PAUL PREACHING JESUS THE SON OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-16-77 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message, a theological one entitled Paul’s Persuasion of the Deity Of Christ – Paul’s Preaching Jesus, The Son Of God. In our excursion through the Book of Acts, we have come to chapter 9. And in the middle of the chapter, following the conversion of the persecutor Saul of Tarsus, it says:
And when he had received strength, he stayed certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. . . .
And straightway, he preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
And all that heard him were amazed and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
But Saul – Paul – increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is the very Christ.
The master miracle of this church age is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. The most wonderful triumph the Christian faith has ever won is the conversion of this Saul of Tarsus. It is almost unthinkable and unbelievable how he turned to accept the deity of Christ. These in Damascus whom he had come to arrest and to deliver into imprisonment and to death, when they heard him, they were amazed and said, "Is not this he that destroyed us?" And when Saul came to Jerusalem he assayed, he purported, to join himself to the disciples, "but they were all afraid of him and believed not that he was a disciple. Then Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles" [Acts 9:26, 27]. And in the kind offices of Barnabas, the "son of consolation," Saul was received as a brother in the faith. But it was hard to accept, it was hard to believe, hard to realize that this greatest antagonist and destructive persecutor that the church has ever known should have turned and now preached the faith that he once destroyed.
That same amazement and astonishment at the conversion of Saul – Paul – is something that amazes us today. For example, I have cut out an article in last week’s newspaper. Before a great convention here in Dallas, there is a pseudo scientist, a doctor, who read a paper before the great convocation. And in it, he is explaining Paul’s conversion. And he says Paul’s blindness occurred when the corneas of his eyes were burned by a flash of lightning. And he says that he recently treated a patient involved in a house explosion and who experienced the same conditions described in Paul’s experience. He says being struck by lightning may have affected the musculature around the throat which would explain Paul’s inability to eat for days. Then he says a digitalis poisoning, a poison derived from fried toad skins and other plants and related compounds that have been used since antiquity would explain this blindness, and this seeing, and this conversion of the apostle Paul; that in the name of modern science. One of the men, one of the Jewish men who is converted to the Christian faith and belongs to this church, came up to me after the 8:15 service, and said that is a piece of idiocy, because Paul, Saul, was a devout Jew and a toad is an unclean animal and they do not eat toads.
There are some things about this man Saul that make his conversion unbelievable. One thing, he was a Jew. And the great basic tenet of the Jewish faith is this: that God is invisible and is without form. And to think of God assuming any kind of a form, much less the form of a man, would be beyond what is thought recognizable in the Judaistic faith. Saul was a Jew.
Second he was a theologian. He was not just a member of the Israelite tribe of Benjamin. He was a theologian. He was trained in the Scriptures and taught in all the Talmudic tradition of the elders. He was a young rabbi sitting at the feet of Gamaliel, who in the Talmud is one of the seven great rabbins of the Jewish faith.
Third, he was a Pharisee of the strictest sect. To us, Pharisee is congruent with hypocrite. Oh, that is just because of their attitude toward the Lord. The Pharisees were the proportion, that section of the family of Israel that was dedicated beyond all others to the truth of the Scriptures. And this Saul of Tarsus was a fanatical zealous Pharisee. He was not just indifferent. He was committed.
And a fourth thing about this Saul of Tarsus, he was a great Hellenist. He was a Greek scholar. He was a citizen of the Roman Empire, and he had been taught all of the knowledge and culture of his day – I would certainly suppose a graduate of the University of Tarsus. When he stood in the midst of the supreme court, called the Areopagus, the supreme court of the Athenians, he was perfectly at home speaking to that university group – the very center of the intellectual life of both of the Greek and the Roman empires. He quoted their poets. When he wrote the greatest theological treatise that has ever been written, namely, the letter to the church at Rome, he wrote it in Greek.
