Etikettarkiv | sinner

Was the apostle Paul, or Saul, a murderer?

evil eyesDid Paul kill someone before he was converted?

There is no evidence for that Paul actually killed someone in his life, but he was still acting violently in his goal to pursue his religion which he had adapted to a Pharisaic variant where he was actively searching for converted Jews with the aim to get them imprisoned.

Paul first enters the Biblical scene with his original name Saul (later changed to Paul by Jesus himself), and this is when he consented to the stoning (to death) of Stephen in Acts 7-8. Paul did not participate in the stoning itself, but he did not decline to guard the clothes of those who did – which means that they trusted him in the matter, and he was on their side.

Consenting to someone being killed/sentenced to death (or ”capital punishment”) is not the same as being a murderer himself. If that were the case, loads of people would be charged for being murderers even today, and Paul would just be one in a crowd.

Acts 7:56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 8:1 And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles.2 And devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.4 Therefore they that were scattered abroad went every where preaching the word.

So Saul caused mayhem in the church, and he entered into houses and caused people to end up in prison. Below we can also see that he was breathing threats and murder against them, but we still do not have any actual evidence that his violent treatment caused anyone to be killed. He did not hesitate to cause converted Jews to be brought bound to Jerusalem because of their (as he thought) incorrect belief – but this does not necessarily mean that anyone ended up being killed. Maybe there would be an increased risk of this if he had been able to pursue all his plans, but he was stopped by the famous vision of Jesus on his way to Damascus. 

Acts 9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

So Saul/Paul was halted in his plans and chose not to pursue them after being converted. It is not certain that his aim even was to get Christians killed, but he definitely wanted to prevent them from maintaining their faith and spreading their faith to others – through all means possible.

Even if there is no evidence for that Saul/Paul actually killed someone, was he not a murderer in heart since he approved of the stoning of Stephen, and probably would not mind if even more converted Jews were stoned to death?

1 John 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

It is true that whoever hates his brother is a murderer and is therefore not saved, but this is a different matter than the subject of whether Paul actually killed someone physically. There are people who store hatred in their hearts towards others but who have not killed anyone physically whether directly or indirectly, and who might even refuse to do so if they had a chance. They would therefore not be considered murderers. (Likewise, not all people would consider someone a murderer just because he/she votes for capital punishment in his country.) God will nevertheless one day judge our hearts on judgment day, and the key question is if we have repented for our sins or not.

We can get some more information about Paul:

Phil. 3:6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

1 Cor. 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Acts 9:13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

Acts 9:21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

Blood of JesusPaul repented for his past sins and left the old man behind

Paul was converted, and when Ananias placed his hands on him and prayed for him, he was healed from his blindness and was filled with the holy Ghost:

Acts 9:4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

Acts 9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. — 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

Just because Paul was ”chosen” vessel does not mean he had no choice in the matter. Jesus might have chosen him because he understood that Paul would respond positively to the task, and because Jesus wanted his help to spread the gospel to the gentiles and to shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake”. (I. e. Paul would get a similar treatment to the one that he himself had chosen to give others.) Remember the parable in Matt. 22 about the wedding feast for the King’s son, and where those who chose to go (and chose to dress properly) were called the chosen ones, rather than those on the guest list (list with invitations) who declined to go:

Acts 26:19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision

When Paul was converted, he changed his way of thinking and left the old man behind. He walked the talk, and the man who wrote most letters in the New Testament was no hypocrite. Paul expected the followers of Jesus to have a pure heart and a good conscience, and he admitted that he was formerly a blasphemer and persecutor of the church.

1 Tim. 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned:6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling;7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers,—12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;13 Who was BEFORE a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

Paul acted the way he did because he thought it was the right thing to do. He acted ignorantly in unbelief. This can be compared to situations where a sinner is fully aware  that his deeds are evil (perhaps through stealing from someone else, or perhaps through being involved in adultery and lies) and his own conscience confirms it. The sinner might not want to be treated the same way that he himself treats others, and this is evidence of a sinful heart. This is how God will judge our hearts:

Rom. 2:5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:11 For there is no respect of persons with God.12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Many Christians misunderstand Rom. 7 as though Paul is speaking about his life as a converted Christian, even though he is only expressing the thoughts of someone (like himself) left to himself under the law. In Rom. 7 he says for instance:

Romans 7:14 But I am carnal, sold under sin

And in the following chapter he claims that those who are carnal will reap DEATH – which would include himself, unless he changed his life style:

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is DEATH 

It is absolutely clear that Paul did in fact change his life style and expected fellow Christians to avoid sin just like he did:

I Cor. 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and SIN NOT

Romans 6:Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. — 12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.-—   — 16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of SIN UNTO DEATH, or of obedience unto righteousness?  — 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—:That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.— 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Paul claimed that he (and his two coworkers) were holy, just and unblameable (which is the same as being ”perfect”), and he also claimed to have lived ”in all good conscience before God until this day”. A person who sins evidently does not live with a good conscience.

