Paul the Apostle made an astounding claim. He claimed to have encountered the risen Christ.

His Jewish friends believed he had lost his marbles and ignored him. His former victims (Gentiles) believed he was trying to deceive them and avoided him. Given his former life of persecution and torment, his claim to be a follower of Jesus was too astounding to believe.

Imagine being the deacon over local outreach and having Saul of Tarsus living in your neighborhood. Your mission? Convert the neighbors. Your reality? Saul is nonconvertible. Who would approach him? Who could teach him? Sounds like Mission Impossible to me. And yet, the impossible happened!

Following his conversion, Paul received intense attacks on his mission, his message, and his motives. In response, Paul says that his attackers are all wet. In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul makes a four-fold rebuttal of these attacks. Paul says that his message

  1. Is not something that man made up.
  2. Is not something that man gave him.
  3. Is not even something that he learned.
  4. Paul’s amazing claim is that his message is something that he received by direct revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12).

The claim is astounding. And yet, it does explain a lot of things. Prior to his conversion, Saul of Tarsus was a fanatic persecuting the church of Jesus Christ beyond measure. Not only was he a fanatic, he was a prominent member of the powerful ruling class. Money, power, resources were readily available to him for his mission of eradication. Finally, Saul of Tarsus was a legalist: blinded to the grace of God offered through a suffering Messiah, predisposed to utterly reject Jesus, his message and his offer of forgiveness through faith (rather than through human achievement).

How is it humanly possible to convert a fanatical, prominent legalist? It isn’t! And yet it happened. Perhaps the explanation of his conversion offered by Paul is not so astounding after all. In fact, it is the only explanation that makes sense, isn’t it?

A face-to-face encounter with the risen Christ convinced Saul of Tarsus that God really does forgive the unforgivable, love the unlovable, and accept the unacceptable. His outlook on life could never be the same. Mission impossible became mission accomplished.

How about you? Are you still trying to please God through human achievement? Are you still seeking to fulfill mission impossible? Or are you, as Saul of Tarsus finally was, willing to accept God’s forgiveness and acceptance? The mission was accomplished by Christ; the victory is yours through faith!

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