This is no ordinary man. This is one of the most extraordinary men who ever lived. And he has been the most vigorous and bitter of all of the opponents of the Christian faith. When he struck the church, he struck it as it had never been struck before. And yet, this is the man who has now turned. He’s been converted. And he is declaring that Jesus is the Son of God. That is what the Scriptures say: "And he preached that Jesus, this Christ, is the Son of God" [Acts 9:20]. Now, what we are going to do in this sermon this morning – thinking through all of these letters of Paul, I have chosen out of them, seven tremendous tenets that Paul believed about Christ that made him a Christian; seven great dogmas, truths, doctrinal revelations that persuaded Paul that Jesus is Christ, deity, the Son of God.
Number one: Paul believed that Jesus was born of a virgin. In Galatians 4:4, he says, "In the fullness of the time, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” Made of a woman – what does he mean? "God sent forth His Son, made of a woman." He is referring back to Genesis 3:15, the protevangelium, the first announcement of the faith; namely, that He who is promised to be the Savior of our souls, should be born of a woman. The seed of the woman shall bruise, shall crush Satan’s head. Not the seed of Adam; not the seed of a man; but the seed of a woman. Paul believed in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.
The extent of it can be found in the gospel written by his friend and associate and traveling companion and personal physician, Dr. Luke. When you read the chapters 1 and 2 of the Gospel of Luke, you have there before you in beautiful form and presentation what Paul believed about the birth of Jesus Christ. When these unbelievers scoff at the virgin birth of the Lord and say you will find a like story, a miraculous virgin birth in Hercules – the birth of Hercules, in the birth of Alexander the Great, in the birth of Augustus Caesar – falling wide of the mark. Read those accounts. They are manifestly fictitious and highly and offensively immoral. But when you read as Paul believed, in Luke 1 and 2, the beautiful holy story of the heavenly visit from God, and Gabriel announces that this virgin Jewess shall be the mother of this foretold, foreordained Child, you live, you are elevated into another and a heavenly world. First, he believed in Jesus Christ as deity because he believed in the virgin birth.
Second, Paul was persuaded of the deity of Christ because He arose out of obscurity. That is, He cannot be explained by His environment. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16: "Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more." There is no accounting for Christ by knowing Him in the days of His growing up and His carpentership in Nazareth. He cannot be explained by the environment around Him. Isaiah 53 and verse 2 says that same thing: "He shall grow up as a root out of a dry ground" [Isaiah 53:2] – out of a sterile and barren desert, this marvelous, glorious creation of God.
It is unthinkable, it is unbelievable that the Son of God, Christ should have arisen out of such a background as He did. Have you ever been to Nazareth? If you ever go there, they will show you a place and say, "This is where He lived." And then they will show you a place over here and say, "This is where His carpenter’s shop was located." What you see over here is a grotto, a sorry-looking cave. And what you see over her is another sorry-looking den, a cave – poverty; not a house, a hole in the ground. Now, that is tradition I know, but it emphasizes the great truth that out of this peasantry and poverty arose the Son of God. He cannot be explained by His environment.
Let me show you, here in the Book of Mark, which is Simon Peter’s writing of the gospel. Now you look at this.
And Jesus came into His own country; and His disciples followed Him.
And when the Sabbath day was come, He began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing Him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him that such mighty works are done by His hands?
Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joseph, and Jude, and Simon? And are not these His sisters here? And they were offended in Him.
[Mark 6:1, 2]
All of His life He had grown up, for thirty years, just one of the citizens of a despised robber town called Nazareth – infested with thieves. And when He came before them, anointed by the Spirit of God, speaking these words, doing these deeds, they were offended – this man is the lowly carpenter. There are His brothers. And here are His sisters. You cannot explain Christ by any environment in which He grew up. He is separate and apart. John says – the apostle John says that while Christ was doing a great work in Capernaum, His mother and His brothers came to take Him home, saying He is mad. He has lost His mind. He is beside Himself. These are the Scripture’s words. They never dreamed and they never realized growing up with Him there in Nazareth, who He was.
You cannot explain Christ by His environment. I was asked by one of the members of the church here, I was asked, "Where is that story in the Bible about Jesus making little mud birds and then clapping His hands and they come to life and they fly away?" I said, "My brother, you won’t find anything like that in the Bible. That is in an apocryphal story of Jesus in the after years, trying to make Him what He was not." He became obedient to the life of a slave. Paul says in [Philippians], "He humbled Himself, and in the fashion of a man, He became a slave" [Philippians 2:7] as lowly as is possible for a man to walk on the face of this earth. That is his second reason why he believed in the deity of Christ. He arose out of obscurity, out of peasantry, out of poverty, and you cannot explain Him by His environment or His background.
