Hall of Faith: Paul, Lived His Own Hall of Faith

Paul, was the author of the Hall of Faith found in Galatians. However, his own life was based on faith and he could very well be listed in the Hall of Faith. As I wind up the Hall of Faith series and prepare for the Heroes of Faith series, I could think of no one better than the apostle Paul to explore.

Paul transformed from a persecutor of the Christians into an outspoken apostle who wrote

Saul was a leader of the church and persecuted the Christians

half of the New Testament.

When we first meet Paul, he has a very different name and life than the man that would become the Apostle Paul.

Paul states twice that he was born a Roman citizen. {Acts 16:37; Acts 22:25-29}. In Philippians 3:5, he describes himself as being “of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee”.

Little is known about his family, but we do know that he is the “son of a Pharisee” {Acts 23:6} and has a nephew {his sister’s son}. {Acts 23:16}

Stephen fell asleep in the Lord

Acts 7 tells of the story of the persecution and stoning of Stephen. Acts 8:1 says “And Saul approved of their killing him {Stephen}.” This is our first true introduction to Saul {later to become Paul} and his true character and nature before his salvation.

“That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria…But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.” {Acts 8:1,3}

Saul clearly did not like the Christian church that was being born. He was one of the Pharisees that felt threatened by Jesus and all that he stood for.

Saul became Paul

He properly thought that when Jesus died, his followers would fade away and they would be done with the uproar and commotion he caused. Instead, his followers grew in both number and intensity.

Saul was committed to do anything possible to threaten these people, to scare them and to imprison and kill them {if necessary} to prevent their message from spreading.

Acts 9 tells the story of Saul’s conversion. Acts 9:1 says that Saul “ still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” requested letters from the high priest to bring in all those that belonged to the Way {Christianity}. Saul was doing everything possible to persecute these individuals, but he was about to discover that God had other plans for his life.

“He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.” {Acts 9:3-4}

Saul/Paul was blinded and had to be led to safety

Imagine going about your business when a light from heaven blinds you. Then you hear a voice calling out to you.

“He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” {Acts 9:5-6}

Saul cried out wanting to know who was there. The very man he had been persecuting spoke to him. I don’t know if Saul was, but I would be shaking in my boots.

“The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one.” {Acts 9:7}

The men with Saul were not blinded, but witnessed the entire scene. It is very probable that Saul was not the only convert. Imagine hearing a voice, but no one is around for that voice to come from.

“ Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so

Ananias came in to Saul/Paul

they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.  For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” {Acts 9:8-9}

Saul can open his eyes, but not see. We know how dark it can be at night without light, but imagine this is all we have. A darkness we cannot make leave or turn a light on to remove. For three days, Saul could not see. He also did not eat or drink anything during this time.

Acts 9:10-16 tells of the Lord speaking to a disciple named Ananias and telling him to go to Saul of Tarsus. Ananias says “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem” {Acts 9:13}. Ananias is clearly afraid and I don’t blame him. I would be also.

Paul began preaching

“ But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel.” {Acts 9:15}

The Lord commands him to go. God has chosen him to bring the message of Christ to the Gentiles. Wow, what a calling!

One can imagine that while he obeyed and trusted God, Ananias may have still felt some trepidation in that moment.

But when Ananias arrives before Saul, he speaks with power and authority. ““Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”” {Acts 9:17}

Saul/Paul has to be lowered in a basket to escape

Saul is probably full of fear, wondering if he will ever see again. Then a man comes that commands his sight to return in the name of the Holy Spirit. For three days, all Saul could do was to ponder all he saw and heard on the Damascus road. We are not told, but probably during this time Saul made peace with the war that was going on inside of him and surrendered to the Lord.

“And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized and after taking some food, he regained his strength.” {Acts 9:18-19}

Saul’s sight was immediately restored. Notice that the first thing he did, even before eating, was to be baptized. He had clearly become a believer in the last three days. He accepted the baptism of those that just three days earlier he had fervently sought to persecute. Only after baptism, did he take food to regain his strength.

Paul wasn’t afraid to confront difficult situations

 

“For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus.” {Acts 9:19}. We are not told who the disciples are, but it seems likely that Peter and John were among the group. To allow their prosecutor into their inner circle, these men must have felt the Holy Spirit leading them to welcome him.

“In worship and intercourse with them. He must learn more experimentally of the church before preaching.” {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.}

“and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” {Acts 9:20}

Just a few days ago, he wanted to persecute the believers and now he is proclaiming Jesus as the son of God.

He took three missionary trips

Acts 9:21 records the disbelief of those in the synagogue. “All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?””

“Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.” {Acts 9:22} Saul is growing in power and strength and speaking more and more boldly and confidently of his new faith and belief.

Acts 9:23-25 tells of how the Jews plot to kill Saul and now he has to to flee them with the disciples “let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.” Saul has moved from the hunter into the prey.

He continued to travel

“When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple.” {Acts 9:26} We are not told which disciples these are, but they are clearly different from those in Damascus. These disciples are afraid of him and his reputation, but we are not told earlier that the disciples in Damascus were afraid.

“But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.”

“Barnabas was a Hellenist like Saul. When he vouched for him to the apostles, their distrust ended.” {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.}

Barnabas joined Paul on his missionary travels

Barnabas took him under his wing and vouched for him. Imagine how amazed they all must have been when he began to boldly speak for Jesus.

“He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him.” {Acts 9:29} Again, his life is put in danger for his beliefs.

“When the believers learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” {Acts 9:30}

The believers rescue him and send him home. “The same class of Jews who had raised the persecution against Stephen now sought the death of Saul. By the aid of the brethren he was taken to the seaport of Cæsarea and sailed for his old home at Tarsus.” {Johnson’s Notes on the New Testament.}

Paul was shipwrecked

After this no mention is made of Saul for another four or five years. During this time he probably grew in his faith and knowledge.

In Romans 1, Saul has now become Paul. “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” He expresses his conversion later in the chapter, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” {Romans 1:18-19}

Paul traveled greatly around the known world taking three missionary journey’s, as well as

He and Silas were imprisoned until an earthquake allowed them to be released

other travels to spread the word of God. He also wrote letters to fellow believers to encourage them. His writings make up half of the New Testament.

When Paul returned from his third missionary journey to Jerusalem, he was eventually arrested and held as a prisoner for two years. He finally exercised his right as a Roman citizen and was taken to Rome for trial. Upon his arrival in Rome, he spent another two years under house arrest.

When the Lord told Ananias “ I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” {Acts 9:16}, he meant it. Paul endured much hardship for his faith, but he continued to plunge ahead without fear.

So, what can we learn from Saul/Paul?

  1. God can transform our lives
  2. God can redeem the most despicable person for his good
  3. God is not above doing what is necessary to get our attention
  4. God can save us even from ourselves
  5. God can protect us from the harshest circumstances

He wrote many of his letters from prison

 

If the song existed then, Paul would definitely have been singing “I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene.” Paul had first hand witnessed the power of God and seen the power of the Christ.

St. Clement of Rome identifies Peter and Paul as the outstanding heroes of the faith.

How has God moved in your life?

 

 

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