Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now concerning the things which I write to you, indeed, before God, I do not lie.) 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 1:18-24)
The Most Unlikely Candidate
Saul of Tarsus was on a mission. He wanted to destroy every vestige of Christianity he could find. His reign of terror over the church reached to foreign cities as he punished anyone who named the name of Jesus Christ. Compelling disciples to blaspheme their faith in God, Saul was a man seeking to destroy the followers of the man from Nazareth. His name was often discussed among the saints as they heard of families being taken away to prison or killed. The story of Stephen’s death would have been common knowledge among the faithful. Saul of Tarsus was feared.
Among the candidates for the gospel, Saul was not on the top of the list. It would be easy to assume he was not even on the list. No one wanted him to find the list. Saul was the antipathy of the children of redemption. The Lord saw in the Pharisee of Pharisees a heart completed devoted to Him; however misguided. On the road to a city called Damascus the man opposed to Christ changed into a candidate for teaching the truth. Three days later when Ananias came to him, Saul became a child of God under the grace of Christ. There were many people like Saul who hated the disciples of Christ and wanted to destroy them. What set the man from Tarsus apart was his heart to serve the Lord in truth. Saul’s conversion was not an act of miraculous changing against the will of his heart. He had a good heart. He made the decision to follow after what he learned to be the only truth. The most unlikely candidate in the world was now a child of God.
There are a lot of Saul’s in our midst. The mistake so often made in teaching the gospel of Christ is how we look for candidates. People like Saul are seldom considered. His lifestyle would be the last consideration to show the gospel of grace. Unless the person is close to obeying the gospel and is of a clean, godly, moral nature we are horrified to suggest the possibility to save them. They are so wicked – why waste time on them. Seeing the cigarettes hanging out of their multiplied pierced lips with alcohol reeking from the breath does not exude the environment to have a conversation about Christ. The neighbor is so worldly they would never consider a Bible study – we conclude. The man or woman working in the next cubicle at work? Don’t waste the time. And then Saul of Tarsus comes to mind.
The brethren were challenged by the new Saul. What do we do with this man? When Saul went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia, he was not known in the churches. They had heard that he persecuted the church heavily and now through the grace of God was a preacher for Christ. That amazed them to wonderment. Their conclusion was simple: praise God! It encouraged them to look for more men like Saul. Anyone was a candidate to teach. Souls were saved. Satan lost many followers to Christ. Look around and you will find many people that are rough around the edges but inside have hearts yearning for something more. The love of God is the answer. Go beyond the external and the habits and see the possibilities. There are many Saul’s out there.
God wishes no narrow-hearted souls or empty heads for his children; but those whose spirit is of itself indeed, poor, but rich in the knowledge of him; and who regard this knowledge of God as the only valuable possession. (G. W. F. Hegel; 1770-1832; The Philosophy of History, publ. posth.)