been the greatest supporters of Jesus, and yet we know that they were anything but.  Instead, most of the Pharisees were at constant odds with Jesus, and the few who did support him did so in secret as to not draw the anger of their peers.  Even after his death, the Pharisees continued to oppose the followers of Jesus and harshly persecuted the early church.  But we already know all of this.  How does this serve as evidence for the truth of Jesus and his Gospel?

          Well, what we know about the Pharisees is that they had grown to love their elite status and the benefits it afforded them more than they loved their God.  They had become self-righteous and idolatrous.  They opposed Jesus and the message of the Gospel because the implications of believing it were too costly to them.  One thing that history has shown us is that sinful men will go to great lengths and do horrible things to protect their wealth and power.  To say that a man like Paul had a lot to lose when it came to Jesus is an understatement.

          This week, however, in our study in Acts chapter 9, we see got to see what happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force in Paul's encounter with the resurrected Jesus.  Paul, set on destroying the church and killing the Gospel, is miraculously and instantaneously changed by the power of Jesus.  In the weeks and months to come as we study through Acts, we will see the aftermath of this encounter in the life of Paul.  I don't want to spoil the details, but suffice it to say, he goes on to become an Apostle to the Gentiles, the author of most of the New Testament, the greatest missionary the world has ever known, and one of the most influential Christians in all of church history.  This was a man who, prior to this encounter, was arresting, persecuting, and even killing Christians!

          The power of the Gospel is life-changing, as those of us who have experienced it can attest, but few people have the kind of testimony that we see from Paul.  It is easy for skeptics and non-believers to point to someone like me who has grown up in a Christian home and been exposed to Christianity for my entire life and to doubt my faith or say that I am simply a product of the system that I was raised in.  Honestly, that is largely true of many people who are raised Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc. and never depart from their faith.  I'm sure it is true of many nominal believers who fill pews every week in churches around the world.  Jesus himself taught as much when he said that many who claim to be Christians will be cast out in the final judgement (Mathew 7:21-23...in my opinion the scariest thing Jesus ever taught).

          But that isn't the story of Paul.  His life was radically transformed.  He gave up everything to follow Jesus...and we will see that it would cost him even more than that.  This man who so bitterly hated everything about Jesus and anyone who followed him, was instantaneously changed.  Jesus became the object of all of Paul's affections from that point forward.  How do you explain something like that?  Either Paul went crazy, or he encountered something supernatural and was forever changed by it.  I believe his post-conversion writing is all the evidence that we need to prove that he was sane and lucid.  So the only other explanation is that Paul really did encounter Jesus, as he claims and scripture attests, and that that encounter forever changed his life and the affections of his heart.

          When it comes to Christianity, there are many things that extend beyond human understanding, and our limited ability to comprehend and explain.  After all, we are talking about the Creator and Lord of time and space!  That can be difficult to wrap your mind around at times.  However, we aren't called to a blind faith (as it is often incorrectly portrayed).  Rather, God has revealed himself to us in many ways.  One of the greatest evidences for the truth and power of the Gospel is the transformed lives of the people that it has affected.  I can't explain it, but I can see it all around me, when I look at what it has meant for me in my life, and in the lives of others...like Paul.  It is this power that gives life to the church and to our ministry to a world that longs to experience it as well.

In Grace,
Chris Morris

If you missed this week's sermon (or just want to listen again), follow the link below to listen. Or subscribe to our podcast in iTunes.

Part 19 - What Does It Take For Someone To Believe?

Questions discussed in this sermon:

1.  How unlikely was it for a guy like Saul to become a Christian convert?
2.  What does Saul's conversion teach us about God's sovereignty?
3.  How does Saul's conversion give us hope for enemies of God?

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