By Arlen L. Chitwood
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if any be found of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
And as he journeyed, he came
And he said, Who are thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Acts 9: 1-5).
Saul, later called Paul, is introduced in Scripture at the same time Stephen was cast out of the city and stoned by the council. Stephen had laid out before the council, from their own Scriptures, exactly what had happened, was happening, and was about to happen. And this was something which couldn’t be denied, for Stephen had simply called their attention to exactly what God had to say about the matter, exactly as God had revealed it. Then, closing his discourse, Stephen provoked the Jewish religious leaders to the point of forcing them to see what had been done, based on revelation from their own Scriptures (Acts 7: 51-58).
Because of that which the Jewish religious leaders had just heard, Stephen, in his closing remarks, forced the issue after such a fashion that they were left with two choices: these religious leaders could either 1) acknowledge that which they had done, or 2) they could do away with the one who had called this to their attention. They could either acknowledge being “the betrayers and murderers” of “the just One” and repent of their act (subsequently resulting in the entire nation repenting) or they could do away with Stephen.
even though Stephen’s message moved the very Godhead in heaven to react after a
fashion which anticipated the possibility that
Those in the council laid their clothes down “at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen.” Saul was “consenting” unto Stephen’s death, and he “kept the raiment” of those who slew Stephen. (Acts 7: 58 - 8: 1; 22: 20).
And not only was Saul introduced at this point in the book, but attention was immediately called to his actions. He was the great persecutor of the early Church. He “made havoc of the Church.” He entered into homes (the Church met in homes in those days) and dragged Christians away, having them imprisoned and beaten. Saul was at the centre of the “great persecution” arising against the Church at the time of Stephen’s death (Acts 8: 1-3; 22: 19).
But God had other plans for Saul. This was the man who, himself, would shortly be converted and subsequently experience a lifetime of sufferings for Christ’s sake (Acts 9: 16). This was the man who, following his conversion, would give himself wholly over to Christ, as, prior to his conversion, he, unknowingly, had given himself wholly over to the cause of destroying the work of Christ on earth. And, accordingly, this was the man through whom God would make known the mystery, the man God had chosen to carry the message rejected
by Israel to the Gentiles, and the man God had chosen to pen most of the New Testament epistles.
This is why attention in the Book of Acts, shortly following his introduction, shifts to Saul. He is introduced at the end of the seventh chapter, his activities are outlined at the beginning of the eighth chapter, his conversion is recorded at the beginning of the ninth chapter, and by the time of the events recorded in the thirteenth chapter he occupies the central place among Christians within God’s plans and purposes as they unfold throughout the remainder of the book.
Events surrounding the termination of Stephen’s message present one of the most interesting pictures in all of Scripture. On the one hand, the heavens were opened, with the Glory visible and Jesus seen standing at His Father’s right hand, awaiting the Jewish religious leaders’ reaction to the message. And, on the other hand, Saul was standing by, for God already knew how these religious leaders would react.
God already knew how these religious leaders would react, some maybe inclined
to wonder why God would open the heavens and reveal His Glory and His Son after
this fashion, intimating the possibility of something occurring which God
already knew couldn’t occur. And, beyond
that, God already had Saul standing by to be introduced at the time of
The outworking of God’s plans and purposes in the
preceding respect can best be understood in the light of the overall offer of
the kingdom of the heavens to
when the heavens were opened at the termination of Stephen’s message – with the
glory visible and Jesus seen standing - there was a bona fide movement within
the Godhead in heaven relative to the possibility of
is simply the manner in which God is seen revealing Himself in Scripture. And God even revealed Himself through Paul
after this fashion very near the end of that period during which the re-offer
of the kingdom remained open to
though things were going in a completely different direction at this time, with
the door for
Again, this is simply the manner in which God is seen revealing Himself in Scripture. And it is not so much for man in his finite wisdom to understand as it is for man in his finite wisdom to believe.)
PAUL - A TYPE
The conversion and subsequent ministry of Paul forms a dual type. One facet of the type is revealed at the outset of God’s dealings with Paul in the Book of Acts, and the other facet of the type is revealed toward the end of Paul’s ministry in his first letter to Timothy (Acts 9: 1 ff, 1 Tim. 1: 15, 16).
The first type reflects back on Stephen’s message, setting Paul forth as a type within the framework of that which Stephen had called attention to through drawing from several different types; and the second type reflects back on Paul’s ministry, setting Paul forth as a type within the framework of his calling.
And only an omniscient God - One able to see the future as well as He could see the past and present - could take a man such as Paul and, from his experiences and actions, establish a dual type of this nature.
