NEWSFLASH! "God has Saved the Chief of Sinners!"
What he goes on to say has great implications, not just for Jews, but for religious people everywhere. He continues – and again we quote –
“But therefore was I shown mercy, that in me, the foremost, Jesus Christ should be displaying all His patience, for a pattern of those who are about to be believing on Him for life eonian.”
It is astonishing to see how far Saul (he prefers to be called Paul) has moved from his roots. He was educated in Jerusalem in the school of Gamaliel and regarded as a natural successor of the great teacher. All that has now gone, for his utterances have put him “beyond the pale.”
Jews regard themselves as God’s witnesses on earth. Any hope for the Gentiles (the nations) was through Israel, the priestly nation. Paul has now said that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, so by implication the law is now redundant. Certainly Moses never said that the law was given to save sinners!
In point of fact, the law could not save sinners from the moment one becomes a sinner, it is already too late for the law. The utility of the law was to prevent a person becoming a sinner, then later to provide a means whereby the penalty was suspended for a time. Law could point the way to righteous conduct, but could not provide the strength to carry out its demands.
PAUL’S CASE – “A Pattern for All Who Believe”
Two other points are of great significance. Paul says that his own case is [a] “A Pattern for all those [b] who are about to be believing.” In saying that his case is a pattern, he must mean that all who come after him are saved in the same way. He does not mean they will have a Damascus road experience, but “the grace of our Lord overwhelms in faith and love.” This is the pattern, and it is for all who are to believe. Nothing like this is said in the law. Grace is unmerited favour to the undeserving, and had the favour been earned then it could not be of grace.
“All who are to believe.” Having discarded law, the distinction between Jew and Gentile is reduced to a mere rite. As grace and love overwhelm, law has no place. The instructions, exhortations and penalties did nothing to improve the conduct of its subjects, and only added to the misery of their failure.
Law was restricted to Israel, but grace knows no bounds – in fact, we might say that there is even greater scope for grace among the benighted heathen!
God has saved the foremost – the chief of sinners. Paul tells us that formerly he was a calumniator and a persecutor and an outrager. He had no thought of repentance when he was challenged on the Damascus road. Peter reminds us in Acts 3:22 that everyone who was not hearing the Prophet like unto Moses should be utterly exterminated from among the people, and this is an early intimation of the coming dispensation of grace. It had not yet dawned, therefore, at that time, Saul was shown mercy. But
“It was not mercy that changed Saul of Tarsus,
but overwhelming grace.”
Though he did not fall into the condemnation mentioned by Peter, Saul continued to persecute those of “the way” for some time, until his remarkable experience on the Damascus road. There he says, a light from heaven, above the brightness of the noonday sun, shone about him, and he received a vision of the risen Jesus. And as the light accompanied the overwhelming grace, it is not surprising that it overwhelmed the brightness of the noonday sun.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org