June 18, 2022

Subject: Evidence #7 for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Paul’s Transformed Life

Philippians 3:10 “That I may know Jesus Christ and the power of His resurrection.”

Ed Croteau

Deconversion is defined as “the loss of one’s faith in a religion to embrace a former religion or non-religion.” While we are seeing examples of prominent Christian leaders who have “deconverted” from Christianity, there are great examples of those who have embraced Christianity, such as CS Lewis, Saint Augustine, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Chuck Colson, Dr. Francis Collins, Jim Wallace, and the most famous convert: the Apostle Paul.

These conversions were prompted by the evidence for why Christianity is true. The Christian worldview is not a blind faith. It is founded on the evidence for the life of Jesus of Nazareth. But the one historical event upon which Christianity rises or falls is the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without it, Christianity fails.

As Special Counsel to President Richard Nixon, Chuck Colson had all the power anyone could want. When Nixon resigned due to Watergate, Colson was the first to go to prison. It was then that a friend explained the gospel to him. And it was Watergate that convinced him of the Resurrection: “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. Because 12 men testified they saw Jesus raised from the dead, proclaiming that truth for 40 years, never once denying it. They were beaten, tortured, stoned, put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled 12 of the world’s most powerful men and they couldn’t keep a lie for 3 weeks. You’re telling me 12 apostles could keep a lie for 40 years? Absolutely impossible.”

As one of these apostles, Paul’s testimony is similar to Colson. Paul explained his Jewish position of prestige and power: “If anyone thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the 8th day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews, concerning the law, a Pharisee, concerning zeal, persecuting the church, concerning righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:4-6).

In fact, the persecution of the early church intensifies when this young Jewish Pharisee, who made it his mission in life to protect Judaism from the heretical teaching of Christianity, watched with approval as Stephen was publicly stoned to death for his faith in Christ: “They cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. The witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul… now Saul was consenting to his death” (Acts 7:57, 8:1).

Later, Paul describes something much different about how his life has turned out: “From the Jews 5 times I received 40 stripes minus one, 3 times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, 3 times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have been in the deep… in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness” (2Corinthians 11:24-27). What happened? How did he go from his life of a power as a high-ranking Jew to this new life of being hated and later beheaded by the same Jews?

Cold Case Detective Jim Wallace explains there are only 3 reasons why anyone lies or commits any sin at all: 1) Financial Greed, 2) Sexual Lust (or Relational Desire), and 3) Pursuit of Power: “When I enter a murder scene, I ask myself a question: Who would have benefited from the perspective of money, sex or power?”

Wallace explains what caused Paul’s incredible transformation from a leading Pharisee to a martyr of Christ: “Traveling on the road to Damascus to further persecute the church (AD 31–33), Saul had an extraordinary life-changing experience. According to him, Saul saw and spoke with the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9:1–30; 22:5–13). Following his conversion to the movement he once hated, he took the Gentile name “Paul” and became the greatest advocate of the newfound Christian faith. After Jesus himself, many scholars view the apostle Paul as the second most important figure in the history of Christianity. Paul went on to become the faith’s greatest missionary, theologian, and apologist as well as the inspired author of 13 New Testament books.

What caused Paul’s conversion – arguably the greatest religious conversion ever? Consider what may be the modern equivalent of Paul’s conversion to Christianity. Imagine Winston Churchill becoming a member of the Nazi party. Or President Ronald Reagan embracing Soviet communism. Or Adolf Hitler converting to Judaism. Whatever equivalent one rightly accepts, Paul’s conversion to Christianity was an absolutely astounding event.

But how is this extraordinary change to be explained? According to Paul himself, the incredible transformation of one of Western civilization’s most influential religious leaders was due to the appearance of the resurrected Christ. The conversion of the apostle Paul, not to mention his life and accomplishments, is inexplicable apart from the fact of the resurrection. The only thing that could have changed Saul’s incredibly negative opinion about primitive Christianity was his encounter with its leader, Jesus of Nazareth, raised from the dead.”

Ed Croteau is a lay pastor and resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the LS Tribune, on Facebook and his website www.fse.life.