Galatians 1:21-24 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; (22) And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ: (23) But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. (24) And they glorified God in me.
The greatest evidence that can be presented on behalf of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the transformed life of a believer. No one could argue with the reality that the Maniac of Gadera – once chained in the town square – was not sitting, clothed, and in his right mind at the feet of Jesus. No one could argue with the fact that a man born blind had been given his sight by the Son of God. No one could argue that Lazarus had been dead and buried for four days, yet had come forth alive at the command of Jesus before many witnesses. And no one could argue with the radical transformation in the life of Saul of Tarsus.
Saul was perhaps the world’s least likely candidate to convert to Christianity. A “Pharisee of the Pharisees,” Paul had grown up at the feet of the most famous Jewish teacher of his time, the rabbi Gamaliel. Paul described himself as follows:
Galatians 1:13-14 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: (14) And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
Saul of Tarsus hated the new Christian faith. He said that “beyond measure I persecuted the church and wasted it.” He further described himself as “exceedingly mad against them:”
Acts 26:9-11 I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. (10) Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. (11) And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.
When Saul traveled to Damascus, he was not going to attend a revival meeting. He was going to persecute and destroy every Christian he could find. Saul of Tarsus was a total zealot for his cause. He thought himself 100% right in his convictions concerning “Jesus of Nazareth,” and considered Christians to be a dangerous and heretical sect that threatened the future of his own faith and people. He was determined to root it out entirely.
Yet on that road, the persecutor ran head first into the providential hand of God. Over and over again, Paul repeated his miraculous testimony of salvation:
Acts 26:13-18 At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. (14) And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (15) And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. (16) But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; (17) Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, (18) To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Saul of Tarsus did not change speed, only direction. He had lived furiously against Christ; now he lived fervently for Christ. He did a 180 degree turn but kept the proverbial pedal to the metal. His sudden transformation was so shocking that even the apostles and churches did not truly believe that he had been saved; they suspected Saul was a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” trying to gain access to their underground churches and leaders. Barnabas, however, brought the new convert into the church, and the rest is history.
When scornful historians study the earliest days of Christianity, they often mock the lack of evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Yet Jesus was seen by hundreds after His resurrection – men and women so utterly convinced that they were willing to suffer the loss of all things, including their lives, for the furtherance of the gospel. The greatest evidence for Christianity (besides the perfect Word of God itself) is the testimony of those who were changed through their faith in Christ. And perhaps the greatest testimony comes from the life of Paul, formerly Saul, who was transformed from the Devil’s Wolf into the Shepherd’s Sheepdog.
There is POWER in the gospel of Jesus Christ! Marvelous, supernatural, life-changing, eternity-altering power!
Rom 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Preach it! Share it! Give it away! Teach it! Even the “hardest case” could turn into a “heavenly convert!”