Why was Paul willing to walk away from his life as a successful, influential, powerful Pharisee to follow the controversial Rabbi Jesus?
Paul had succeeded in every way a first century Pharisee could succeed. Here is his list of accomplishments and reasons for his confidence;
Circumcision on the 8th day – as the law requires
Israelite by birth – not a proselyte who joined later in life
From the tribe of Benjamin – where the temple resides
A Hebrew of Hebrews – He was Jewish to the core, not Hellenistic. He studied the OT in Hebrew, not Greek.
A member of the party of the Pharisees – a claim to honor in his culture
A zealous promoter of Judaism – persecuting Christians
Stellar obedience to the Law of Moses – conscientiously following the law
Yet after he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), and after the 3 years of relearning everything he thought he knew about the OT in Arabia (Gal. 1:17) – he emerged as a transformed (and controversial!) man who was willing to walk away - no run away - from his own righteousness! Why?
When he was living his life as a Pharisee under Law, all he had was a brutal task master who measured his every motive, thought and action by an impossible conditional set of rules. This never gave him righteousness, confidence or power. It just highlighted his shortcomings and magnified his sins. But, after meeting Jesus, he had freedom in a Friend, who loved unconditionally and self-sacrificially.
That’s why Paul wrote so extensively about the Christian’s relationship to the Mosaic Law.
Romans 6:14-15; Galatians 5:18 – in Christ we’re not under law
Romans 7:4 & 6 – in Christ, we’ve died to law, been released from law
Galatians 2:19 – in Christ, we’ve died to law
Galatians 3:19 – the law was temporary, “until”
Ephesians 2:15-16 – Jesus nullified the law
Hebrews 7:12 – law ended when priesthood ended
2 Corinthians 3:7-11 – the law produced death, ineffective at giving life
Paul finally got it. He understood that the OT law was never designed to make him righteous – no matter how hard he tried. Why? Because the purpose of the law was not to save or make righteous – it was to condemn. Paul called the law “a minister of death” (2 Cor. 3:7).
John Bunyan discovered the same thing. He wrote;
“Run, John, run. The law commands but gives neither feet nor hands. Better news the gospel brings; it bids me fly and gives me wings.”
Why was Paul willing to run away from his life as a successful, influential, powerful Pharisee to follow the controversial Rabbi Jesus?
Because in Jesus Paul found the reality, the substance of all that the OT systems of law and sacrifice pointed to. He was no longer living a shadow life, he had met the substance, the reality – that is Christ ‘in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Col 2:3).
Paul found in the person of Jesus;
righteousness that the law could not achieve,
confidence that discipline in the flesh could not reach, and
power over sin and temptation that the law could not control.
Are you seeking righteousness or confidence through a similar dead end?