From the Beginning

A STORY OF "TIME" by Trevor Topsfield


Paul has a special job which appears to be like no other.

Just imagine if someone designed a vehicle with a specific purpose that was to be built sometime in the future. All the principles of operation are included in the design along with the specifications, all written in precise detail and completely accurate.

This vehicle is called “Salvation” and its purpose is to take us to a place where we have eternity with God.

All the design features are carefully laid out in The Old Testament and include such things as:-

1 The need for such a vehicle.

2 The way it will be constructed.

3 The time table for both its completion and the final delivery date.

4 The financial costs to the builder and the recipients.

5 Various people being responsible for public awareness of its coming.

The nation Israel was in charge of learning all about it so they could pass the message on to any others who were interested in such a vehicle.

Perhaps it seemed to some generations of Jews that it might never materialise, certainly there were times the details became somewhat fuzzy throughout their history and it appeared as though they did not seem to understand what “Salvation” was all about.

Even though it was future event, the promise of it was so certain that “Salvation” could be utilised before it had actually been completed.

As part of the package was a relationship with God when functioning as it was designed, God would take care of all their needs if they would believe in his ability to do so. When all was well it put Israel in a better position than any other nation as they had resources none of the others had.

However if any of the Jews did not take advantage of God’s provision, then they were no better off than the rest of the world. To make this obvious God warned them he would discipline them in 5 stages, each stage being 7 times more severe than the previous. (Leviticus 26:14-35) When the 5th stage was administered it meant that Jews in particular and the nation Israel in general was just like everyone else and had to fend for themselves.

As it happened when “Salvation” became a reality the Jews were in a bad way as 4 of the stages had been administered and the 5th was not far away, this indicated they did not realise it had happened as they did not recognise the very thing that separated them from the rest of the world.

“Salvation” as we know is centred around the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. As Jesus is also a Jew by nationality, it was one of their own who brought it about. Because of the state of the nation, practically the whole of its population did not recognise the events as the reality of “Salvation” occurred.

One of the problems was that rather than believe God would take away their sinfulness as he had promised and which the function of Judaism should have taught, they distorted it into a religious system whereby they tried to impress God through their good deeds.

The death of Christ contradicted the teachings of their distorted religious beliefs that were ripe within Judaism of whom Paul was one of the leaders. In fact so strong was Paul’s belief that the message of the newly formed Church was heresy that he persecuted as many as he could. (Acts 9:1)

While the difference between Christianity and Judaism is that the Church is based on the reality of Christ’s death on the Cross so “Salvation” is a fact of life, Judaism was based on the promise. Basically the message of both systems should be based on faith in Jesus Christ, whether Judaism looked forward to his sacrifice or the Church looks back at it.

The Church began on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of Jesus and in 40 years the Jews will be defeated by the Romans. This gave the Church some time to evangelise them, but the message needs to be based on the truth and not on the modified version of Judaism. Instead of proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, they killed him because he blasphemed against their teachings.

God needed someone who knew what “Salvation” was all about to guide the Church and the obvious place to look was among those who were experts in The Old Testament. Those within Judaism were already more than half way there, but was there a Jew who could be convinced that they were missing the point?

God knew Paul was his man, a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee, (Acts 23:6) well versed in The Old Testament. To change him from persecuting members of the Church to becoming a leader of it Jesus met him on the road to Damascus (Acts 26:12) and from there on he was a different person. Jesus explained to him (Galatians 1:12) the differences between Judaism and Christianity and from then on he taught a totally new gospel from Judaism as it was in his day.

However there was also a need not to throw out the baby with the bath water, as there are certain aspects of Judaism that are compatible with Christianity and these were used as a transition between the two.

Such things as Baptisms, speaking in tongues, laying on of hands and the resurrection of the dead were among the elementary subjects (Hebrews 6:1+2) that were common to both, but of course when the 5th stage was administered in 70 A.D. the Jewish component was no longer needed.

However because the concept of impressing God through their good works had been consolidated throughout the time immediately before the birth of Jesus it was difficult to overcome.

To be circumcised set the Jews apart from the rest of the world and was a sign of being a member of God’s nation, so there were some Jews who followed evangelists from the Church and demanded every new converts be circumcised.

In Galatians 2:9 James, Peter and John agreed that he, Paul and Barnabas should go to the gentiles while they went to the Jews. But while Peter was normally quite happy to eat with the gentiles, in the presence of some of James’ men (Jews) he would not.

Paul’s argument with Peter was that because he was frightened of the Jews, others might followed his lead when in reality there is no need to be circumcised, as it no longer had any significance.

To be circumcised today has no spiritual advantage, if any considers there is some medical benefit then have it done, if not leave things as they are.

The Galatians as a whole had bowed to Jewish pressure to try to be justified by the law instead of being lead to Christ through it. (Galatians 3) The Galatians were being led astray by a group of people who wanted to continue in the way of Judaism as it was distorted, “You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard?” (Galatians 3:1+2) (NIV)

Paul was already a very learned person in regards to the Scriptures or The Old Testament, but like the rest of Israel had misinterpreted the Law as way of justification. It took Jesus Christ to meet him on the road to Damascus and the teaching Paul received from Jesus to make all of his knowledge come to the correct conclusion.  “Salvation” through faith in Jesus Christ has always been the only way it will happen.

Peter had come to realise that it was Paul who had all the answers for in 2 Peter he wrote: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do other Scriptures to their own destruction.” (Chapter 3 15+16)  (NIV)

Trevor Topsfield




Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.


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