But this is only a very minute part of the typical structure of Scripture. God, throughout His Word, beginning with Adam, has taken individuals, and, within the framework of His omniscience and sovereignty, has brought things to pass within their lives after such a fashion that He could later use these things to teach His people great spiritual truths. And the experiences of these individuals, forming types, must present teachings which are completely harmonious, one with the other.
The Word of God, in this respect, has been structured after an intricate, detailed fashion which defies all human understanding. It is spiritual in its structure, given by the infinite God, through the [Holy] Spirit, and totally beyond finite, human comprehension; and it must be interpreted by the [Holy] Spirit Who gave it, as He takes spiritual things one place and compares them with spiritual things at another place.
Anyone, saved or unsaved, can see the “letter” of Scripture. But only a saved person who allows the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead him “into all truth” can possess the type spiritual perception which will allow him to move from the “letter” to the “spirit” of the Word, correctly viewing that which is spiritual.
Scripture must be compared with Scripture, under the leadership of the Spirit of God. The [Holy] Spirit, Who gave the Word, must be allowed to open this Word to a Christian’s understanding through “comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (cf. John 16: 13-15; 1 Cor. 19-32).
And one form of the spiritual manner in which the Word has been given can be seen in Paul’s conversion and subsequent ministry. Paul’s conversion followed Stephen extensively dealing with various types (forming one overall type) from the Old Testament, in relation to the message concerning the kingdom and Israel; and Paul’s conversion preceded that which God was about to do within His plans and purposes, in relation to the message concerning the kingdom and the Gentiles.
in keeping with the timing and reason for Paul’s conversion, God, as He brought
matters to pass, did two things: 1)
He, through Paul’s conversion, formed one type by reflecting back on that which Stephen had brought out in his message;
and 2) He, through Paul’s calling,
would form another type by
reflecting on things which were about to occur within the framework of His
plans and purposes. The first type was in
1. IN RELATION TO 1SRAEL
Stephen, during the course of his message, began with God’s promise to Abraham and ended with God’s fulfilment of this promise during Solomon’s day (though the complete fulfilment is seen, not in the type through activities brought to pass in Solomon’s day, but in the antitype through activities which will be brought to pass in that coming day following Christ’s return). But Stephen also dealt with other types lying between these two points in his complete message, types which carry a person to the same goal, to the Messianic Kingdom. He dealt extensively with the experiences of Joseph; and then he also dealt extensively with the experiences of Moses, leading into those of his successor, Joshua.
which had just occurred in
Then, when God began to deal with Paul, He set forth
these same concluding truths again within the framework of Paul’s conversion. God, through
Paul’s conversion, set forth once again a type of
Paul was saved through Christ’s personal appearance, through Christ personally revealing Himself to him. This same type was previously seen through both Joseph revealing himself to his brethren a second time (Gen. 45: lff) and Moses revealing himself to his brethren a second time (Ex. 4:19ff). And all three types point to that coming day when Christ will reveal Himself to His brethren a second time (Zech. 12: 10-14; 13: 6-9; Rev. 1: 7).
in the type, was saved as the apostle to the Gentiles, the one who would carry the
message concerning the King and His kingdom to all the Gentile nations. And, in the antitype, this is exactly what
will occur following
The Jewish people will carry the identical message which Joseph’s brothers carried in the type, following Joseph’s revelation to them – “Joseph is yet alive, and he is governor over all the land of Egypt” (Gen. 45: 26). Carried over into the antitype that would read, “Jesus is yet alive, and He is Governor over all the earth.”
And they will carry the identical message which Moses’ brethren were to carry following his second appearance to them. Once they had been established in the land, within a theocracy, they, in fulfilment of their calling (Isa. 43: 1-10), were to carry God’s message to the Gentile nations of the earth.
Exactly when will all this occur? God revealed once again, immediately following Paul’s conversion, the answer. It will occur after two days, on the third day (Acts 9: 9).
exact wording of Acts 9: 9 states that Paul
was without sight for “three days.” But note the exact wording of several other
related texts. Jonah was in the belly of
the fish “three days and three nights,” as Christ was in “the heart of the
earth” - [in Hades]
- this same length of time [Jonah 1:17; Matt. 12:40].
Christ though, as
Both Hosea in the Old Testament and John in the New reveal that Israel’s blindness will be lifted [synonymous with Israel, as Jonah, being removed from the place of death] after two days, on the third day [Hosea 5:15; 6: 2; John 11: 6, 7, 43, 44; cf. Rom. 11: 25, 26; 2 Cor. 3: 14-16].
when dealing with Paul as a type, the same thing must be said relative to the
length of time Paul remained blind, with his sight then being restored. As a type of
“three days” and “on the
third day” as synonymous after this fashion is in complete keeping with
the way God has established matters in the Old Testament and carried them over
into the New [cf. Gen. 40: 13, 20; 1 Sam. 30: 12, 13; 2 Chron.
