What Paul Suffered so I Can Read the Last Will…(an Incomplete, but Compelling List)

  • Saint_Paul,_Rembrandt_van_Rijn_(and_Workshop?),_c._1657Tonight is the Digging Deep Podcast. Join us at 7 CST here: http://livestream.com/whcoc/for-women . It’ll be a discussion of the persecutor-turned-persecuted hero, Paul—the apostle, the missionary, the servant, the writer, the prisoner, the teacher, the mentor, the one with the thorn in the flesh. Surely you find yourself somewhere in those characterizations of this great man. He is relevant to me in so many ways. Of course, the chief relevance is that He was the great mind   and pen through which the Holy Spirit revealed a large portion of the last will and testament of Jesus Christ. That testament is the key to my inheritance in heaven. The study tonight is relevant!

So here is the list from Acts of the persecutions he faced. I’ve added his immediate reaction or response where applicable. Take a look at these days in the life of the spiritually rich and famous. Realize with me that you and I can be elite in the palace of the King of Kings, if we are willing to suffer for His name. He that is the greatest is servant of all. I read that in a Book somewhere. So here is the Acts account of Paul’s persecutions:

  1. Elymas, the sorcerer, withstood Paul and tried to “undo” his work (13:8).  Paul, full of the Spirit, rebuked him and blinded him,
  2. The Jews stirred up the people to persecute Paul and they expelled him and his companions from their coasts (13:50). They “shook the dust from their feet” and traveled on.
  3. The unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles to think evil things about Paul and his companions (14:2). They just kept speaking boldly and performing signs in the name of Jesus.
  4. Both Jews and Gentiles assaulted and attempted to stone them (14:5). They became aware of it and fled.
  5. Took time for and endured dissension and disputing about circumcision (15:2). Went to the elders in Jerusalem to seek counsel and a solution to the dispute. 
  6. Because Paul healed a girl who had a spirit of divination, those who were making money off of her affliction were angered. They took Paul and Silas to the magistrates where, as a multitude rose up against them, they were beaten with many stripes and placed in stocks in the inner prison (16:19-24). Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises to God in this jail. 
  7. Lewd fellows in Thessalonica assaulted the house where Paul was staying and demanded that Paul surrender to them (17:5). The brethren, protecting Paul and company, sent them away secretly.
  8. Thessalonians followed them and stirred up the people in Berea, the town to which they had escaped (17:13). The brethren sent Paul away again. 
  9. Philosophers in Athens mocked him and took him to authorities (17:18). Paul preached the great sermon on Mars Hill.
  10. That sermon resulted in more mocking (17:32). Paul left Athens.
  11. The Jews rejected his teaching in Corinth, blaspheming (18:6). Paul shook his clothes and told them that their blood would be on their heads. He said “I am clean” and determined to go to the Gentiles with the gospel.
  12. The Jews made insurrection against Paul in Achaia and brought him before the deputy, Gallio (18:12). Paul was ready to answer, but Gallio, frustrated with the Jews, would not hear the case.
  13. The Jews in the synagogue at Ephesus spoke evil of His teachings and “the Way” in front of the crowd (19:9). Paul separated the disciples and reasoned with them in the school of Tyrannus for two years.
  14. Demetrius, a silversmith in Ephesus, angry that Paul was hurting the Diana silver-image business, called together a craftsmen’s union and incited them to anger against Paul. Paul was ready to enter the chaotic arena and speak, but the Ephesian Christians, as well as some chief officers, persuaded him to stay out of that theatre. 
  15. The people of Ephesus cried out for two hours “Great is Diana of the Ephesians!” to directly oppose and endanger Paul (19:34). When the rioting was over, Paul embraced the Christians and left for Macedonia.
  16. The Jews in Greece “laid wait” for Paul, obviously purposing his harm (20:3). Paul changed plans, avoiding their trap.
  17. Tears, temptations, and trials were involved in all of this service (20:19). Paul did not shrink from speaking the whole truth.
  18. Paul was told by the prophet that he would be bound and delivered to the Gentiles in Jerusalem (21:11). Paul responded that he was ready to be bound and die for the name of Jesus.
  19. Jews of Asia stirred up the people in the temple of Jerusalem who were listening to Paul to rioting so that the people were beating him. The chief captain took him and bound him with two chains (fulfilling the prophecy in #18). The soldiers carried him into the Roman castle for questioning because the crowd was violent against him (21:27-38). Paul gave a lengthy defense in which he told of his Jewish heritage and his conversion to Christianity. 
  20. At the close of this defense, the Jews cried out for him to be put to death. The chief captain commanded his scourging (23:22-25). Paul responded, by revealing to the centurion, who was about to beat him, that he, himself, was a Roman.
  21. Paul was brought to give his defense before Jews and Romans in Jerusalem (22:30). 
  22. Ananias, the high priest commanded that they hit him on the mouth (23:2). Paul, not aware that Ananias was the hight priest,  called Ananias a “whited wall”, accusing him of breaking the very law he was commissioned to uphold. 
  23. There was a great dissension and the chief captain was afraid the crowd would tear Paul in pieces, so he brought him, again, into the castle (23:10). The Lord stood by Paul, telling him that he would survive to teach in Rome.
  24. A group of Jews took a hunger vow, saying they would not eat till Paul was killed (23:12). Paul’s sister’s son revealed this plot to him and Paul got this word to the chief captain, who sent 200 soldiers with Paul to deliver him to Felix, the Roman governor in Caesarea.
  25. Paul stood before Felix and Tertullias, an orator, who painted Paul to be a leader of revolt among the Jews (24:1-9). Paul answered with the gospel and was committed to the keeping of a centurion.
  26. Felix left Paul in bonds till his term as governor was over and the Jews besought the new governor, Festus, to send Paul to Jerusalem, so that they could kill him on the way (24:27-25:3).
  27. Festus brought Paul before him for questioning as the Jews from Jerusalem accused  him (25:6,7). Paul appealed to Caesar.
  28. Festus mocked Paul, calling him a mad man (26:24). Paul defended the gospel saying “These things were not done in a corner.”
  29. Paul was sent in chains to Rome where he remained bound (28:20). Paul, from his Roman lodging (imprisonment in a house), taught many people the gospel (28:24-31). 

