“Paul was like a wild man, going everywhere to devastate believers.” – Acts 8:3
Every few years, historians around the country are asked: Who was the greatest President in American history? And the one who almost always comes in first place is Abraham Lincoln. As much as the Civil War tore our country apart, it could have been much worse if we hadn’t had such a strong, godly leader in the White House.
You might think that his success as President was the culmination of a successful career.
surprisingly, it wasn’t.
And in the
year following Jesus’ ascension into heaven, people would have said the same
thing about Paul. If you had told the people of
The first time we meet Paul in the Bible, he’s standing by, guarding the coats of the executioners who threw stones at Stephen, the first Christian martyr. These murderers were the same false witnesses who had condemned Stephen on phony charges of blasphemy. And in case there’s any doubt in our minds about whether or not Paul approved of this lynch mob, we’re told plainly in Acts 8:1, “And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.”
As Stephen’s blood splattered on the ground at Saul’s feet, he developed a thirst for Christian blood. Because we read in verse 3, “Saul began to destroy the church.” This word “destroy” is a translation of a Greek word that described a wild animal mangling its prey. Saul was like a blood-thirsty wolf who wanted to mangle Christians. The Living Bible says it this way: “Paul was like a wild man, going everywhere to devastate believers.” And verse 3 continues, “Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.”
The Jewish leaders hated Christians. But Saul hated them even more. Saul hated Christians with a passion. Because, from the bottom of his heart, Saul hated Jesus Christ. He hated Jesus so much that he set out on a mission to eradicate the name of Jesus not only from the lips of Christians in Jerusalem, but from the lips of Christians around the world. Yet this is the man God chose to write half the books of the New Testament. This is the man God chose to be the most influential Christian who ever lived. No one in his right mind would have ever seen that coming!
I’d like to share three life lessons from the example of Paul.
#1: Even the greatest
Christians have a dark side. We all have checkered pasts. Think about it. David,
the man after God’s own heart, was an adulterer and a murderer. Jacob, father
of the 12 tribes of
#2: No matter what you’ve done, no matter how far you’ve strayed from God, there is hope for you in Christ. If you’ll let Him, God will save you. I tell people often: God’s grace is greater than my disgrace. The most loved, most sung Christian song of the past 200 years is “Amazing Grace.” Its writer, John Newton, was once a disgraceful slave ship captain. But after he became a Christian, he was so convicted by what he had been doing, he quit the slave trade. And years later he penned the words, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found. ... Was blind but now I see.” If God could forgive and save a man like John Newton, then he can save you and me, too.
#3: God doesn’t just SAVE hell-bent sinners—He recruits them to change the world. This lesson applies to everyone around you—especially to those who are the furthest from God right now. It applies to your brother or sister who hasn’t gone to church in 10 years. It applies to your son or daughter who told you a few months back, “I don’t believe in God anymore.” It applies to your niece or nephew, strung out on drugs. It applies to your uncle in prison. It applies to everyone.
Christians, don’t stop praying for those around you who are the least likely people on the planet to be saved and chosen by God to change the world. In His amazing grace, God loves choosing the worst of sinners to do some of His greatest work. He loves to pull wicked sinners out of the grip of hell and raise them up to bring heaven to earth. God did it 2,000 years ago with a Jesus-hating murderer named Saul, and He still does it today.
Dane Davis is the pastor of Impact Christian Church in Victorville. Join us at Impact for Sunday services: in person at 9 a.m., or online at 10 a.m. on YouTube or Facebook Live. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.