Welcome to the AFTO Blog. If you were invited to watch a video, or this is your first time visiting our website, please watch at least the first three videos from our eleven part series then come on back and enjoy the blog, listen to the podcasts and subscribe to them; then join us in the forums!
This is the third lesson from our eleven part video series called, “A Faith that Obeys.” You can find the original video and transcript HERE. We are dropping this lesson into our regular podcast feed so that the information can reach a wider audience. In this lesson, we will review the Modern Plan of Salvation which includes practices like “The Sinner’s Prayer” and “Accepting Christ for Salvation.”
Learning about Jesus
In this world of ours today the scriptures span the globe. There are very few places left, if any, where the name of Jesus has not been proclaimed. Millions of people have put their faith in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. At some point in the past, you perhaps made a personal commitment to Jesus because of something you either read or heard. Somebody, sometime, somehow told you about Jesus
The story about Jesus, his death and resurrection is called the Gospel. And hearing the Gospel message is the first step everyone takes in the Biblical plan of salvation. I am unaware of any Christian group which does not recognize that there is a process one goes through on the way to salvation. Sometimes we illustrate this process using clever metaphors. These wonderful illustrations are designed to help us understand the plan of salvation clearly. One popular metaphor is called “The Romans Road.”
The Roman’s Road
You may have heard of it. Using the book of Romans, in the Bible, we can trace out a pathway which leads to salvation. The metaphor we will use to illustrate the Biblical Plan of Salvation, is not a pathway but a staircase, as I mentioned in the last lesson. Just as there are steps we travel on the Roman Road, there are several steps on our staircase which every person takes on their journey to salvation, or the forgiveness of sins. Here’s the illustration of our metaphor.
The Steps to Salvation
We have already identified the first step, so let’s label this first step, “Hearing the Message.” Every person in the history of the world, who has ever come to know Jesus, has taken this first step. This should be pretty obvious! If you consider yourself a Christian, that means you heard the Gospel, you made a conscious decision to respond positively. Perhaps you were in a church, listening to the radio, watching the TV or a friend brought the message to you. You decided to make Jesus, Lord of your life. You may remember that day clearly. You made a decision. You accepted the message; you didn’t reject the message. And guess what, that would be the second step in the Biblical plan of salvation.
Accepting the Message
Let’s label the second step, “Accepting the Message.” Again, this is pretty obvious. For someone to be saved, they must accept the Gospel message. Rejecting it would get them nowhere!
For many people, it is at this point, as they surrender their will to Jesus and make Him Lord of their lives, that they might feel an inexpressible joy and relief as they understand they have crossed over from a dark life of sin and have been born again into the wonderful light of salvation. They are comforted by the fact that they will never walk alone again, they will have their Lord and Savior walking with them. The point in time when this occurs is what we previously called a “salvation experience.”
The goal of this series, “A Faith that Obeys,” is to identify the exact point in time when this “Salvation Experience” occurs. Most people who call themselves Evangelical Christians can point back to a specific point in time… in the past… when a “salvation experience” happened for them. This is the moment in time which they would point back to and say, “That’s when and where I became a Christian.” or “That’s the point in time I was Born Again.”
The Sinner’s Prayer
Many churches use a well know method, which was developed in the late 1800’s, to help folks respond to the Gospel message. It’s called “The Sinner’s Prayer.” You may have prayed it or something similar. Using this technique, a minister, preacher or some other leader will ask someone who has heard the message and wishes to responded positively, to recite a brief, simple prayer which might sound something like this…
“Lord Jesus, I recognize that I am a sinner and I need you in my life. I know you are standing at the door of my heart, knocking to come in. Lord Jesus, right here and right now, I invite you into my heart. Save me from my sin and help me live my life for you. Amen.”
For the vast majority of people with an evangelical background, this, or something very similar, is how they became a Christian, they gave their life to Christ or “Accepted Christ.” Can you think back to an exact time and place when this happened for you? Mark that clearly in your mind. Jot it down on a sheet of paper. By the way, this was my experience at about 22 years of age. I prayed the “Sinner’s Prayer” with a neighbor friend, accepted Christ and invited Jesus into my heart. Most folks believe, when someone accepts Christ, they are saved; which means, as we have discussed, their sins are forgiven and they begin their new life in Christ.