A Biblical View of Grace

Most are familiar with the words of the old gospel hymn: “Amazing Grace – how sweet the sound – that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found – Was blind, but now, I see.” The concept of God’s grace is both humbling and fascinating. It is the greatest and most majestic theme in the New Testament, and perhaps is the ‘key’ to unlocking its mysteries. One may know every word of the New Testament by heart, but unless the concept of God’s grace is understood, one can never fully comprehend the profound truths of the Gospel.

The English word ‘grace’ comes from the Greek word charis, and various forms of the word are found 157 times in the New Testament. Charis, or grace, has been commonly defined as “undeserved kindness” or “unmerited favor.” These definitions, however, fail to reveal the full extremity of the meaning of grace.  Grace is not merely “undeserved” or “unmerited.” Rather, grace is the exact opposite of what is deserved or merited. When we declare our unworthiness of God’s grace, we are actually saying we are worthy of the exact opposite of God’s grace!

This is highlighted by what Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:1-10. In verses 1-3, we are described as having been “dead in our trespasses and sins,” “following” the “sons of disobedience,” “carrying out the desires of the body and the mind,” and “were by nature children of wrath.” However, in verses 4-6, Paul tells us that God mercifully put aside the “wrath” that man deserved, because of His great love for us.

It is God’s love for us, or more specifically agapē love for us, that prompted God’s merciful grace toward mankind. Agapē love is willful love; love that is not characterized by emotion or gratitude, but by a willful desire to do what is best for the one being loved. It is love that merely says “I love you,” not “I love you because…” or “I love you if…”

We deserved “wrath” and death (Rom. 6:23), but received the opposite, namely, ‘love’ and ‘life.’ This is the definition of God’s grace. “By grace [we] have been saved” (Eph. 2:5). It is both undeserved kindness and an expression of God’s agapē love. What did God’s grace accomplish? It “made us alive together with Christ” (v. 5), “raised us,” and “seated us in the heavenly places in Christ” (v. 6). Paul tells us that our faith, through baptism (Col. 2:12-13), is how God’s grace is administered in one’s life (v. 8).

