A mosaic of St Paul from Westminster Cathedral.
This Teaching is Part 5 of our Podcast Episode 10. To watch as a short video, click the player above. To watch the full teaching of Episode 10, Click HERE.
Acts 9:1-9 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest  and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.  As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.  “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone.  Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus.  For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
So Saul is on a mission to destroy the church. In his mind, he is at the pinnacle of Judaism, He has letters from the High Priest and has become the “protector of the faith”, so to speak. Suddenly this divine confrontation comes, and here Saul is knocked off his horse, flat on his back. (Actually, it doesn’t’ actually say he was on a horse, and if he were riding it was likely a donkey, but you get the idea. The journey he was on was about 120 miles, or about 6 days if on foot.) But he hit the ground- Paul was face to face with the contradiction: He thinks all is right with God, and then suddenly this happens! No wonder he asked “Who are you, Lord?” If this is Jesus, then in all his zeal Saul has really messed up. He is caught in the middle of those letters in his “back pocket” from the high priest, and the risen Christ in front of him. Talk about arrested! He was on a mission for the religious powers of that day, and God arrested him on the spot, knocked him to the ground, and asks but one question: Why are you persecuting Me?.
I love the “who are you, Lord?” Because if Saul now is before God Himself, he some re-evaluation of his religion to do! Jesus in His mercy simply says “ I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”. Saul finds himself struck blind. If you remember, that was what God did to the men of Sodom when they needed to be stopped in their tracks. Saul now realizes he has some repenting to do.
Here we have another believer arrested. Saul, in his misguided zeal for God, was destroying the church. But God knocked him off his horse, arresting him in his folly and turned him into the greatest apostle and evangelist ever known: The Lord says in Acts 9:15 that Saul was His chosen instrument to carry His name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.
Now the Hades Daily Chronicle has this headline:
Danger! That Believer
arrested by God,
and now turned against Us!
Not only did God turn Saul around, but the very monster that was persecuting the church was now turned against the devil. Satan though he had created a weapon in Saul, and God said, “okay, now point the muzzle in the other direction! I love it when the Lord messes with the devil!
So Saul becomes the man we remember as Paul the apostle, one of the greatest servants in the kingdom. Since Paul had literally been a murderer, I wonder if the memory of his misguided zeal kept him humble in spite of the awesome things he was entrusted with.
In fact, Paul came to have a keen understanding that God uses tough times to open doors in the kingdom. In Philippians 1:12 he says about his imprisonment:
Philip. 1:12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.
God can use the things that have happened in your life as a weapon against the enemy as well. Turn them over to God, repent of any sin and let the Lord heal you, and now, you can help others going through the same thing. The more surrendered Paul became, the more he could be used by God. All of his trials served to build his character so that he could bear the task before him.
I wonder how often in our zeal we do religious things for God, missing His real plan? Paul was one of the greatest believers ever, but boy, was he ever wrong in this case- I wonder if sometimes the church itself needs to be arrested and put back on track!