Daily Thought for: 14th November

PAUL: THE PHARISEE

Acts 9. 1-16; 23. 6; 26. 5

Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee by learning. His early days were spent at the feet of Gamaliel who was a doctor of the law. It was there he learned ‘according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers’, Acts 22. 3. 

But for him it was not merely qualification. He was a Pharisee by birth. Many years later when speaking to the chief priests and all the council he said, ‘I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee’, Acts 23. 6. The early pride he had in this birthright is reflected in his detailed written description to the saints, Phil. 3. 3-6. But even then, there was a further element, emphasized to King Agrippa, ‘my manner of life from my youth . . . know all the Jews; which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee’, Acts 26. 4-5. Thus, his very life reflected it. 

Saul had witnessed and sanctioned the death of Stephen, and soon after was breathing out threatenings and slaughter, and approaching the high priest to desire ‘of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues’, Acts 9. 1-2.  What changed the course of such a zealous life? And why did he later ‘write off’ such distinctive religious attainments as ‘dung’? It was the startling revelation received on that same Damascus road. There he learned that Jesus of Nazareth was not only alive, but in heaven. Until that moment, he sincerely believed Him to be dead and His body either buried or disposed of in some other way. 

Saul’s conversion is worthy of careful study. After he had seen the ‘light from heaven’, and heard the ‘voice’, he asked, ‘Who art thou, Lord?’ He would not have been surprised if the voice had said, ’I am Jehovah’. He already knew that Jehovah was upon the throne in heaven. But the answer was, ’I am Jesus . . . it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks’. Does this indicate there had been previous conviction in his heart? His next trembling word was ‘Lord’, and he was saved. To confess Jesus as Lord, and then ask Him ‘what wilt thou have me to do’, shows he believed that God had raised Him from the dead. The proud Pharisee had been gloriously saved

 

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