Romans 1:1 — Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.
The author of Romans identifies himself right off. His name is Paul. But that wasn’t always his name. He first appears as Saul, in Acts 7:58, at the end of the scene where Stephen is stoned. [They] cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
Why was this young man standing there? Why didn’t he join in the stoning? Acts 8:1 tells us that Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death.
What does it matter that this young man agreed? C.R. Stam writes, “Does this mean that he was a member of the Sanhedrin? … It was a great exception for a young man to be made a member of the Sanhedrin. Yet in Galatians 1:14, he later testified:*” I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
The Sanhedrin was an aristocratic council with a hereditary leadership that exercised authority under Herod and under Rome. If Saul was a member, that would explain his authority to do what we next find him doing: As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison (Acts 8:3).
After a while, Saul must have exhausted the city of Jerusalem and decided to look for followers of Christ in other places. Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2).
And that’s the first appearance of this man who would figure more prominently in the New Testament than anyone other than Jesus Christ. Young, aggressive, determined and, I imagine, pretty scary. I know I wouldn’t have wanted to see him heading for my front door.
*Acts Dispensationally Considered, by C.R. Stam, Berean Bible Society (1954)