Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest,Acts 9:1(NASB)
As Jesus prepared to leave His disciples, He told them that they would proclaim the good news of the gospel of Christ throughout the world. They were to become His witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea, throughout Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth.
The stoning of Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr, set the course for the rapid spread of the good news of salvation to faraway regions as men, women, and children began to be rounded up and imprisoned for their faith. The persecution of those early believers set the stage for the rapid advance of the truth of the glorious gospel of grace. As they fled from their persecutors, so they proclaimed the good news of salvation far and wide.
We can trace the spread of the Christian message from the inception of the Church at Pentecost, as men of Israel, proselytes, and believers from further afield, (like the Ethiopian eunuch and Cornelius - the Gentile centurion) placed their trust in Jesus Christ, were baptised into His mystical Body, and were in-dwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.
With the sudden increase of followers of Jesus, the Nazarene from Galilee, the attempts to halt the advance of the gospel became increasingly frenetic. Saul was a zealous Pharisee whose hatred of Christ's followers was so intense that he gained permission to hunt down Christian converts further afield and eliminate the steady spread of the good news of the gospel of grace, across the region.
However, in the middle on his relentless pursuit of the fleeing Church, this renowned Persecutor of believers who followed 'The Way' - became a committed Proclaimer of the gospel to Jew and Gentile, alike. Paul later discovered that he had been called from his mother's womb to be God's chosen vessel. He had been set apart to teach the message of redemption to the Gentiles and to bear the Lord's name before nations, kings, and the children of Israel.
Saul was a most dedicated persecutor of the early Church. He was a staunch, orthodox Jew, a strict Pharisee, and probably a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin. He boasted of his circumcision on the eighth day and of his celebrated ancestry... which he traced from the tribe of Benjamin. Saul of Tarsus, was a Hebrew of the Hebrews - and as to his religious zeal, he considered himself to be righteousness before God and blameless under the Law!!
It is under these circumstances that we read: "Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest," where he sought their approval to seek out and persecute any Christian he found.
Saul was commissioned to travel to Damascus in order to arrest any believers who were there. His mission was to bring them in chains to Jerusalem, where they would be severely punished. It is under these circumstances that Saul - the oppressor of Christians, became Paul - the devoted bond-slave of Jesus Christ.
It was as he was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, that he was halted in his tracks and his heart and life was arrested by the Lord Jesus Christ. Saul saw the risen, ascended, and glorified Lord on that road to Damascus, Who asked him "Saul, Saul - why do you persecute ME?"
It was from that day that Saul, who was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, became Paul, the devoted servant of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.
Heavenly Father, as I read through this thrilling episode, in the pre-salvation life of Paul, it is awesome to realise that he would be Your chosen vessel to bring the good news of the gospel of grace to the Gentiles. I thank You for arresting this man on that road to Damascus and commissioning him to preach the Word of life. Thank You for his epistles and the many truths that they contain. Help me to live as You would have me to live, and use me as a vessel to share the gospel of Christ with whomsoever You will. May I, like Paul, be bold to share this good news of salvation with others, knowing that the time is short and that soon and very soon, I will be taken to be with You in heaven. Thank You, in Jesus' name, AMEN.
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