Before and After

Before he was saved, Paul was a Pharisee (Php 3:5), and like any Pharisee he would’ve prayed the prayer seen on the left (source: Encyclopedia Talmudit, Vol.4, Jerusalem 1956, p.371). Religious pride feeds itself by drawing lines between us and them. It says, “Thank you God that I am not like other men” (Lk 18:11). But grace tears down dividing walls (Eph 2:14).

Paul was so radically changed after he encountered Grace on the road to Damascus, that religious distinctions no longer mattered. It was his revelation of Jesus, who loves all the children of the world, that prompted Paul to write the words you see on the right (Gal 3:28). Whether you are circumcised or uncircumcised, short or tall, left or right, rich or poor – the only thing that matters is that you are in Christ, who is your life (Gal 5:6, Col 3:4).

4 Comments on Before and After

  1. I love that you used “Radically changed” as a description of Paul. One of the things that I so often tell people is that Christians are radicals, because if you are conforming to society, then you are not conforming to Christ’s image. Paul conformed to His image and was seen as a radical or revolutionary in His way of thinking and acting. He was sent to trial for this reason. Shouldn’t we all be willing to go to trial for our belief in Christ?

  2. I think we misunderstand the comparison a bit. Paul is saying not that the destinctions are bad, but rather that each is beautiful. I trying combining all this for a little while only to discover that it felt very uncomfortable. Another way, by the way, to say this, is that there is neither first nor second in Christ Jesus. In a sense some are very blessed on many ways, while for others, the blessings are subtle, awaiting the glorious kingdom to come.. Thanks again Paul 🙂

  3. For the record, many of the Pharisees were actually very pious people. Paul’s teacher and mentor Gamaliel, for example, was a member of the Sanhedrin and was against persecuting believers in Christ (Acts 5:34-39). His star pupil Paul, however, was of a different mindset – partly due to natural temperament but also partly because he was an angry young man. Despite his love and respect for old Gamaliel, Paul categorically disagreed with him. His own solution to the “Nazarene problem” was to hunt them down and kill them. Every last one of them. After all, didn’t that fellow Stephen speak of “transcending the Torah” with “spiritual vision”? Didn’t he speak of an “impermanence” of the temple and its rites, that those possessing his spiritual vision look beyond these, by faith, to an eternal city and sanctuary? In Paul’s mind, there was no reason to presume that the rest of the “Nazarenes” didn’t believe the same. And their numbers were growing. Therefore these blasphemers had to be ended. Paul had connections to powerful and important people through his relatives, some of whom were serving in the Sanhedrin. He therefore not only assisted the religious authorities in their persecution of believers in Christ, but even pursued those who fled as far as Damascus, with letters from the high priest to the synagogues there, requesting that these heretics be found and sent back to Jerusalem to stand trial. But then something happened to Paul up near Damascus, and the rest, as they say, is history…

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