This one man wrote a third of the new testament letters and claimed to have been given his message straight from God. He was not an original disciple of Jesus but instead was most likely one of the Pharisees that continually opposed Jesus as he taught in Jerusalem.
Paul was formerly called Saul, a zealous Pharisee living in the time of the revealing of Jesus the Christ of God. Saul was one of those involved in the murder of Stephen the first disciple to be martyred for his faith in Jesus.
Act 7:57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him(Stephen) with one accord;
Act 7:58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Act 7:59 And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Act 7:60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Paul later wrote that he was an insolent man, more zealous for the things of the LORD than any of his contemporaries.
If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:
Php 3:5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;
Php 3:6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Ti 1:13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
Paul was trained as a Pharisee under Gamaliel…
Act 22:3 “I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today.
Act 22:4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,
He was a very strict Pharisee
Act 26:4 “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know.
Act 26:5 They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.
When he was still the Pharisee known as Saul he was a great persecutor of the Church.
Act 8:1 Now Saul was consenting to his death. At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
Act 8:2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.
Act 8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
Act 9:1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
Act 9:2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Act 26:9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Act 26:10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
Act 26:11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
But then the Lord Jesus appeared to Saul while on his way to persecute more believers at Damascus and he was granted faith in Jesus the Christ.
Saul(Paul) was a Pharisee of the strictest order. He was proud to keep God’s Law as handed to Moses.
Yet his outward obedience to the Torah did nothing to tame his anger and hatred of heart for those not holy as he himself imagined himself to be.
Matthew 23 reveals the heart of the problem for the Pharisee. The word Pharisee means “Separate.”
Mat 23:1 Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,
Mat 23:2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.
Mat 23:3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
Mat 23:4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
Mat 23:5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments. Mat 23:25 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Mat 23:26 Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also. Mat 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Mat 23:28 Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
What is highlighted the most by Jesus is that the Pharisee emphasized outward obedience but had no answer for the inner life.
This hypocrisy creates great tension and contradiction in the heart and mind of a religious person. Instead of admitting the problem, pride ignores it and continues to keep up outward appearances. Such was Paul no doubt.
The Pharisees accused other people of being sinners but not themselves. They accused Jesus of being a sinner too, not understanding what true holiness and true obedience is.
One thing is certain- Jesus loved the Pharisees! We hear the Father’s heart of love for them in the words of Jesus. Mat 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!
When we exalt outward appearance and outward behaviour as a measure of holiness and closeness to God it reveals that we think of ourselves as being separate from God.
Like all the Pharisees, Paul would have developed a strong sense of self from the religious things he did daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. The religious life of a Jew was and still is full of festivals, laws, rituals and the like which govern every area of life. From the time a child is able to understand he is taught the need to obey God’s commands in order to please God.
From childhood Jews were reminded of the need to have their sins forgiven through a sacrifice made by the priest. Thus the old covenant pointed out their sinfulness and weakness- compared to God’s holiness and perfection.
Yet even though there was always a reminder of their short comings every year when the High Priest made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole nation(and his own) they still clung to trying to obey God by their own efforts.
Trying to obey–failing–sacrifice for sins–trying to obey–failing eventually–sacrifice for sins….
Only the deluded will say that this is a good way to live.
The New Covenant
We who have believed in Jesus understand that the Jews were under the “Old Covenant” that God made with them.
To sum up the Old Covenant is to say that it was given solely to show Israel that they can never please God by their own efforts or obedience.
Joshua records that Israel swore to serve the LORD.
Joshua 24:18b “….We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.”
To which Joshua replied in no uncertain fashion:
“You cannot serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you, after He has done you good.”
And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD!”
The rest of Scripture very clearly shows that Israel failed miserably to keep their side of the agreement, they failed to keep the Law of God. The prophets tell us that because of this failure God sold them into slavery to other nations and forsook their Temples and their city.
Yet the Prophets also gave hope that God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel one day.
Jer 31:31 “Behold, days are coming”—it is a declaration of Adonai—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—
Jer 31:32 not like the covenant I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they broke My covenant, though I was a husband to them.” it is a declaration of Adonai.
Jer 31:33 “But this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—it is a declaration of Adonai—“I will put My Torah within them. Yes, I will write it on their heart. I will be their God and they will be My people.
Jer 31:34 No longer will each teach his neighbor or each his brother, saying: ‘Know Adonai,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.” it is a declaration of Adonai. “For I will forgive their iniquity, their sin I will remember no more.” Tree of Life
This NEW COVENANT that God would make with Israel was consecrated with the very blood of a Man, not the blood of animals.
Jesus Christ, born in Bethlehem, but later lived in Nazareth, was the Passover Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the people through the sacrifice of Himself on the Cross.
He did this very thing in order that the “inside of the cup and dish”(yours and my spirit) be cleansed from all sin. Having been cleansed then the Torah–the WORD of God HIMSELF would come and dwell in our hearts by faith.
Once in us the WORD–JESUS CHRIST- becomes our LIFE by faith. Then obedience is not some thing we think we have to do as if we are separate from God...rather, Obedience becomes our very life.
This is the clash of two kingdoms that so offended the Pharisees and especially Paul.
When once God had revealed to Paul the true meaning of the New Covenant he turned the world upside down or should we say- right side up!
Inner life versus outer obedience was something that always stirred up the Pharisees.
Paul was later to find out that he was not very obedient after all….that in fact sin still had dominion over him even though he had become a believer in Jesus!
This battle that Paul engaged in and the struggling to be free he went through was all a part of how God taught him the many wonderful truths he wrote about later.