THE ETERNAL GOD REVEALING HIMSELF,
ACCORDING TO THE NEW TEASTAMENT
MOSES and the prophets raised many expectations and hopes which, according to the Tenach, were never realized during Old Testament times. Since the God of Israel is a God of truth and righteousness He never made any promises which He cannot and will not fulfill. Furthermore, it follows from the above statement that what He has not already fulfilled He will in the future at the proper time bring to pass.
In order that the Hebrew reader may realize that the New Testament is THE WORD OF THE GOD OF ISRAEL in the same sense in which the TORAH is, hence of equal importance, it is well for him to note some indisputable facts connected with it and its teaching.
I. THE NEW TESTAMENT IS THE CONTINUATION
OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
This fact is seen by a study of the contents of both. Both Testaments, as admitted by all scholars, are oriental. The Hebraic spirit breathes through all their pages; the diction, phraseology, idiomatic expressions, and concepts are likewise Hebraic.
The outstanding doctrines of both Testaments are the same. In both appears a pure monotheistic conception of God, which doctrine is peculiar to the sixty-six books (thirty-nine of the Old, twenty-seven of the New). The doctrine of the Trinity appears in both Testaments; but in the New Testament it is fully elaborated. The expectation of the Messiah raised in the Old is fulfilled, according to the New Testament, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. In both Testaments the origin and nature of man are the same. In both appears the teaching of an evil, malignant spirit known as Satan, or the Devil, who is the leader of a mighty army of fallen spirits that are opposed to God and the children of God. In both appears the doctrine of the lost condition of humanity. In both the doctrine of salvation (deliverance) is taught; in the Old Testament, however, the teaching is given in the form of types, symbols, and brief statements; whereas in the New Testament it is developed fully. By the prophets predictions were made of the restoration of the kingdom of God to the Davidic household; by the writers of the New Testament the same conception of the kingdom is set forth. In the Old Testament appear a few brief statements of the punishment of the wicked and the blessed condition of the righteous; in the New Testament these doctrines are fully developed. The mention of these doctrines will suffice to show that the New Testament is but a continuation of the Old.
The book of Genesis has been called "the seed plot of the Bible." By this statement the affirmation is made that all of the doctrines throughout the Tenach and the New Testament are to be found in the embryonic or undeveloped form in the book of Genesis. A careful study of this collection of sixty-six books by an unprejudiced truth-seeker produces the profound conviction that a unity pervades them, which fact proves beyond a doubt that the same Spirit Who spoke through the prophets likewise spoke through the writers of the New Testament.
II. THE NEW TESTAMENT FULFILLS
THE OLD TESTAMENT EXPECTATION
As has already been seen in Chapter VIII, Israel's Messiah was scheduled to appear before the governmental powers departed from Judah. The meaning of Genesis 49:10, where such a promise is made, is explained by Dr. McCaul in the following words: "A chief tribal governor shall not cease from Judah nor a subordinate magistrate from His posterity until He Who is Peace shall come, and to Him shall be the obedience of the nations." In commenting upon this paraphrase of Dr. McCaul's, John Wilkinson says: "In short, that whatever might become of other tribes, Judah must retain his separate existence as a tribe, and also his independent government until the coming of Shiloh to Whom the heathen should yield obedience." Since it is an historical fact that the government passed away from the tribe of Judah in the year 70 A.D. and since the Word of God cannot be broken but is fulfilled to the very letter, Messiah came before that event.
To this fact the Talmud bears witness (in Sanhedrin, fol. 97, col. 2): "Rav says, 'the appointed times are long since past' ", in which quotation the word קֵץ is taken from the quotation of Daniel and means literally "end," as is seen from a study of the prophet's use of that term. Additional corroborative proof of this position is likewise found (in Sanhedrin, fol. 97. col. 1): "The tradition of the school of Elijah. The world is to stand 6000 years, 2000 confusion, 2000 the Law, 2000 the days of Messiah." Rashi, commenting upon this Talmudical passage, states: "After the 2000 years of the Law, according to the decree, Messiah ought to have come, and the wicked kingdom should have been destroyed and Israel's state of servitude should have been ended." The Talmud and Rashi both are correct in stating that the Messiah should have come at the expiration of the period of Law, though their reasons for making such statements are based upon tradition. According to the incontrovertible evidence presented in the New Testament, Jesus of Nazareth was the One of Whom the prophets spoke in the Messianic predictions and Who was to come before the collapse of the Jewish state.
