As we call to memory Saul of Tarsus, we see a man who was very zealous. A devout, learned man of the scriptures, who persecuted the early church because of his love for God. The book of Acts records, “When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul…Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death” (Acts 7:58 – 8:1).
Without question, the Lord saw something special in this young man. Because He came to Saul while he was on his way to Damascus, having obtained letters from the Jewish authorities allowing him to continue persecuting the church. The vision that Saul encountered that day changed his life forever. Saul obeyed the direction of the Lord, being baptized while in Damascus. What a turn of events.
The apostle Paul was one who made a difference in the history of the church. He carried that same desire to please the Lord he had before, but now it was being used for good. Paul did suffer many things for the Lord’s name, yet never seemed to complain. In fact, he wrote, “for momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17). Light affliction? Paul suffered a great deal as illustrated in his own words for us in the 11th chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians. Later, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, he said, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil 4:11).
No doubt, some of Paul’s most inspirational words are found in 1 Cor 15:10. “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” God’s grace is that which gives each of us hope. Paul, self-proclaimed as the chief sinner, was able to see what a gift God’s grace is. It is too precious a gift to let go in vain. As God’s grace has appeared to all men, let it not be in vain. After all, we are all sinners and are in need of this precious gift.