Reasonable Faith Part 3: Exhibit C - Saul of Tarsus 


On Sunday.22nd April at our morning service, we continued our series 'Reasonable Faith' with the topic Exhibit C - Saul of Tarsus. In this blog you will find a summary of the talk and then some questions and reflections for you to think through on your own or to discuss in your small group.

To listen to the talk, please click here.

Talk Summary
As we present the case for God, keep these things in mind - the evidence that is there for each of us: 
Jesus who said he was God’s son, said he’d be crucified and on the third day rise again. Why would he lie? Why would the eyewitnesses lie and go to their deaths lying? Why would so many people of the time choose to give up everything to follow this man if he’d just lived and then died?
An information-filled universe from nothing, or a universe created by God who is by definition eternal? An information-filled you and me… life itself in all its wild improbability… from nothing? Or created by God?
Testimonies of countless Christians about how God has changed them. People speaking in tongues. All liars or nutters?
And a man named Saul. A guy who went around persecuting Christians – wanting them dead - who became perhaps the most influential Christian of all. How could this happen other than the way he said it happened and the way witnesses report it happening. Why would he lie?
We’ve already established in this series that there is a wide consensus even amongst atheist historians that Jesus existed – even Richard Dawkins has been forced to concede this in debate with Christian apologist John Lennox. We have non-bible sources for Jesus – Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and Roman Senator Cornelius Tacitus who was born around 55AD. But of course we also have the biblical accounts including Luke’s – and Luke begins his account by stating that he was setting out an orderly account, based on eyewitness testimony, and careful investigation.
As for Paul, it is widely accepted even by atheist scholars that a man called Paul not only existed but that he wrote at least seven of the letters found in the New Testament that are attributed to him. Outside his own writings, he is also written about in Acts, which is also widely accepted to have been written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke – let’s call him Luke!
So we have, beyond all reasonable doubt, a man called Saul who (as was customary at the time) also had the Greek name Paul. You can read here just a little of what Luke wrote about him.
In summary -
Saul was a mortal enemy of Jesus’s disciples.
Saul had an encounter with Jesus.
He is filled with Holy Spirit and is baptised.
He turns from mortal enemy to devoted disciple. 
He then spends his time convincing people that Jesus is the Messiah!
Suggestions of an epileptic fit or a psychotic disorder or even a meteor don’t satisfy the event very well, let alone the totally changed life!
Unless it happened the way Luke records it it’s hard to explain. The Jewish authorities knew this so true to form they tried to kill him! People who reject Jesus are desperate to dispose of the evidence!
They understood that this incredible change in Saul was going to be impossible to explain, unless you believe his own account.
And Paul says it’s because of this encounter with Jesus. You can read what he said here.
Saul’s life transformation is tangible evidence that we can trust in. It was the encounter with Jesus that changed him. What else could explain it?
And even if there was any other reasonable explanation, Paul himself said it was because of Jesus – and why would he lie?
If you have found Jesus where is the evidence in your lives? 
Are you sharing your faith and that evidence in your life with others?
If not why is that? What is holding you back? What do you need to do? 
An encounter with God has the power to transform each of our lives for the better Transformation in your life can be the evidence that others need to recognise Jesus. Don’t give up praying for people who are not Christians. Pray for an encounter with Jesus. Recognise that no-one is beyond God’s reach.
If you are exploring faith keep coming, keep searching. Don’t give up. 
If you feel unworthy of being accepted into God’s family don’t be. If Paul was accepted after what he’d done then don’t be too quick to say you can’t be. You need feeding (spiritual nourishment). You need safe surroundings in which to grow. And you need time.
In our society there are people who are hungry for something. That’s why we see people trying fill a hole in their soul with “stuff” or saying they’re “spiritual” but not really knowing what that means or knowing how to satisfy the hunger they feel. 
Wouldn’t it be great if we at EBC were like Paul - hungry for Jesus? Seeing lives transformed and the Kingdom growth that he saw. Seeing people’s hunger for something they didn’t even understand satisfied by Jesus?
If we were all hungry to be more like Jesus – not judgemental as Saul was but full of love and forgiveness, compassion and grace; imagine what an impact that would have on those around us. Imagine the hunger that would be satisfied.
The church family marked by these spiritual qualities would draw people to Jesus. They would want to be a part of his community. They’d become hungry for Jesus too – and they’d find their hunger satisfied.
Questions and Reflections (for you to think about on your own or to discuss in your Life Group)
1. Is there someone in your life that you would love to have encounter Jesus? Are you praying for them that this will happen?
2. Is there an area of your life which you know needs transformation? Are you asking God to intervene? 
3. Do you make time to talk to God and thank Him and listen out for him? Often the Holy Spirit speaks to us through our reading the bible or when we intentionally spend time alone seeking his direction – what can you do to make more time for this?
4. Sometimes it’s said that “people don’t change” but this is untrue and Saul’s story is a great counter-example. God can change anyone! Have you had or personally witnessed such a change in someone? Have you or could you share this story with people?

Other resources:

Lennox vs Dawkins debate (segment):

Reasonable Faith: Historicity of Paul Q&A:

“On Guard!” – highly recommended Christian apologetics book by William Lane Craig
Simon Lace, 27/04/2018