Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An additional vision Paul had

As Paul was in Jerusalem and was the center of an uproar and accusations he had defiled the temple grounds by bringing in Greeks, he made a defense, or rather, bore his testimony telling of his conversion, but at the tail end of that experience, he also recounts another vision he saw of Jesus and instructions he was given.
17 And it came to pass, that, when I was come again to Jerusalem, even while I prayed in the temple, I was in a trance;
18 And saw him saying unto me, Make haste, and get thee quickly out of Jerusalem: for they will not receive thy testimony concerning me.
19 And I said, Lord, they know that I imprisoned and beat in every synagogue them that believed on thee:
20 And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him.
21 And he said unto me, Depart: for I will send thee far hence unto the Gentiles.
22 And they gave him audience unto this word, and then lifted up their voices, and said, Away with such a fellow from the earth: for it is not fit that he should live. (Acts 22:17-22)
It is easy to overlook this vision because his account is very short, but there are some interesting features to it.

The first thing we notice is that the Jews, by their reaction, fully vindicated Christs’ words to Paul; they were incensed that God would send a minister to the gentiles, so they overlooked all the great witness Paul bore just so they could indulge their prejudice.

The next thing we notice from this account is that Paul seems to have argued with the Lord a little bit, such that the Lord repeats the instructions to confirm them.  But it is a little difficult to see what Paul’s argument is.  It almost doesn’t make sense.

“Leave, the Jews won’t listen to you.”
“But they know I persecuted the Saints.”

Why did Paul think the Jews’ knowledge of Paul’s persecutions of the Saints was a good reason for Paul to stay in Jerusalem?  I would think it would be embarrassing, plus Paul would get persecuted too as he had once persecuted others.

Finally I realized that Paul was arguing he could be a more effective missionary among the Jews because they know what he was like and what had done before his conversion and they would see how he had changed since his conversion.  He felt that would make the most powerful argument for Christ.  It is also possible he wondered how he could have any success talking about the change in his life to an audience who didn’t know his “before.”

Still, Christ reconfirmed the call to teach the gentiles.  It is possible that with a slightly weakened rhetorical strategy there would be a greater opportunity for the Spirit to witness to the truth.  People would not be converted by Paul’s arguments, but by the Spirit they felt from his testimony.

I think this is good for us to remember today.  It's not the arguments, it's not the logic, it's the Spirit felt through testimony that converts.