The Apostle Paul is one of the most interesting characters of the New Testament. His life is a magnificent illustration of the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform a person. Paul was never one to enter into an endeavor half-heartedly or with an air of timidity. Speaking of his upbringing he testified before a mob seeking his death ... “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3-5 NIV).
That which he did to others prior to his salvation, became the ear-marks of his life as an apostle. He seemed to attract trouble wherever he went, and this writer has often wondered if the first two places that Paul would identify in any town he entered were the synagogue and the local jail. In the synagogues he would preach the message of salvation in Christ that had transformed his life from being the zealous persecutor of Christians. Too often, his preaching resulted in him either being put in prison or driven out of town.
Hardship and persecution characterized his life after receiving Christ as his Savior. However, these did not deter him from spreading the good news concerning Jesus Christ … “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born” (1 Cor 15:3-8 NIV).
Saul, later to be called Paul, tells of his encounter with the risen Savior. “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, 'Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?' "'Who are you, Lord?' I asked. "'I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,' he replied” (Acts 22:6-8 NIV). On that Roman road that led to Damascus Syria, Saul, that young zealot for the religious traditions and rituals of Judaism would place his faith in the very One whom he had opposed. His plans for his life had been dramatically interrupted. “Then he [Ananias] said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard” Acts 22:14-15 NIV).
As he reflected on his life and ministry, he wrote to the churches in Philippi … “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Phil 3:7-9 NIV). Paul would emphatically state … “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Roman 8:1 NIV).