The Dividing Line – Saved or Unsaved
Let’s mark a “Line of Salvation” right above the second step on our illustration to indicate that the forgiveness of sins occurs at this point in time. Remember, the forgiveness of sins equals saved and saved means this is the exact point in time you were born again and became a Christian.
Born again = Christian = Saved = Sins are Forgiven, it’s all the same thing. Sometimes, if someone accepts Christ through a radio broadcast or television program, they are encouraged to join a local Bible based church in order to experience and be strengthened by the fellowship. New converts are encouraged to read and study their Bible and to live a life that honors God. In many churches, these “babes in Christ” are told that water baptism is a very important command of Jesus and they should be baptized as soon as possible… in obedience to the Lord, since they are now been saved and their sins have been forgiven.
Sometimes new converts are taught that water baptism is their first real act of obedience as a new Christian. This is a general overview of the modern plan of salvation which is promoted and used by most of the evangelical world today. Different churches and denominations use different words or phrases and make adjustments to this plan in various ways but basically, this is the plan.
The problem with the Modern Plan of Salvation
This might be summed up as, “accepting Christ for salvation.” When you believe or accept the message and receive Christ as savior, you become a Christian and your sins are forgiven. Now, there’s just one problem with the modern plan of salvation. It’s not the Biblical plan. The Bible never teaches us to simply and only believe in Christ for our salvation even though there are scriptures which seem to support that view. It never teaches us to say a prayer to be saved. It never teaches us to ask Jesus to come into our heart. It does not teach that our sins are forgiven as a result of decisions we make or actions we take outside of Biblical obedience. We are not saved by works, things we do.
The Bible never uses a phrase like “accept Christ as your personal Lord and savior.” Does this surprise you? There is much more to the Biblical plan of salvation than these first two steps. Something horrible has happened to the plan of salvation over the last millennia. It has been changed! This modern plan is still very very close, but there are critical things missing and out of place. Frankly, this shouldn’t surprise anyone.
Satan is a Counterfeiter
Listen. If Satan wanted to offer a counterfeit plan, why would he create a lame one? Remember my $100.00 bill drawn with a green crayon? No one would accept that!
Satan’s counterfeit would need to be so good and so convincing, so very close to the Biblical plan, that it could trick anyone who is unwilling to compare the plan they learned and followed to the Biblical plan of salvation… once you are made aware of it. Satan doesn’t deny the plan, he simply changes some things around, just a little bit, then provides a warm environment in which his lie can grow! Satan’s plan is an absolutely delicious plan served up with very real emotions of joy and love, warm physical feelings and often, some very real experiences. All these are expertly crafted to confirm his lie.
I hope you are a little concerned at this point. Once again, I’m going to ask you to step back if you’re feeling a little emotionally charged. I am merely asking that you think about, pray about and evaluate the things you are learning. But please, never for a moment think that any of us could not be deceived by that snake. Remember, it has always been his trick to twist or question God’s commands from Eve’s experience in the Garden… to Jesus temptation on the temple roof…. should we be so naive to think he would not try to twist our understanding of the Bible. The only way we can possibly know God’s will and his plan of salvation is to carefully, diligently, study His word keeping a humble attitude and a heart which is open to new understandings.
You know. A counterfeit is never effective unless it’s very convincing very full of proof! But then you’re not a person who would allow your emotions, feelings or even some very real experiences to be more important and more convincing than the scriptures, are you?
How I was tricked!
Remember. I said this would be challenging. It was for me. I told you I had made a very real, very sincere, very solid decision for Christ as a young adult. But I had not yet followed the Biblical Plan of salvation. I was still in my sins and had no power over them at all. I was a very nice, very kind, very loving believer in Jesus, but I was not a Christian. I had been deceived and did not even know it.
It would not be for years later that God very patiently, very carefully led me to discover the truth for myself. The thing which helped me see my errors more than anything else was my respect and love for the scriptures and an understanding that they are the only reliable authority. I decided, I could not rely on my feelings, emotions or experiences, no matter how real they were for me. They are not my source of religious authority. I had to put a lot of things behind me and be open to the possibility that I had been wrong.
When someone showed me what the Bible actually taught about the plan of salvation, it was so obvious I accepted it quickly and immediately obeyed it, but I did not stop there. I carefully studied everything out for myself and I am still doing so to this very day. I would love to be wrong about all of this and I have tried for 33 years to punch holes in the Biblical Plan in order to make the road just a little bit wider, but the Biblical Plan is too solid, too consistent, too prominent throughout all of scripture and too obvious, once you see it.
