Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Love broke through!

Today we start a new (2018) book, Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, by Douglas Campbell. Follow along!

We can now see two revelations working together whenever God is being revealed and understood. There is Jesus, and there is the Spirit. These two figures operate like the two hands of God gathering people up and bringing them back to the Father. Presumably this is what happened to Paul near Damascus as well. He was touched by both the Lord Jesus and by God’s Spirit.

These claims can frustrate modern historians who like to build pictures of people out of the factors that shaped them as children and young adults—their families, early childhood homes, cultures, and so on—and explain their subsequent behavior in the light of those influences. What happened to Paul earlier on that made him convert in this astonishing way? But this assumes that the most important factors in history are things that take place within history, where we can see them—things like sociological and psychological factors. This would miss the point of what Paul tells us. He says that the most important factors in history come from outside of it, from God. He goes out of his way in his longest account of this event, in his letter to Galatians, to emphasize that whatever his background was, whatever the preceding factors, they didn’t matter that much. He was a learned Jew, he says in Galatians 1:14, and so dedicated, he says in the previous verse, that he was persecuting religious deviants. But he was heading in the completely wrong direction and God changed him by breaking into his life, the chapter continues. It was a surprise, a shock, a sudden about-face. Conventional historical analysis couldn’t predict this and can’t explain it. It can only be explained by divine revelation—and this applies just as much to Christians today. Christians believe that Jesus is Lord (God), because God has revealed this to us through God’s Spirit.—Paul: An Apostle’s Journey, 17–18

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