Summary: Paul’s life story, like ours, is a wonderful example of God’s mercy with sinners through Jesus Christ.
PAUL’S STORY IS OUR STORY
A young lady goes out on a blind date and the first thing her friends ask is, “So, what’s his story?” They want to know all the details – where does he work, where did he grow up, what kind of car does he drive? It seems everybody has a story, and we want to know it. We are fascinated in knowing tidbits from other people’s lives. The media has picked up on this apparent fascination. There are magazine articles and TV programs, all dedicated to relating the biographies of the rich and famous. It seems no detail is left out; nothing is sacred. As we listen to those stories – of the modest upbringing of movie stars, the all-to-real problems celebrities face – we learn they aren’t different than any of us.
Everyone has a story. This also applies to the apostle Paul. Today, we encounter a portion of Scripture, in which Paul tips his hand and lets us in on some rather intimate details. The one thing we learn is the apostle Paul was a lot like you and me. In fact, PAUL’S STORY IS OUR STORY. It’s a story of God’s amazing grace. Like Paul, we too have been: 1) Made into a Reliable Witness, and 2) Given a Reliable Message.
1) Made into a Reliable Witness
When we think of the apostle Paul, perhaps words such as courageous, bold, or heroic come to mind. He was the apostle to the Gentiles. Much of the New Testament contains various letters had had written to pastors and congregations in order to instruct and encourage. Paul was a reliable, unyielding figure. He stood strong in the faith. In fact, he was imprisoned and eventually martyred for his faith in Jesus. Yet, Paul tells us a different story. He tells the story of a man who was wholly unreliable. He admits: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.”
This was not for a lack of zeal. Paul confessed that he was a Pharisee of Pharisees. He was passionate for what he thought was the will of God. In his letter to the Galatians he makes this confession: For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.” Notice the apostle says that, in spite of his zeal, he was ignorant. He was an unbeliever. He had the Scriptures. In fact, Paul was an exemplary student of Scripture. Yet, his heart was hard, his eyes were blind. He failed to see Christ. All of Paul’s efforts to achieve wisdom resulted in ignorance. There’s a warning here for us. What are we zealous for? Quite often we are zealous for what we think is God’s will. We become passionate for what we think God wants us to have and do.
We become zealous with our jobs, with our personal time, even with our families. We pour so much of ourselves into what we consider important because we want to feel good about ourselves. We want tangible proof that we’re O.K. Simple blessings are, then, turned into obsessions. Pursuit of physical happiness becomes our goal.