April 23 – A Special Testimony

“And last of all, as it were to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.”

1 Corinthians 15:8

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The resurrection power of Christ transformed Paul into a preacher of the gospel.

Throughout history, reliable eyewitness testimony about a person or event has been one of the most accepted forms of courtroom evidence. The apostle Paul appeals to the eyewitness record as an important confirmation of the Resurrection’s reality. He cites the examples of Peter, the apostles (twice), 500 believers, and James (1 Cor. 15:5–7). And with today’s verse, Paul presents himself as a special eyewitness to the fact of Jesus’ resurrection.

Paul’s case was unique. He was not among the original apostles, nor the 500 other believers, all of whom had opportunities to be with the Lord during His earthly ministry and/or see Him soon after He arose. Paul was not even a Christian during his early life and career but was rather the leader of those who persecuted the early church.

Furthermore, Paul’s situation was different because Christ’s appearance to him was not only post–resurrection but post–ascension. The Lord’s dramatic manifestation to the apostle was probably several years after the forty–day period of His many other appearings.

Paul genuinely viewed the timing of Jesus’ appearance to him as coming “to one untimely born.” We know he greatly rejoiced in his conversion, but if he had not seen the risen Savior then or some other time, Paul could not have become an apostle. In other words, by gracious, sovereign provision God chose Paul to be an apostle because “He [Jesus] appeared to me also.” The longtime opponent of the church was now like the Twelve—he had seen the risen Christ.

The power of the Resurrection is always strong enough to change a life. It transformed Paul’s life in three major ways. First, he recognized his sin and saw how far removed external religion was from internal godliness. Second, his character was revolutionized. He went from a self–righteous hatred of the things of Christ to a self–giving love for the truth. Finally, Paul’s personal energy and motivation were completely redirected. He went from being a zealous opponent of Christians to one who fervently served and supported the church.

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Suggestions for Prayer: Ask God to help your testimony always show forth the power of the risen Christ.

For Further Study: What common elements were present in Paul’s experiences in Acts 18:9–10; 23:11? Note some things that were more unusual about Paul’s experience in 2 Corinthians 12:1–7.[1]


The fourth major testimony of Christ’s resurrection was that of the apostle Paul himself, a special and unique witness of the risen Lord. Paul was not among the original apostles, all of whom had been disciples of Jesus during His earthly ministry. He was not among the five hundred other believers who had seen the resurrected Christ. Rather, he had for many years been an unbeliever and a chief persecutor of the church.

He was, however, last of all allowed to see the risen Christ. The Lord’s appearance to Paul not only was post-resurrection but post-ascension, making Paul’s testimony more unique still. It was not during the forty days in which He appeared to all the others but several years later. All the others to whom Christ appeared, except perhaps James, were believers, whereas Paul (then known as Saul) was a violent, hateful unbeliever when the Lord manifested Himself on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1–8). There were also other appearances (Acts 18:9–10; 23:11; cf. 2 Cor. 12:1–7).

Jesus appeared to Paul as it were to one untimely born. Ektrōma (untimely born) ordinarily referred to an abortion, miscarriage, or premature birth—a life unable to sustain itself. In Paul’s figure, the term could indicate hopelessness for life without divine intervention, and convey the idea that he was born without hope of meeting Christ. But the use of the term in the sense of an ill–timed birth, too early or too late, seems to fit Paul’s thought best. He came too late to have been one of the twelve. In carrying the idea of unformed, dead, and useless, the term was also used as a term of derision. Before his conversion, which coincided with his vision of the resurrected Lord, Paul was spiritually unformed, dead, and useless, a person to be scorned by God. Even when he was born it was wrong timing. Christ was gone. How could he be an apostle? Yet, by special divine provision, He appeared to me also, Paul testifies.[2]


15:8 Paul next speaks of his own personal acquaintance with the risen Christ. This took place on the road to Damascus, when he saw a great light from heaven and met the glorified Christ face to face. One born out of due time means an abortion or an untimely birth. Vine explains it as meaning that in point of time, Paul speaks of himself as inferior to the rest of the apostles, just as an immature birth comes short of a mature one. He uses it as a term of self-reproach in view of his past life as a persecutor of the church.[3]


8 Finally, Paul says, he had his own personal appearance of the risen Christ. This appearance was not one that took place prior to Jesus’ ascension but much later. Most likely this refers to the time when Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus and asked him the question, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Ac 9:1–6; 22:5–8; 26:12–15). In response to Paul’s “who are you, Lord?” Jesus responded, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Shortly thereafter, Jesus gave Paul a new commission for his life, namely, to take the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.

Because this appearance of Jesus is not in the same category as the others—not only later in time but also different in character (i.e., not a physical appearance in the flesh)—Paul refers to it here as “as to one abnormally born.” The meaning of the Greek word used here (ektrōma, GK 1765) is uncertain, since it occurs only here in the NT and is not frequently used outside the NT. This word does occur in the Septuagint (Nu 12:12; Job 3:16; Ecc 6:3), where it refers to a stillborn child. Perhaps Paul uses this word to allude to the fact that he was spiritually as dead as a stillborn child when he received his visit from the risen Lord Jesus. Moreover, there is something horrible and sad about a fetus that is stillborn, and this could link up with Paul’s persecution of the church, which he talks about next.[4]


[1] MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1984). 1 Corinthians (pp. 404–405). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1804). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] Verbrugge, V. D. (2008). 1 Corinthians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, p. 393). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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