Birth in Christ

Birth in Christ

By his own admission Paul the apostle was one who was “abnormally”—or in some translations “untimely”—born. As a Pharisee, Paul was an expert in the 39 books that comprise the Hebrew Scriptures or our Old Testament. He knew God’s Word inside and out. So as an expert in Jewish law, he should have known; he should have recognized that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ, the Messiah, whom those Scriptures foretold. Had Paul acknowledged him as the promised Christ while Jesus lived on earth, Paul’s birth in Christ would have been a normal one. But he didn’t. And though we have no indication in the New Testament as to whether or not Paul ever met or saw Jesus prior to his crucifixion,[1] we do know that Paul had a dramatic, life-changing encounter after Jesus Christ had been crucified, died, and had risen from death. It is because of this encounter that this apostle of Jesus of Christ who was abnormally born ended up writing almost half of the books that comprise our New Testament—that’s 13 out of 27 books.[2]

Now if what Paul states about Jesus Christ in our passage is true, this morning should be as life-changing for us as Paul’s abnormal birth upon meeting the risen Christ was for him. And since so very much rides upon Paul’s testimony, I want to begin by taking a moment to review his character and credentials as a witness testifying to the truth of who Jesus Christ is. In short, Paul’s bona fides are impressive. As already mentioned, prior to meeting the risen Christ he was a very devout Jewish leader. Having been born into the Jewish faith, he was “ circumcised on the eighth day” after his birth per Jewish custom. Of the original twelve tribes of Israel, Paul traced his lineage back to “the tribe of Benjamin.” As to his training in understanding and interpreting the Hebrew Scriptures, again, he was a Pharisee, an expert in Jewish law. He even described himself as “a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees”[3] so he came from a long established Jewish lineage. In Paul’s own words, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.”[4] And, as we see many Pharisees in the Gospel accounts challenging and dismissing Jesus and his teachings, initially Paul similarly went on to challenge and dismiss those who followed Jesus. Again, by his own admission, prior to becoming a follower of Jesus, the abnormally born Paul was a zealot who persecuted Christ’s church.[5]

This zeal can be seen when Paul—who at that the time went by the name of Saul[6]—not only was present[7] but actually approved[8] when a man named Stephen, a follower of Jesus Christ, was dragged out of the city of Jerusalem in order to be stoned to death.[9] Now Stephen is described as a man of God, a man of Christ, “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit….”[10] and “of God’s grace and power.” So much so that he “performed great wonders and signs among the people.”[11] Given Stephen’s faith and graciousness, he was chosen by the twelve disciples to be one of a group of seven to help in the daily distribution of food to widows.[12] And even when he was falsely charged,[13] arrested, and brought before the Sanhedrin, the highest court of justice and the supreme council in ancient Jerusalem, we’re told, “All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.”[14] And it was because of this very faith in Christ that he was martyred. But even as his testimony before the Sanhedrin was dismissed, “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”[15] And as this martyr for Jesus was being stoned, he prayed, “‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ 60 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.”[16] And, again, the abnormally born Paul supported this horrific and unjust stoning.

But Paul’s disdain for and zeal against followers of Jesus didn’t remain simply at the level of being an approving spectator. No, while he was yet Saul he himself was a persecutor of Christians who “1 …[breathed] out murderous threats against [Jesus’] disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.”[17] As Paul later acknowledged, “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as the high priest and all the Council can themselves testify. I even obtained letters from them to their associates in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.”[18]

So what happened to Saul? How did this persecutor of Jesus’ followers become a follower of Jesus himself? How did this persecutor of Jesus’ followers thereby become persecuted himself? What happened was that Saul met Jesus. But as already noted and worth mentioning again, the remarkable thing is that his life-changing encounter with Jesus didn’t occur prior to his crucifixion on the cross; no, Paul’s life-changing encounter with Jesus took place after Jesus was crucified; after Jesus had died. And, most wonderful of all, Saul met Jesus after he had risen from death.

