Paul of Tarsus
aka: Saul of Tarsus
aka: The Apostle Paul
aka: Hebrew of Hebrews
aka: The Persecutor of the church
It does not take much reading of the New Testament before you find out about Saul of Tarsus. In short this is what he has to say about himself:
5 circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, [of] the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; 6 concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. – Phl 3:5-6 NKJV
And then we read an account he gave while in chains, answering to King Agrippa:
4 “My manner of life from my youth…all the Jews know. 5 “They knew me from the first…that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. …
9 “Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
10 “This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against [them].
11 “And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled [them] to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted [them] even to foreign cities.
– Act 26:4-5, 9-11 NKJV
Before God changed Saul’s name to Paul, the church was on the run and in hiding! Everyone who was a follower of The Way was very fearful of Saul of Tarsus! They knew that if he found them, their lives were over.
By all means, Paul himself admits that he was consumed with zeal for the sake of the Jews. He was passionate about keeping the faith. He was so convinced that this Jesus of Nazareth was a threat to the Jews faith and way of life. After all Paul knew everything there was to know! He was a Pharisee of Pharisees!
Paul was consumed with the greater good. He was so clearly understood in his faith that he knew what he was doing was in service to what he knew was right.
1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It [is] hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord [said] to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. 8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought [him] into Damascus. – Act 9:1-8 NKJV
And so we discover that what Saul thought was good and right all along was very wrong. We see that he was so deceived by what he thought was truth, he actually was working against the very One he thought he served.
So many times I wonder, how blinded am I by the good. How many things do I not see or know because I am so consumed by what I perceive as good. Do I become like a pharisee? Do I actually deny Christ by allowing myself to be overcome by ‘good’ things?