But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name…
(Acts 9:15 ESV)
As the chapter unfolds, we meet a new character named Saul. Verse 1 says “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.”
Who is this guy? We know him more as Paul the Apostle and when I think of him one word always comes to mind: zealous. He was of the stock of Israel, from the tribe from whence the first king of Israel came. He studied under Gamaliel, the best teacher of his time. He grew up to be included in to the elite sect of the Pharisees who were noted for their scrupulous devotion. He certainly had the pedigree.
David Guzik said “Paul was not merely an intellectual opponent of perceived heresies, he was an active fighter against them – even in his blindness to God. Paul’s observation that the Jews of his day have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2) was of course true of his own life before God confronted him on the road to Damascus…Paul achieved the standard of righteousness which was accepted among the men of his day – though this standard fell short of God’s holy standard.”
Paul undergoes a transformation, not only in name (Acts 13:9) but also in attitude. His former name, Saul, stood for the first king of Israel. His new name, Paul, means small, humble. The zealousness that fueled his hate and murderous rage against the Christians, God turned around and directed it for the work of the gospel. God used a persecutor of Christians – one intent on murdering them – to write half the New Testament! When God said He was going to use Paul to carry His name, He was not kidding. And it started on that road to Damascus.
We all have a Damascus experience. It may not be as dramatic as that of Paul’s where the light appeared so bright he was blinded for days. But we also saw the light and like Paul’s our eyes were opened. Jesus became real. He wasn’t just a fable from a book of fairy tales. He existed. Why else would someone like Paul, or the apostles be so willing to die for their faith? No one would willingly do that for a lie.
According to traditions and the Bible, eight of the Apostles died as Martyrs. At least two of the Apostles, Peter and Andrew were crucified.
We know Peter wasn’t the bravest of the bunch. Remember when he caved under the questioning of a servant girl and denied Jesus Christ? Yet, to the very end, he was crucified just like his Lord. From Agards Bible timeline: Origen says that Peter felt himself to be unworthy to be put to death in the same manner as his Master, and was therefore, at his own request, crucified with his head downward.
They have seen the risen Christ. That’s what gave them the conviction to the very end. No one can take that away from them. That’s what enabled Paul to press on.That was how Paul combated the arrows of the enemy. How many times did the enemy use Paul’s own past against him? Taunting him in prison? Telling him he deserves it for what he has done. But we can see that Paul did not listen to the enemy. Paul’s focus was on Christ and look at what God revealed to him. In each of the epistles:
- Romans: Christ the power of God to us.
- 1 Corinthians: Christ the wisdom of God to us.
- 2 Corinthians: Christ the comfort of God to us.
- Galatians: Christ the righteousness of God to us.
- Ephesians: Christ the riches of God to us.
- Philippians: Christ the sufficiency of God to us.
- Colossians: Christ the fullness of God to us.
- 1 Thessalonians: Christ the promise of God to us.
- 2 Thessalonians: Christ the reward of God to us
The enemy could not bend him because God had taken a hold of him. It was Paul and Christ to the very end.
Ann Voskamp in her post of November 13, wrote this grace grabbed the unworthy and Christ cleans the unbearable and God redeems the unlikely and we live the unexpected.
That was certainly true of Paul. It can be true of us as well. We have been chosen to carry His name.
[Reading from Blue Letter Bible – Chronological Plan]