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God's Covenant To Paul the Apostle

Saul of Tarsus was a vicious man who was entrusted by his Jewish leaders to fulfill the mission of obliterating Jesus' early followers.

Yet, the unexpected happened. On the road to Damascus something happened to Saul that changed him and the course of history forever. On the road to Damascus, Paul was blinded by a divine light and so weakened that he could not eat for three days or nights. (Acts 9:3-9)

Shortly after arriving at Damascus, the Lord sent Ananias to Saul to place his hands to return Saul's sight.  (Acts 9:10-19)  In this healing, Saul's strength was returned and the Lord gave a vision as promised to Ananias:

"Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." (Acts 9:15-16)

Almost immediately Paul (who was previously Saul) began preaching and proving that Jesus was the Christ as promised in the Old Testament, to the astonishment and wrath of the local Jews. Here one of their most trusted had become an advocate for their perceived adversaries, and so they plotted to murder him. Thus Paul was sent packing back to his home town of Tarsus.  (Acts: 9:20-30)

If we look at the change in Paul and his ministry from only an earthly political interpretation, then this is the end of the matter. You either are of the faction of Jesus, or you are not of the faction of Jesus. For those who did not see in Spirit, Paul's shift to becoming an apostle for Jesus was seen from the Old Testament Jews' perspective as abandoning God's people.

However, what this limited interpretation overlooks is Paul's own perspective in the matter. Now in the early days of Paul's apostolic ministry, his own internal motives might only have been articulate orally to a few close confidantes. However, if we look at Pauls' later writings, we see clear evidence of God's divine revelation, and God's ultimate plan for reconciling not just the gentiles but also the Jews. In fact, we see evidence that God entered into a covenant with Paul that included both the gentiles and the Jews. For example

"I am obligated both to Greeks and non-Greeks, both to the wise and the foolish. That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith." ( Romans 1:14-17 )

 Paul explores this more fully in Romans 11 , where he explains that:

  • God deliberately hardened the hearts of the Jews
  • God then granted the grace of salvation to the Gentiles to make the Jews envious (or Israel: God's chosen peoples)
  • Paul refers to an Old Testament concept of God breaking branches and removing or grafting in branches into God's tree of life (e.g. Zechariah 11 ; Ezekiel 17:22-24 ).
  • Paul cautions the Gentiles not be be complacent because if the natural branches can be broken off, so can the newly grafted branches
  • For all those who do not persist in unbelief (read lack of faith), God is able to graft them back in again ( Romans 11:23 )

Paul then goes on to reveal God's plan for reconciling both Jew and Gentile, and thus the covenant by which Paul moved to redeem not just the Gentile but also the Jew:

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in . And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins." As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for Godís gifts and his call are irrevocable. ( Romans 11:25-29 )

Paul then continues that God's covenant covers more than the Jews and gentiles churches, but all the peoples of all the nations:

Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of Godís mercy to you. For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all. ( Romans 11:30-32 )

Thus God's vision covers all of all humanity: male and female, young and old, weathly or poor, sick or healthy, black or white. God is not limited to the artibitrary human divisions of race, colour, nationality, denomination, gender, political alliances, cultural history. God does not see reconciliation through our works or our history, but rather through our faith and willingness to keep his Sabbath and abide within His covenants.

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