Listen to how this all took place. When Saul was persecuting Jesus’ disciples,[19]

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

This, my brothers and sisters, is how Saul became abnormally born. This is how he went from being the persecutor of Christians to being persecuted himself. When the scales fell from his eyes and he was baptized, Saul died to his former life of persecuting Jesus’ followers and he was abnormally born as he symbolically rose from death to follow Jesus as his Savior and Lord. For what the Lord Jesus told Ananias would occur did indeed come to fruition for Saul often suffered for Jesus’ sake. One particularly extreme example occurred when Paul was preaching and a crowd, just as had occurred with Stephen whose death he had formerly condoned, “stoned Paul and dragged him outside the city, thinking he was dead.”[20] As Paul wrote the church at Corinth about suffering for Jesus,

24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.[21]

But why? Why would Paul put up with all of this? Why would he willingly undergo such horrific treatment at the hands of those whom he sought to serve, both fellow Jews and even Gentiles, or non-Jews? He did so because though he, as he confesses in verse 9 of our passage, “persecuted the church of God,” he nonetheless became a recipient of God’s grace, of the underserved merit lavished upon him through Christ Jesus’ death on the cross. In his death, Christ took upon himself the sins of all who would receive him—even those of Saul who had built his reputation on persecuting Jesus’ followers. So abnormally born Paul had come to understand this. Abnormally born Paul had come to understand that Jesus was the promised Messiah, the Savior who not only was sent by God but was himself God in the flesh. Abnormally born Paul had come to understand that Jesus was sent by God to save all who believed and followed him because we are incapable of saving ourselves. And this is the gospel Paul preached and upon which not only the church at Corinth mentioned in verse 1 of our passage but all who profess the name of Christ Jesus stand. For, as Paul states in verse 2, “By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word” preached by Paul and now recorded and preserved for us in the New Testament.

The Gospel Paul preached, the Gospel he received and “passed on…as of first importance” is summarized in verses 3 through 7, namely:

that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

It’s important to notice in this recounting that Paul isn’t merely summarizing what took place when God in Christ came to earth but he’s summarizing it in the order in which it all happened:

So, first, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”[22] Christ didn’t die for his own sins, for though tempted as we, unlike us he never succumbed to that temptation.[23] Jesus the Messiah, that is, Jesus the Christ came to earth to reclaim that earth from the damage that had been done to it when in the Garden, Satan, that ancient serpent,[24] first tempted Adam and Eve and lured them away from loving God first and foremost and as a result God’s good creation was turned on its head. For now

the formerly good couple lost the intimate fellowship they had had with their Holy God and Maker due to their disobedience;

the formerly good couple now experienced death due to their sin;[25]

the formerly good couple now experienced severe pain in childbirth, disorder in their relationship with one another,[26] and painful toil in caring for the formerly good earth.[27]

But, important to note, the formerly good couple were not forgotten by their Holy God and Maker for he also promised that one day he would make things right again by sending one who would crush, who would destroy, the head of the serpent that had lured them away from their first love.[28] So abnormally born Paul now wrote this church about Jesus Christ being the promised One who can deliver us from our sin and death by dying for our sins according to the Scriptures.

Next, as we read in verse 4, Jesus “was buried.” Jesus’ death was real. He wasn’t a phantom. He wasn’t a ghost. He wasn’t a myth. He was a real man who lived. He was a real man who died. He was a real man who was buried. For us. As was common at this time, his burial took place not in the ground but in tombs cut out of rock in front of which a heavy stone was rolled once the body had been prepared. As Matthew records, a man named Joseph from Arimathea, took Jesus’ body “wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, 60 and placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock. He rolled a big stone in front of the entrance to the tomb and went away.”[29] But

Given Jesus’ reputation as King of the Jews;

given that he was known to be a healer and worker of miracles;

given that crowds turned up everywhere he went,

great measures were taken when he was buried that were not typical of this time. So after Jesus had been buried in a tomb and a stone had been rolled in front of it,

62 The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. 63 “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ 64 So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.”

The religious leaders of the day who had often opposed Jesus while he was yet alive, continued to oppose him after he was dead. They weren’t taking any chances. And so they made—and were granted—this extraordinary request. “65 ‘Take a guard,’ Pilate answered. ‘Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.’ 66 So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.”[30] So there’s no mistaking the reality of Jesus’ burial.

The next thing Paul states as being of first importance ought to take our breath away. As recorded in the second half of verse 4,

Christ who died for our sins according to the Scriptures;

Christ who was securely buried in a tomb;

this very Christ “was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”[31]

And it is this resurrection of Christ from death that finally fulfilled and accomplished his purpose in coming to earth. Had Jesus simply lived on earth, been put to death, and died in a tomb, but had not risen from death, we certainly might still know about him.

But Christ Jesus isn’t simply known for his teaching;

He isn’t simply known for casting out demons;

He isn’t simply known for healing the sick;

He isn’t simply known for multiplying the fish and the loaves;

He isn’t simply known for stopping the wind and the waves;

He isn’t simply known for turning water into wine;

He isn’t simply known for walking on water;

He isn’t simply known for forgiving sins;

He isn’t simply known for saying “Before Abraham was, I am.”;

He isn’t simply known for proclaiming himself to be the resurrection and the life and then bringing Lazarus back from death.

