Paul as Type
September 28, 2020

Paul provides a key to understanding his life experience in 1 Timothy 1:16: Though a blasphemer and violent persecutor, he found mercy, so he could be a type (hypotyposis, which includes the root typos) for those who believe. 

Paul’s experience is a type. Of what? In his speech before Agrippa and Festus, he makes clear he’s a type of Judaism. Raised in Jerusalem, he’s a Pharisee, the “strictest sect” of Judaism (Acts 26:4-5), a superlative “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:5).

Specifically, he represents the sector of Judaism that rejected Jesus and put Him to death. Full of ignorant zeal, he imprisoned the saints, scourged them, tortured them to deny Jesus, voted to kill them (Acts 26:10-11).

Paul didn’t attack Jesus directly, but he was hostile to “the name of Jesus” (Acts 26:9). Jesus took it as a personal attack: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 26:14). Paul is a mirror in which the Jews see their own crimes.

Paul is, of course, an enemy-turned-disciple. Jesus shines on him, and Saul becomes a light to dispel the darkness (Acts 26:13, 16-18). Paul becomes what Israel was always called to be: Yahweh’s servant, giving sight to blind Gentiles (cf. Isaiah 42:1-9). The Hebrew of Hebrews becomes a true Jew.

That opens another layer of Paul-as-type. He becomes the very thing he tried to destroy. He attacked Jesus, but, by the Spirit, he becomes another Christ. In response, the Jews repeat their sin. As Paul proclaims Jesus, the Jews repeatedly plot to kill him (e.g., Acts 23:12-30).

This accounts for the form of Paul’s defense before Agrippa (Acts 26). He starts out like a defense attorney, rebutting Jewish accusations (Acts 26:2). But he quickly discards the legal case.

Instead, Paul claims he’s on trial for his very Jewish, very biblical belief in the resurrection (Acts 26:6). In Paul’s mind, he’s not the one on trial. The issue at stake is Paul’s gospel, his message about the resurrection of Jesus. Paul’s trial repeats the trial of Jesus.

That means Paul’s appearance before Agrippa also repeats Paul’s Damascus Road experience. Paul bears light, is light. Lit with the dazzling light of Jesus, he shines into the court. To Agrippa, he poses Jesus’ question, “Why are you persecuting Me?”

Acts 26 is the third account of Paul’s conversion in Acts, and the most elaborate. It’s the only one that includes Jesus’ citation of the Greek proverb, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14). Jesus has been reading his Euripides.

The image is of an animal that resists prodding by its owner or rider. It’s a perfect metaphor for Paul. He’s a stubborn beast, but God intends to ride him all the way to Rome, no matter how hard he kicks back.

And it’s a perfect image for the Jews. Israel is Yahweh’s war horse (Zechariah 10:3). He rides her out to conquer. In the first century, Israel kicked back, and tried to go her own way. Paul is a type of what will happen to the war horse. She’ll stop kicking against the goad. All Israel will be saved, and Israel will fulfill her mission.

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