The Significance of Paul’s Conversion
The conversion of Saul, that rabid persecutor of the early church, is one of the most significant events in the history of the first-century church. One historian has expressed the matter in the following way.
“In all the history of Christianity no single conversion to Christ carried with it such momentous results to the whole world, as that of Saul the persecutor, afterward Paul the Apostle”
IN THIS PASSAGE – We encounter Paul the Aged -
The say, As we get older, we become more honest, losing our filter. Why is this? Maybe it is because we don’t have the patience for pointless drama. (No longer fear consequence of what they say) We all can recall the family member or friend, that uncle or aging parent, who has no filter on what they say or when they say it. It seems as if age has a somewhat truth-serum that enables the speaker to speak transparently, about themselves, and the world.
I believe that the Apostle Paul, in this passage in example of this unfiltered truth (or keeping it 100) in his latter years. Paul, at the time of this writing was most likely in his early 60’s. As this letter, written around 63 AD, was written just a year before his death. So Paul had the double edge sword of honesty – that of old age – and impending death.
This blatant and explicit honesty has a practical application of both grace and deliverance for us today. For in this passage, is the most transparent, the most explicit, the most concise, and even the most brutal assessment of Paul’s life before Christ. In it, Paul confesses to his young protégé, that he was the following…
A Blasphemer (speaking evil, slanderous, reproachful, railing, abusive against the things of God)
A Persecutor – A religious terrorist against those whom he saw as infidels
A Violent Man - insolent man, ' uplifted with pride, heaping insulting language upon others and doing shameful act of wrong towards them.
The Chief of Sinners…(The first sinner of his kind – Consider this: if For Paul, if he had been successful in his attempt to stomp out Christianity in the first Century, we would have no church today.)
For how many of us, especially in the ministry, would have the humility to stand before an audience of 6, let alone 6 Billion – and say,
12 Giving honor to God, who is the head of my life, even though in times past I was…
Prostitute – Someone who sold my body for the cheapest of prices.
Con-Artist – Someone who willfully deceived for immodest gain
An Abuser of my wife – One who regularly abused my wife and children, physically and emotionally
A False Prophet, - a teacher of false doctrines, teachings of demons,
IN ALL HONESTY, HOW MANY SHARE REGULARLY WHAT WE WERE…
But Paul’s Gospel transparency was so great, that in the words of Robin Roberts he allowed God to make his mess – his message. (Repeat x2.) And this transparency was not based upon some form of false sensationalism or desire for attention, but it was based upon an utter and absolute awe and amazement of the grace of God in his life. Paul constantly, consistently, and continually, put the dark velvet of his past life on display IN-ORDER THAT the diamond of the Gospel might be displayed in its multi-faceted brilliance. And it will be in this display, that if we follow the example of Paul’s humility – that we will be delivered from the greatest of all sins – PRIDE.
Therefore, It is my hope that by learning from this example, that we all
will first be reawakened to the amazing grace of Christ towards us as sinners,
and begin to testify with greater humility of who we were, but also who we are in the person of Jesus Christ
while being set free from the self-sufficiency, earthly wisdom, and pride that has dominated the American Church for too long.
And in doing so, become an example to a world that is in need of a Hero – The Lord Jesus Christ.
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.
Paul had a continual gratitude for his salvation: And the particular ministry that God had given him. We see this gratitude constantly throughout the epistles…
Romans 1:8 - First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you…
Corinthians 1:4 - I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:3 - We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesu s Christ, when we pray for you
Paul was utterly grateful for the grace of God in his life and how God had entrusted that Grace to him via ministry. We all should be continually enamored and grateful for our salvation. But not only should we be thankful for our salvation, but that God has ordained us to be ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And when I say ministry.
Im speaking to you fathers, who have the ministry of leading and guiding your household in the fear and admonition of the Lord.
I’m speaking to you wives, who are called to support, love and partner with your husbands to be a display of Christ and the Church.
I’m speaking to you grandparents – who are called to impart Good and godly wisdom as a patriarch or matriarch to your entire family.
I’m speaking to you pastors, evangelists, or whatever role you play in the church. God has entrusted us with this ministry that we, of ourselves are so unworthy of. But most importantly, how thankful should we be for the people that we are allowed to serve by the grace of God. Every saint you see here, will be a saint you see in eternity.
In speaking to those of us who took time to clean the church yesterday, how grateful are we that we can clean God’s house…and not in hell. (As the psalmist said, I’d rather be a doorkeeper…
And this gratitude is summarized perfectly in:
12 giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son:
Praise God that Jesus Came
Praise God that Jesus Lived
Praise God that Jesus Died
Praise God that Jesus Rose
Praise God that He Did it For Me
READ 1st TIMOTHY
13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
The grace of God was magnified through Paul’s depravity. So much so, that he relished the opportunity to share his testimony.