We learn from the Scriptures that Messiah was scheduled to come in humility, to suffer, to make atonement for mankind, and to ascend to the right hand of the throne of God. According to the Gospel records, Jesus of Nazareth came at the proper time and fulfilled these predictions to the letter. At present He is at the right hand of the throne of God interceding for those who believe in Him, and awaits the time to come to restore Israel to fellowship with God.¹
The fact that the Virgin Birth, pure life, ministry of service to others, death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the throne of God of Jesus of Nazareth answer in the minutest details to the predictions of the coming of the Messiah, as found in the Old Testament, which predictions were made during a period of from 1500 to 500 years prior to the birth of Jesus, proves beyond a doubt that He was and is the Hebrew Messiah. The force of this statement may be illustrated as follows: Suppose that in Europe were found a white crystal stone of certain composition through the center of which a streak of colored mineral deposit runs and one of whose surfaces is rough and convex, which facts prove that it was broken off another. Again, suppose that another like stone were found in America, one of whose surfaces was also rough and concave, and through which a similar deposit runs. Upon comparison of these stones it is seen that the convex surface of the one fits most accurately, to a hair's breadth, the concave surface of the other, while the streak of mineral deposit is alike in both. These facts would point most definitely to the conclusion that these at one time formed a single stone and that after the original stone was broken, one of the pieces was carried by some agent to the other continent. This most highly probable conclusion would be lifted from the realm of an hypothesis into that of an established fact when the chemist by his accurate tests proves that they are of the same chemical analysis. Thus Christ and the New Testament correspond exactly to the minute detailed picture of the Old Testament, as, dear reader, you can learn for yourself by a careful study of the New Testament and the comparison of the same with the predictions of the Old.
III. THE EVIDENCE OF THE EMPTY TOMB
A. The Fact of the Empty Tomb
The facts concerning the empty tomb, briefly stated, are these: Jesus having been crucified, after six hours on the Cross the Spirit departed from the body. By permission of Pilate, the Roman governor, Joseph of Arimathaea took the corpse and laid it in his new tomb. A heavy stone was rolled across the doorway and the Roman seal was placed upon it, while Roman guards watched. These events occurred late on the day before the Sabbath. According to the Jewish law both Jews and the disciples of Jesus rested on the Sabbath. Early on the first day of the week certain of the disciples found that the stone had been rolled away and that the tomb was empty. In vain they looked for the lifeless body.
B. The Witnesses to the Empty Tomb
About these facts there can be no question. The one question arising is this, "What became of that lifeless body which late on the day before the Sabbath was placed in the tomb but which was not there early on the first day of the week?" Various theories have been advanced by skeptics concerning this matter. To examine these speculative theories would consume much space and unnecessary time. The only rational, scientific method of approach is to weigh the evidence of the witnesses who testified that notwithstanding the presence of the Roman soldiers and seal, the stone was rolled away and the tomb was empty. Among these principal witnesses are Matthew and John who were of the twelve original apostles, who associated personally with Jesus during His ministry, and who were associated, as they testify, with Him after the time when the tomb was found empty. Another witness whose testimony is preserved is that of John Mark, whose mother was Mary of Jerusalem (Acts 12:12) and who was a cousin of Barnabas of Cyprus, but later of Jerusalem. He was in the most intimate touch with Simon Peter, the leader of the Apostolic Band, whose interpreter, according to early tradition, he was. Another witness is Luke, the physician. This witness was a very highly educated man as is evident by his writings which compare most favorably with the Greek masters. As evidence of this fact the prologue to his record of the Gospel is admitted by the scholarship of the world to be in the same class with Thucydides. Another bit of evidence of his scholarship is seen in the accurate use of medical terms (see Hobart's: "Medical Terms in Luke"). He was a scientist of the first magnitude, who did extensive research work, gathering his information from every available source before he attempted to write his history of the life of Jesus Christ (Lk. 1:1-4).
