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Saul Of Tarsus
by Wayne Blank
Saul's view of Christianity (see Christian Living) was really quite simple - he wanted it, and everyone involved in it, destroyed. He traveled far and wide to have men and women arrested. Saul was present, and gave his approval to the gruesome stoning death of Stephen, considered to be the first Christian martyr.
Then one day, while Saul was on one of his journeys of persecution, as he was nearing Damascus (seen in photograph), he suddenly found himself surrounded by a very bright light. He fell to the ground and heard a voice from the heavens say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"
The voice was of Jesus Christ Himself. The account is found in Acts chapter 9. The incredible conversation that followed brought Paul to the realization of his error - Christianity was not a threat to the Jews, but rather the fulfillment of all that they hold true.
Saul, the man most Christians of the time may have considered to be somewhat of a monster, had reached his day of conversion - in no uncertain terms! He was literally knocked down on the road to Damascus and directly called by God. He thereafter became known as Paul.
Paul became one of the greatest Christians of The Bible. His ministry was long and productive, but never easy. He endured cold and hunger, beatings, imprisonment and persecution in his travels along the Roman Roads. See Paul's First Missionary Journey and Paul's Second Missionary Journey. Also Paul's Third Missionary Journey and Paul In Athens.
Paul's writings include a number of the books of the New Testament from which millions of Christians are taught. All from a man who was once "Public Enemy Number One" to every Christian man, woman or child. At the end of his ministry, he was executed by the Roman authorities for preaching the very Christianity that he himself once tried so hard to destroy. See Emperor Nero and Ancient Empires - Rome.
One of the most notable lessons from Paul's example is that God, for some reason, often calls to His service some very unlikely people (see Fools For Christ). Other examples: Peter, a man who was to teach Christian peace, was himself at times an impulsive "hothead". Moses, the spokesman for Israel, and of The Ten Commandments, apparently had to overcome a serious stuttering problem.
Paul's experience shows us that someone who persecutes you today for your Christian beliefs may one day be one of your best friends in the faith - perhaps the primary reason that we are to love our enemies.
Fact Finder: What did Paul temporarily suffer when Jesus struck him
down on the road to Damascus?