1 Thess. 2:10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how HOLILY and JUSTLY and UNBLAMEABLY WE BEHAVED OURSELVES among you that believe:11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory

Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I HAVE LIVED IN ALL GOOD CONSCIENCE BEFORE GOD UNTIL THIS DAY.  

Acts. 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men. 

2 Cor. 1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

2 Tim. 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with PURE CONSCIENCE, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day

Paul was not the chief of sinners and holy, righteous and BLAMELESS at the same time

Paul said: 

Romans 7:14 But I am carnal, sold under sin

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is DEATH 

Hmm, was Paul BOTH carnal and not carnal at the same time, or is he saying the he is carnal and therefore spiritually dead OR is he saying that he was FORMERLY carnal and sold under sin? I’d say the latter.  Paul also said:

 I Cor. 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and SIN NOT 

1 Thess. 2:10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how HOLILY and JUSTLY and UNBLAMEABLY WE BEHAVED OURSELVES among you that believe:11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory

Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of SIN UNTO DEATH, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Paul is saying that if you obey sin it leads to DEATH (and naturally spiritual death since all people will die physically whether they sin or not). If Paul was the chief of sinners while writing Romans, it must mean he obeyed SIN and served two masters! The Bible is clear about that  sinning and serving two masters will send a person to hell. So Paul wasn’t saved while writing Romans? How can a person be the chief of sinners and BLAMELESS (which Paul says he is) at the same time? To me that is a Bible contradiction. Paul identified himself as a sinner but the context reveals he was talking about his life BEFORE he came to salvation.

1 Tim. 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (1 Tim. 1:12-16).

When Paul wrote ”I was before a blasphemer and a persecutor” it shows he is writing about the time when he was unsaved in his past. He also said ”I acted ignorantly in unbelief”. Paul is not speaking of the normal Christian life and when comparing with context it’s apparent that Paul didn’t keep on doing those sinful things, as he frequently taught against.

Just a few verses later Paul warned Timoty to have a GOOD CONSCIENCE. He said 18This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck”. If Paul was the chief of sinners also as a born again christian, then how could he possibly have a good conscience, and how could he possibly expect Timothy to have a good conscience if he fails himself? Can someone be a chief of sinners with a good conscience before God?

Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Acts. 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.

Rom. 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost

2 Cor. 1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

2 Tim. 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day

Would Paul exhort others to stop sinning when he himself was carnal and sold under sin? Paul says sin dwells in him (Romans 7:17, 20) and he says he is a wretched man (Romans 7:24). Can a person have sin dwelling in him at the same time as he is free of sin? Wouldn’t this be a clear contradiction? Did the chief of sinners write the major part of the NT and ask his readers to stop sinning and to not be hypocrites at the same time as HE was the biggest hypocrite? Paul’s desire is to find someone who can free him from his sins which lead to death (Rom 7:24), and he makes it clear in Rom. 8:2 that the fight he had in the flesh belonged to his former life.  Right after he describes his bondage to sin and the law before he was saved, he says, ”There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” He also said ”IF YE LIVE AFTER THE FLESH YE SHALL DIE”. Based on Paul’s own words a person who sins is SPIRITUALLY DEAD, so clearly Paul could not have been the chief of sinners when saying this.

He is speaking in the present tense, but at which present time? Paul is using a mechanism of literature called, Past Perfect with Present Perfect tense. It is when you speak of past events as if it were present tense. There is a transition by first speaking of the past, transferring in present perfect tense, then shifting it back to the actual present.

Rom 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

Rom 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—:That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.—12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Paul says that we are either slaves to sin OR slaves to righteousness.  If Paul was a slave to sin (chief of sinners) then he would be spiritually DEAD by his own admission. We can’t serve two masters. So again, Paul was not describing himself from a christian perspective in Romans. 7. Paul’s behavior agreed with what he taught all the churches:

Eph. 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.Be not ye therefore partakers with them.For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Col. 3:Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds

1 Thess. 4:For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 4:17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

Phil. 4:9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, DO: and the God of peace shall be with you.

1 Cor 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

2 Cor 10:5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ 

So in conclusion, either Paul was exactly so holy, blameless, righteous and pure as he claimed to be or he was the biggest hypocrite in the Bible, and maybe in history. Make your choice but you can’t have it both ways.

Paul was also not chosen to believe, and no one is forced to believe and obey God. Paul however did believe and obey God:

So then, King Agrippa, I WAS NOT DISOBEDIENT to the vision from heaven (Acts 26:19)

Neither can we take Phil. 3:12-13 as support for that Paul couldn’t stop sinning. Also v. 10 must be taken into account.

Phil. 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before—20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Clearly the above concerns another type of perfection than the moral perfection since it talks about the resurrection when we will get new bodies and become perfect individuals in a physical sense. As long as we live on earth we will have to cope with our fragile bodies which sometimes give us pain. That’s another matter than being able to live obedient to God. Naturally Paul believed it was achievable to reach a moral perfection while on earth, before we die physically. He even speaks about ”as many as are perfect” just a couple of verses later:

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Not even Jesus was ”perfected” before his resurrection:

Luk 13:32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected