Summary: God is able to make an immediate and positive change in our lives.
Rev. Wayne A. Lawson, M.Min
First Baptist Church, Ardmore, OK
(Preached Sunday, May 29, 2005)
Scripture: Acts 8:3 / 9:1-2 / 9:17-28 8:3. As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. 9:1-2 1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. 17-28 17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. 19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. 20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. 23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: 24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. 26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. 28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
Title: That Was Then, This Is Now
The change Jesus brought into Paul’s life is one of the most dramatic narratives and radical transformations of a person that has ever been recorded. Saul whose name would be changed to Paul was born to a prominent Jewish family in Tarsus – capital of the Roman province in what is now modern day Turkey. We know his parents were prominent citizens, because Paul was a Roman citizen from birth. It was relatively rare for Jews to be Roman citizens as citizenship had to be granted by a significant Roman government official. Paul was born between 5-10 years after Jesus’ birth. At some point he went to Jerusalem as a young man to receive training in Judaism. He undoubtedly heard much about Jesus and may have even heard Jesus teach somewhere along the later portion of His earthly ministry. Paul was a very intelligent young man and became a Pharisee at a very tender age. He describes himself as being “Zealous after the Law.” He was passionate about his faith as a Jew and devoted to its heritage and traditions. As we walk together and develop this message, it is imperative that we look at this man named Saul and understand who he was and who he would become.
· Very Religious – blameless according to the Law of Moses, a Pharisee among Pharisees, very zealous for the faith of his fathers and absolutely convinced that he was doing the Will of God
· Rich Heritage – a Jew among Jews, born into the tribe of Benjamin
· Well Educated – Trained at the feet of Gamaliel, one of Israel’s greatest teachers of the day
· Ambitious – advancing quickly up the ranks of the Pharisees and had ability, desire and talent far above his peers
· Full of Bitterness and Hatred – hated anything and anyone who could be a threat to the things that he believed, and those who would cause trouble for his people and those who opposed the teachings of the high priest and the Law of Moses. He hated those who preached and taught heresy against the Law that had led Israel for so many years
· A Man of Loyalty – sought out the permission and approval of the High Priest before he acted