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060 – The Rich Young Ruler is Paul!

Important Note:
Don’t miss the first two articles leading up to this one for a much deeper study. Read the first one HERE and read the second one HERE.

The Apostle Paul is the Rich Young Ruler.
The Apostle Paul – El Greco

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.

Incredible Similarities

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!

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059 – The Resume of Paul

Paul with Agrippa – Vasily Surikov – Circa 1875

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.

First Contact

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.

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058 – The Secrets in a Resume

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.

Loving Christ

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.

Mark 10:17-23
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.

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