Forgiveness and Sin
The overall theme of the Bible is simple to find, as it is on nearly every single page of it. It is that of man's sin and God's attempt to forgive him of that sin while still being absolutely holy and absolutely just. First, God gives man His Law. These are the same rules and regulations that many Jewish Orthodox follow to this very day. Next, in the supreme act of love, God sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for man's sins in a final act of forgiveness. Both of these acts are seen through the life of a single person, the essential founder of the Protestant faith and one of the primary founders of Christianity through the ages - the Apostle Paul.
Paul was raised as a Roman Jew from Tarsus known as Saul. He was a free born Roman citizen who was circumcised on the eighth day after his birth, as prescribed by Jewish law. His father was a Pharisee, and he would eventually become one himself. His early training included the trade of tent-making and the study of Jewish law under the renowned Pharisee of his day, Gamaliel.
As a Jew, Saul was "a Hebrew of Hebrews". According to Jewish law, he had never committed any wrong. Saul had every law memorized and never broke a single one. He was a zealous man, persecuting those who proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah. He sent many of them away to prison, and had many more of them tortured and executed. He held the cloaks of the men who stoned the blasphemer Stephen, and was on his way to Damascus to destroy the blasphemers there when his life changed.
On the road to Damascus, Saul saw a light coming out of the heavens that was so bright it blinded him. He heard the voice of Jesus Christ asking him why he was persecuting Him. Then and there, Saul's life was completely changed. He was no longer Saul, persecutor of believers in the Way, but Paul, the Apostle of Grace.
Paul traveled throughout the Roman Empire founding new churches and leading thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ. He fought with Apostles such as Peter and James who thought that Christianity should remain only a Jewish religion. He taught that Christ's forgiveness was available to all people, slave or free, man or woman, adult or child. As a result of Paul's never ending preaching, he spent most of his life as a believer in Roman prisons. Nearly every single letter we currently have from him was written while he was in prison. Yet despite of his current abode, Paul preached of God's forgiveness through Christ, and that Christ's followers should rejoice no matter what their current situation was.
Paul eventually died at the hands of the Roman Empire, directly because of his belief in Jesus of Nazareth, the One he proclaimed as Christ.
Now that I have established the history of the life of Paul, I would like to look at one aspect of his life in particular, and that is how he viewed sin and forgiveness. According to Paul's Pharisee training, sin was breaking the Law and forgiveness was offered only...