Cool Stuff Coming!
In the next few lessons, you will see, with absolute clarity, what the Biblical plan of salvation entails and how beautifully it is organized by God and how easily it’s seen with the heart of a child. You will begin to feel a fire in your bones and see a future for yourself which is going to get super exciting. Now it’s time to dig into the scriptures.Enjoy!
Have you ever considered our tagline here at A Faith that Obeys? Is reads, “Rethinking the Traditional Plan of Salvation.” Now, I must admit, this does sound a bit presumptuous doesn’t it? Hopefully the tagline provides a crisp clarity to the issue we are debating and anyone piqued enough to investigate this apparent arrogance, discovers a warm and welcoming place to explore the age old debate regarding water baptism.
Now, you know me. I gotta pick apart a term! After all, we need to agree on what a word means. Let’s begin with, “Rethinking.” Why are we “rethinking” anything? Well, because we think we might have gotten something wrong or we need to review our understanding of a thing; in this case, The Traditional Plan of Salvation.
Defining Our Terms
A “plan” is an ordered succession of smaller events leading to a specific goal and our plan leads to salvation.
“Salvation” means, a person receives the forgiveness of sins, from God; is moved from a lost state to a saved state and will enjoy the benefits of the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit and the promise of eternal life with God in heaven.
“Traditional” means; the plan is something which has been used and reused for a very long time and is assumed to be correct.
Our process of rethinking, leads us to probe, poke holes in and otherwise scrutinize the assertions made by the traditional plan. At A Faith that Obeys, we’ve discovered the primary and most glaring difference between the Traditional Plan and the Biblical Plan is this small, seemingly insignificant fact. Listen carefully. The only difference between the two plans is that the declaration of salvation is made at different points along the same common path. Let me explain because this issue can be a little hard to see.Click here to read the rest of this post.
How would you like to take your prayer life and Bible Study to a higher level than you have ever experienced before? How would you like to feel like your time with God was deeper, more intimate, more vibrant, and authentic? That would be awesome, right?
In this lesson, you are going to learn two blow-away secrets that will absolutely change the way you pray and the results you experience! Let’s go!
All good relationships are based on two things; time together and communication. Our relationship with God is no exception. If we want a rich, real relationship with God, then, we spend quality time with Him by reading His Word and Praying. These two specific activities can be a pretty good barometer of how well we are doing spiritually. When someone is not spending time with God in Prayer and Bible Study, they are neglecting the most important relationship a human being can have. To have a great relationship with God, we need to have great QuietTimes!
What is a QuietTime?
As always, let’s begin by defining our terms. What is a QuietTime?
As the name suggests, it is a time which is quiet. There are no noises to distract us, there are no electronic devices incessantly beeping, there are no other people around and the environment is somewhat protected from interruption. It is a time we spend alone, communicating with God in prayer and allowing Him to communicate with us through his word and through the thoughts and ideas which stir our hearts and our imaginations during these times.
Communication flows in two directions; to God and from God. Our communication to God is done through our prayers. We tell Him what is on our heart. We share our hopes, our dreams and our hardships with Him. We let Him know what is going on with us and we offer up adoration, gratitude and requests for ourselves and for others. Basically, we lay our hearts bare before the Creator of the Universe in the hope He will hear us and respond favorably. And, God does respond.
God’s Communication to UsClick here to read the rest of this post.
Editor’s Note: This is the audio from the second lesson about The Biblical Plan of Salvation . You may view the entire video series by starting HERE.
Thanks so much for taking the next step. You obviously have a desire to learn more about this important topic. As we begin, I wanted to say that the things we will look at are really challenging. I know because I have felt some pretty strong feelings as I learned the things you’re about to learn. Please understand that I am submitting these ideas to you with the utmost love and respect. I hope you will feel like that comes through as I make my case.
In the last video, we talked about a Biblical Plan of Salvation. I said that this plan was hidden in the Bible, and in plain sight. I said, even the most learned scholars miss it and, even explained why they miss it… they do not have the heart of a child.