What God’s Grace Means

God’s grace has been made manifest in Christ. When we only deserved wrath and death (Eph. 2:1-3), God – because of His agapē love – sent His Son into the world, “that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Therefore, we have been bought at a price (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23). An enormous price, I might add. We no longer belong to ourselves. When one believes and were baptized, he or she puts to death their former self (Rom. 6:4) and becomes a new person under new Ownership. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, we have been “born again” (John 3:3, 5). We “have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God” (Rom. 6:22).

When we try to understand God’s grace, we must recognize that it is something to which we are by no means entitled. Though we live in a society where many feel ‘entitled’ to everything (i.e. government handouts, healthcare, security, etc.), the last thing we are entitled to is God’s grace. Though it is a “free gift” (Eph. 2:8), it is not cheap. We must hold on to our gracious salvation (1 Cor. 15:2) with both an attitude of humble submission to God and an eager spirit to selflessly serve His Son (Jas. 2:17). Without an attitude of humble submission and thankfulness for God’s grace, we will fall (Gal. 5:4).

Compare Denominational Views of Grace to the Biblical Teaching of Grace

Now that we have an understanding of God’s grace and what His grace means for us, let’s examine how the Biblical teaching of God’s grace compares to what mainstream Christianity teaches. Notice some common questions that many have asked concerning God’s grace:

“Will all men automatically be saved?”

Salvation by grace does not mean that all men will be saved. God’s grace makes possible the salvation of all men. Consider this: the mere possession of medicine will not make a sick man well. He must first consume that medicine. The mere possession of food will not make a hungry man full. He must first eat the food if he wishes to be filled. The same is true about God’s grace. Simply because the grace of God has appeared to all men (Tit. 2:11) does not mean that all men will be saved. All who wish to be saved must first do what is required. Jesus asked, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” As Paul wrote about Christ’s return, he warned that Jesus will inflict “vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel” (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

“Do I have to do any kind of work to go to heaven?”

Paul said we are not saved by works (Eph. 2:9), but James said we are saved by works (James 2:24-26). Since the Bible contains no contradictions, being the Word of God, there must be two different kinds of works. In Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul is teaching that works of merit are excluded from salvation. In James 2:24-26, James is teaching that works of obedience are required for salvation. We are expected to be faithful to God if we wish to benefit from God’s grace and enter into heaven (Matt. 25:14-30; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).

“Will God overlook my sins on the day of Judgment?”

Many abuse the idea of God’s grace by believing that their salvation does not require any effort on their part. God’s grace does not mean that we may continue sinning after we have been baptized into Christ. Paul said, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Rom. 6:1-2). The Bible is full of passages warning Christians of an eternal death if they fail to live a faithful life. John wrote,

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. (Rev. 21:8)

Once we have repented of our sins (Lk. 13:3) and have been baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:4; Acts 2:38), God expects us to remain faithful to Him (Rev. 2:10). Jesus said,

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matt. 7:13-14)

Obviously, there will be many whose sins are not overlooked. We must be sure that we “run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus” (Heb. 12:1-2).

Conclusion

We don’t deserve God’s grace. We deserve the opposite. Yet, because of God’s abounding mercy (due to His agapē love), He offers mankind His grace. When we are baptized into His Son, we become the beneficiaries of His grace by entering into eternal life. However, we must remember that in order to continue receiving the benefits of God’s grace we must also continue following His commandments.

Man’s salvation does not come by God’s grace alone, but comes in two parts. There is God’s grace, which is His part, and there is obedience, which is our part. God has already done His part, and now it is our turn to do ours. God’s grace is a free gift to all, but it is not cheap. It gives men liberty from sin, but not a license to continue in it. God’s plain simple grace is beautiful, and it can be understood by everyone.