Bits and Pieces – 92nd Edition – December 12, 2021
THE APOSTLE PAUL
Paul was deeply conscious that God had set him apart. His birthplace, his heritage, his education from birth – all contributed to his service for Christ. Tarsus, his hometown, represented the ideal union between the cultures of the east and west. Jewish, Greek and Roman influences co-existed.
His Roman citizenship gave him the rights he used effectively for the advance of the Gospel. His contact with the Hellenic culture contributed to his mastery of the Greek language, so evident in his epistles.
His Jewish heritage trained him thoroughly in the law of God. As a student of Gamaliel, he most likely commenced his education when about thirteen years old. Gamaliel, known as one of the most progressive educators, encouraged not only the rigorous study of the Old Testament law and tradition but also Greek literature. Gamaliel also taught that the study of the law without another vocation led to sin. Thus Paul learned to make tents. Nothing in Paul’s life went wasted.
MAN’S PASSION AND GOD’S PROVIDENCE
Saul of Tarsus first appears in the Bible record as the young man who kept the clothing of the witnesses who cast the first stones at Stephen’s martyrdom. Saul was probably in his twenties at the time and had a fine Jewish pedigree. Well educated, having studied under the famous Rabbi, Gamaliel, he was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” and also a Pharisee. But that day, as he gazed upon the expired form of the first Christian martyr, his education took a further dramatic but retrograde step. He witnessed the murder of one of the despised Christians, and from that moment, Saul would no longer be a passive observer but an active persecutor of the saints of God. From then until the moment of his conversion, he “made havoc of the church.”
Saul’s life at that period was ruled by prejudice, passion, and bigotry. He was intensely sincere, but despite his sincerity, he was intensely ignorant and wrong. To this day, many make the same mistake, even Christians. Passionate sincerity does not make our beliefs or behaviour right. We should never fail to bring all we believe and practise to the touchstone of the Word of God. We act right only when we live biblically.
Contrary to his intention, Saul’s persecution helped the early church. Christ had commanded His disciples to radiate out from Jerusalem to Judaea, Samaria, and beyond with the gospel message. In His providence, God used Saul’s persecution to bring about His will. He still makes the wrath of man to praise Him. (Psa.76:10). Whatever our afflictions, He will overrule every attack of the devil for our good and His glory and lead us forward in triumph (II Cor. 2:14-17).
We reported a year ago that about 370 religious leaders, including Christian and Jewish, had signed a call to ban sex conversion therapy. It is defined as any form of treatment or psychotherapy that aims to suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. An early priority of the Federal government will be to introduce legislation to ban “Conversion therapy” for minors.
We are concerned that if this legislation goes through it will have the potential to criminalize non-coercive conversations when Christian parents, pastors, or counsellors teach or speak to youth about the Biblical understanding of ethics, sexuality, gender, marriage, identity, and belonging.
If this legislation goes through, eventually, we’ll not be able to speak to anybody about anything. The objective is to hinder Christian Bible believers from obeying the Lord’s great commission to preach the Gospel to every creature. Genuine Christians need to pray earnestly that these modern “Balaams” will not be able to succeed with their nefarious plans. Though they may be of a mind to pass these sinful laws, let us fervently pray that the Lord will stop them. A good practical exercise would be to send a letter to your Federal M.P.
One of the writer’s great delights is to walk the beach in Florida in wintertime. The temperature is pleasant, the company enjoyable, and the exercise helpful. There are many seabirds that seem to be willing to share their beach with us – sanderlings, ospreys, terns of different types, black skimmers, herons, egrets. Their flying and fishing skills are such that we are reminded of the wonderful creative works of God. Denial of God robs life of so many of its treasures and pleasures. How poor is anyone whose eyes are blind to the wonders of God’s creation.