Though all of these things are extraordinary and well-known historical events in the life of Jesus, make no mistake, had all of them been true, they would mean nothing if Jesus Christ hadn’t been raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. For if Jesus had remained dead, this would mean he was merely a man. But because he was raised from death on the third day and according to the Scriptures, we can know that he was God in the flesh who came to die for our sins that we might know God and never have to experience separation from him—not in this life; not in the life to come.

But Paul doesn’t stop there, no. As evidence that Christ rose from death, Paul names names.[32] He tells who, exactly, saw and spoke and interacted and even ate with the risen Lord. There was Cephas, or Peter.[33] Since Peter was still alive at the time in which Paul was writing, those in Corinth could have gone and asked Peter himself.

Then there were the twelve disciples.[34] Again, since these men were still alive at the time in which Paul was writing they, too, could have been asked about the risen Jesus.

Then in verse 6 Paul tells how the risen Christ “appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.” Though we’re not told the details of this appearance, news of this had evidently spread so that Paul was able to note it. But, again, even allowing for some who had seen the risen Jesus and later died themselves, this would still mean that there were many witnesses—hundreds of them, who could tell about having seen Jesus after he rose from the dead.

And in verse 7 Paul states that the risen Christ appeared to James,[35] Jesus’ half-brother. He was yet another well-known leader in the early church who could have been asked about Jesus’ resurrection from death.

But Paul wasn’t done for he tells how the risen Christ appeared to all of the apostles—so all that those receiving Paul’s letter had to do was ask them and they would confirm what Paul was saying.

And, verse 8, “last of all,” Paul says, after Jesus was raised from the dead, “he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” Again, Paul was abnormally born because though he had been an expert in the Scriptures, an expert in Jewish law, while Jesus was alive Paul hadn’t realized that Jesus was the Messiah who had been foretold and promised in those very Scriptures;

He hadn’t understood that the eternal Christ, through whom all things have come into being and who sustains all things, had put on human flesh that we might know what God is like;

He didn’t know that Christ Jesus was God’s answer to the problem of human sin—and disobedience—and suffering—and hatred—and death;

He didn’t know that in Christ’s death all sin would be covered—and all evil destroyed—and even death would be done away with;

He hadn’t realized that in persecuting Christians, he had been persecuting Jesus himself[36] for that’s how closely and intimately Jesus identifies with those who are his. That’s why when the risen Christ met Saul, he asked him not why are you persecuting my followers—which is precisely what Saul had been doing—but why are you persecuting me?

And when the shackles fell off of abnormally born Paul’s eyes, he devoted his life to telling the truth about his risen Savior and Lord, Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus God’s Son who gave his life that we might be reconciled to and know the reality and love of our loving and heavenly Father.

So what abnormally born Paul states about Jesus Christ in our passage is true. And those of us here this morning, living over two-thousands years after Christ’s rising from death, are now called not to abnormal birth but to birth in Christ from above. We’re called to new birth in Christ. For that Christ Jesus was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures was attested to by hundreds of truthful and faithful witnesses. And this truth is as life-changing for us as Paul’s abnormal birth upon meeting the risen Christ was for him. All who follow Christ Jesus now do so by the enabling of his Holy Spirit who opens our eyes to the truth of who Jesus was—and is—and will ever be. And so I invite you this morning to consider the risen Christ—to talk with the risen Christ—to pray to the risen Christ to tell him that you want to know and love and follow him. And if you would find talking with him easier to do with another person present, please see me or any of our deacons—Ron or Bob or John or Donna over at the Leslie House—for we would love to pray with and for you.

Brothers and sisters, let us hold firmly to the word, to the truth, that the abnormally born Paul has preached for

Christ is risen! (He is risen, indeed!)

Christ is risen! (He is risen, indeed!)

Christ is risen! (He is risen, indeed!)

Let us pray.