I’m about to show you that Biblical plan of salvation, but before we begin, let’s lock down some of the basic Bible grammar used to define the plan. You probably know most of this but let’s take a minute to lock it down carefully. This way, there will be no confusion or disagreement about terms and definitions.
Bible Names for Bible Things
Let’s take a look at this phrase, “God’s Plan of Salvation.”
First, let’s be clear. This is God’s plan, not man’s plan. Man did not create the plan and man can not change the plan. The plan was clearly established in the Bible 2000 years ago and is the same today as it was in the first century. What is a plan? Well, Webster’s dictionary defines the word “Plan,” as a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. So our plan will contain some sort of ordered actions aimed at achieving the goal, which God has laid before us, salvation. The Biblical plan of salvation may be depicted like a series of stair steps.
Now, I need to stop right here and make sure we understand something important. These steps I am describing are not actions we take in order to be saved but they are observable, verifiable things that happen with us as we move through the plan. We are not talking about some kind of “works salvation” here. You’ll understand this clearly as we move forward. Ok, this brings us to our next term… salvation.Click here to read the rest of this post.
When I am producing my Podcast, I am typically sitting in front of an iMac, speaking into a mic and recording everything on a piece of software called “Sound Studio.” It is super easy to use and is great for editing. Recently it occurred to me that maybe I should be recording the video of my sessions as well.
When I am recording, there are lots of goofs, pauses, hiccups and all manner of things which make editing absolutely essential. You never sit down and just record a perfect first take. I began to wonder if I could edit as easily in Final Cut Pro as I do in Sound Studio. The answer is, “Yeah… pretty much.” And not only that, but I can drop the scriptures into the edited video with ease since they already exist in the script I have been reading from.
Today, I am introducing my first video version of A Faith that Obeys Podcast!
It’s not particularly flashy or heavily edited but it came out pretty good. I added a little background filter, some lighting effects and sweetened the audio just a bit. Overall, I’m pretty happy with the result. The huge bonus is that, I can now toss these up onto YouTube where viewers can watch with Closed Captions and hopefully I can gain a bit more exposure. Drop me a line and let me know what you think. I will embed the videos on the blog so you will have access to them right here without the need to jump over to YouTube, but please go there at least once and subscribe to the channel and hit the “Thumbs Up” button.Enjoy!
When someone first hears about The Biblical Plan of Salvation they often express shock because they never knew there was anything different from what they had been taught and they think all of Christendom teaches the same thing. I tell them, “Yes. People really need to study the Bible in order to become a Christian!”
And when they hear this, it is not uncommon for them to go back to their denominational pastor and ask, “Do I really need to study the Bible to be saved?”
“No, of course not.” Comes the reply. “That’s ridiculous. Look no further than the 3000 who were baptized on the day of Pentecost. Do you think they studied the Bible? No, there was no time. They simply heard Peter’s sermon and accepted Christ!” Now, this reasoning sounds good but let’s think it through.
You Might Not Need to Study the Bible if…
If you have never heard of Jesus, it is true; the simple Gospel message can be accepted and obeyed.
But given our current religious climate it would be highly unlikely. Let me explain.
Three thousand people did indeed become Christians on the day of Pentecost and it is unlikely that any of them opened a scroll to study it. Even the Apostle Paul, by the time Romans was written could say, “Faith comes from hearing the word…” Romans 10:17. So what’s changed? Why would studying the Bible to become a Christian be so important today?
A Lot Has Changed in 2000 Years!
Unlike the day of Pentecost, Christianity has been here for 2000 years and has had ample time to become incredibly perverted. Grab a phone book… if you can still find one… and look up “Churches” in the Yellow Pages. Under that category, you will find a huge number of different sub-headings for all the various denominations and within those denominational divisions a plethora of divided churches. They all teach slightly, and sometimes vastly, different things. That’s why they became divided. The goal and purpose of solid Bible study is to address and correct the denominational aberrations and bias which have been introduced over the last two millennia and bring spiritual thinking and reasoning back under the authority of scripture; since it is the source of our faith. It is, after all, our founder’s book.
This may sound really strange but based on my experience, the first battle I face teaching my religious friends, will be their acceptance of the authority of scripture. One would think this situation would be reversed. A religious person should, by nature, accept the authority of scripture and a person without any formal religion would be less ready to accept scriptural authority. But this is not the case.Click here to read the rest of this post.