While it is true that Luke as a real scientist gathered his data from all available sources, tracing most accurately all information, it is to be understood that he was a saved, regenerated man, enjoying the fullness of the blessings of Christ and especially the guidance and illumination of the Spirit of God as he was engaged in his scientific research work. When he wrote his account, however, of the life of our Lord and the Acts of the Apostles, he enjoyed the full and complete inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Without controversy he enjoyed the fullness of inspiration of which Paul spoke: "Which things also we speak, not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words" (I Cor. 2:13). Therefore his writings meet every test to which a scientific history may be subjected. To the reliability of these scientifically written documents is added the infallibility of the omniscience of the Holy Spirit of God. Therefore every statement of his can be accepted by the scientific man with absolute confidence.
Rationalistic critics have attempted to discredit him as a reliable historian. During the last century on several points to which he alone bore testimony they attempted to discredit his narrative. What Bryant, the poet, said was true in his case:
"Truth crushed to earth shall rise again:
Th' eternal years of God are hers;
But error, wounded, writhes in pain,
And dies among his worshippers."
The faithful research work of Dr. William Ramsay and others has in the last few decades brought to light historical facts which corroborate the statements of Luke which hitherto were unsupported by secular historians and which were questioned by the critics. These newly discovered facts prove that Luke was correct and now give him a standing of a reputable, trustworthy, first-rate historian. (See such works as "Was Christ Born in Bethlehem?" by Sir William Ramsay, and "Luke the Physician" by Prof. A. T. Robertson, etc.). These four witnesses have written accounts of the life of Jesus Christ in which each of them elaborates the details concerning His death, burial, and resurrection.
In addition to the twelve Apostles, Mark, and Luke, there were above 500 eye-witnesses who testified to the fact that Jesus after His death appeared to them alive. Twenty-odd years after the death of Christ, when the resurrection of the dead was called in question at Corinth, Paul, the Hebrew, met the challenge of his opponents by affirming that Christ appeared alive in His Resurrection body to above five hundred people, the greater part of whom were alive at that time to whom his opponents could go and verify his assertion. He never would have made such a statement if it were not true; for his enemies, who were very bitter, would have gone to any length in discrediting him in the eyes of the church at Corinth, had his assertion been assailable. Paul's being able to silence his opponents by challenging them to consult the then-living witnesses to whom Christ had appeared after His Resurrection, the number of which was above two hundred and fifty, proves conclusively that even his enemies were convinced of the truthfulness of his assertions concerning the Resurrection.
C. The Competency of These Witnesses
Before the written testimony of a witness to an historical fact can be accepted as true, it must be subjected to a rigid test by the "canons of historical criticism." According to these a witness must qualify clearly and unmistakably on six different points. (1) He must be a contemporary, i.e., living at the time of the event to which he bears witness. (2) He must be within reach of the occurrence. (3) He must give evidence that he is sufficiently interested in the event to give it sufficient attention. (4) Likewise, he must give sufficient evidence of mental grasp, i.e., he must be able to understand the things which he sees and hears. (5) He must give evidence of a memory which is able to reproduce that which he has seen and heard. (6) He must have established a record for unswerving veracity, i.e., he will speak the truth frankly regardless of consequences.
Witnesses qualifying on these six different points give testimony of the highest class, which cannot be questioned, and which establishes a fact as true. The cloud of witnesses referred to above unmistakably qualify on every point. That they do qualify is evident to every candid reader who will honestly and conscientiously, with an unbiased mind, read their testimony.
That the records which contain their testimony (the New Testament) are trustworthy and reliable may be seen when they are tested by "the historical canons of credibility" as formulated by Geo. Rawlinson in his Bampton lectures for 1859 on "The Historical Evidence of the Truth of Scripture Records." These witnesses were so absolutely sure of that which they believed that they were willing to lay down their lives for their faith, which many of them were compelled to do. (See any standard Church History).
