Summary: This sermon gives the history of Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee and his hate for Christians; then explains Saul's conversion to Jesus.
• Paul broke the mold.
• He was wild…crazy, zealous, lost, brilliant, passionate and super focused.
• If he was alive today he would be considered a terrorist for killing people for his cause.
• Yet he had more to do with the growth of Christianity than any other single person.
• He wrote thirteen or fourteen of the New Testament books. There are questions whether he wrote Hebrews?
• Born likely four to fourteen years after Jesus and became a believer in approximately 33-35 AD. Died around 63-65 AD. Thirty years of ministry.
• We will be in Acts 7, 9
• Book of Acts - First twenty chapters covered twenty-five years.
• Chapters 21-28, the last 8 chapters two and one half to five years. Some of it covers just a handful of days.
• All about getting the gospel to Rome. The next 300 years the church swept through the Roman culture even as they fed believers to lions.
I. SAUL OF TARSUS
• Saul was his Jewish name, Paul his Roman name. He was born in Turkey (today).
• The City of Tarsus, a place of thriving trade and intellectual focus.
• A thriving Jewish quarter where this boy lived, likely around 5 AD. Jesus was a boy.
• He had a very unique standing, that he was both a Jew and a Roman citizen. His parents were likely rich.
• Very well positioned in society or he wouldn’t have had the coveted Roman citizenship.
Acts 22:27-28, So the commander went over and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” “Yes, I certainly am,” Paul replied. “I am, too,” the commander muttered, “and it cost me plenty!” Paul answered, “But I am a citizen by birth!”
• He was also born into a family of Pharisee’s, which were the Jewish teachers and leaders.
• Though we look down on Pharisees today, they were the noblest of all Jews.
• Home life was likely dominated by religious teaching and instruction with the goal of getting him the best education possible.
• By five Saul would have been reading Hebrew Scriptures, by six he would go to a nearby school. At ten he would memorize the Old Testament law and at thirteen he would have been through a type of bar mitzpha or confirmation.
• At thirteen to sixteen he would have been sent to Jerusalem to school to become a rabbi or teacher, which seems his father wanted him to.
• He lived with his married sister in Jerusalem.
• He was taught a trade that he would use the rest of his life, tent making.
• All Jews were taught a trade as a means to a living.
Acts 22:3-4 History, Then Paul said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, and I was brought up and educated here in Jerusalem under Gamaliel. As his student, I was carefully trained in our Jewish laws and customs. I became very zealous to honor God in everything I did, just like all of you today. And I persecuted the followers of the way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison."
• Gamaliel who had the Harvard of Jews in Jerusalem.
• Gamaliel was the grandson of the hero of all Jews, the great teacher Hillel. He was also a lawyer and a member of the ruling body known as the Sanhedrin, but he did allow for the reading of Greek literature that likely impacted young Paul deeply.
• Ultimately made him open to Gentiles! Us!
• Paul later wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Greek for we are all one in Christ Jesus.”
• After Saul’s seven to eight years of education he likely moved home and married or he wouldn’t have been allowed to be part of the Sanhedrin.
• So he was a bright guy! Spoke, read and wrote both Hebrew and Greek.
• And very skilled guy who God would use in a huge way to build His kingdom.
• Once he met Jesus all of this old training would fade into the background.
II. BLINDED BY DARKNESS
• Saul hated Christians so much he dedicated his life to destroying the church (ought to give us hope today!)
• He went into people’s homes and drug them off to prison.
Acts 7:54-56, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at him (Stephen). But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’”