In our last two podcasts, we dove into the possibility that the Apostle Paul is the Rich Young Ruler. In this podcast, I want to take what we have discovered so far and apply some analysis and logic.
If you are like me, for some reason we have a little blind spot regarding the Apostle Paul. I have always seen Paul’s life as sorta-kinda beginning at the stoning of Stephen. I have never really spent much time considering the glaring fact of his existence prior to his dramatic appearance at Stephen’s death. When we play the timeline of Paul’s life backward, we begin to see his place in a historical context of that day. He did not just poof into existence at the martyrdom of Stephen. He had a life before that time and I think, during that time, we call him The Rich Young Ruler. Let’s review the astonishing similarities which lead us to that conclusion.
Both Paul and The Rich Young Ruler are men. Both were young at the time we first meet them. Both are Jewish. Both are rulers. Both knew the commandments. Both kept all the commandments from birth. Both claim a faultless and blameless life. Both were zealous for the law. Both were wealthy. Both struggled with covetousness. Both were loved by Christ. Both were told to “come follow me.” It took a direct intervention by God to make it all happen, just as Jesus said it would regarding the Rich Young Ruler, and we see that miraculous event happen to Saul on the road to Damascus. We also have the statement by Jesus that the Rich Young Ruler would be in a position of “last” compared to the Apostles and Paul is the last Apostle appointed by Christ.
Saul has a life history. We miss that.
Through Paul’s own testimony, we know that he was raised in Jerusalem and studied under Gamaliel. His studies led him to his commission as a Pharisee. He was a star pupil! He advanced quicker and better than young men of his own age. He was a super achiever. We know he was in Jerusalem growing up, and we know he was in Jerusalem at the time of Stephen’s death. Where would he have been between those times? The same place! He would have been completing his studies and fulfilling his new duties as a Pharisee!
This means, Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee, was most certainly aware of the ministry of Christ. He had to be! There is no reason to think that he was somehow sequestered in a back room of the temple writing a blog, or separated from the Jerusalem leadership in a foreign nation—completely unaware of what was happening back in Jerusalem. He was there!
Saul was there!
Regarding the activities and thinking of the Sadducees and Pharisees about Jesus, we have quite a bit of information. We know Caiaphas, Ananias, Nicodemus, Gamaliel and all the Sanhedrin kept a close watch on Christ’s activities. As a Pharisee, Saul was part of the in crowd. Yet, we never hear Saul mentioned in the Gospels… but then again, we never see Gamaliel mentioned in the Gospels either; and he was a man of great influence during the days of Jesus ministry and into the church era. So Gamaliel was there too. After all, he could not have taught Saul if he was not in Jerusalem in the years prior to Acts 7 where we first meet Saul!
What’s a “ruler?”
We noted that Luke is the only writer who identifies the rich man as a “ruler.” What kind of ruler would this be? Given all the other facts of the case, we know this had to be a Jewish ruler. It would not have been a gentile ruler. Remember, the Rich Young Man had known from birth and kept all of the commandments. Gentiles don’t do that.
Being a ruler means you rule over something. What would RYR rule over? He ruled over Jewish people. Perhaps the young man was a synagogue leader or a junior scribe of some sort. Regardless, he was a Pharisee and as such, he would have been considered a “ruler” living under the authority of the Chief Priests and Elders. In the scriptures, these leaders are often referred to as “rulers and teachers of the law.” Let me provide some examples. Jairus in Mark 5:22 is referred to as a “synagogue ruler.” In Luke 12:11 Jesus told the disciples not to worry about what to say when they are “brought before the synagogue rulers.” In Luke 23:13, Pilate calls together the “Chief Priests and rulers of the people.” And, on the Emmaus Road, Cleopas identifies the Jewish leaders as “rulers.”
The point is, Luke identifies the Rich Young Man as a “ruler,” who has a burning question about his future in the Kingdom of God.
This Rich Young Ruler approaches Jesus and falls on his knees. I believe this is a sincere effort to humble himself before what he truly believes may be the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus looks at him and loves him. There is no other person in all of scripture of whom it is said, “Jesus loved him.” Why do we have that pronouncement? And why does Jesus make the comparative statement about the apostles who were with him being first and the Rich Young Ruler being last? Why does he say it will take the power of God to change the man?
