Galatians 1:18-24, “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.
People don’t change. A person may diet, exercise, develop new routines, etc., but at the end of the day, the same people you graduated high school with will still be the same person – though aged – at your 10-year high school reunion. People can’t change who they are (Jeremiah 13:23).
Saul was a hater of Christ. He did everything in his power to eradicate Christianity from the planet because he thought it corrupted his view of Judaism.
In Acts, we read of his approval in the stoning of Stephen and his charge to find and bind men and women to be brought to Jerusalem (Acts8:1, 9:2) – a charge he fulfilled with zealous efficiency, making known through threats and murder that Christianity would be crushed under his thumb (Acts 9:1).
Wherever Saul went, destruction would soon follow. Families were torn apart; fathers and mothers from their children; sons and daughters from their family; Saul approved of this, and more.
Word of Saul’s deeds spread throughout the fledgling Christendom. He who would persecute them is headed to Damascus, and no doubt would continue his zealous, brutal conquest to cleanse Judaism of Christianity.
He would do the same to Christians in Damascus as he did to Christians in Jerusalem because, as we know, people don’t change. At least, unless something changes them.
Saul was thrown to the ground by a light from heaven. And there, on the road to Damascus, Saul was completely and forever changed by the only one who has the power to change us by removing our heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh.
Saul still made it to Damascus, however, it was not the same one who departed from Jerusalem.
“And they glorified God because of me.”
We serve a God who took a man who was zealous to persecute Christians, perhaps the most zealous man on the planet, and gave him a new heart to love and serve Christ. How beautiful of a picture is that of both God’s power to save even the chief of sinners, but also the power of forgiveness. Paul severely persecuted these believers. And now, they welcome him not only as afriend, but also as a brother, extending fellowship, glorifying God because of Paul.
May we be able to echo these words by Paul. May our words and actions because others to give glory to our God and Father in Heaven.