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April 4: The Conversion of the Apostle Paul

Paul the Apostle by Claude Vignon Vision Viewpoint Hartford WIVision Viewpoint begins this week’s series in looking at the evidence for the resurrection of Christ by studying the character and actions of those directly affected by Christ both before and after Christ’s ministry and crucifixion. Vision Viewpoint is a Christian radio program and ministry of Reformation Hope Church in Hartford, WI.

Everyone who studies the history of the ancient world, and in particular comments concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ, agrees that some account has to be made for one of the most spectacular pieces of evidence for such an event: the conversion and the testimony of St. Paul.

St. Paul was, in fact, Saul of Tarsus – head of the police and investigators who charged the Christians. It was he who destroyed the churches throughout Judea. Yet suddenly, this is the great man who began to preach the faith he once destroyed. It was his testimony that he saw the resurrected Lord. He who had been the cunning persecutor, who was in charge of spy systems and special agents sent about to do various tasks on behalf of his superiors in Jerusalem. He was very aware of Roman authorities; his connections throughout the Roman world were vast. He had the authority to go anywhere in any synagogue in the Mediterranean area and bring a man to Jerusalem to charge him in the local courts. He had such authority. Suddenly he is the man writing the brilliant epistle of the book of Romans, and other epistles contained in the New Testament.

The apostle Paul is a fact of history that must be dealt with. He himself, in writing to the church in Corinth:

 

“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: and if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)

It’s very clear that the apostle Paul understood the significance of the resurrection of Christ. This would be a man who would die for his faith; in fact, as a universal testimony concerning the resurrection was the fact that the disciples, who likewise saw the risen Christ, were changed from being timid, fearful men hiding in upper rooms from the authorities who were thought to be seeking charges against those involved with Christ, became, upon seeing the resurrected Lord three days later, the bold preachers of righteousness throughout the Mediterranean world.

The authorities couldn’t stop any of these preachers, and St. Paul was one of them. He had been a persecutor; he stood by and gave assent to the stoning of Stephen, recorded in the book of Acts. But then he began to preach the faith that he once denied. We can see that he understood the significance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable”: if Christ did not rise from the dead, then it does not matter what else we say about Christianity or the truth. Either we have an empowered religion and a rise Lord, who sits at the right hand of the Father and unto whom you can come at this time and call upon Him by faith, or we have nothing.

According to some of the most eminent legal jurists in the world – men like Dr. Simon Greenleaf, royal professor of law at Harvard University, and Dr. Frank Morrison, the great jurist of the twentieth century, and Lord Caldecott, the Lord Chief Justice of England – such men repeatedly examined, from every perspective, the evidence concerning the resurrection of Christ. Time and time again they came to the same conclusion conclusion, as one of them put it: “The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the best attested events with evidence in the ancient world.” “There is more evidence that Christ rose from the dead,” another wrote, “than that Julius Caesar even lived.”

The apostle Paul is but one of those pieces of evidence, but by no means all of it. Jesus Christ, we’re told in Scripture, presented Himself “by many infallible proofs” (Acts 1:3) that He was, in fact, Lord – and remains so, demonstrated by His resurrection from death.

Vision Viewpoint will continue this week to look at the evidence surrounding Christ and His resurrection. A ministry of Reformation Hope Church, Vision Viewpoint is a Christian radio program broadcasting from Hartford, WI.

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