An Apostle’s Call
Therein lies another powerful testimony indicating this man may be the Apostle Paul. When Jesus told the Rich Young Ruler to give up everything, he added that faith filled statement, “then come follow me.” Remember, that command is never issued to any other person in the Gospels other than an apostle. (There is one possible exception but it was a really just a general call to the man Jesus told to “let the dead bury the dead” in Matthew 8:22.) This is huge! That specific call was only issued to Apostles! This explains why Jesus talks about a “last position” and “only God can make some things happen.”
What changed Saul?
So, what turned Saul into a murderous monster? If he sat at the feet of Gamaliel, shouldn’t he have a spirit of tolerance and patience imitating the faith of his teacher? Remember, it was Gamaliel who told the Pharisees that they might be fighting God, in Acts 5:33 and following, if they did not let the Christians be. What happened to Saul causing him to tragically lose the ability to imitate his patient and wise teacher? I think it was his encounter with Christ that drove him over the edge of reason. If Paul is the Rich Young Ruler, we might have the historical turning point of his life which lead him down the destructive dark path. Let me explain.
The Rich Young Ruler had a burning desire to know the truth and he believed, with all his heart, that Jesus had the answer he was looking for regarding his eternal destiny. He approaches, falls on his knees, asks his question and is given an answer he did not expect or want to hear! Instead of addressing his question, Jesus addressed his sin in a devastatingly painful way. “Sell everything you have and give to the poor.” With this statement, the young man’s world comes crashing down around him. Next, we note his reaction. He does not protest. He does not complain. He is caught red handed. His sin is laid bare before a gathering crowd and the God of the universe. He realizes, in an instant, he has hit an insurmountable wall. His quest comes to a screeching halt and his eyes fill with tears. He is deeply and desperately saddened by Jesus answer.
We have no indication of how much time it took The Rich Young Ruler to rise from his prostrate position… he just gets up and “goes away sad.” Unlike the frantic father of Mark 9 who exclaims, “help me overcome my unbelief,” RYR asks for no help and no clarification. The matter is over! There is no recourse… no redress. He just goes away sad. It is a devastating and crushing blow!
How not to handle a spiritual challenge
So, what do you think happened with this young man next. Do you think he went home to lick his wounds, thought about it real well, repented and returned to Jesus? Do you think he went immediately and actually sold all his stuff? Or, like me, do you think he went home and let a rebuke by the Lord fester and boil until it became a seething pot of bitterness and hatred? For three or more years, he would watch that band of despicable disciples grow their new and dangerous religion, while in his heart, he could see the power of his cherished Jewish leadership slipping away. All the while, his rage and hatred festered and grew.
When someone does something to us which causes great injury, we don’t, in our natural self, think very highly of the person who caused the injury. It is not difficult to understand how the sadness of The Rich Young Ruler could morph into deep bitterness, hatred and a seething rage, baking an idea to get even! “Who does he think he is telling me I should get rid of all my stuff?”
When we are confronted with our sin, it hurts. Even if it is a trusted friend who confronts us, it is often a bitter pill to swallow. Thankfully, if we trust God enough to consider the possibility that the person could be right, we prayerfully consider it and God grants us repentance. Sometimes, it is quite difficult to detect or hate our own sin and it is not until we really blow it in a major way, injuring someone we care about, that we truly begin to see how wretched we actually are. This is what happened to Saul on the road to Damascus.
Whatever filled Saul’s heart with such hatred for Christians, he is brought to his knees, once again, by Jesus, on that dusty Damascus road. He is blinded. He is once again humbled. He is once again crushed. The humiliation of Saul of Tarsus, is the result of direct and prophesied intervention by God to make his repentance possible. It’s exactly what Jesus said would happen. “Some things can only happen with God.”
And… this is how the Rich Young Ruler became the Apostle Paul.
We may never know for sure. But…
Well, this is all a bunch of fine fancy speculation, right? We will never know for sure about all this… at least, not until we get to heaven. But, our little exegetical exercise raises a good question. Why would the Bible not just come out and tell us that the Rich Young Ruler is Paul? Why all the mystery? Why is it hidden?
