And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all long suffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honour and glory forever and ever. Amen.
1 Timothy 1:12-17 NKJV
Paul the apostle, who wrote most of the New Testament. Who was imprisoned for his faith, died because he was a follower of Christ. This man would not be silent about the redemption He had found in Christ, and the simple fact that all need Jesus.
But Paul wasn’t always “Paul the Apostle”. In fact, he wasn’t even always Paul. Before the road to Damascus, he was called Saul. As mentioned in 1 Timothy, quoted above, Saul (later to be called Paul) was formerly a blasphemer (to speak in a way that shows irreverence for God or something sacred: to utter blaspheme blaspheming against God), a persecutor (to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict; specifically : to cause to suffer because of belief), and an insolent (insultingly contemptuous in speech or conduct; overbearing) man.
Saul was a man who took the lives of Christians. He was a man I know I wouldn’t have been able to listen to, on any subject. And yet, he, on the road to Damascus, had an encounter with the Lord. He didn’t go to a church service, he didn’t have anyone preaching at him. Saul was called by the Lord.
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Acts 9 :1-9 NKJV
Are you getting this? Saul was the exact opposite of a Christian, and YET God had mercy on him, so much so, that God called him to write to us. (For those of you who don’t know the rest of the story, God didn’t leave him blind. I’ll get to that in a moment).
Why would God call such a man? Who truly had no good in him? I mean, apart from God, none of us are worthy, but Saul hated God. And he hated all who followed Him.
And eventually gave his life for Him.
Can you imagine the guilt Paul would have had? Those he hated, those he abused and worse, he now became one of. Even Ananias, in Acts 9, who God spoke to go to Saul wasn’t happy about this certain assignment:
Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.”
And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”
So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting hishand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”
Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
Acts 9:10-16 NKJV
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name…”
Can you imagine? God appears to you and says, “You know that man who hates Me and all my people and wants them all dead? Go to him, pray for him to receive his sight, I have chosen him to bear my name.”
Now imagine that you do it. You go.
Ananias had great faith. He heard God, and He obeyed. Ananias went, he even called him “brother Saul”:
And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.
So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.
Acts 9:17-19 NKJV
As we go on to read in Acts 9, Saul immediately, went out and preached. Then even the Jews sought to kill him and he had to escape. The disciples lowered him from the wall at night, as cities back then had walls to surround them for protection from enemies.
He was later renamed Paul.
Back to 1 Timothy. Verse 16 says, “for this reason I obtained mercy”.
Who are we to judge? Someone comes to know the Lord, even is promoted, maybe becomes a minister of the gospel, a missionary… and we judge their past? Can you imagine taking direction from Paul? Imagine if you were rebuked by Paul, would you have spat back at him his past? Or would you have seen him as a new creation?
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV
This scripture was written by Paul, who had to have had a true revelation of becoming a new creation. He knew only God could do in him what had transpired.
How is it that God, who is pure and holy, who has never sinned, who created the heavens and the earth, how is it that HE can forgive, can show mercy, can forget our sins and throw them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) when we repent, and yet WE hold onto things, we struggle to forgive, or at least to forget when someone turns from their sin.
I don’t know about you, but I want to see people as Jesus sees them. I hope that had I been there, I would have been a part of the disciples that were helping Saul (eventually Paul), not against him. I hope that I would have had the kind of faith to believe that God truly saved and had mercy on Saul, even after all Saul had done against God and against the Christians at that time.
I’m so grateful for the mercy God has had on me. Mercy to show me the way to Him through Jesus Christ. Mercy to heal me where I was broken, even as a minister’s daughter, yes, I was broken. I’m so grateful that I am a new creation, and even when I stumble now, I can repent and God remembers my transgression no more.
But I still beat myself up about my mess ups sometimes. Am I the only one? I think not. Let’s have mercy on ourselves. Let’s have mercy on one another. Let’s believe the best about our brothers and sisters in the Lord. Let’s build one another up, pray for each other, fight for each other, not against.
I feel like there’s so much more here for the Lord to show me about Paul. It still astounds me that God would choose Paul, who couldn’t have been further from a “good person”, to be chosen to proclaim the Gospel. It’s very humbling. No matter how “good” we are, we need Jesus and we need his mercy. And no matter how bad you think you are, God wants to have mercy on you. He wants to redeem you.
I hope you have been encouraged by this devotional today. If so, be sure to comment, and subscribe.
Get your Bible out, read 1 Timothy 1, and Acts 9, there’s so much more in there I didn’t cover in this post.
Be blessed, forgive yourself, forgive one another. Show mercy instead of judgement.
If God can call Paul… then He can call anybody.