Saul was from Tarsus of Cilicia and was born into a well to do home. Saul as a rabbi, was required to learn a trade and so labored in the low-paying, menial task of tentmaking. But two facts demonstrate the social status of Saul's family, which are Saul's Roman citizenship and his opportunity to study in Jerusalem. Saul's primary attribute, however, was not his education but his zeal, which was as much a part of his life before his conversion as afterwards.
Acts 9:1-18 tells us of a man that experienced the epitome of God's grace, on his journey on the road to Damascus. We see through Saul's Damascus Road experience, what it is like to be "IN THE GRIP OF GOD'S GRACE.
Saul was a force to be reckoned with. Saul was one of those individuals who believed he was doing wrong for the right reason. Saul was a Christian's worst nightmare. So ill informed was Saul, that he thought he ought to do all he could against the name of Christ, and that he did God's service by persecuting followers of Christ.
During the New Testament era, Damascus had a large Jewish population. Many Jewish Christians fled there when Saul was persecuting the church. Saul was bound for Damascus on a mission of destruction when he was saved by God's grace.
Have you ever been heading down a road to destruction when God plucked you out of harm's way [PAUSE] as you were heading down the road of drug addiction [PAUSE] alcoholism [PAUSE] crime? Many of us have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. We can't believe it ourselves, when we wake up the next morning to find that we are still alive. Do you ever wonder why God continues to extend His grace to us, even during our constant acts of disobedience and sin?
God offers a renewing grace for the conversion of the greatest of sinners. God's grace is a token of Divine favor. God, by the inward working of His grace, or the outward events of his providence, stops us committing intentional acts of sin.
You see, Saul was on his way to Damascus, travelling some 150 miles out of his way, to continue the persecution of Christians that were now scattered from Jerusalem and Judea.
Saul, as he journeyed, came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined about him a light from heaven: Saul fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him,
Saul, Saul, why are your persecuting me? And Saul said, Who are you, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus who you persecute: it is hard for me to kick against the pricks.
In Acts 9:5, Saul is depicted here as a rebellious beast that fights against the will of its master. He is persecuting Jesus in that he is afflicting the body of Christ. When someone does something for or against a Christian, Jesus Christ not only knows but also feels it just as we do. He is moved with the feeling of our infirmities. Jesus himself, feeling the persecution that was being inflicted on His people, asks Saul, why are you persecuting me?
And Saul, trembling and astonished said, Lord, what will you have me to do? The question posed by Saul indicates the state of mind Saul was in. Its elements seem to be a resistless conviction that Jesus whom he persecuted, now speaking to him was Christ the Lord. As a consequence of this, Saul realized that not only his religious views, but also his whole religious character, had been a mistake; and that everything he believed was wrong.