First, there are the practical reasons. Remember, Luke wrote The Gospel of Luke and Acts and he had no qualms about giving us all the dirt on Paul before his conversion. He held nothing back. Remember too, Luke and Paul were very close. They travelled together for years and went through many trials together. Perhaps there was some reason not to expose Paul as the ruler to protect someone else or maybe even Paul himself. Maybe Luke simply did not know. Perhaps Paul asked Luke not to tell the story. Maybe Paul felt embarrassed by it or maybe he just wanted to “not be reminded of his life before Christ.” Those reasons seem pretty lame. In the Gospel of Luke, Luke just identifies the Rich Young Ruler as “a certain ruler.” That’s pretty evasive isn’t it? It almost sounds like Luke knew but deliberately withheld details. Why would he do that? I have an answer which may delight you in a special way.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
I think the connection between these seemingly separate people is hidden by God so that we can experience and enjoy the hunt! There are so many treasures in the Bible waiting to be discovered. Not everything is plain and simple. Remember what Jesus said?
“At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.’”
I don’t know about you, but the little tidbits I discover in scripture sort of make me want to grab the seat of my pants and giggle. I love those little things God has hidden for us to discover. I feel like a little kid opening a present. It’s all done to provoke us to look deeply into God’s word.
So, there you have it, my ramblings about why I think The Rich Young Ruler is Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul.
But… there is one more thing. This one is just for fun.
An Epic Rebuke
Do you remember that time in Matthew 23 when Jesus directly takes the Pharisees and Sadducees to task in a scathing rebuke of their hypocritical religious practices? If you are not familiar with it, you should really stop the podcast right now and go read it, seriously. What you are about to hear will captivate your imagination all the more if you have the whole story fresh in your mind. Go read Matthew 23 right now. Make it fresh.
Matthew 23 begins with Jesus taking his case to the general public, warning them about their hypocritical religious leaders. He quickly turns the tables to address the leaders themselves and addresses them directly.
In verse 13, his epic rebuke begins.
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.”
By the way, this was not presented as if Mr. Rogers was speaking, this was a fiery, blazing, powerful rebuke! For 25 more verses, he addresses the Pharisees and teachers of the law, condemning their practices and their oppressive ways. It is a tirade unlike anything else in all of scripture… a monumental, exposing, stinging rebuke.
Now, I imagine, in the crowd; is one particular Pharisee, the Pharisee we have been discussing, Saul of Tarsus. It would not be unreasonable to think he was there and because of this, my imagination is ignited once again.
As you read through all of Matthew 23, did you notice everything you read is in the plural? Yeah, Jesus addresses the entire group in the plural until… he spots one young man in the crowd and in verse 26 drops out of the plural and jumps into the singular for that one young man he absolutely loves, points his finger directly at him and says…
“Blind Pharisee!. First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.”
Jesus tells the Rich Young Pharisee how to fix his life.
Not long after, that young injured student of Gamaliel found himself on a mission to Damascus where he would indeed become blind! His entire life is in crescendo as he stops for three days and considers what it all has meant up to this point in time. This time he reasons it all out with humility… “Who does he think he is to tell me to get rid of all my stuff? He’s the Lord! He really is the Lord! I have been so wrong for all these years. God forgive me! Forgive me for all I have done to your saints!”
The inside of the cup is clean. God has granted repentance. He now has a faith that can obey and that is exactly what he does. His sight and heart are restored and he goes on to become the second most influential man in the entirety of Christendom.
I am convinced Saul of Tarsus is the Rich Young Ruler. I hope I have given you a little food for thought, tickled your imagination and provoked you to deeper study of God’s amazing word.Enjoy!
In our last Podcast, we talked about the secrets in a resume. Because the Bible contains so much information about certain people, it is pretty easy to metaphorically build a resume for a Biblical character. This exercise can reveal things we may have never really considered. Let’s look at the Apostle Paul. There is a lot written about him personally.
Paul is Amazing
The Apostle Paul is probably the most amazing disciple in the entire New Testament. Not only does he go from being the number one persecutor of the church to the number one promoter of the church, he goes on to pen three quarters of the the New Testament scripture. He is the author of no less than 13 letters to various people and churches.
Paul was pretty prolific! So too were others who accompanied him such John Mark; who goes on to write the Gospel of Mark, and Luke, a physician. Luke is the writer of both the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke. Both these men were close associates of Paul and accompanied him on many of his missionary journeys. Beginning with Luke’s writings, let’s gather information about Paul’s life with which we can build a handsome and respectable resume for Paul.
