by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 1 Paragraph # 5 Study # 2 December 5, 2010 Dayton, Texas
14 And profited in the Jews' religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace,
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.
1901 ASV Translation:
14 and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace,
16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus.
I. The Nature of the Change in Paul's Behavior.
A. In the previous verse, he addressed his aggression against the Church of God.
1. He described it as "excessive" (according to the standard of going far beyond the norm).
2. His description addresses a virulent attitude toward God expressed in action against His Church.
a. Paul's fundamental theology involves the concept of Jesus as the Head of a new humanity so that He could say, "Inasmuch as you have done it to the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto Me" (Matthew 25:40).
b. Additionally, Paul's theology is heavily invested in the concept of the unity between Adam as the embodiment of humanity and those born from his lineage, and the unity between Jesus and the new humanity of those "born again". It is so "tight" as to make Him capable of "becoming sin for us" and to make us "the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21).
c. As a persecutor of the Church, Paul, then, was revealing the fact that his "god" was not the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Of course he used the "identity handles" (The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), but the reality was that his true "god" was nothing like Abraham's. It takes more than words to establish reality.
d. The fact is that Paul was motivated by the hatred Lucifer had for God for the same reasons. He was scrambling for the position of honor that would bring all before his throne to recognize his superiority.
B. In this verse, he addresses his "profit", or "advance", in Judaism.
1. Paul's record is that he was actually being effective in his pursuit.
2. His "profit", or "advance", was rooted in the term he chose to express his progress toward his goal.
a. The etymology of the term Paul used here signals the understanding that progress involves some painful, and intense, labors (determined progress in spite of the cost).
b. Every New Testament use of the term Paul employed here is used in contexts wherein the entity being described is "making progress" toward its objective ("the night is far spent" [Romans 13:12]; "profane and vain babblings...will increase unto more ungodliness" [2 Timothy 2:16]; "evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse" [2 Timothy 3:13]).
c. This makes the objective the real issue. The question arises: what was Saul of Tarsus actually attempting to achieve as his "objective"? The answer is as given above: "the position of honor that would bring all before his throne to recognize his superiority". But, is this not an intermediate objective? So what if everyone recognizes the superiority of another? In some way, Lucifer managed to twist the methodologies of "Life" ("fullness of joy") into getting everyone to look to him for the necessities of their lives. His God, however, establishes the fact that "Life" arises out of serving others, not getting the credit for such service. When "service" is rendered so that the "served" may give the "server" the credit, serious ungodliness is at the root. But when "service" is rendered so that the "served" may experience a greater joy, actual godliness is at the root.
3. The realm of Saul's labors was "Judaism".
a. We have already noted the significance of "Judaism" as a "religion" wherein obtaining favorable recognition from men and God is a key objective (Note the Message Outline for the immediately prior study, I. B. b.(044)). It is not the final objective, but it is a primary methodological objective.
b. The issue involved ties the "profit/advance" terminology to "Judaism" as a major "T"heological/"t"heological matter.
4. The claim by Paul is that, as Saul, he saw his "contemporaries" (the word "equals" means 'people of the same age') as competitors for his objective(s) and that he was more willing to pay the price to gain what he wanted than they.
a. In view of the body/soul/spirit issues that undergird God's creation of man, this claim of being a more aggressive competitor indicates how little the issues of the soul meant to Saul of Tarsus.
b. Saul was almost completely a "spirit" focused person with its attendant lust for status and recognition.
5. Additionally, he added the particular focus he deemed necessary to the task: the long-established "traditions" of the leaders of his "nation".