All right, number three. Why is it that Paul was persuaded of the deity of Christ? Because He fulfilled the Scriptures concerning the coming of the Messiah. In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts, when he left Thessalonica and came to Berea, it says "they received the Word with readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so" [Acts 17:11]. They pored over the Word of God, and they found under the teaching of Paul that this man Christ fulfilled all of these prophecies of the coming Messiah in the Old Testament. Now, if you have a Bible, as I do, in the back of this Bible there is page after page after page of the prophecies concerning Christ in the Old Testament. And they are written on this side, and then on this side are the fulfillments in the New Testament. And Paul preached that. And they searched the Scriptures to see whether those things were so or not. I wish I had time even to mention them.
For example, Micah 5, verse 2 says He will be born in Bethlehem. And that was written seven hundred years before the Lord was born. And Isaiah says in Isaiah 53 that He would be numbered with the transgressors; that by His stripes we would be healed; that He would make His grave with the rich in His death. And oh, how many other things! And Psalm 22; you would have thought that David a thousand years before, and you would have thought that Isaiah, seven hundred and fifty years before, were standing there watching Jesus die on the cross so meticulously do they describe His death and His burial. He fulfilled those Scriptures. And Paul was persuaded of the deity of Christ because He fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament.
Again, number [four]. Paul believed in Jesus being the Lord Christ because He Himself was able to prophesy the future. For example, in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4 and verse 15, he is describing the tremendous promise of our Lord that we shall be raptured up to meet the descending Christ from heaven. And when he says that prediction, the coming rapture of the church, he says, "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord" [1 Thessalonians 4:15]. It is not a speculation on my part; not even a revelation given unto me, such as, he says, the Lord’s Supper. I received this by revelation [1 Corinthians 11:23]. He does not say that. He says, this is something that the Lord Christ has avowed – "by the word of the Lord, . . . that the dead shall be raised. . . . and all of us who are alive at His coming shall be caught up with them to meet our Lord in the air" [1 Thessalonians 4:15-17]. He believed in the deity of Christ because Christ knew the future. The Lord said of Capernaum and Chorazin and Bethsaida that they would be utterly destroyed [Luke 10:13-15]. Have you ever been there in northern Galilee? Have you ever been there on the site of those three cities? The Lord God when the disciples said to Him, Look at the stones in this temple – look at them, vast, beautiful, one of the wonders of the world. The Lord said, There is coming a time when "not one of these stones will rest upon another" – be utterly destroyed [Matthew 24:2]. Have you ever been to Mount Moriah? So utterly destroyed is it that there is a Mohammedan mosque there called the Mosque of Omar. That is what is there now. And the Lord prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem in that generation. And in that generation Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus. And the Lord prophesied the dispersion of the Jews to the ends of the world among all of the nations of the world. He knows the future.
Let me tell you, I will tell you how to be a billionaire if you know the future two minutes. Just two minutes, I’ll tell you how to be a billionaire. Buy a stock on the stock market just before it goes up and then sell it. Buy it at twenty-five dollars and it is going up to twenty-eight and then sell it at twenty-eight. And then keep doing that all day long, you will be a billionaire overnight. If you know the future two minutes. If you know it one minute, if you can get the ticker tape working for you. This man, Jesus the Christ, knows the future of the years and the centuries and the eons and the ages. "This we say unto you by the word of the Lord." This is deity and it is the prerogative deity alone to know the future.
Number one, two, three, four, five; the fifth tremendous reason why Paul believed in the deity of Christ. He believed in the deity of Christ because He was the only sinless one who ever lived. And as such, a Lamb without blemish He was offered in expiation for our iniquities, 2 Corinthians 5:21, "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." The reason we die is because we are sinners, all of us. If you did not die, if you did not sin, you would never die. It is because we are sinners that we die.
