Is there any sight better than seeing an “old gangster”, wrinkled, tattooed and bent over walking into church Sunday after Sunday to worship God with his fellow believers? Some who knew them years ago and were traumatized because of their drunkenness, bullying and threats, because of their commitment to Jesus … suddenly see these chaps walking with Jesus and they say … “Is that not Johnny?” Or “Is that not Wally?” “Are those not the guys who threw bricks through the Church’s windows and were awfully rude towards the elderly?” Well … the answer is … “Yes it is!” That’s what they were like and they are now:
2 Cor 5:17 if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
1Pe 2:9 you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
1) The radical change since Jesus came into Saul’s heart!
Ac 9:21 All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
The synagogues congregants were amazed as they heard Saul preaching that Jesus is the Son of God (Deity). It was so hard to believe that this man who mercilessly arrested the believers to take them under guard, as prisoners to the high priest was actually preaching positively for the one he hated and detested, Jesus! Their support of Saul turned into bewilderment. They were puzzled. How was this possible? Did Jesus not say:
Mt 19:26 “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”
Later in time, when Saul became Paul, he wrote:
Phil 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Get close to those who seemed impossible to be saved. Talk to them about what they were, what happened to them and what they are now … you will be surprised at their testimony and how they speak positively for the Lord Jesus. Some of these people can be the best evangelists!
2) The destructive force Saul had become known throughout Damascus …. But now people were struck by the miraculous difference Jesus made in his life.
Ac 9:21 “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
Yes it was, but he was a new creation in Jesus Christ. The same body but a new heart … one softened by the Spirit of God. Now he had a heart of flesh, pliable and responsive to the nurturing and leading of the Holy Spirit. When people see you, they firstly see the body and face and might recall your past life, morals and behavior … but that is past! Now they need to see the new creation … the one driven by a new heart of flesh that is responsive to the Holy Spirit as He guides and directs. Yes they will talk and yes they will wonder what on earth has happened … but God does take the broken and hopeless and reshapes us in Jesus to be whole, holy and enjoyable because we are now within the Body of Christ because of the Cross of Christ!
3) But there is more … Saul developed into a powerful force for the Gospel. Not only had he received “power” as the Holy Spirit came upon him … he became powerful in Word and Action.
Ac 9:22 Yet Saul grew more and more powerful.
We don’t know the time period between his conversion, his visit to Arabia and his public ministry … but we do know that the more he preached the more powerful he became! It is true with pastors and Christian Workers. The more you preach, the more you want to and the more God grows you into the preaching ministry. As this happens the Holy Spirit grants more confidence, wisdom, discernment … as well as the ability to articulate the Word better. Over time, the Spirit uses the knowledge you have gained adding teaching skills. All these things adds to the power God gives in the Pulpit, Sunday School, Youth Group, Ladies Ministry, Crèche, Evangelism Ministry … etc.
4) Baffled Jews. Before the Jews were outspoken against the Gospel. Now they were unable to grasp what was happening … Saul who wanted to destroy the Church was now preaching to grow the Church! Remember as the term “Jews” is used, it is used as a generic word … not referring to all Jews because many did follow Jesus. Here it refers to those who refused the Gospel with passion. The bewilderment was because although they knew the Law, Prophets and Writings well, Saul knew them better and he could interpret them with Christian eyes! “Baffled the Jews living in Damascus”. He showed them how the message they were taught by their religious leaders ought to be interpreted in the light of the Gospel. Did you know one is able to preach the Gospel accurately just using the Old Testament?
5) Saul proved Jesus to be the Christ! This is really what the Gospel is all about and this was Saul’s chief goal. He used the Scripture they had to show them that Jesus is Messiah … by proving that Jesus is the Christ. You will recall he had already spoken of Jesus as the Son of God!
Ac 9:20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.
Now that Jesus’ Divinity has been established he proves that the Son of God (God incarnate) is Messiah … is Christ!
Ac 9:22 proving that Jesus is the Christ.
Although he used the Law, Prophets and Writings to do so, others had as well. The Gospel presentation must include Jesus’ Divinity and Messiahship!
Ac 2:32 “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.”
Ac 2:36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
Ac 4:11 “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
What Saul taught was exactly what Peter taught. Always remember that there is one Gospel not two or more … just as there is one Jesus Christ not two or more. People have created different Jesus’ over the years. There was the Liberal Jesus, the Terrorist Jesus, the All Loving Jesus, the Baby Jesus … etc. … yet none of these match the Jesus of the Bible and the Gospel!
The Word of God is very accurate and forthright as it declares Jesus to be both God and Messiah. In fact God tells us what type of Messiah was required and He told what Messiah He would send … then He shows us the Messiah (Jesus) He send was the one He said would come. Teach Jesus as the Son of God and teach Jesus as God’s Christ, then you will have the right Jesus and the right Gospel!
Lord God thank You that the Gospel reveals You as Messiah. Bless Your holy name for saving us. Amen.