Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Paul: You Can't Keep A Good Apostle Down

Saul of Tarsus was a Roman citizen by birth (his father was a roman citizen) which had its advantages, for one you could own property, have a legal trial, enter into legal contracts, marry another Roman, run for office, and was immune from many taxes. Best of all you didn't get whipped or tortured, and you could only be executed for treason and if you were executed they couldn't crucify you. 

For all their cruelty the Romans were fairly tolerant, you could do pretty much anything you want, worship who or whatever you want, buy, sell, or steal what ever you need, and just carry on as ungodly as you want, just as long as you didn't commit treason or cause a riot. The Jews of the first century didn't get that whole "not rioting" part quite right and paid for it dearly in 70 AD. Up until that time the Jewish people were nothing but trouble for Rome with their Pharisees and their Sadducees and their Zelots, always bickering and arguing one point of law after another. It is said that if you put two Jews in a room they'd end up with three different opinions of the room. Then one day along came a young Rabbi named Jesus who really stirred up the crowds, Jerusalem was constantly on the verge of revolt and the only thing that kept the city from exploding into riots was some quick maneuvering by the Sanhedrin which eliminated the young rabbi and things seemed to quiet down a bit. Then came Saul.  

Saul was a good Jewish scholar, by his own words "of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law," a young Pharisee on the fast road to success. While still young he was sent to Jerusalem to be educated by none other than Gamaliel, one of the most noted rabbis in History. There at the Hillel school he was taught classical literature, philosophy and ethics. It's said that he was being groomed for a seat on the Sanhedrin itself. Saul was an avid persecutor of the early Christians, he saw many dragged off and whipped for their faith. He stood proudly and approved as the Apostle Steven was stoned to death for his faith in Christ Jesus. Maybe he was there in the High Priests house when Jesus was tried, maybe he was there at the cross... Yep, Saul was being fast tracked to success as a Pharisee, that is until Jesus sat him down on the road to Damascus and had a few words with young Saul.

Once Saul saw the light (and he really did see the light! (is that where the expression comes from?)) Saul, now Paul, stopped persecuting Christians and proceeded to turn Judaism on its ear with just as much gusto as he once hauled off Christians to their doom. Paul was not on the "Making Friends and Influencing People" tour, he was charged with spreading the Good News, and that News would be spread come hell or high water... or rocks.

Paul and Barnabas started moving about, traveling from town to town spreading the Gospel, converting some people, angering others. When they reached Iconium they preached and performed signs and wonders but a mob took offence to their interference and decided to take matters into their own hands
4 But the people of the city were divided; and some sided with the Jews, and some with the apostles. 5 And when an attempt was made by both the Gentiles and the Jews with their rulers, to mistreat and to stone them, 6 they became aware of it and fled to the cities of Lycaonia, Lystra and Derbe, and the surrounding region (Acts 14:4-6)

Escaping ahead of the unruly mob, Paul and Barnabas ended up in Lystra where they healed a lame man. The crowd thought they were Greek gods and began to offer sacrifices to them over their protests. Then, to make matters worse, Jews from Iconium and Antioch showed up and it got ugly:
But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. (Acts 14:19)
Supposing him to be dead? Stoning in the middle east is a long time honored tradition. Stoning is a horrible fate and these folks are really good at it (and still are, they're still slaughtering their own people with rocks  nearly on a daily basis) - the survival rate is pretty low. Lower than 0% 

When you're stoned they throw small rocks at you until you stop ducking and weaving. When you're too injured to avoid them any more the stoners begin to aim for your head. And when you stop moving all together they break out rocks the size of bowling balls and just drop them on you. When they left Paul for dead, it's very likely he was dead, these people knew how to stone someone, and for them a proper stoning = dead. Years later Paul recalls:
2 I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. 3 Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know 4 that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. (2 Corinthians 12:2-4)
Paul looks pretty dead to me too. The bible speaks of three heavens, the first is the firmament A.K.A. Earth's atmosphere, where clouds and birds live. The second is outer space where the stars and the asteroids play. The third is what we consider to be heaven, where God and the angels and spirits of just men dwell. Deuteronomy and 1 Kings calls it the highest heavens. I may be wrong but if one moment you find yourself staring at a rock heading at your face at the rate of 120 feet per second and the next moment you find yourself in the presence of God, you're dead. 

Bewildered, the brethren gathered round Paul's broken and bloody body. I'm sure there were some tears along with the shock of losing their mentor. Then...
But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. (Acts 14:20)
He got back up and went back into the city that just tried to kill him! What chutzpah! What dedication! Dead one moment then back to work spreading the Gospel the next. I couldn't imagine walking back into that city after what had happened but the Lord was with Paul that day as he rose up and strolled back into town like nothing ever happened. Praise the Lord what a glorious occurrence! 

With Paul, you can't keep a good Apostle down.

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