How to Approach the Bible
Part 9 of 24 – The Unique Call & Ministry of Paul the Apostle
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was one of the great unique events in the Bible. Saul loathed the very name of Christ. He blasphemed Jesus and caused others to be tortured so as to compel them to blaspheme that holy name. He led his nation and the world in rebellion against the resurrected, glorified Christ - the world which had already disowned and crucified the lowly Jesus.
In Act 5:34-39 we see that Gamaliel, a “doctor of the law,” cautioned the council of Pharisees; and Saul must have been there. His warning in verse 39 came true, because as Paul went forth persecuting the Messianic Jewish Church, he soon found himself “fighting against God” (5:39). Yet, as Saul went to
, still “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1), God did a wonderful thing. Rather than crush the leader of the world's rebellion, He saved him. Christ broke through the heavens, as it were, to His greatest enemy on earth. As a result Saul's rebellious spirit was broken; in one moment the pitiless persecutor became a docile and devoted follower of Christ. Damascus
More than this, Saul of Tarsus the persecutor became Paul the Apostle. The glorified Lord committed to Paul “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph. 3:2) and “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Now he went everywhere proclaiming “grace,” telling men how God loved them, how Christ had come into the world and had gone to Calvary to pay man's debt of sin so that believing sinners might be “saved by grace through faith, apart from works” of the law (Gal 2:16, Eph 2:8-9).
Unlike Peter who at Pentecost scolded the Jews for “killing the Prince of life” (Acts 3:15), Paul's does not blame anyone for the death of Christ. Rather, Paul presents the cross as the good news. Paul introduced the “preaching of the cross.” It declares that “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7). It says that “God hath concluded them all in unbelief that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32) and that “where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20). Thus, the worst sinner may now believe and enjoy the consciousness of having their sins forgiven.
Now we must see who Paul was not. Paul was not one of “the twelve Apostles.”
Some Christians teach that after Judas the Lord’s eleven remaining Apostles acted arbitrarily by choosing Matthias to take Judas’ place. They teach that the eleven Apostles first chose two candidates and then asked God which of these two He would have to fill the vacant position. They say, “Actually, Paul was God’s choice for Judas’ place”; but this is not so. According to the Biblical record, Paul was not even qualified. The fact is that Matthias was God’s choice per Jesus’ instructions to “the eleven.” Let’s now examine the facts.
1. The 12 Apostles, with Peter as their chief, had been given authority to act officially in Christ’s absence (Matt.16:19; 18: 18, 19). They used that authority.
2. They acted upon the Scriptural declaration that another apostle should be chosen to fill Judas’ place (Psa.109:8 as seen in Acts 1:20).
3. Their action was based upon many days of united prayer (Luke 24:49; cf. Acts 1:12-15), and when two candidates were found they prayed and left the final choice in the hands of God (Acts 1:24-26).
4. Probably only two (Matthias and Joseph Barsabas) were eligible. Only those could qualify who had followed Christ continuously from the day of His baptism by John until His ascension to heaven (see Acts 1:21, 22; Matt.19:28, “Ye which have followed Me”).
5. Paul would not have been eligible, for he had not even seen Christ during His earthly ministry (1Cor. 15:8). Paul was not converted until Acts 9, some 8 years after the cross.
6. The conclusive proof that the eleven acted in the will of God in this matter is found in the fact that the God-breathed Scripture clearly states that “Matthias…was numbered with the eleven apostles” (Acts 1:26) and that “they were all filled with the holy spirit” (Acts 2:4), indicating God’s approval. Men out of the will of God are not filled with the Holy Spirit.
These facts above stand in stark contrast to Paul, who was a Jewish Roman citizen. Not one Apostle came from
. “The eleven” all came from Jerusalem Galileein the north; while Judas came from Issachar (Iscariot) in the south. Paul clearly stands separate and distinct from “the twelve.” Paul tells us he is “the Apostle to the Gentiles.” Paul alone was given the Jesus’ commission to introduce the “dispensation of grace of God,” which applies us to this day and it will continue until “the rapture of the body of Christ.”
Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles…
Romans 15:16a That I (Paul) should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles…
Ephesians 3:1-3 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (secret plan of God) (as I wrote afore in few words…
As you search your Bible you will discover that the Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul, is God’s messenger to introduce (among other key doctrines) the following otherwise unheard of Bible terms and doctrines that belong to “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2), in which we live today.
1) The “preaching of the cross” (1Cor 1:18), introduced by Paul, is the power of God unto salvation. 1 Corinthians 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
2) “The body of Christ” (Eph 1:11-23) that consist of Jew and Gentile – they now are equally one “in Christ,” without distinction (Gal 3:28, “neither Jew nor Greek…in Christ”).
3) The “ministry of reconciliation” (2Cor 5:18-19) under Paul’s “gospel of the grace of God,” in contrast to the “Great Commission” Jesus gave to His Jewish disciples – to preach the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt 24:14).
4) The “rapture” or the “catching away” (1Thes 4:17) of “the church, which is His body” (Eph 1:22-23)