D. The Convincing Proof of the Resurrection
The witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ relied upon the testimony of their (1) eyes, (2) ears, (3) sense of touch, and (4) spiritual recognition. During a period of forty days after the tomb was found empty Jesus appeared to various disciples, and once, at least, to above 500 who were gathered together. (1) When He appeared to them He permitted them to scrutinize Him in the most minute and thorough manner. The testimony of their eyes was that the One Whom they were examining was the same Individual Who had been crucified and buried. They listened to Him as He conversed with them of "things concerning the kingdom of God." On the evening of the first day of the week after the tomb had been found empty Jesus appeared to ten of the disciples and convinced them that He was the same individual. Evidently, He Who appeared in their midst was like Jesus Whom they had followed for approximately three and one-half years. He appeared to their eyes as the same individual. On this occasion Thomas was absent. When informed that Jesus had appeared he strongly expressed his doubts concerning their story, affirming that he would not believe unless he saw the print of the nails in His hands, and thrust his hand into His side which had been pierced by the soldier's spear. A week later when the ten were gathered together with Thomas, Jesus appeared; His personal appearance was the same as formerly. The proof was overwhelming and the doubts of Thomas yielded to facts and logic. Thomas was not the only one who doubted. The facts are that none of the disciples thought that He would rise from the dead; hence when He was placed in the tomb their hopes were buried with His lifeless body. But when they saw Him with their own eyes the evidence was so very overwhelming that an audience consisting of more than five hundred people ceased to doubt and was thoroughly convinced that Jesus was alive again and in their midst.
(2) Not only did they have the testimony of their eyes, but the testimony of their ears bore witness to the fact that the One Who came to them and claimed that He was Jesus raised from the dead was really Jesus. It might be conceived possible for some individual to imitate the voice of another and thus deceive a few, even of close friends, for a while, but it is entirely incredible to think that anyone could have, during a period of forty days, been such an adept at the art of imitating Jesus as to deceive above five hundred reasonable, sane people. Therefore since these five hundred people had the testimony not only of their eyes but of their ears, and since they were thoroughly convinced that Jesus had arisen from the dead and had appeared to them, there is but one logical conclusion to which one may come, namely, that it was Jesus Who appeared to them alive after His Resurrection.
"Him God raised up the third day, and gave him to be made manifest, not to all the people, but unto witnesses that were chosen before of God, even to us, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead" (Acts 10:40,41).
(3) In addition to the testimony of the eyes and of the ears the disciples had the testimony of the sense of touch for they actually took hold of His body with their hands, being thoroughly convinced by such an examination that there was no optical illusion, no hallucination on their part, and no spiritualistic appearance, but that Jesus of Nazareth actually appeared there in a body of flesh and bones. Therefore the testimony of three of the five senses through which men know facts of the external world agreed that Jesus had actually risen from the dead (Luke 24:39).
"That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life (and the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare unto you the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us); that which we have seen and heard declare we unto you also, that ye also may have fellowship with us: yea, and our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ: and these things we write, that our joy may be made full" (I John. 1:1-4).
(4) Additional proof to that of the three senses noted above, which they had, was that of the sense of psychic or soul recognition. Personality, according to psychologists of standing, is a complex bundle of idiosyncrasies. There are no two personalities exactly alike. Let one imagine that there was some individual who was of the same physique as Jesus, whose voice was as nearly like his as is possible, who had scars in both hands that were caused by the driving of nails through them, and who attempted to deceive these numerous disciples who had associated with Jesus in the most intimate way for approximately three and one-half years. Such an imposter, though successful in convincing the disciples through the testimony of seeing, hearing, and touching, would have been unable to convince them on the point of psychic or soul recognition. It is admitted by all who have studied conscientiously the records of the life of Jesus that His was a unique personality. Every thought and attitude of an individual manifests itself in some outward expression. To every situation each personality experiences a certain reaction. Those who had been associated with Jesus most intimately during His ministry had, as it were, felt His very heart throb in innumerable instances. Never did a heart beat and throb as His. Therefore it would have been impossible for a deceiver to play the role of the risen Jesus for any length of time without detection.
