Most who know me will recall how much I despised Paul a year ago. I felt Paul represented everything wrong with Christianity today. I thought Paul was the source of all form of legalism, misogyny and other failings in the Christian Church today.
As I have matured in my understanding of the Bible, thanks in no small part to Martin Zender, Clyde Pilkington Jr. and Dan Sheridan, I have come to understand that Paul was everything BUT. The Christian religion wanted me to see Paul as their apostle, but to truly understand Paul, you would begin to realize that he would be the first to condemn the Christian religion.
Let's take a quick look at who Paul was;
Acts 22:3 3 "I am a man, a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, yet reared in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, trained according to the strictness of the hereditary law, being inherently zealous for God according as all of you are today,
Here Paul states he was born in Cilicia, and then reared in Jerusalem under the tutelage of Gamaliel.
Who is this Gamaliel? Well in Acts 5:34 he is mentioned;
34 Yet, rising, a certain Pharisee in the Sanhedrin, named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, honored by the entire people...
He was a pharisee and as it says, obviously well known to people. Particularly religious people. And what did he teach Paul? The Law of Moses as well as the traditions of Pharisees.
Paul states his credentials in this regard in Phillipians 3:4-6
4 ...If any other one is presuming to have confidence in flesh, I rather:
5 in circumcision the eighth day, of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, in relation to law, a Pharisee,
6 in relation to zeal, persecuting the ecclesia, in relation to the righteousness which is in law, becoming blameless....
He was the PERFECT Christian before his conversion. And yes, I'm equating Pharisees with Christians. Who else loves the Mosaic law in this present age more than Jews do? What other group is so obsessed with morality and traditions more than most? Paul is the very example of what it means to be a legalistic Christian. His zeal, his conviction was so all encompassing that he believed that others should follow it too or die!!!
Yet something happened when this man confronted the ascended Christ on the road to Damascus that glorious day in history.
I may yet be so bold to say this day should be far more celebrated than Christmas, for it was this day that God began working his brilliant gospel of grace for the nations, and Paul was it's messenger. (1 Cor 9:15-16, Gal 2:7, 1 Tim 1:11, Titus 1:1-3, )
In any case, in spite of all of his man made "holiness" and perfection of which he had great cause to boast. After all, he was faultless, blameless, and had achieved spiritual heights that Billy Graham, Bill Gothard, and Kip McKean and so many of the other spiritual leaders of today could never dream of. Paul counted these all as worthless;
7 But things which were gain to me, these I have deemed a forfeit because of Christ.
8 But, to be sure, I am also deeming all to be a forfeit because of the superiority of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, my Lord, because of Whom I forfeited all, and am deeming it to be refuse, that I should be gaining Christ,
9 and may be found in Him, not having my righteousness, which is of law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is from God for faith:
10 to know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, conforming to His death,
Did you catch that? All of Paul's legalism was forfeit. He deemed it refuse, something to put on the garbage pile. He even states "not having my righteousness which is of law" the ONLY righteousness he would acknowledge now was faith of Christ. And even THAT wasn't his. It was a righteousness that comes from God!!!
He even go so far as to state elsewhere that even his faith comes from God;
...as God parts to each the measure of faith.
What point is there, then, for legalism? As Paul claims, it is rubbish!
Then you might ask, where is the harm?
As I have shown in earlier postings on this blog, it corrupts the conscience, and most of all, living in legalism will have you fall from grace.
This Paul, this very man, the man who persecuted early believers and killed them. Who loved the law with all his heart and was found blameless in it, is the same person who penned the words of Romans 8:1
1 Nothing, consequently, is now condemnation to those in Christ Jesus. Not according to flesh are they walking, but according to spirit,
He was no longer the same man who believed so fully in legalism. He had been transformed by the ascended Christ. The same Christ we now await his return.
Paul wrote constantly in his epistles and letters about the Grace of God. A grace, that scandalously will save all mankind. Even Hitler, Billy Graham, Bill Gothard, Kip McKean, and a host of others we think should be condemned to hell;
1 Corinthians 15:22
22 For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified.
That is how great God's grace is!!! No ONE is exempt from it!!!
Who needs legalism?