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"Standing on the barracks steps, Paul turned and held his arms up. A hush fell over the crowd as Paul began to speak. He spoke in Hebrew.
"'My dear brothers and fathers, listen carefully to what I have to say before you jump to conclusions about me." When they heard him speaking Hebrew, they grew even quieter. No one wanted to miss a word of this.
"He continued.’I am a good Jew, born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, but educated in Jerusalem under the exacting eye of Rabbi Gamaliel, thoroughly instructed in our religious traditions. And I've always been passionately on God's side, just as you are right now." Acts 21:40-22:3 (The Message).
And so Paul began his defense. This was the first time he was allowed to tell his side of the story. Throughout his missionary journeys, when he was falsely accused and hounded from city to city, he was never given the opportunity to speak for himself. The word of his accusers was believed and acted on and he was punished or had to flee on their word, lies or no lies.
Paul must have known that his own words would not be enough to put out the fires of hostility in the hearts of these fanatical Jews. They had already decided that he was guilty and must die. His defense meant only one thing -- they were waiting for him to indict himself just as the Sanhedrin at Jesus' trial pushed Him to admit His own guilt.
"'I went after anyone connected with this 'Way', went at them hammer and tongs, ready to kill for God. I rounded up men and women, right and left and had them thrown in prison. You can ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; they all knew me well. Then I went off to our brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents, authorising me to hunt down the Christians there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing.'" Acts 22:4-5 (The Message).
Not a pretty track record, when one reads Paul's "Before Christ" CV! But so convinced was he that he was right that he though God needed help in defending His cause. Such is every religious system that needs human beings from preventing his kingdom from going under! The silversmiths of Ephesus had this problem on their hands. If they did not take action, the goddess Artemis would be robbed of her divine majesty?
Could Paul or any other religious zealot protect God from losing His divine majesty without his intervention? What kind of a God is that? This is sheer human foolishness. Isaiah mocked the gods of the nations around Israel that they were so keen to worship. 'They are burdens you have to load on donkeys because they can't even walk,' he reminded God's people. 'Our God is not like that. He is the one who carries you, even when you are so old that you can no longer walk!'
Paul did not realise until his confrontation with the living Christ, that God did not need his help to protect Him, particularly since Paul had such a screw bald idea of God that he was fighting an entirely wrong cause. He thought Jesus was an imposter and that the best way to unmask Him was to exterminate His followers.
Every false religious notion uses the same argument for venting its spleen through its followers to try to silence the truth. But God's truth will stand while every lie will fall. God has spoken. "Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:11 (NIV).
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