For the sake of showing the force of the above facts, let one imagine that some imposter could have deceived all of the people on all four of the above points for a few days. It is absurd in the extreme to imagine that such a one could have concealed his identity from the multitude during a period of forty days. These well-known lines confirm this conclusion: "You can fool all of the people some of the time; and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all of the time." From all the indisputable facts, noted in this section, there can be no reasonable doubt concerning the proposition that Jesus, the Hebrew Messiah, arose from the grave and appeared alive (fulfilling the Old Testament predictions) to a large company of credible, unimpeachable witnesses, many of whom expressed their convictions and sealed the testimony of their faith with their life-blood.
The Apostle John, an eyewitness of the life of Jesus, affirmed, "That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life … declare we unto you …"(I John. 1:1-3).
Without the Resurrection of Jesus the Gospel narrative would have been very imperfect. It is the sequel of the life presented throughout the records. According to the Old Testament and the New, He was God in human form. He was born of the virgin, lived a sinless life, performed miracles, and died in a super-human way. Therefore the Gospel picture, in order to be symmetrical, must have as its sequel the Resurrection and Ascension.
Without the Resurrection there would have been no Christian Church. Without it there would have been no Lord's Day. Without it there would be no hope of eternal life. It is related to these things as cause and effect. A religion that does not include a heart belief in the personal and bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is not the true religion revealed in the New Testament.
IV. THE EVIDENCE OF PAUL'S CONVERSION
A.The Man Saul
Born about the same time as was Jesus were three outstanding Hebrew men: Philo Judaeus in Alexandria, Egypt; John the Baptist in Judea; and Saul of Tarsus in Cilicia. This section, however, shall deal with Saul of Tarsus. Passing hurriedly over the facts of his early life, one notes that Saul was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, a great university town. It is absolutely certain that he received an excellent education in the Greek schools (probably in the University of Tarsus), which fact is seen by a study of the thirteen books which he wrote and which are found in the New Testament. He finished his education, however, in the rabbinical school in Jerusalem, sitting at the feet of the great גַמְלִיאֵל Gamaliel (Acts 22:3).
He in all probability was a member of the Sanhedrin for he states: "I advanced in the Jews religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Gal. 1:14). At the stoning of Stephen the witnesses laid down their garments at his feet (Acts 7:58), which fact indicates that he was in charge of the execution. He was a most promising young leader of his people, for he was circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as touching the law a Pharisee; as touching zeal, persecuting the church; as touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless" (Phil. 3:5,6). He was absolutely certain that religiously he was right and the Christians who worshipped Jesus as the Son of God were wrong. With this conviction he attempted to blot out Christianity not only from Jerusalem but from adjacent territory. He felt that by so doing he was rendering a true service to the God of his fathers. Having armed himself with letters of authority from the high priest at Jerusalem, he and his party started for Damascus in order to clear that city of the Christians (heretics). According to his statement in two public speeches (Acts 22, 26) and the statement of Luke, the noted historian (Acts 9), there occurred an event on the way just before the party arrived at Damascus. This occurrence was the turning point of his life.
B. The Conversion of Saul
From this time on instead of being a bitter opponent of the Christians he identified himself with them and became the chief exponent of the doctrine of the Christians. These facts are indisputable. Why did he change his religious affiliation, identifying himself with those whom he had persecuted? Various answers have been given to this question. In order to answer it satisfactorily let the reader now pursue the scientific method by studying the various motives which prompt men to change their religious affiliation. A careful survey of such motives yields the following list: (1) weakmindedness; (2) unstable character; (3) lack of knowledge and independent thought; (4) a disgruntled spirit; (5) monetary considerations; (6) popularity; (7) persecution (8) conviction. By "weakmindedness" is meant a subnormal mental condition. In the class of "unstable character" may be placed those individuals whose sentiment and emotions predominate over purpose, reason, and will. In the third class are those who do not know facts but who depend upon others to point out the way in which they are to go. In the class of "disgruntled spirit" are those who are unhappy in a certain environment or position and who imagine that some other place will yield greater happiness, advantages, opportunities and the like. In the classification of "monetary considerations" are those who are insincere and who having very low standards of right and wrong, make wealth and pleasure the supreme object of life. In the "popularity" group are classed those individuals who prefer the praise and honor of men to that of God and act accordingly. In the "persecution" group are those who change their affiliation rather than be persecuted for their conscientious convictions. In the last class, namely, that of "conviction," are those who think for themselves and, being convinced that they are wrong, accept that which they know is right.
