Watering the Tulips
“Paul…” Thirteen books in the New Testament begin this way. His description of himself may vary. He may be writing along with other men in some letters. But, Paul is credited with being the primary author or sole author of thirteen of the books in the Bible. This is all many people know about this man.
Paul (or Saul, in Hebrew) was born around the same time Jesus was born, though there’s no indication they ever met prior to his conversion. He was a Roman citizen by birth (Acts 22:25-28). His early years were spent in Tarsus in Cilicia (Acts 22:3). Undoubtedly, Paul was raised as a rich kid. One of his predecessors had clearly purchased his citizenship. This was costly. Not only so, but the annual tax in the city of Tarsus was 18 months wages for the average working class person at this time. The inhabitants of this city were wealthy and refined.
But Paul’s family wasn’t influenced by Greco-Roman culture. They were devout Jews. He was “a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee” (Philippians 3:5). In fact, Paul states that he was “a son of Pharisees” (Acts 23:6). Paul was simply the latest devout Jew in a long line of devout Jews. Like his family before him, he was a zealous advocate of all things Jewish.
Being from a seemingly wealthy family, Paul was able (and no doubt encouraged) to study at the feet of one of the most respected rabbis of the first century, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3). When the Mishnah was written, referring back to Gamaliel they wrote, “When Rabbi Gamaliel the elder died, the glory of the Law ceased, and purity and abstinence died.” He was a brilliant, committed Pharisee – the greatest teacher of the first century, and Paul was his student.
Paul advanced in Judaism beyond those around his age (Galatians 1:14). He was a leader of men. This led him to ravage the church as he saw “The Way” to be in complete opposition to all that he knew Judaism to be (Acts 8:3). In recalling his early life to King Agrippa, Paul said, “And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.” (Acts 26:10)
One day, as he was on his way to persecute more believers, he was stopped in his tracks by the risen Christ (Acts 9:1-9). From this moment forward, Paul became the greatest missionary this world has ever known (save Jesus, of course). All of his family history…all of his learning…his entire career, he left behind. He later wrote, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8).
Paul’s conversion proves that God is the Author of salvation. Paul certainly wasn’t seeking Jesus. On the contrary, Jesus sought him. Secondly, God can save anybody. Thirdly, the resurrection of Jesus Christ is a reality. The man who fought so staunchly against the resurrection could only be changed having seen the risen Christ. Lastly, the Gospel has transforming power.
Have you seen today that religion is not the way? Are you willing to forsake all for Christ? Like Paul, you must see that Jesus is your only Hope into Heaven.
Watering the Tulips is brought to you by Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Northport, AL. For more information, please visit www.sovereigngrace.net. “Your App to the Gospel” can be downloaded on the AppStore for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, Google Play for Android & the Microsoft Store for Windows Mobile. Please download it today!