10: 5, 12; Esther 4: 16; 5: 1; Jonah 1: 17; Matt. 12: 40]. Only through reckoning time within a given sequence
of days, as God has established time,
can statements that Christ was raised “on the third
day” be reconciled with statements that He was raised “after three days” [cf.
Matt. 27: 63; Mark 8: 31; Luke 24: 7, 21, 46; 1 Cor. 15: 4]. And
the same statements are seen in Scripture relative to
Then note one additional thing about Paul’s conversion. Paul’s immersion in and filling with the [Holy] Spirit, following his conversion, was connected with Joel’s prophecy and its fulfilment. Immediately following the time that his sight was restored - after two days, on the third day - Paul was “filled with the Holy Spirit”; and he then “arose, and was baptized” (Acts 9: 17, 18).
word used for “fill” ‑ being filled with
the Spirit ‑ in verse seventeen is pimplemi. And this is the same word which the [Holy] Spirit had previously
used in chapter two relative to the
disciples being filled with the [Holy] Spirit on the day of Pentecost, resulting in a
beginning fulfilment of Joel’s prophecy at the time that the message surrounding the re-offer of the
kingdom began to be proclaimed to
In effect, through using pimplemi relative to the work of the Spirit at the time of Paul’s conversion, God showed two things: 1) the offer of the kingdom still remained open to Israel, with Joel’s prophecy still continuing to be fulfilled; and 2) Joel’s prophecy (though not being fulfilled today, for God is not presently dealing with Israel) will be fulfilled in its completeness at the time of the fulfilment, in the antitype, of Paul’s conversion ‑ at the time of Israel’s future conversion, following the two days of the present dispensation, on the third day.
2. IN RELATION TO CHRISTIANS
The additional type which God established through Paul’s experiences had to do with God’s longsuffering in His dealings with Paul, mainly in relation to the manner in which God dealt with Paul following his conversion experience in Acts, chapter nine. This type, in connection with God’s longsuffering, had to do with Paul’s calling as the apostle to the Gentiles. And, within this calling, it had to do with the manner in which Paul conducted his life (because of that which he knew lay out ahead), the resultant sufferings which he endured, and the resultant glory which would follow.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Tim. 1: 15, 16).
God established within the person of Paul a “pattern [Gk. hupotuposis, referring to ‘an original type,’ a ‘prototype’]. And God, in the person of His Son, had been longsuffering toward Paul, establishing this prototype.
Though God had been longsuffering toward Paul in his pre-conversion days (as Paul went about seeking to destroy the work of Christ on earth), the text centers on God’s longsuffering relative to Paul in his post-conversion days. That is, the prototype established in the person of Paul has to do with both, but the text and context centre more specifically on the latter. And through His longsuffering in this respect, God established an original type which the [Holy] Spirit could later use to teach Christians “the deep things of God” surrounding their calling (1 Cor. 2: 10).
In the verses immediately preceding this section in 1 Timothy, Paul referred to “the glorious gospel [lit., ‘the gospel of the glory’] of the blessed God,” which had been “committed” to his trust. And Paul then expressed thanks unto the Lord for empowering him, counting him faithful, and calling him into the ministry, though he had previously been “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious [injurious with respect to ‘violence’].” But the grace which God had showed toward Paul “was exceedingly abundant,” looking completely beyond what man had done or was able to do to that which God was not only able to do but would do (vv. 11-14).
Then, in the verses immediately following this section in 1 Timothy, Paul first referred to “the King eternal...” to Whom “be honour and glory forever and ever.” Then he charged Timothy concerning the spiritual warfare and the necessity of believing and being spiritually aware of the issue at hand, which was in complete keeping with that which the Spirit of God had previously revealed through the prophets. And Paul’s charge in this respect was with a view to the faith – “which some having put away concerning faith [lit., ‘concerning the faith’] have made shipwreck” (vv. 17‑20).
The whole of the matter in 1 Tim. 1: 11-20 involves Paul set forth as a pattern, an original type, a prototype, of how individuals, after they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ, can govern their lives in order to one day come into a realization of the hope of their calling. It has to do with Paul set forth as the pattern which Christians can follow if they, as Paul, would one day realize the purpose for their [initial] salvation.
Paul was a driven man. He, on the basis of that which had been revealed to him, looked out ahead and saw a goal; and he was completely, totally obsessed with reaching this revealed goal. Attaining to this goal governed everything brought to pass in the course of his ministry.