No one for a moment would class Saul among the weak-minded for his epistles reveal the fact that he was an intellectual giant. It is admitted by logicians that the Book of Romans, which he wrote, is one of the most logical and powerful documents extant from all antiquity. Neither can he be classed among those of unstable character, for his entire life showed that sentimentality and emotionalism while present in his make-up were subordinate to reason, plan, and will. Again, he cannot be classed among those who lacked knowledge and who looked to others for leadership because he was a leader of men and gave evidence of a very broad culture and acquisition of knowledge. Neither can he be classed among the disgruntled spirits for in the Jewish religion he was most powerful and influential. There was nothing that caused him to be agitated, disturbed and disquieted because of factions or trouble in the ranks of Judaism. Money consideration never entered into his life. Had he chosen money he would have remained where he was. By making the change he gave up the prospects of acquiring wealth and the luxuries of life. Neither did popularity have any allurement for him. Had he desired it he would have remained in Judaism, but by identifying himself with the Christians he, like Moses who gave up the wealth of Egypt and who identified himself with his persecuted brethren, stepped over into the ranks of the extremely unpopular. He did not change his religious association because he feared persecution. While he remained in Judaism he was on the persecuting side; by identifying himself with the Christians he Joined the ranks of the persecuted.
Having seen that it is impossible to classify Saul with any of the first seven groups the reader is now asked to consider thoughtfully placing him in the last group, namely, those who change their religious affiliation because of honest, conscientious convictions which are based upon absolute and overwhelming proof. In this connection it is best to let him speak for himself and relate why he changed his conviction concerning Jesus and identified himself with the Christians.²
The following speech was made by Paul [Saul's name was changed to Paul, which is Roman, on his first missionary journey (Acts 13:9)] in the Hebrew language from the steps of the castle in Jerusalem: "Brethren and fathers, hear ye the defence which I now make unto you. And when they heard that he spake unto them in the Hebrew language, they were the more quiet: and he saith, I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as ye all are this day: and I persecuted this Way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and journeyed to Damascus to bring them also that were there unto Jerusalem in bonds to be punished. And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and drew nigh unto Damascus, about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me. And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest. And they that were with me beheld indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me I came into Damascus. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt there, came unto me, and standing by me said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight. And in that very hour I looked up on him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath appointed thee to know his will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear a voice from his mouth. For thou shalt be a witness for him unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou?³ arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name. And it came to pass, that, when I had returned to Jerusalem, and while I prayed in the temple, I fell into a trance, and saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem; because they will not receive of thee testimony concerning me. And I said, Lord, they themselves know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee: and when the blood of Stephen thy witness was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting, and keeping the garments of them that slew him. And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee forth far hence unto the Gentiles" (Acts 22:1-21).