I went out to see the grave of my mother just about three weeks ago. And I stood there and wept over my mother’s grave. She is dead. There with her, I buried my father, one of the finest men that ever lived. He is dead. He is dead. And we all are dying, all of us. We are all sinners alike. In our estimation, one of us may be a bigger sinner than the other. In God’s sight, we are all lost, all sinners. The only one who ever lived who was never accused or convicted of wrong or sin is Jesus, the Christ. And because He was sinless, the perfect man, He did not have to die. He would live forever. But He gave His life an atonement and expiation for us. For God made Him to be sin in our behalf, Him who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. The Lamb must be perfect, without blemish. It must be spotless. And He was offered to God, the sacrifice for our sins, that we might be saved. Paul believed in the deity of Christ, number five, because He was sinless and as a sinless Lamb of God, made atonement for our sins.
Number six; Paul believed in the deity of Christ because He was raised from among the dead. I do not know of a more powerful verse in the Bible than Romans 1:4. Talking about Jesus, the Son of God, our Lord, "declared to be the Son of God, . . . by the resurrection from the dead." Now, when I read that to you in the King James Version like that, you do not see it. So let me take the Greek word. And when I do, you will immediately see it. This Jesus Christ our Lord, he says, "horizo – "declared," translated here "to be the Son of God, . . . by the resurrection of the dead." Horizo, your word "horizon" comes from that. Horizon; that is, the line marked out where the earth meets the sky is called horizon. That is where the word comes from. It is a designation, it is a pointing out. This is a place where the earth meets the sky. Right there and you call it the horizon. Now, the actual word, horizon means "to point out; to separate, to designate." And that is the word he used here. He says, "Jesus Christ our Lord is designated, He is pointed out, He is set apart as the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead." All of these others, some have been resuscitated, like Lazarus, but they die again; resuscitated, like the son of the widow of Nain, only raised up to die again. The only one who has fallen into the grave and who was immortalized, glorified, resurrected in glory is Jesus of Nazareth – the Son of God. And He in that power, he speaks of here, declared to be the Son of God with power by the Holy Spirit. He wrestled with that great enemy death and overcame him triumphantly. He is declared – set apart, designated, singled out; pointed out, horizo – the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.
And you know, if I had time, and I wish I did, the whole glorious chapter which the scholars say is the high watermark of all revelation in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, he describes "because He lives, we shall live also." That is what you sang about just now. He is raised from the dead, Hallelujah! And we are going to be raised, Hallelujah too! That is the fifteenth chapter of the 1 Corinthians. And Paul says that each one of us – and he uses a Greek word, our serial term, like a bunch of soldiers passing by – first Christ; then the firstfruits, those few who were raised after Christ was raised and appear in Jerusalem; and then these who will be raised at His coming; and last the end ones, that is after the tribulation. In those four times, in those four series, we are going to be raised because He was raised. Deity, the Son of God, declared so by the resurrection from the dead.
And number seven, why Paul believed in the deity of Jesus Christ. Because of his personal experience with Him. In 1 Corinthians 15:8, "And last of all" – after he lists these resurrection appearances of our Lord – "and last of all, He was seen of me also, as a one born out of due time." And that experience of the apostle Paul in meeting with Jesus, three times in this short Book of Acts, three times is that presented. Paul told it again and again and again and again. A personal experience with Jesus Christ, raised, our living Lord. And that is not just two thousand years ago. And that is just not in this old antiquated Book called the Bible. And that is just not in the experience of these who live in other generations and in other centuries. To meet Jesus in the way is a present experience. It is today.
As some of you know, this past week I have been preaching to a convocation of Baptists, the North American Section of the Baptist World Alliance. We have been convening in the Bahamas, in Freeport, the big town on the Grand Bahamian Island. And on the first day of that convocation of North American Baptists; all of the different denominations on the North American continent – including the Caribbean, including Central America and all of us in North America. The first day, the first day was given to the Bahamian Government. They had the entire evening. And I sat there and looked at those ministers of state. It was presided over by the president of their Senate, a great, great Christian. Then, five ministers of state stood up to address us. One of them, of course, was their Governor General. And in the United States, you would call him the President. In Great Britain, you would call him the Prime Minister. In the Bahamas he is called the Governor General. And that man stood up and he said, "This is a dark world. It is a dark world, and our only hope lies in Jesus Christ; in the love and grace of our Lord." Then he said, "This is a Christian nation. And we are committed to keeping it so." One of the men stood up, one of those ministers stood up, in the government and described his personal confrontation with Jesus and saying that all of us must be born anew.