[1] As states: While we lack any direct evidence, there are several considerations that may favor the idea that Paul had possibly seen Jesus prior to the crucifixion. First, Paul had been a resident of Jerusalem as a child (Acts 22:3) and was also there years later to approve of Stephen’s stoning (Acts 8:1). The presence of Paul’s nephew in Jerusalem after Paul’s conversion (Acts 23:16) suggests that Paul and his family had resided there for some time. Jesus was known to have visited Jerusalem (Mark 11:11; John 2:13; 5:1). It is quite possible that Paul could have seen Jesus or heard Him speak during one of Jesus’ several trips there. Second, Paul’s devotion to the Law would have provided him motivation to be present in Jerusalem during Passover—a time where both he and Jesus would have been in close proximity. Third, as a Pharisee, Paul would have been keenly interested in the teaching of a popular, if unconventional, rabbi. As Paul told Herod Agrippa, the things Jesus did were “not done in a corner” (Acts 26:26). Fourth, in one of Paul’s epistles, the apostle hints that he may have had a pre-conversion acquaintance with Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:16), although his statement is far from conclusive.

[2] Paul’s authorship is tied to: Romans, I Corinthians, II Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossian, I Thessalonians, II Thessalonians, I Timothy, II Timothy, Titus, and Philemon.

[3] Acts 23:6.

[4] Acts 22:3.

[5] Philippian 3:4b–6: If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

[6] We’re provided no explanation for this name change in the apostle. From the beginning of the book of Acts through Acts 13, he is usually referred to as Saul but subsequent to this, and in his epistles, Paul is more commonly used. Some have suggested this is because he became apostle to the Gentiles and therefore preferred Paul over the common Jewish name of Saul. The following verses in Acts 13 display the gradual changeover. Saul: Verses 1–3:Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.; Saul/Paul, verse 9: Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said; Paul, verse 13: 13 From Paphos, Paul and his companions sailed to Perga in Pamphylia, where John left them to return to Jerusalem.

[7] Acts 7:58.

[8] Acts 8:1: And Saul approved of their killing him.

[9] Acts 7:57–58: 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

[10] Acts 6:5.

[11] Acts 6:8.

[12] The other six men chosen were, “Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism” (Acts 6:5).

[13] Acts 6:12–14: 12 So [Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—vv. 9–11] stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

[14] Acts 6:15.

[15] Acts 7:55–56.

[16] Acts 7:59–60.

[17] Acts 9:1b–2.

[18] Acts 22:4–5. Emphasis added.

[19] Acts 9.

[20] Acts 14:19b.

[21] 2 Corinthians 11:24–27.

[22] Isaiah 53: 1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. 10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.; in Matthew 12:38–42, Jesus refers to Jonah: 38 Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here. Jonah 1:17: 17 Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

[23] Hebrews 4:15:For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” See also Hebrews 7:27: 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

[24] Revelation 12:9: The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.; Revelation 20:2: He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.

[25] The instructions given to Adam are recorded in Genesis 2:15–17: 15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” See also Romans 6:23: For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

[26] Genesis 3:16: To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;  with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

[27] Genesis 3:17–19: 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

[28] This is the proto-evangelion, the first mention of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15b: he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

[29] Matthew 27:59–60.

[30] Matthew 27:62–66.

[31] See footnote 22 above. Isaiah 53 and Jonah 1:17 also point to Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death.

[32] Per a chart in the Zondervan NIV Study Bible (p. 1620), New Testament references to Christ Jesus’ appearing to people after he had risen from death include: Mary Magdalene in the garden (Mark 16:9–11; John 20:11–18); other women (Matthew 28:9–10); disciples on the road to Emmaus (Mark 16:12–13; Luke 24:13–32); Peter (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5); the 10 disciples in the upper room (Luke 24:36–43; John 20:19–25); the 11 disciples in the upper room (Mark 16:14, John 20:26–31; 1 Corinthians 15:5); 7 disciples fishing (John 21:1–23); the 11 disciples on a mountain (Matthew 28:16–20; Mark 16:15–18); more than 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6); James, Jesus’ half-brother (1 Corithians 15:7); the disciples at the ascension (Luke 24:44–49; Acts 1:3–8); Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 9:1–19, 22:3–16, 26:9–18; 1 Corinthians 9:1).

[33] Cephas is Peter’s name in Aramaic.

[34] As recorded in Acts 1:26 Mattathias was the twelfth disciple who replaced Judas Iscariot.

[35] As noted by the Zondervan NIV Study Bible note on 1 Corinthians 15:7: “This is James, the half brother of Jesus (Mt 13:55), who did not believe in Christ before the resurrection (Jn 7:5) but afterward joined the apostolic band (Ac 1:14) and later became prominent in the Jerusalem church (Ac 15:13). It is not clear in Scripture when and where this appearance to James occurred.”

[36] Acts 7:58b–8:3: Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 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. 1 On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.; Acts 9:1–2: 1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.; Galatians 1:13: For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.; Philippians 3:6a: as for zeal, persecuting the church; 1 Timothy 1:13: Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.

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