Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:1-6
When Saul of Taurus took that fateful trip to Damascus to round up Jesus-loving, believing Jews, I’m certain he would have laughed in your face if you told him he would soon, very soon, be one of the most zealous, Jesus-loving, believing Jews!
Saul needed a tidal wave to hit him full force before he would change his opinion about the Messiah. Jesus was that tidal wave. When studying the Bible, it is important to know the men and women who God chose as His instruments. Saul, later known as Paul, plays a very important role in bringing the message to the non-Jewish world. The Bible tells us implicitly that God never changes. He is the same today as he was when Paul was alive.
I the Lord do not change… Malachi 3:6
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17
God did not change. He merely changed his program. His chosen people of Israel denied His one and only Son that He sent to be their King. They not only denied Him but they played an important role in His death. God’s whole purpose for choosing the nation of Israel as His people was for Israel then to take His word to the farthest reaches of the earth and share with all mankind. However, we know that didn’t happen because they rejected Jesus. Therefore, God shifted the program and introduced Paul as the person who would take His Word to the farthest reaches of the earth. And that is exactly what Paul did as he became the world’s greatest missionary. God chose people who had baggage in their lives to be his instruments. And boy did Paul have baggage. Paul is introduced to us first in Acts Chapter 7 when Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power (Acts 6:6), is stoned to death.
When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. Acts 7:54-60; 8:1
Why do you suppose that God used someone like Saul to become the greatest missionary ever? God had to use someone exactly like Saul to give us hope that even the worst sinners could be saved by grace.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:15-16
In these two verses, Paul pretty much sums up the number one reason that God chose him to bring us the Gospel. Not once, but twice, Paul mentions that he is the worst of all sinners! He cheered and held the coats of those who stoned Stephen to death. He was a maniac on a mission to imprison all the Jews who believed in Jesus. If God could use someone like this in such a great way, how can people not see that any sin is forgivable (and forgettable in God’s eyes)? So many people think that they have too much of a sordid past for God to ever love them. How wrong and sad for these people. It is our personal assignment to share the power of GRACE so that others can have the beautiful gift that comes from knowing Jesus.
I’m going to close this lesson with one of my favorite verses:
Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18