Romans 1:1 — Part 2
1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.
So what happened on the road to Damascus? We know that Saul was struck blind by a light from heaven. … He fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (Acts 9:4). It must have been a pretty convincing occurrence. This man Saul made it his primary business in life to arrest and persecute anyone who professed to believe in Jesus Christ. He was in fact traveling to Damascus for that very purpose. And then there’s the light and the voice, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks” (Acts 9:5). (Incidentally, the second half of that quote doesn’t appear in most manuscripts and, in fact, is left out of the NIV and NASB, but it does appear in Acts 26:14 in the exact same context.)
Anyway, that voice was all Saul needed to hear. Ananias came and healed him, Saul hung around with the disciples in Damascus a few days, then began preaching Christ. But as I studied this I had some questions: Why did Ananias have to be involved? Couldn’t God have just healed Saul Himself?
Here’s what I think — Saul was known and feared. Who would stick around long enough to listen to him? But because of Ananias, he had a reference, a man of God, a known believer who was there, who was acting on instructions from God, who healed Saul and saw the Holy Spirit fill him. It was official and public, and not just Saul’s word.
What about Saul? Did he have free will in all this? I think so. But Jesus Christ made His presence and power so obvious and magnificent that Saul would have had to have been a lunatic to reject Him. Saul knew who Christ was, although evidently he’d never seen Him when He was on earth. Saul knew Jesus Christ had been put to death, but now here He was — Alive
Why Saul? The Lord said to Ananias, “he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
But why Saul in particular? Paul explains in 1 Timothy 1:16: … For this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting. Jesus Christ came to earth as Israel’s Messiah. They rejected Him and put Him to death. That should have been the end of it for them, but Christ asked for pardon for them on the cross. After He rose from the dead, He sent His apostles to Israel, but again they rejected Him (Acts 8:1).
God always keeps His promises, and Israel will get their promised Messiah in the future. But God set them aside for a time. He revealed a new message, a new dispensation — salvation by grace for Gentile and Jew alike.
And as His representative of that new message, He chose Saul — one of the very leaders of Israel who was working so diligently to reject Him. He chose one of the worst of His persecutors to display His patience and to be a pattern for everyone who would believe after that — a pattern of individuals who were sinners saved by the grace of God and by the grace of God alone with no work or effort or deserving on their part. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and His grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1 Corinthians 15:9-10).
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