Before King Agrippa II Paul delivered his second speech in which he explains why he became a Christian. "And Agrippa said unto Paul, Thou art permitted to speak for thyself. Then Paul stretched forth his hand, and made his defence: I think myself happy, king Agrippa, that I am to make my defence before thee this day touching all the things whereof I am accused by the Jews: especially because thou art expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews: wherefore I beseech thee to hear me patiently. My manner of life then from my youth up, which was from the beginning among mine own nation and at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; having knowledge of me from the first, if they be willing to testify, that after the straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand here to be judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: unto which promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. And concerning this hope I am accused by the Jews, O king! Why is it judged incredible with you, if God doth raise the dead? I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this I also did in Jerusalem: and I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. And punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities. Whereupon as I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, at midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them that journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice saying unto me in the Hebrew language, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the goad. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But arise, and stand upon thy feet: for to this end have I appeared unto thee, to appoint thee a minister and a witness both of the things wherein thou hast seen me, and of the things wherein I will appear unto thee: delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom I send thee, to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive remission of sins and an inheritance among them that are sanctified by faith in me. Wherefore, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but declared both to them of Damascus first, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judaea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. For this cause the Jews seized me in the temple, and assayed to kill me. Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand unto this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses did say should come; how that the Christ must suffer, and how that he first by the resurrection of the dead should proclaim light both to the people and to the Gentiles. And as he thus made his defence, Festus saith with a loud voice, Paul, thou art mad; thy much learning is turning thee mad. But Paul saith, I am not mad, most excellent, Festus; but speak forth words of truth and soberness. For the king knoweth of these things, unto whom also I speak freely, for I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him; for this hath not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets? I know that thou believest. And Agrippa said unto Paul, With but little persuasion thou wouldest fain make me a Christian. And Paul said, I would to God, that whether with little or with much, not thou only, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except these bonds" (Acts 26:1-29).
Dr. Luke gives the following account of Saul's conversion to Christianity in Acts 9:1-22: "But Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and asked of him letters to Damascus unto the synagogues, that if he found any that were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, it came to pass that he drew nigh unto Damascus: and suddenly there shone round about him a light out of heaven: and he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: but rise, and enter into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice,4 but beholding no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing; and they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink. Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and the Lord said unto him in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus: for behold, he prayeth; and he hath seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight. But Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard from many of this man, how much evil he did to thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call upon thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake. And Ananias departed, and entered into the house; and laying his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, who appeared unto thee in the way which thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And straightway there fell from his eyes as it were scales, and he received his sight; and he arose and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. And he was certain days with the disciples that were at Damascus. And straightway in the synagogues he proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God. And all that heard him were amazed, and said, Is not this he that in Jerusalem made havoc of them that called on this name? and he had come hither for this intent, that he might bring them bound before the chief priests. But Saul increased the more in strength, and, confounded the Jews that dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ."
From Paul's own testimony and the historical statements of Luke one learns why Paul became a Christian. The facts, briefly stated, are these: as he in company with others was journeying toward Damascus, Jesus, the ascended Christ, caused a miraculous light to shine round about Saul, which was brighter than the noonday sun. Out of heaven He spoke to him. Saul, being brought in touch5 with Jesus Christ and being in full possession of his mental faculties, realized that Jesus of Nazareth Whose followers he was persecuting was the Christ, the Hebrew Messiah. Being fully persuaded of his error in rejecting Jesus, he surrendered fully and completely to Him, accepting Him as his Lord and Saviour. Being blinded by the brilliancy of the light, and being led by others of his party, he entered the city of Damascus, where he remained three days in prayer and fasting. At the expiration of this time the Lord sent Ananias who laid his hands upon him, thus imparting the Holy Spirit to him and restoring his sight. He also baptized him. From that day Saul became a most ardent and powerful preacher of the Gospel.
Paul's sudden "right about face," spiritually speaking, may be illustrated as follows: If a person, being in full possession of his mental powers, is walking rapidly down the street, evidently with some object in mind, and suddenly turns around, walking just as rapidly in the reverse direction, one would conclude that there was a rational reason for his sudden change. Spiritually speaking, such is what Paul did. He was going in one direction (persecuting the Christians); after this experience he turned around and went in the direction from which he came (identifying himself with the Christians and preaching Christ). There was a reason for his turning, which is that he was thoroughly convinced that he had been mistaken, and that Jesus of Nazareth was his true Messiah and Redeemer. Thus one of the intellectual giants of the world of that day and time, being convinced of the Lordship of Jesus of Nazareth, in full and complete surrender bowed to Him and accepted Him as his Lord and Saviour, the Messiah of the Tenach.