Paul had been commissioned as the apostle to the Gentiles to carry the gospel of the glory of Christ to Christians throughout the Gentile world. And his thoughts were centred completely in this realm, in the realm of his calling. And though Paul, during the course of his ministry, often dealt with the unsaved and had to begin with the simple gospel of the grace of God (e.g., Acts 16: 30, 31; 20: 24; 1 Cor. 15: 3, 4; cf. 1 Cor. 2: 2), this was not the central focus of his ministry. Rather, the central focus of Paul’s ministry ‑ that to which he had been called ‑ had to do with the gospel of the glory of Christ (as seen in I Tim. 1: 11-20, along with numerous other places throughout his epistles).
This was the realm upon which his every thought was constantly focused. This was the realm upon which his entire ministry centered. Paul looked out toward that coming day when Christ would ascend the throne; and, knowing that the very purpose for his salvation had to do with ascending the throne with Christ in that coming day, Paul did two things: 1) Paul governed his own life accordingly, and 2) he sought to instruct and exhort other Christians to govern their lives after the same fashion, for the same reason (cf. Eph. 1: 15-18; Phil. 3: 7 - 21; Col. 1: 23-29).
And God set Paul forth as a pattern, an original type, a prototype, in this respect (cf. Phil. 3: 17‑19; 2 Tim. 1: 13). His life, because he had given himself wholly over to Christ and the [Holy] Spirit’s leadership, was one of suffering, rejection, physical and spiritual abuse, imprisonment... (2 Cor. 11: 23-27). But it was also one of corresponding involvement with “the care of all the churches” (v. 28) and one wherein he could say toward the end of his journey:
“I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Tim. 4: 7, 8).
God, in the person of Paul, has set forth His
example, His prototype. Paul’s life was given over entirely to fulfilling that to which he had been
called. The personal cost in his eyes,
was immaterial. He took exactly the same
attitude toward sufferings in his ministry which Christ had taken toward
Achieving the goal would be worth any sufferings or persecution which he would have to endure. And his interest, far from being in himself alone, was equally, if not more so, in seeing that Christians within the scope of his ministry achieved this same goal as well (cf. Acts 20: 25‑32).
PAUL ‑ THE APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES
was saved to carry the message which
Those in the household of Cornelius were the first Gentiles to hear the message, though this message came from Peter’s lips rather than from Paul’s (Acts 10: 34-48). But Peter, within the next three chapters of the book (chs. 11-13), would gradually be replaced by Paul as the central person through whom God would carry out His plans and purposes in the early Church. “The gospel of the circumcision” had been committed to Peter; but now Paul had been called forth to carry the gospel to the “uncircumcised” (Gal. 2: 7; cf. Acts 9: 15; 26: 13-20; Rom. 11:13). Thus, there is a transition in central personages, from Peter to Paul, at this point in the book.
is often taught that the eunuch from
The eunuch in chapter eight, to whom Philip proclaimed truths concerning Christ from Isaiah, chapter fifty-three, could only have been a Jew living in Ethiopia who had been to Jerusalem to worship [as those Jews from “every nation under heaven” on the day of Pentecost in the second chapter of the book].)
1. BECAUSE OF
the original offer of the kingdom of the heavens to
same thing can be seen in the re-offer of the kingdom of the heavens to
was God’s new entity on earth to carry God’s message to the Gentiles (though
God’s command was to carry the message “to the Jew
first” so long as the offer of the kingdom remained open to
And not only was this the case, but Paul was the one through whom God had chosen to make known all the various things surrounding the message being carried to the Gentiles ‑ things encompassed within the scope of the mystery (Eph. 3: 1-11). Then, beyond that, Paul was correspondingly the vehicle through whom God would, by means of His revealed Word, communicate to the Church the numerous things surrounding the ministry to which He had called Paul.
God would use Paul to write thirteen epistles (fourteen if he wrote Hebrews). And these epistles, along with the general epistles, would reflect on preceding revelation and provide all the various God‑given facets of information surrounding the offer of the kingdom of the heavens to the Gentiles.
2. THE COURSE OF THE DISPENSATION SET
the moment that the Jewish religious leaders rejected Stephen’s message and “ran
upon him with one accord,” placing their clothes “at a
young man’s feet, whose name was Saul,” and “stoned
Stephen” (Acts 7: 57-59), the
course of the dispensation was set.
God, from this point forward, though
the door still remained open for
From this point forward, the progression of events would increasingly go in a completely different direction. From this point forward, the focal point for the message would be the Gentile world.
And because of the man whom God had chosen ‑ a man wholly given over to fulfilling his calling ‑ this message would be carried throughout the Gentile world during the short course of the next three decades (Col. 1: 5, 6, 20-23).