Friday, October 11, 2013

Paul's Conversion Account 2 (Acts 22)

1. We get some background information on Paul. Paul was born in Tarsus but grew up in Jerusalem. He studied at the feet of Gamaliel. Gamaliel was a famous Hillelite Pharisee. According to some traditions, he was the grandson of Hillel. We met Gamaliel back in Acts 5.

By stereotype, Hillelite Pharisees were more fatalistic than the other school of Shammai. The Shammaites arguably had a more revolutionary character, "let's help God get stuff done" philosophy. The Hillelites were more "God will do it in his own time," more Quakerish--you can see this in Acts 5. In this respect, Paul sounds a lot more like a Shammaite Pharisee than a Hillelite. Much we just don't know...

2. When Paul says he persecuted followers of the Way to their death, we think of Stephen. We have no record of him causing any other early Christian's death. He seems to have been a "go-fer" for the Sanhedrin.

3. Paul gives three accounts of his conversion in Acts. We had one in Acts 9 by Luke. This one is on Paul's lips. There's another by Paul in Acts 26.  The NIV has smoothed out one minor tension between the first two accounts. In Acts 9 the people with Paul hear the voice but do not see anyone (9:7). In this account, they see the light but do not hear the voice (22:9). The NIV translation removes the question.

4. I wish Jesus would tap me/us on the shoulder this obviously when I was headed in the wrong direction! Paul is blinded. He is later healed, but we can wonder whether he continued to struggle with his eyes to some extent for the rest of his life. Galatians 4:15 suggests that Paul's initial time in Galatia had something to do with his eyes...

(It is hard to know how this might fit with Acts' account. For a long time, I went for a north Galatia audience for Galatians rather than the south Galatian churches of Acts because I didn't see how Paul's first stay in south Galatia could have been related to eye trouble. I finally conceded that it just makes more sense that it would be the churches Acts mentions rather than churches for which we have no record.)

... I personally think this is the only lead we have to go on as far as what Paul's thorn in the flesh might have been (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

5. You have to look up to Ananias.  Good grief, talk about obedience to God!  Your head is saying, "Danger, danger, Will Robinstein." But you go ahead and do what God tells you anyway.

6. Calling Jesus "the Righteous One" is interesting and we find it elsewhere in Acts. Richard Hays thinks Paul reads Habakkuk to say, "My Righeous One will live by faithfulness."  He thinks most of the passages we take as "faith in Christ" are actually about the "faithfulness of Christ."

7. 22:16 makes a connection between baptism and washing sins away. Acts 15:9 made the same connection with the Spirit.  They go together in Acts . You are baptized; you receive the Spirit.

8. Notice again how Acts accentuates the law-keeping of Paul and Ananias, fitting the context in Jerusalem.  Ananias is a devout observer of the Law (22:12).  Paul was praying in the temple when God tells him to leave Jerusalem and that he is sending him to the Gentiles. In Galatians we find out that Paul went to Jerusalem 3 years after his conversion.

It's when Paul mentions the Gentiles that the mob goes wild again...


Susan Moore said...

Part 1 of 7
The Common Language of God shortened study on ‘thorn’ (as in Paul’s side) in KJV:
The word ‘thorn’ was first used in Genesis 18 as a name of a physical element, “And unto Adam He said, because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, ‘Thou shalt not eat of it’, cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. Thorns also and thistles shall it bring for to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;” (Genesis 3:17-19).

But God is quick to give us hope in Exodus 22:6 (come back to this after reading through this whole response and I think you’ll see what I mean), “If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution” (Exodus 22:6).

And come back to this, too, “And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and His Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour His thorns and His briers in one day” (Isaiah 10:17).

Susan Moore said...

Part 2 of 7
Linguistic transposition continues by using the idea of a physical thorn but adding to that meaning ‘thorn’s initial abstract and spiritual reference, “But if ye not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:55).

Reinforcing verse, “Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you” (Joshua 23:13). Paul may have considered that verse as he sat blind for three days and night with no food or water.

Linguistic identity verse identifying ‘thorns’ with idolaters and violators of the First Commandment, “Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you” (Judges 2:3)

Susan Moore said...

Part 3 of 7
Linguistic identity verse connecting thorns with human idolaters, “What shall ye do in the solemn day, and in the day of the feast of the Lord? For, lo, they are gone because of destruction: Egypt shall gather them up, Memphis shall bury them; the pleasant places of silver, nettles shall possess them: thorns shall be their tabernacles” (Hosea 9: 5-6). That verse links to the Common Language thread for ‘tabernacle’, and ends up referring to the body of Satan (those who belong to Satan) in contrast to the Body of Christ (those who have confessed with their mouths that Jesus is Lord, and believe in their hearts that God raised them from the dead: those who are saved).

This transposition of the word ‘thorn’ from its physical meaning to the added meaning of human idolaters to include the fruit of human idolaters, continues in the New Testament in Matthew 7:16, “Ye shall know them by their fruits: Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?” A thorn, then, is also a sort of ‘false fruit’.

Susan Moore said...

Part 4 of 7
Matthew, Mark and Luke relate this parable from Jesus, “A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side and it was trodden down and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock and as soon as it was sprung up it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit one hundredfold. And when He had said these things, He cried, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear!” (Luke 8:6-8).

But Jesus is merciful and explains, “Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God.
Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the Word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which when they hear, receive the Word with joy, and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it and bring forth fruit with patience” (Luke 8:11-15). The Common Language key element of ‘Seed’ links to ‘the Way’ and ‘truth’ and ‘life’ and is part of the Common Language that Jesus uses to identify Himself as God.

Susan Moore said...

Part 5 of 7
What happens to the thorns? The idolaters who support the worshiping and serving of cares and riches and pleasures of life? This is what happens, “But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned” (Hebrews 6:8). Now if Exodus 22:6 and Isaiah 10:17 are re-read (above), those verses can then be read in their spiritual context, even though they were written by two different authors living about 700 years apart, and perhaps another 700 years before the writer of Hebrews.

What can prevent a fiery ending for us? Grace. Paul knew this, “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in my flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And He said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2Cor. 12:7-9).

Susan Moore said...

Part 6 of 7
But Paul knew it ends well for him (and us) because he know these verses of Isaiah 55:6-13), “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, and it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my Word be that goeth forth out of my mouth; it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. For ye shall go out with joy, and be lead forth in peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

Susan Moore said...

Part 7 of 7
The bottom line: The Lord’s not done with signs, miracles and wonders. In fact, He’s making one right now: Us; His heirs to His throne. His kingdom’s coming, Paul. Amen.

P.S. Dr. Schenck, the whole Bible maps out like that. By linking key words together The Common Language of God (TCLoG) form a sort of netting around that ray of light that I described in my response to yesterday’s blog. A cross-cut analysis (a contextual method of interpretation) of scripture is only relevant and useful if it contains itself within the netting of TCLoG. TCLoG is not a contextual method of interpretation, nor a Spiritual reading; it is a linguistic method of interpretation: The CLofG is a linguistic meta-language created, grown, sustained, described and taught by the God who speaks.

Richard Fellows said...

Ken, John Knox used Paul's illness to argue for south Galatia. "Chapters in a Life of Paul", 2nd edition p60: "it would seem much more likely that the illness was the occasion of an interrupting of a planned itinerary than that it was a reason for the itinerary itself. And if this is true, surely the south Galatian cities come nearer to being indicated than, say, Pessinus to the north. Galatians 4:13 may well mean that in his haste to reach Macedonia he might have passed south Galatia by if illness or disability had not stopped him."