¹ The inquiring-mind might ask why it was that the Messiah, according to Old Testament schedule, after His rejection returned to heaven. To this question it is sufficient to reply that God never forces anyone's will. Israel refused to accept Him as her King and said: "We have no king but Caesar." Being rejected by His nation, He accepted the invitation of God to sit at His right hand where He will remain until the nation in real repentance confesses her error and reaches the point when she will say: "Blessed be He that cometh in the name of the Lord."
² These speeches are preserved in Acts of the Apostles, which was written by Dr. Luke who, as stated above, has been vindicated by archaeological facts to be an historian thoroughly reliable in the most minute and detailed matters. Therefore he has accurately preserved these great testimonials of this great Hebrew scholar. Hence they contain a truthful account of the facts as they actually occurred.
³ As we learn from the Scriptures, it is not pleasing to the Lord for one to be simply a secret believer. He who is thoroughly convinced that Jesus is the Hebrew Messiah and Savior of the world, of Whom the prophets spoke, must come out boldly and confess Jesus "in this adulterous and sinful generation." The Lord Himself said, "Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will warn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him" (Lk. 12:4,5). One can never enjoy his fellowship with Jesus Christ and walk with God by faith as long as he pleases man. Dear friend, launch out boldly into the midst of the great sea of God's promises. If you stay close to the shore you will be continually in danger of being bombarded by men.
Paul realized that fact. He had no fear of men. He launched out immediately as soon as he was convinced that Jesus was his Messiah. He came out in the most public and open way and confessed his faith in Jesus by being baptized immediately. Wherefore, "why tarriest thou" O secret believer?
Elijah in his great warfare against Baalism at the Carmel contest urged the secret believers in God to cease "limping between the two sides." To them he declared, "If יהוה be God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him" (I Kgs. 18:21). Again, my Hebrew friend, in this language let the author plead with you, if you are convinced that Jesus Christ is the Hebrew Messiah, to come out boldly in the light and blessings of the Lord and follow Him, obeying Him in every thing. You then can claim the promise that "every one that hath left houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall inherit eternal life" (Matt. 19:29).
4 To the casual reader there appears to be a contradiction in the statement of Luke in Acts 9:7 "And the men that journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing the voice, but beholding no man," and the statement of Paul in Acts 22:9 "And they that were with me beheld indeed the light, but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me." This seeming discrepancy vanishes in the light of a knowledge of the use of the Greek cases. In 9:7 Luke puts the word "voice" in the genitive case, which, as all Greek grammarians know, is the case which designates "kind" or "species; hence it is the case which is regularly used to describe an object or thing. Therefore its use excludes everything except that which is mentioned. In other words his use of the genitive case emphasized the fact that they heard an articulate voice and not some inarticulate sounds.
In 22:9 Paul put the word "voice" in the accusative case, which case is known by grammarians as that of "extension," inclusiveness, comprehensiveness. Paul's use of the accusative case here assumes what was stated by Luke, namely, that they actually heard the voice in the sense of receiving an audible impression, but shows that they were unable to understand the import of the words. Hence the agreement between the two statements in the light of the grammar is perfect.
5 Vain attempts have been made by skeptics to break the force of Paul's testimony concerning his seeing Jesus in glory when he was on his way to Damascus; One of the attempted explanations is that suddenly he had an epileptic fit. This supposition is purely imaginary since there is not the remotest fragment of evidence pointing in that direction. Another explanation is that he suffered from hallucination. According to the discoveries of modern psychology such an explanation is impossible because one brain state precedes and prepares for the succeeding one. There was nothing in Paul's previous experience which could produce such an hallucination as this. As he journeyed on his way he was certain that he was doing the will of God and felt reasonably sure that he would be successful in His cause. Therefore there was nothing which could possibly produce an hallucination. Another explanation is that he suffered from sunstroke, for which position there is not the slightest bit of evidence. Paul's entire career from his conversion onward is a complete refutation of all such visionary hypothetical theories. On the other hand, his life, labors, and letters are positive proof that he was in full possession of his mental faculties when he met Jesus face to face.
From the day of his conversion onward, that experience was his polar star which guided him across the tempestuous waters of life.
Continued on next page