Dr. John Hartmann

Proclaiming the Whole Counsel of God

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Paul the Suffering Witness

October 9th, 2011 · No Comments

Forced to flee from Damascus, Saul of Tarsus visited Jerusalem about three years after his conversion, a man alienated from all in his past, from the chief priests who once supported his persecution program, from his synagogue compatriots who think he has betrayed the Jewish faith, and from the followers of Jesus in Jerusalem he had once persecuted. Saul was befriended by Barnabas, who, after hearing his testimony, introduced him to two apostles: Peter, the leading apostolic witness in Jerusalem, and James the Lord’s brother (Gal 1:18-19). Peter is the leader among the apostles, and the leader of the Jerusalem church from about 30-43 AD. James, the Lord’s brother, will later replace Peter as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, presiding as its first bishop from about 44 AD until his martyrdom in 62 AD. Paul at this time (35 AD) spends 15 days visiting with Peter, discussing what Peter knows about Jesus, and some aspects of the gospel that he (Paul) has received by revelation from the Lord (Gal 1:11-12) which he is commissioned to preach to the Gentiles.

Saul was a man set on fire by God, compelled to bear witness of Jesus, the One Who was crucified for transgressors, raised from the dead, and exalted to God’s right hand as the New Adam, a New Federal Head of humanity who is seated far above all the powers of darkness, Who is coming again to glorify those He has redeemed and to rule the nations together with them for 1000 years, in a period of time called “the times of the restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).

The unbelieving Jews in Jerusalem not only reject his message – they plot to take his life. Saul/Paul within the space of just a couple of months has twice had to flee a city to escape a plot against his life from unbelieving Jews. Thus begins a pattern that fulfills what Jesus told him from the very beginning when he called him: he would be His witness and would be shown how much he must suffer for His Name’s sake.

Strange though it may seem, Paul views these sufferings in a most positive way, as a part of his fellowship with Christ, as a joint-heir together with Him (Rom 8:17-18)! He and the other apostles think of these sufferings as something of an honor (Acts 5:41-42), as a sign of salvation and of the judgment that rests on the persecutors, and ultimately as a means by which more and more of God’s grace and power will work through him to comfort, heal, and convert many others. Scriptures:

Matt 5:10-12 The crowning point of the 8 beatitudes: Jesus counts as blessed those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness or who suffer shame from His Name

2 Cor 1:3-11; 4:7-18; 12:1-10 As the sufferings of Christ abound, so God’s comfort abounds to us, resulting in grace ministered to many others in trial as well.

Phil 1:27-30; 2 Thess 1:3-10 Suffering a sign of salvation and judgment

Col 1:24-29 Paul makes up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ on the part of others in the Body of Christ

1 Peter 4:13-14 God is with those who suffer for the cause of Christ, even to the point of His glory resting upon them.

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