I love studying the letters of Paul, but sometimes I forget how much he hated Jesus and the Church prior to his conversion. In Acts 8:3 it says, “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” The word “ravage” can mean “smash or destroy.”
What did “smashing” the Church look like? In Acts 26:10-11 Paul explains himself when he says, “I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.” Paul was enraged at the followers of Jesus and he was involved in making sure many were beaten, tortured and put to death.
In Acts 9:1 Paul is described again as “breathing threats,” against the disciples which means to “threaten strongly” with his desire to have them murdered. As Kistemaker summarizes, “everything Paul thinks, says, and does is dominated by his desire to destroy the followers of Jesus.”
After terrorizing Jerusalem, Paul gains permission to pursue believers in other cities. On his way to Damascus, he meets Jesus and he is never the same. One encounter and he was a new man. That same zeal he had to persecute the Church changed to a zeal to proclaim the Gospel! Paul most likely ended up in some of those same prisons he took Christians to and endured some of the same treatment. How ironic!
Father, you do not sugar coat the truth about Paul. He was an amazing servant of yours but he started out as an evil persecutor of the Church and had a hand in the death and torture of many saints. In spite of this, you offered him the gift of forgiveness!
Although I have not been involved in opposition to you and your Church like Paul, I certainly did not deserve salvation more than Paul. I too was lost in sin, but my sin was just different than Paul’s. Thank you again for saving those lost in sin through accepting the gift of forgiveness made available through believing in Jesus Christ. Thank you for saving me!
Following Jesus with you,