“And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: Unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come. For which hope’s sake, king Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why shoud it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God schould raise the dead?” (Acts 26:6-8/KJV).
Somehow many of us came to think that Jesus and Paul have established a new religion. They told the Jews how wrong they were and then they taught the Christian faith.
As we read the quote above Paul was far from thinking that way. In all that he did and taught he was rooted in his Jewish religion, understanding and upbringing. Since he came to believe in Jesus, he changed a lot. Yet at heart he still remained Jewish.
Paul had been raised as a Jew although his original hometown was Tarsus, well outside of the holy lands. At Jerusalem he had studied his religion at the feet of a prominent Pharisaic Rabbi named Gamaliel.
He had been very serious about his religion. He was eager to keep all the precepts.
He also was aware of the promises God had given his people. If the people would keep God’s commandments, God would fulfil his promises and bless them.
Paul had experienced many inner struggles. He was eager to live as God would demand of him.
The leading council of the Jewish religion consisted of Pharisees and another group called the Sadducees. The Pharisees believed there was a resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees didn’t.
Paul had been eager to suppress the upcoming movement of the followers of Jesus. Yet on the road to Damascus Jesus appeared to him. He understood that Jesus really had been raised from the dead. He came to believe that Jesus in fact was the Messiah promised in the Holy Scriptures.
In Jesus Christ Paul discovered the answer to many of the struggles he had previously experienced. As he believed in Jesus he also recieved the Holy Spirit. This gave him new power and strenght to live a godly life.
Often we think of the Jewish religion as mainly consisting of a set of rules. Yet here Paul states the Jewish religion was a religion of hope. This hope was based on God’s promise.