229 – THE APOSTLE PAUL – 1
The Pharisees were one of the main Jewish sects of great influence over the people. They insisted on the rigorous fulfillment of the Law, and of their traditions. There were two groups of Pharisees: the hypocrites and the sincere and faithful.
Before his conversion to Christ, his name was Saul (Shaul in the Hebrew). After his conversions his name was changed to Paul. Shaul comes from the same Hebrew root as sheol, that is translated death, hell, sepulcher. The Greek name, Paul, means small, for he considered himself to be the least of the apostles(1 Cor. 15:9).
Paul makes his religious confession before knowing Jesus Christ as Son of God, the Father. “So then, all Jews know my manner of life from my youth up, which from the beginning was spent among my own nation and at Jerusalem; since they have known about me for a long time previously, if they are willing to testify, that I lived as a Pharisee” (Acts 26:4,5).
Paul confesses also that, as a good Jew faithful to his religious principles, he persecuted the Church of God. “For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions” (Gal. 1:13-14). As all the Israelites zealous of their religion and faithful to his god named Jehovah, Paul sought by every means to fight, destroy, and eliminate the sect of the Nazarenes from the face of the earth (Acts 24:5). He continues his confession, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated under Gamaliel, strictly according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you all are today. And I persecuted this Way to the death. Binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished” (Acts 22:3-5). And he continues his dark confession, saying, “So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this is just what I did in Jerusalem; not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them. And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:9-11).
This odious persecuting fury came from the god whom Paul served when he was still Saul. “For a fire is kindled in my anger, burns to the lowest Sheol, devours the earth with its increase, and sets the foundations of the mountains on fire. I will heap evils on them. I will spend my arrows on them. [They shall be] wasted with hunger, and devoured with burning heat and bitter destruction. I will send the teeth of animals on them, with the poison of crawling things of the dust. ‘Outside the sword shall bereave, and in the rooms, terror; on both young man and virgin, the nursing infant with the gray-haired man’” (Deut. 32:22-25). This odious spirit of Jehovah passed on to his servants. King David, so kind and just, received this spirit. “Do I not hate those who hate Thee, O Jehovah? And do I not loathe those who rise up against Thee? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become My enemies” (Ps. 139:21,22). It is the spirit of Jehovah being transferred to his faithful servants. The holy spirit of Jehovah is not in favor of men, as in the New Testament, but against. “But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit; therefore, He turned Himself to become their enemy, He fought against them” (Is. 63:10). Samson received the power to kill when the spirit of Jehovah came over him (Judges 14:19; 15:14,15). The anointing brought the spirit of Jehovah upon the elect. “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon David from that day forward” (1 Sam. 16:13). Jehovah told Elijah to anoint Hazael as king over Syria, to anoint Jehu king over Israel, and to anoint Elisha as prophet in his place. The three received the power to kill by the spirit of Jehovah (1 Kings 19:15-17).Jehovah, then, said by the mouth of the prophet Hosea, “Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; I have slain them by the words of My mouth” (Hos. 6:5).
When Saul had a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, the murderous and persecuting spirit of Jehovah left him, and he received the Holy Spirit of the Father by the laying on of hands of Ananias (Acts 9:17-18). Paul changed lords, and changed his life and name. From furious chaser and faithful follower of Jehovah he changed to the humble and persecuted servant of Jesus. Hatred left him, and his heart overflowed with the love of Christ that comes by the Holy Spirit, according to Romans 5:5 and 15:30.The old killer now gave his life for those who persecuted him (Acts 21:10-14, 14:19; 1 Cor. 15:31).
The religious man, faithful and zealous of the law, who persecuted and killed, following the example of Elijah, Elisha, Jehu, David, Samson, Samuel and so many others that obey Jehovah, now, in obedience to Jesus Christ and full of the Holy Spirit of the Father, rejected all that spiritual baggage inherited from his fathers. It is not easy to let go of the concepts and traditions. Paul compares this accomplishment with a crucifixion as painful as that of Jesus, and declared, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).
Paul accomplished this feat. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20). Paul was so convinced of his previous faith in Jehovah and his law, that he left us the following confession, “More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:8-9). It is important to notice that Paul did not say: I suffered the loss of all things, but he said: I suffered the loss of all these things. Which things? Those things that Paul mentions in this chapter. For Paul, to be circumcised on the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the Law, a Pharisee, was all rubbish, all garbage, all traditions that lead to nothing, all pride. Paul, when Christ entered his heart, was not of this world any longer, was not carnal, and he says, “BE IMITATORS OF ME, JUST AS I ALSO AM OF CHRIST” (1 Cor. 11:1).
By PASTOR OLAVO SILVEIRA PEREIRA