Afterward I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me. (Galatians 1:21-24)
Saul of Tarsus was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He came from a family that nurtured him as a devoted child of Abraham. His teaching was at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the greatest scholars of his day. As pedigrees goes Saul had it all. He came from the tribe of Benjamin known for their fierce spirit. Privilege came as a Pharisee placing him in a position of authority. When the followers of a man from Nazareth began to oppose the Law of Moses he became a one man movement of persecution against them. And he was very good at what he did. He shut up many Christians in prison, voted to have them killed, persecuted them in every synagogue and tortured them to deny Christ. His life had one purpose: annihilate the followers of Jesus. Nothing could contain his rage against the church.
It was on the road to Damascus the life of Saul changed forever. The church would never be the same either. Three days after the Lord appeared to Saul on the road the great persecutor of the church of Christ became a disciple of the Lord. His fierce spirit of devotion would now spend his final years declaring the gospel of salvation in the Man he sought to destroy. For the disciples living in Damascus the last person they would have ever dreamed that would become a Christian was Saul. He was the poster boy for persecution. Yet there he sat in the house of Judas still dripping from the baptismal waters eating a meal.
Paul would later write the gospel was the power of God to salvation. When those words were penned upon the parchment they meant so much more to the apostle. There is great power in the teaching of Jesus Christ. It has the power to change lives. Found in the seed of God’s love is a message that will take sinful man and give them a grace found only in the bosom of the Lord. Saul of Tarsus would die as a devoted servant of Jesus Christ. His life is a testimony to how the word of God can change lives. The vilest of sinner can become a child of God. Those whom we think least likely to have interest in the gospel are the first row candidates. When Paul went about preaching throughout the Roman world people were talking about his conversion and glorifying God.
The gospel of Jesus Christ has not changed. It will still bring those enslaved by alcohol and drugs to the cross of redemption. Women who sell their bodies, criminals who have known little compassion, immoral lives and corrupt hearts will find cleansing in the blood of Jesus Christ. The death of Jesus was not a surgical sacrifice for a select few. He died for all men – everybody! His death was to save the Jew, the Moslem, the Buddhist, the middle class American, the one with a different color skin or nationality, those lost in the slums of poverty and the mansions of wealth, young or old, tattooed, purple haired punkers and especially the socially content arrogant religious neighbor. Jesus Christ came to save you in the place you find yourself no matter where that is.
There is in truth a sort of reverence due to sinners, when we look at them not as in their sins, but simply as having sinned, and being the objects of a Divine yearning. (Frederick W. Faber, The Spirit of, 1914)