Summary: Dramatic monologue as if given by Paul. Against trusting in ritual, correct ideas, or emotion, trust the grace of Christ given in personal relationship with Him.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.
Oh.. almost didn’t see you there. See what large letters I make when I am writing in my own hand! It is good that you are here. I have a message for you. It will not be a pleasant one. But it is very, very important.
I have been hearing about you. You foolish Takomans! How can you allow yourself to be seduced by the fake religions! How is it, people of Takoma Park, that you forget so quickly, so very quickly, that the only reason you are here is that you have received grace? Grace! Not your own goodness, not your own achievement, but grace!
You foolish, blind, unthinking, unbelieving, distrusting, disloyal...
Ah, you must forgive me for that outburst. I know that it was intemperate and angry. But this matters! This matters to me, because it is not what I have been teaching you. But it matters more profoundly than that, too. It matters because everything turns on whether you think that in some way or another you can earn your way into God’s heart or whether you simply experience the sheer, unmerited, undeserved love of God. That matters, and when you let somebody sucker you into works religion, I get upset.
Maybe I’d better remind you who I am and why I claim the right to speak to you like this. I’m not just anybody, you know. I think of you as my children in the gospel, and a father cannot stand idly by when his children are about to destroy themselves. I must speak; and I have the authority to speak.
Let me remind you of our history together. Clearly there are some folks who have been distorting that history.
Yes, of course it is true that once I was known as Saul the Pharisee. I was trained under the greatest of the rabbis, Gamaliel, and was tutored by him to observe the law in its slightest detail. Yes, it is true that once I kept the law and its demands as carefully as any human being can possibly do. I observed the Sabbath, with its more than 600 regulations. I stayed far away from forbidden foods. I watched cautiously everyone with whom I associated, lest some ignorant peasant would pollute me. And yes, my enemies are right: I was a member of the most scholarly and most scrupulous of all the groups in Israel. If anyone wishes to dig up my record, well, I myself present it for you to look at: born of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eight day, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee of Pharisees, yes. I acknowledge all of that, and more.
I acknowledge that I persecuted the church. With ardent zeal I ferreted out believers and hounded them from pillar to post. I got letters of warrant from the Temple priests, and I traveled the length and breadth of the land looking for what I thought was a dangerous and obscene cult, the people of the way.
But that is not all there is to me. You have forgotten the rest of me. Saul of Tarsus has disappeared, and before you stands Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I taught you, I preached to you, I thought I had shown you the truth of my gospel. But now, what is this I hear? That you want to go back to the old ways? That some of you think that to be safe you had better go back and observe the Jewish law in order to assure your salvation? That some of you are wondering whether I got it right, and think I may just have been trying to make it easy on you?!
Great God, I am astonished and appalled that you would ever imagine such a thing! How can you even dream of giving up all the wonderful freedom you have experienced in Christ and turning again to the bondage of law religion?! It staggers my heart that you would do this!
But first, let me get back to this question of who I am and what has happened to me, this issue of my right to preach my gospel. My gospel, as if there were any other. My own gospel, yes; mine in the sense that I have experienced it and have not felt it necessary to have it checked out, jot and tittle, by anyone else.
Just now I am thinking back over some seventeen or more years, back when I did, in my blindness, try to root out every believer I could find ... like that fellow, Stephen. The one who prayed for me even while the stones were pummeling his head.