Constant sharing of testimony (We see Paul share his testimony in Acts 21 and in Acts 26. Everytime Paul had the opportunity; he would share who he was, and what Christ had made him to be. And all too often, we as the church, especially as ministers, focus on the present, the titles, who we are, or worse – who we think we are. And there is nothing wrong with this, but we are to remember, the depths by which God has delivered us from. For in remembering and recalling we are humbled and made grateful.)
We see this need of reminder, constantly in the Old Testament with the nation of Israel. God continually reminded them where they were, who they were, before he delivered them. (Mainly by the deliverance via the Exodus.)
by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes?
15 You shall remember that you were a slave[c] in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm.
you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, 19 the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out.
God consistently reminded the people what he delivered them from – Why – so that they would not turn back into bondage…
It so important to remember, recall, and even re-tell the story of our personal deliverance. It is so important to tell others this. It is humbling but it is empowering. Because when we don’t recall the bondage that God delivered us from, we enter into a new form of bondage – legalism.
I believe this is especially true for the African-American Church. The great Bible Scholar, preacher and teacher from South Africa – Derick Prince says that,
“Different racial groups have different spiritual wickedness over them. African Americans, as the descendants of slaves, most black Christians can only get so far, and something seems to stop them, it is my opinion, that because Blacks came as slaves, there is still a spirit of Bondage over many of us. My observation that nearly all Black-American churches are extremely legalistic, hardly any of them know the real liberty of God’s grace. The reason, that spirit of slavery has never really been dealt with, it still has a measure of control."
There is a perfect example of this return to bondage/legalism in the New Testament. We see in this perfect in the Gospel of John chapter 8:
1 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”
The Jews who had become believers, most likely Pharisees, had so forgotten what God delivered them from, that they had become blinded to the true freedom that Christ was offering. They say in verse 33, We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anyone.”
What an Asinine statement: They had forgotten that it was an outstretched arm, and with signs and wonders that God had delivered them from the slavery from Egypt.
It was an asinine statement, and a spiritual blindness that they had been in bondage to the Assyrians in 714 BC, that Judah was taken captive by Babylon in 586 BC, and at the very moment of them speaking this, they were in subjected to the Roman government – but they said, we have never been slaves.
You see, forgetting our past slavery, makes our present slaves to the bondage of legalism, religiosity, and appearance. And this is why it is so important that we be transparent and remember what God delivered us from.
How are we delivered> let us also be delivered from the spirit of Bondage – by legalistic hypocrisy. How do we do that, by testifying…
Were you a liar – tell the world – but not only that, tell the Word how the truth has set you free?
Were you a whoremonger – tell the world – but not only that – but tell the World how you found a greater love than sex.
Were you addicted to drugs – tell the world, but not only that – also tell them that you found a pleasure in God’s right hand that is eternal. In the words of that old band, Huey Lewis and the news – I got a new drug – The Rock – Christ Jesus.
Don’t be ashamed – Don’t deny who you were, or who you are. For in denying our shame, we deny his glory. That my God is strong and mighty to save.
Tell the world what you were – in order that you might tell them – what Christ did for you. This proclamation not only brings glory to God, but it delivers us, from the bondage that we are so prone to fall back into.
15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 17 Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Peculiar saying – worst. Was Paul the Worst? Surely he was not worse than…Hitler? Surely he was not worse than Idi Amin, Surely he was not worse than Stalin, surely not Paul. But the answer is, yes, he was worse than all these men. These men killed the body, but Paul in his attempt to destroy the Gospel, was being used by Satan to attempt mass genocide. Again, if Paul had succeeded in destroying the Gospel
No gospel message
No hearing of the gospel
Imagine having the realization of the knowledge you were the worst sinner ever. And then imagine, God saves you. You wonder why Paul was so humble. Because Great Sinners, Make Great Saints. Great sinners, make great saints. The best saints are those who have the greatest understanding of their sin and a greater appreciation for the grace of God. As Jesus says, he who has been forgiven much, loves much.
But in reality, everyone one of us is the chief of sinners (familial). How, because our past unbelief, threatened our families with not being saved. And not just our families, but our families famliies. And all the way down the line. God SAVED you, broke the ungodly and wicked legacy of your family.
Therefore, if you stand here under the sound of my voice, and are NOT A BELEIVER, not only in YOUR SOUL IN DANGER OF HELL, but YOU threaten the very spiritual eternity of those to come after you..
16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
But God saved us, that we might be an example. That if he can save me, he can save anybody. (Repeat.) Let your mess become your message – why because Jesus did.
THE CROSS WAS MESSY, WAS IT NOT?
The law of God demands eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.
The cross of Christ was horrific. The passion of Christ was a G-rated version of what happened.
Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Eyes gouged out, jaw and teeth broken, so disfigured that he did not look human. He who knew no sin, became sin. The Holy God, became a Holy Mess – that his message of love could reach, you and I.
So if Jesus did it, for us, let us do it, as well.