Summary: God completely "made over" the Apostle Paul’s soul. God has done the same thing for you.
We live in a world of fads – things that are popular now, but eventually fade away – that’s a fad. Right now, one of the latest fads you may have seen on TV is the idea of extreme makeovers. How it works is that certain people are chosen who have all kinds of physical problems, things that are wrong with their faces or their bodies, and they’re given extreme makeovers. They visit plastic surgeons, they have dental surgery, maybe they have surgery on their bodies, they get new clothes, a new hair cut, and “wha-lah” – they are transformed into a new person. In this day and age when people are fixated on physical appearance, TV shows about extreme makeovers are the latest fad. They’re called “extreme makeovers” because of the extreme changes that take place in people’s appearances who are on the show.
This idea of extreme makeovers isn’t something new. Actually, there are examples in the Bible of people who have gone through extreme makeovers. Of course, we’re not talking about changing someone’s appearance. We’re talking about changing someone’s heart, someone’s soul. Probably the most extreme spiritual makeover to take place in the Bible was that of the Apostle Paul. Just take a quick glimpse of the change that took place in him – look at verse one – there we see Paul, otherwise known as Saul, “breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” But then look at verse 20, toward the end of our reading. There we see Paul preaching “in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.”
What a complete turnaround, an extreme change of the heart! Today we are going to look at Paul’s story, his conversion, and as we study some of the things that took place in the Apostle Paul’s life, we will see pictures of ourselves. Really, if you think about it, Paul’s story is your story. There are things we see in him, that we can also see in ourselves.
First, let’s take a look at Paul before his conversion, before the makeover of his heart. We have already pointed out verse one, where Paul was breathing murderous threats against the disciples of Jesus. You see, Paul was a Pharisee, and the Pharisees were very hostile toward the teachings of Jesus Christ. Paul was one of the more extreme Pharisees – he was extremely hostile toward Christians. The words “murderous threats” tell us that Paul threatened to murder anyone who preached the Gospel of Jesus. Paul hated Jesus and hated Christians. He wanted Christians to either give up their faith, or to be killed. At the end of verse two, we see that Paul was sort of a “bounty hunter for Christians.” He was planning to travel to the city of Damascus, hunt down believers, arrest them, throw them into prison, and eventually have them killed. At the beginning of this chapter in the Bible, Paul was a man who was very hostile toward Christianity.
I would like you to take a quick look at your second reading, from Galatians chapter one. There you have another picture of Paul. Verse 13 mentions how intensely Paul was persecuting the church. But, look at verse 14. Paul says, “I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Before his conversion, Paul was “advancing in Judaism.” Now remember, that religion was a very self-righteous religion. It was up to you to memorize the traditions of the fathers, to follow all the rules and regulations. It was up to you to strive to keep the Jewish law perfectly, down to the last detail. Paul was following a religion of self-righteousness – relying on himself, depending on himself, for his own salvation. And as we see here, he was good at it. Before his conversion, Paul was advancing beyond many Jews in the religion of self-righteousness.
What an interesting picture of Paul, before his spiritual makeover. A man that was hostile toward Christianity. And a man who was very caught up in a religion of works, and self-righteousness. Can you see yourself in this picture of the Apostle Paul?
You might think to yourself, “Well, I’ve never been that hostile toward God – I’ve never persecuted Christians or anything like that.” But, according to the Bible, there is a part of you that IS hostile toward God. The book of Romans tells us (8:7) that “the sinful mind is hostile toward God.” We call that “sinful mind” our sinful nature. Each of us has one – we inherited the sinful nature from our parents. Each one of us has that certain part of us that is hostile toward God. My sinful nature doesn’t want to obey God, doesn’t want to listen to God, and really, doesn’t want anything to do with God. That’s your sinful nature too. Here we see the Apostle Paul’s sinful nature exhibiting itself persecuting Christians. Your sinful nature has motivated you to do some terrible things as well. Before our conversion, that’s what “ran the show” in our lives.