Yesterday we learned that Paul suffered a great deal for the sake of Jesus, just like Jesus said he would. Was that punishment for his behavior, both before and after his conversion on that Damascus road? Some would have us think so. After all, he didn’t know when to shut his yap. On the other hand, neither did Jesus. Or Peter. Or John. Or Andrew. Or James. Or Philip. Or Bartholomew. Or Thomas. Or Matthew….
Oh, and how about the thousands, if not millions, who have lost their lives specifically because they wouldn’t shut up about Jesus? I’m not talking about those with the faith of the majority of Americans. I’m talking about a life-and-death-proclamation-of-Jesus-as-Lord type of faith.
These willingly lost their life because of their allegiance to Jesus. And who was he? The Jews and the Romans would tell us he is a dead guy – a dead guy who wouldn’t keep HIS yap shut. But who do these martyrs say he is? In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul recites what many scholars believe to be the first creed of the early church. Let’s take a peek at this:
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
Notice what he said – as of first importance. First.
I’m reminded of what Paul wrote to the Philippians.
Philippians 2:5-11 Have this in mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
But is that just what Paul thinks? Is he alone in this view? Hardly. It doesn’t take much study at all to find this the common thread throughout the bible from front to back. Was Paul passionate about all this? Absolutely. So were all the others who witnessed the risen Jesus. It cost them all their lives.
This causes me to wonder about how I witness. Is my ‘first importance” the risen Christ? Why should it be? Because faith in the risen Lord Jesus is one condition God has imposed on us to be saved (Romans 10:9). It’s a big deal. Confession time – I don’t talk about this nearly enough. The early church did, and it cost them all their lives. They considered that a small price to pay so that they might tell all they could about Jesus. Just imagine!
Let’s make sure we understand this. Saul came to kill those who preached the gospel. Paul willingly gave his life for the sake of the gospel. Just as Jesus set for him to do.
Someone recently said that Paul would not be the guy to invite to dinner. Why? Because he would be embarrassing. Well, I recall more than one dinner party that Jesus spoiled. Remember what happened after he fed the five thousand?
John 6:60-71 When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is of no avail. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered him, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.” He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was going to betray him.
Yup, he did that. Jesus chased them all away, except for a few. Wasn’t he aware that he was belligerent? Actually, Jesus wasn’t. The crowd was.
Father, the bible is full of hard lessons. Teach them to us. Amen.
Copyright © 2018 Scott Powers