September 2, 2016
One Untimely Born
When the Apostle Paul was writing the letter we now know as 1 Corinthians, he recounted his personal revelation from the Lord Jesus Himself. In the great chapter discussing the central importance of the Resurrection of Jesus (Yeshua ha Mashiach), Paul told of his own experience on the road to Damascus about 20 years earlier (he was writing in about 54 AD, years before his execution in about 64 AD). He describes himself as “one untimely born” – using a term that describes his amazing salvation experience. Unlike the other disciples of the Messiah, Paul was a Pharisee who hated believers in Jesus. As he tells us in this letter, he was headed to Damascus, not to become a believer himself, but to find Jesus’ followers and carry out capital punishment on them. He was “untimely born” because the Lord Jesus knocked him to the ground as appeared to him personally. In other words, Paul was basically dragged kicking and screaming into the Kingdom of the Son of God:
Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15: 8 – 10)
Here is an explanation of the meaning of these verses, from a blog written by Dr. D. Lance Waldie of the Harvest Bible Church, posted in April of 2014. I put in his commentary so that I cannot be accused of misinterpreting the text:
“The final person Paul lists that Jesus appeared to was himself. Paul refers to himself as “one untimely born… the least of the apostles… not fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the church of God.” Christ’s appearance to Paul was different from all the others. All the other apostles saw the risen Lord Jesus over the 40-day time period after His resurrection and just prior to His ascension into heaven (Acts 1:9). Paul, on the other hand, was unique in that he saw Jesus after His ascension. Also, unlike the other apostles, Paul initially hated the Church. Just before Jesus appeared to him in Acts 9:1-9, Paul (then Saul) was on his way to Damascus “breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” and seeking permission from the high priest to persecute anyone he found who worshipped Jesus Christ. He had already taken part in the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58), the first Christian martyr, and he was prepared to kill many more before Christ appeared to him. But when Jesus appeared to him he stopped dead in his tracks, and his life was forever changed. He then became the greatest missionary who ever lived.
Paul was also “one untimely born”—a term used for abortions, miscarriages, and premature births. In other words, his life was completely hopeless before Jesus intervened. Even his conversion to Christ came long after the other apostles. Paul never walked with Jesus, and he never took part in the wonderful ministries of Jesus while He ministered on earth. Even his rebirth was untimely in that he missed so much in comparison to what his Christian brothers experienced. But Jesus did uniquely appear to him, and Paul’s subsequent conversion stands today as one of the sure-fire evidences that Jesus Christ did in fact rise from the dead. (Dr. D. Lance Waldie, Harvest Bible Church, “Appearance To One Untimely Born” blog, 4/24/2014, http://www.harvestbiblechurch.net/blog/untimelyborn)
Paul was used tremendously by God to lay the foundation of the “Body of Jesus”, the group often referred to as “the church.” But he saw himself as only being useful because of the power of the Holy Spirit in his life. That’s the best we can hope to be as believers in Jesus: useful vessels. The more we yield our lives to the work of the Holy Spirit, the more we can be used to advance the Kingdom. Paul had the right perspective on himself: a sinner saved by grace. There were no good works he could offer to Elohim (God, the All-Powerful One) that would get him saved; he was saved by God’s sovereign choice. Yes, his human will was involved – he immediately made a commitment to genuine faith in Jesus our Savior on the ground, blinded by a light brighter than the midday sun in the Middle East.
So – that’s my point. We are all, as Jesus’ followers, useful to Him only as we yield our weak human wills to the power of the Holy Spirit working within us. We – especially including myself – are worthless sinners deserving only condemnation for our sins. Praise to Him who loved us so much that He offered Himself as the Lamb of God to die a death we deserved, so that, by repenting of our sins and believing in His sufficient payment for our sins, we can have eternal life with Him!
All of that, to say this: I mentioned previously that, last year, I gave a chapel presentation to about 120 students and faculty at the West Shore Christian Academy. It was on September 9th, 2015, so I was led by the Spirit of the Living God to give a presentation on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which was a few days later. I talked about Hank Greenberg, one of the greatest sluggers in the history of Major League baseball, who faced a dilemma in 1934 concerning his Jewish faith: to play on the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. He decided to play on Rosh Hashanah (also known as Yom Teruah, the “Day of Trumpets”), but not, 10 days later, on Yom Kippur. The Lord honored him by, first of all, blessing his team with a 2 – 1 victory on Rosh Hashanah (a game in which Greenberg hit two home runs to drive in both Detroit runs). He famously sat out on Yom Kippur, however – and the Tigers lost to the Yankees – but the Lord blessed the team with a pennant in 1934, followed by a World Championship in 1935.
Rosh Hashanah, then, is a day of blessing and celebration (and Greenberg was even more productive than normal on that day). The Lord also blessed him for never once playing on Yom Kippur – “he who honors Me, I will honor,” says the Lord.
From my studies of Rosh Hashanah, I looked for more amazing connections.
I found one.
It’s very interesting, but I don’t know what it means. That’s normal, though: I, as a weak, worthless human being, weak in my own strength, but powerful in Him, can never fully comprehend the working of His mind… or continue to marvel with profound amazement as His sovereignty.
You can fill in the blanks… this is as far as I’ll go to comment on this…
Here it is: I was born early in the morning of September 7th, 1956. In 1956 – you can look it up, 1 Tishrei 5717, on the Hebrew calendar – Rosh Hashanah took place on the 6th of September. So – you could make the point that, the day I started coming into the world was Rosh Hashanah.
No kidding… “one untimely born”, indeed!