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)
Glorifying God In Me
Saul of Tarsus was a driving force against the church of Christ as he sought to destroy all remnants of the early church. He went everywhere to destroy those of the Way. The authority given to him by the high priest in Jerusalem was sweeping in its reach to destroy all those who professed Jesus Christ as Lord. No laws were protecting the Christians from Saul barraging into their homes without provocation, arresting people, and committing them to prison. He was not sympathetic to men or women. The threats of Saul’s persecution reached a fever pitch of threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. Many of the Christians in Jerusalem were thrown into prison. Saul cast his vote to have Christians executed. He forced followers of Christ to blaspheme God. His wrath against the church was so intense he persecuted them to foreign cities. Saul did a lot of harmful things against the Lord’s church. All the disciples feared him.
On a trip to Damascus to arrest Christians, the Lord met Saul on the road and changed his life. In the mind of God, Saul was a chosen vessel to bear His name to the world, including kings and the children of Israel. The Lord told Saul to go into the city and wait. Three days later, Ananias comes to the house where Saul has been staying and baptizing him for the remission of his sins. Saul immediately begins to learn the gospel of Jesus Christ and to preach its message with great zeal. The Jews plotted to kill Saul, but he escaped. Coming to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were terrified of him. Barnabas brought him to the apostles and declared to them how Saul had become a disciple of Christ. Saul was accepted as a follower of Christ.
Much of the work of Saul, who would later be called Paul, was in the region of Galatia and other parts of Asia Minor. Writing to the churches in Galatia, Paul recounted the story of his conversion. He was unknown to the churches of Judea, and the brethren were afraid of him because of his past. The people were puzzled because the one who used to persecute them was now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy. This did not cause them to shrink back from him but to embrace him. Paul said that people glorified God in him because of his life and his willingness to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Paul’s life was a testimony to the abundant grace of God and His love for a man who called himself a chief sinner. No one would have imagined that Saul of Tarsus would become one of the staunchest defenders of the faith. Saul was not at the top of the list of possible candidates for a Bible study. He would not have been someone a Christian tried to approach with a tract or an invitation to worship services. Even Ananias was scared to go and see Saul and this came from the request of the Lord. His faith overcame his fears, and he went. What an amazing scene when Ananias walked into the room where Saul, the great destroyer of the church, sat hungry and blind, and soon after, Ananias lifted him out of the waters of baptism. God’s grace is so compelling.
The story of Saul’s conversion serves a purpose. That purpose is to show the glory of God’s grace. Paul said the disciples glorified God in his story. His conversion was a remarkable event. The least likely person in the world answered the gospel call. God washed away the sins of Paul in the waters of baptism, and the early Christians glorified God for His grace. His conversion story was a hallmark for all the early saints to teach the lost – and those who seemed really lost. Stories that Paul abound in the church today. It seems hard to imagine a Moslem obeying the gospel, but my son-in-law did. God is glorified by his willingness to accept the gospel of Christ as true. Stories abound of prostitutes, drug users, drunks, immoral and ungodly people hearing the gospel of Christ and obeying the word in baptism. Their stories glorify God. How did you learn the truth? Let your story of conversion glorify God. The church needs to hear those stories.