The first time we ever meet Paul is at the end of Acts 7. It’a not a great first meeting. It occurs during the stoning of Stephen where Paul was still known as the Pharisee, Saul. We join the assault just after the crowd has been whipped into a frenzy by the preaching of Stephen.
Acts 7:57 – 8:1
“At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”
A Young Man
In terms of church history, theologians tell us the stoning of Stephen happened about 35 AD. This would put it roughly three years after the birth of the church. This passage tells us, Saul was still a young man. He has some type of authority because he is “giving approval” to the stoning of Stephen and the murderers are laying their clothes at the feet of this “young man” as he stands back giving approval.
Saul is obviously filled with a deep hatred and bitter contempt for this new religion. It’s difficult to imagine a hatred so intense and so evil that it compels someone to actually participate in an organized effort to kill, murder and destroy a people who’s entire motivation is love. Have you ever wondered what drove Saul to this breaking point? Why was he compelled to do such a thing?
The Good News is, the next time we meet Saul, he has a little “come to Jesus” moment! On a dusty Damascus road, Jesus appears to him in brilliant light and knocks some sense into him. In fact, Jesus knocks the Saul out of him so far, he changes his name to Paul… and the rest is history!
Paul’s Conversion Three Times
Luke tells the story of Saul’s conversion in the book of Acts, three times. Let’s glean some details about Paul’s life from each of these then move on to discovering some other nuggets about Paul from the epistles. Our first conversion story is told in Acts 9.Click here to read the rest of this post.
If you were asked to boil down the Gospel message into just one word, what would that word be? Most people would probably say, “The heart of the Gospel is love!”
In fact, the word love and its derivatives is one of the most used words in the entire Bible. And, there is no greater persons in whom we see love demonstrated than Jesus Christ and God the Father. Jesus laid down his life for us well before we ever knew him, and “God is love,” according to the apostle John. Having someone to love and being loved are two of mankind’s greatest needs and God graciously provides His love for us on us in a variety of ways. And of course, love is a two way street.
If you are a disciple of Christ, you have returned the love God gives by obeying his commands and dedicating your life to the cause of Christ. Christians love Christ! When we look through the Gospels we find many other people who loved Jesus too. Mary and Martha come to mind; Mary Magdalene for sure. When we look for the people Jesus loved, we might recall the intensely emotional event at Lazarus’ tomb. Everyone saw his love for Lazarus because, “Jesus wept.” The Bible says, “Jesus loved Mary, Martha and Lazarus.” We also have the humorous veiled references John makes about himself in his Gospel as “the one whom Jesus loved.” We also have abundant societal references to Christ’s love. “Jesus loves the little children,” as the song goes. And of course let’s not forget, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Without question, Jesus has a heart of love.
But, did you know there is only one specific individual in the entire Bible where it explicitly says, “Jesus loved him?” Who’s that and how would you like to be that guy? Only one individual… in all of scripture… is singled out as being the specific object of Christ’s love! Do you know who that was? It’s not Lazarus!
Introducing the Rich Young Ruler
This is one of my favorite characters in all the Bible – The Rich Young Ruler. So, why does the Bible say in Mark 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him?” The answer is found in this young man’s resume. You know, there’s a lot of information in a resume. So, let’s do a little review of this fellows’.
We meet this guy in no less than three Gospels and as it turns out, there are a ton of interesting facts established which eventually point to a stunning revelation. By the end of this podcast, I think you will agree, this is a most impressive resume indeed.
The story of The Rich Young Ruler appears in Matthew 19, Mark 10 and Luke 18. God evidently wants us to notice this guy. Let’s read about him from the Mark 10 account.
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
A Tragic Beginning?
What a seemingly sad story; a man runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees. His heart is obviously burning with a question. It’s the same question you and I should probably ask if we could meet with Jesus for just one minute. “Lord, will I get to go to Heaven?” Truth be told, there is absolutely no other question which is more important to every human heart. Everyone, from the depths of their soul, wants to know if they will be “OK” when everything is over and the final curtain falls. We all long to know that someday, somehow, everything will be all right and we will be counted worthy of heaven. All other questions we might want to ask the Son of God, pale in comparison to this one vital question. This question speaks to the entire purpose of the Bible, the entire purpose of the Christian faith and the very reason for Christ’s sojourn to the earth. He loves us and wants all men to be saved.Click here to read the rest of this post.