And then, in the course of the meeting, a scientist stood up. And that scientist said, "It was drilled into me and drilled into me that all you have in this manifestation of life is an endless cycle. Out of the dust, we were born. And we live our brief life and turn back to the dust. And it is from dust to dust." And this scientist said, "It was drilled into me that life had no meaning. And it had no purpose, that we were here by accident, without reason. And we came out of the ground and we’re going back to the ground. And there is no ultimate in life." And this great scientist said, "And in those days, and in those days of purposelessness, no reason, no goal, in those days, I met the Lord. I met Jesus." And the scientist used the illustration of the apostle Paul. "As Saul of Tarsus met Jesus on the road to Damascus, I met the Lord and found in Him the Savior of my soul." And now the great scientist said, "I have meaning and I have purpose in my life."
Oh, I thought, this living faith, as vibrant, as viable, as dynamic, as wondrous and as great and glorious today as it was when Paul met Him on the road to Damascus. Why, my brother, it isn’t just something that they knew or something about which they write. If you will listen, I can write a little chapter myself – "Having met the Lord." And if we had more time, you could stand and write a chapter yourself, "Having met the Lord." And there are thousands of us today, and in the world there are millions, who know what it is to have fellowship with God through Him – a living and glorious faith. And Paul preached that Jesus is the Son of God.
And that is the invitation we press to your heart. It is Christ and He alone that gives meaning and purpose to life. If all there is to life is to live and to die and the consummation lies in darkness and midnight of the grave, it does not matter. But if He is our hope, everything matters. And the glory road on which we are traveling as pilgrims leads to the sweetest hope mind could ever imagine or heart could ever dream for. Brother, come with us; pilgrim with us. Walk by our side. Our faces are toward heaven where the angels of God have their home; where the redeemed of the Lord are gathered around the great white throne; where Jesus is Lord and King; where everything is beautiful and perfect. Come with us; pilgrimage with us. Travel this life’s road with us. It will put a song in your heart. That is why you can see. I never heard a song dedicated to the infidels; never in my life. That is why we sing. It is the glory of God in our souls. That is why we pray. That is why through our tears we see the face of Jesus. Oh come, come, come with us!
In a moment we shall stand and sing our invitation hymn and while we sing it a family, a couple, or just one somebody you; down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am pastor. I am on the way." You are not going to walk that road by yourself. I am walking by your side; going to see you in heaven someday; going to shout and sing God’s praises here and over there, world without end. Bring your family. Rear your children in this heavenly home. Come now. May angels attend you in the way as you answer with your life while we stand and while we sing.
PAUL PREACHING JESUS THE SON OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Master miracle of this church age the conversion of Saul of Tarsus
B. The astonishment the conversion carried with it (Acts 9:21, 26-27)
C. Our own amazement at the conversion and preaching of Paul
II. Seven doctrinal revelations that persuaded Paul of Christ’s deity
A. His virgin birth
1. Made of a woman – refers back to the protevangelium(Galatians 4:4, Genesis 3:15)
2. Gospel of Luke beautifully presents what Paul believed about His birth (Luke 1, 2)
B. His rise out of obscurity
1. He cannot be explained by His environment (2 Corinthians 5:16, Isaiah 53:2)
2. Jesus lived the ordinary life of a peasant (Mark 3:21, 31, 6:1-3, John 7:3-5 Philippians 2:7)
C. His fulfillment of prophecy(Acts 17:11, Micah 5:2, Isaiah 53, Psalm 22)
D. His own prophetic words(1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 11:23, Luke 10:13-15, Matthew 24:2)
E. His sinless life, atoning death(2 Corinthians 5:21)
F. His resurrection and victory over death (Romans 1:4, 1 Corinthians 15:23)
G. Personal experience with the living Christ (1 Corinthians 15:8)
1. To meet Jesus in the way is a present experience
2. Governor General of Bahamas