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Saul – Good Heart Wrong Head
Lesson 46
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Saul the Evangelist

After spending a week or two with the disciples, Saul was able to quickly align key elements from his formal education with new spiritual eyesight and presto! Saul began to see that Jesus was the fulfillment of everything promised in the Old Testament. The young man was so excited he could not contain himself. Remember, all along he had a good heart, but his head was filled with wrong ideas. Now that Saul realized his blindness, his head could be directed toward truth. True to form, Saul was immediately ready to tell the whole world about Jesus! This is the amazing thing about people who are ideologues by nature. They are wholehearted and enthusiastic in everything they do. The Bible says of Saul:

“At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, ‘Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ.  After many days had gone by[about three years], the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall.” (Acts 9:20-25, insertion mine)

When the persecutor becomes the persecuted, it is apparent that an amazing change has taken place. Saul did not return to Jerusalem immediately after his conversion. The Holy Spirit called him to spend time in the solitude of the desert. Saul had much to unlearn, but he also had much to learn. He shared this experience with the Galatians because he wanted them to know that his understanding of the gospel came directly through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. He wrote, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into [the desert] Arabia and later returned to Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days.” (Galatians 1:13-18, insertion mine)

Three years after leaving for Damascus, Saul returned to Jerusalem. Since there had not been any news about him and his whereabouts for such a long time, the disciples were not sure what he was up to. “When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus. Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.” (Acts 9:26-31)

Summary

The limits of space do not allow me to present the marvelous life of Saul beyond this point. Therefore, I will close with a review of some of the end time parallels that can be found in Saul’s life:

1.      During the Great Tribulation, the religious leaders of the world will parallel the behavior of the Pharisees and the Sadducees. Conservatives, like the Pharisees of old, will insist that the only way to appease God so that His judgments might stop is by religious obedience. The problem is that their idea of how to appease God will be faulty. There is an obedience that stems from legalism (the carnal heart) and there is an obedience that springs from faith (the spiritual heart). The question is not whether God requires obedience; the question is whether our obedience springs from faith and love! Liberals, like the Sadducees of old, will use their political connections and influence civil powers to produce legislation that attempts to control and thwart the 144,000. As in Paul’s day, when Pharisees and Sadducees united against the apostles and the early Christians, so in the end times, conservatives and liberals will unite against the testimony of God’s 144,000 and end time Christians.

2.      After Jesus went to Heaven, He gave His Disciples two great powers. First, He gave them words and wisdom to speak for God. Jesus promised, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:19,20) Second, He gave the disciples Holy Spirit power and enabled them to perform hundreds of genuine miracles. Jesus promised, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth.” (Acts 1:8) God granted them miracle working powers so that people would listen to the testimony of the disciples, believe, be “born again.” And then spread the message abroad. These two gifts rested upon Paul and Barnabas as well. “So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time they’re [Iconium], speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders.” (Acts 14:3, insertion mine) This same process will happen again. God will give the 144,000 servants words and wisdom to speak for Him. They will clearly present the terms and conditions of salvation from the Scriptures and the power of the Holy Spirit will rest upon them, enabling them to perform genuine miracles on demand. These two gifts are described in revelation 11 as the Two Witnesses.

3.      The love of religion is blinding, so it is impossible for one man to prove the superiority of his religion over that of another. A devout Christian cannot prove to a devout Jew that his or her religion is superior to Judaism. History confirms this. Jesus could not prove the Jews that He was the Messiah! Jesus could not prove to His disciples that He was the Messiah, either! One day, Jesus asked Peter if he believed that He was the Son of God and Peter responded “Yes.” Jesus then said, “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) Given the onerous power of religion, let me ask – what were the chances of young Saul abandoning Judaism and accepting Christianity after listening to Stephen’s testimony? Zero. In fact, Saul was so convinced of the accuracy of his religious position that miracles and reasoning from Scripture could not make a dent in his thinking. The same was true of the Pharisees and Sadducees during the days of Jesus They saw Jesus perform miracles with their own eyes and the evidence of His work was everywhere. Yet, the only thing they could say was “…By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” (Luke 11:15) During the Great Tribulation, God will tear down the walls of religion with a marvelous display of power and open the eyes of everyone on Earth to truth for a short time. God will confront humankind with powerful manifestations of truth and power. He will force everyone to make a decision for truth or against truth. The honest in heart, like Saul, will see the light – discover their blindness and rejoice! People who love religion and power, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, will align themselves with darkness to survive, but will forfeit eternal life. The experience of Saul on the road to Damascus has an end time parallel. Many people on Earth have honest hearts, but wrong heads. At the appointed time, God will allow everyone to see the light. All who receive the truth, like Saul, will be found among that grater number of saints when they go marching in.

4.      The Bible does not tell us how or when Saul’s name was changed to Paul. Luke simply identifies Saul was as the one who is also called Paul. “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ‘You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?’” (Acts 13:9,10) I can almost hear the apostle Paul saying these words – given the fact that he, too, perverted the right ways of the Lord!  Although it does not really matter how Saul became known as Paul, I have a possible explanation for you to consider. When the Lord informed Saul that he would become an apostle to the Gentiles, (1 Timothy 2:7) I conclude that Saul converted his Jewish name to a Gentile equivalent, so they would accept him more readily. (The Jews were intensely hated throughout the Roman Empire and very few Gentiles would listen to a despised Jew. See Acts 16:20) Even more, a new identity reflects a new life. (Saul abandoned the Pharisees and I am sure the feeling was mutual.) The apostle Paul had one objective. He wanted everyone to know Christ and the joy of His salvation. He wrote the following: “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I become like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those [Gentiles] not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessing.’” (1 Corinthians 9:12-23), insertion mine)

History says that Paul was executed in Rome around A.D.65 for refusing to worship Caesar. He fought a good fight and was faithful to the end. (2 timothy 4:7) After studying Paul’s writings and his life of service for the Lord Jesus Christ, I am forever indebted to this zealous man for showing me many wonderful things about Jesus. Jesus halted Saul on the road to Damascus because he was totally dedicated to the service of God (albeit, misdirected). What is so wonderful about God is That He sees the heart! He knew that once Saul met Jesus, his life would be forever changed. Paul wrote 14 of the 27 books found in the New Testament! Where would Christians be without his contribution to the Bible? Paul’s life is a perfect example of a complete paradigm shift. What he used to love, he came to hate and what he used to hate, he came to love.

“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 [my losses] 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.” (Philippians 3:7-9, insertion mine) May God help each of us to emulate the integrity, love, humility and dedication demonstrated in the life of a dear saint who became known as Paul.

Quiz:

1. You do feel that you have may have had a paradigm shift after reading this lesson? Give on example!

2. Does any current religion’s on Earth speak the truth about salvation and the ways to the kingdom of God?

3. Have you ever seen a miracle in your life, which increased your faith in God?

4. Are there any people in your life today in your opinion, that’s living in rebellion against God and His laws of life?

 5. In this lesson, what is The Pharisee Test and do you think every human being has some pharisaical ways?

6. What two groups today remind you of the Pharisees of old and the Sadducees?

7. What is your main objective in life up to this point in this Bible study?

Notes:



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