About Jesus  -  Steve Sweetman

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Paul's Ultimate Witness  

I have always suggested that the Apostle Paul's ultimate and maybe his most effective witness for Jesus was his execution.  I am sure that he must have felt some emotional and psychological pain from the stress of his soon to be excruciating demise.  He would have obviously experienced some momentary physical pain as the soldier's sword sliced his head from his body, but there had to have been more.  I am also sure that Paul felt the powerful presence of Jesus through it all.  Like Stephen (Acts 7:56) he might have seen Jesus standing at the gate of heaven, with arms wide open, waiting for his arrival into paradise.


I believe Philippians 1:20 is relevant to what I am saying.  "I eagerly expect and hope that in no way will I be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."


Paul's heartfelt hope was to never be ashamed of Jesus.  Whether in life or in death, he would have the courage to exalt the universal supremacy of his Lord and Saviour.  Even more specifically, he believed his body, as the text states, would magnify Jesus in death.  This was no superficial expectation.  Paul wrote these words from a Roman prison cell, most likely waiting for his trial before Nero who would eventually have him beheaded.  He realized that his execution could be immanent.  He understood the seriousness of his situation.     


The Greek future passive indicative verb "megalyno" is translated as "exalted" in the phrase "Christ will be exalted in my body, either in life or in death."  This suggests that in no uncertain terms Paul expected his dead body would some day magnify Jesus for all to see.  I, therefore, suggest that the very moment Paul's head fell from his body and onto the ground was his ultimate witness for Jesus.  Paul put his life on the line for His Saviour.  His lifeless exterior form would have exalted Jesus just as much, if not more, than any Holy Spirit inspired message he would have preached. 


I have no clue what Paul would have said to the soldier moments before he died.  I imagine he spoke of the love that Jesus had for the man. I also cannot imagine how the soldier and those who witnessed Paul's execution might have felt.  Maybe those in attendance were so cold-hearted from the routine of such executions that they had no real emotions.  On the other hand, I cannot dispel the notion that Paul's ultimate witness in exalting Jesus had no Holy Spirit inspired influence on those who saw his lifeless body.  I have often wondered how many of these witnesses might have handed their lives over to Jesus after seeing the last chapter of Paul's life's story unfold before their very eyes.             


Paul's life, including his death, is a source of inspiration for us.  Like you and I, he was human.  If he could be so courageous in death, I hope we can be that courageous in life. 


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