July 7 I Saturday
“Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” —Acts 9:1
For all intents and purposes, Saul of Tarsus was a terrorist. He did everything in his power to intimidate, coerce and persecute Christians and made it his mission to destroy the church. Though he did not directly participate in Stephen’s martyrdom, he stood by and “approved of their killing him” (Acts 8:1). He went from house to house arresting believers in Jerusalem (Acts 8:3), eventually receiving permission from the high priest to do the same in Damascus (Acts 9:1-2).
All the while, Scripture tells us Saul was “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.”
The shocking reality is that Saul thought he was doing right. He believed he was serving God by hunting down these followers of Jesus, whom he considered blasphemers, for to blaspheme was punishable by death. Saul was so blinded by hatred for the early church that he missed the truth of who Jesus was and God’s purposes in an emerging Christianity—that is, until he was 239 kilometers into his 240-kilometer journey to Damascus.
Suddenly, Jesus appeared to Saul in His exalted state, blinded him with His glory, and brought Saul to his knees. Their conversation and the events that followed convicted Saul of his hatred and spiritual blindness. He would later write to Timothy, his son in the faith, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13-14).
This is amazing grace indeed! Rather than smiting Saul, Jesus sent him into Damascus to have both his physical and spiritual blindness healed. His encounter with Christ led him to submission to Christ. Not only was Saul’s life and soul saved, but he was empowered to move forward with a sense of vocation. God called him into missionary service, and he went on to become one of the most influential missionaries, letter writers and church planters of the first century.
As the beautiful hymn says, “I once was lost, but now am found—T‘was blind but now I see.” God displays His amazing grace by transforming people who are filled with hate and vengeance. There is no sin, no hatred and no atrocity that can create too great a distance between us and God. The same Jesus is alive and active today, and if He can transform a church destroyer into a church builder and a persecutor into a preacher, then we can trust Him to transform our lives into godly people filled with the grace of God and by the grace of God.
Prayer: Precious Jesus, thank You for Your amazing grace. I ask that You transform any hatred or resistance I have into love and a desire to proclaim You to the world. In Your holy name.