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How do we know the Bible is true?

16th December 2012, hej

 

3) Bible Witness Two: Saul

The record we have says the witnesses who hated Stephen, and stoned him, had a leader.

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. (Acts 7:58)



Saul, who hated Stephen at this time, and all that Stephen stood for, was there and can verify whether the events as recorded in the scriptures are true or not. Does Saul verify this? Saul confesses this,

For you have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. (Galatians 1:13-14)

Saul says he gained a leadership position by persecuting those like Stephen.

Let us get to know Saul. Saul was a witness against Stephen. We can feel that he was zealous. In his own way, as zealous as Stephen. He says of himself (we note this was a verifiable fact of that time).

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. (Phillipians 3:5-7)

The tribe of Benjamin was the tribe from which the very first Jewish king came. In addition he was a free born Roman Citizen (Acts 22:28). We learn that Saul goes from persecuting the church to being its greatest preacher to the world, and in the process changes his name to Paul, not to hide who he is, for it is written in many places that Saul is Paul and, he freely confesses in many places he was a great persecutor before being converted.

This type of behaviour is remarkable. Very few people would give up their whole heritage and their personal promotion to leadership live a life of terrible pain and privation leading to death. For what? For an idea that Jesus came as the Messiah and rose from the dead? How does Saul say he was converted? Luke who wrote the Acts tells us this.

Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, “Saul, Saul, why persecute thou me?

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”. And he trembling and astonished said, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” And the Lord said unto him, “Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do”. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prays, And has seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on 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 shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake”.(Acts 9:1-16)

This relates incidents that were verifiable by many people. Saul and the others with him (all no doubt to help him as he was a leader) heard this voice. Ananias, another witness, knows very well that Saul has the intent to harm him because he believed in Jesus. Yet Ananias is told that Saul will suffer for Jesus' name sake. Saul then does something amazing. He goes among the people for which there were many witnesses and,

straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. (Acts 9:20-22)

This was the very issue for which he personally consented to the stoning of Stephen.

Now Saul is another Stephen, just as zealous and nobody can argue against him. He develops enemies, most probably some of his former supporters. They hated him so much that Luke says,

After that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. (Acts 9:23-25)

We note that only Saul is putting himself out there and arguing about this issue. While most other disciples of Jesus are keeping a low profile, Saul is causing a stir preaching.

His character is the same, but his witness is now changed. Let us hear his witness to us given in the evidence he writes himself.

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1Corintians 15:3-11)

Saul says he is a witness that Jesus Christ died for our sins. He says that though he originally did not believe Cephas and the 12 Disciples, he now does. He said also that it was common knowledge that 500 people had seen Jesus alive after being dead at once, and he calls to witness that at the time he was writing his account it could be verified as there were people alive who could confirm this. Then Saul gives the reason why believed Cephas and the 12 and the 500 and James – that He himself had seen and heard Jesus. Saul, exactly like Stephen refers to the Old Testament scriptures as back up. Do we believe Saul? Does he sound like an honest person? We know he is zealous. Was he misguided? He continues his witness to us.

But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (1Corinthians 15:3-21)

Here Saul (Paul) says he is a witness that Jesus rose from the dead and was the Messiah of the Old Testament- and we note this is some years later and he is still arguing about this very point: 'was Jesus resurrected or not?' Paul says he was a witness.

At this time Paul was little valued. We look back but at that time he was poor, suffering ill health, and working hard for his convictions totally selflessly. Do we believe this person? Is he a reliable witness?

Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;

In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (2Corinthians 11:23-27)

Saul is shown as confirming Stephen's witness though he was involved in killing Stephen. Can we believe Saul?

We have another witness for both of them. His name is Luke. Saul (Paul) wrote his own witness in his letters, many fragments of which go back to the years when people who could have known Saul (Paul) were still alive. We know Saul like Stephen dies for his beliefs, does this make him seem more truthful?

Saul (Paul) maintained this conviction he had seen the risen Jesus through years of hardship and imprisonment. Do we believe his evidence? But another witness can tell us of events. We do not need to rely on Saul's (Paul's) word.









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