After the Damascus road experience Saul who became Paul was a changed man. Turned around 180 degrees from being the greatest opponent of Christianity to become one of the most fervent proponents of the faith.
Those who saw him in those early days after his conversion were astounded. His fame had already spread far and wide amongst the early church and he was much feared because of the havoc he was wreaking amongst the early Christian community. But now those he sought to bind and imprison he was actively seeking and supporting as he grew in faith with The Lord.
And you could see the plan and the hand of God in Paul’s conversion for here was a man steeped in the religion of the Jews, one who understood the prophecies pointing to the coming Messiah and one who could teach, preach and proclaim the truth of the gospel without fear or favour. As he grew in strength in his understanding of the New Covenant and as he was led by the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries of the new way in Jesus, he greatly helped the infant church to develop in Damascus.
And he went from being a friend of the Jews to an enemy whom they sought to kill as he bore witness to Christ. Let us look now at some of those early events.
Proof of Jesus
From the time of Moses there were many prophecies to the fact that a king would come, the Messiah who would save the people of Israel and rule over them forever.
The Jews were well aware of this and it was regularly preached in the synagogues. They were eager for the coming of the Messiah especially at that time for they were once again in bondage. As in Moses time when the Israelites were in bondage to the Egyptians, they were now bound to the rule of the Romans. Thus they were eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and bring them release.
But they missed it!
The leaders were expecting a king to come…someone who would take over and kick the Romans out of Israel and restore peace in the land.
They did not expect a babe in arms to arrive, the son of a virgin and a carpenter who would proclaim peace, joy, compassion, mercy, forgiveness and love. They wanted someone to come in with all guns blazing to give the Romans a swift kick in the rear, and so when Jesus arrived they missed Him.
What is worse, the Jewish leaders REJECTED him and turned away from Him, opposing Him and standing opposed to God.
But they knew the scriptures, and Paul especially knew the scriptures in the Old Testament that spoke of the coming of the Messiah or the Christ, which is the Greek word for Messiah.
Helping the Church
Because Paul had such a good understanding of the scriptures he greatly helped the developing church because he proved that Jesus was the Christ. He took the prophecies from the Old Testament and compared them to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the new covenant proving from the scriptures that Jesus was the messiah that the whole Jewish nation had been waiting for.
He became a powerful teacher in the early church and he strongly confused and opposed the Jews showing them that they were wrong and how they had missed the appearance of the one whom they were eagerly waiting for.
Escape from Damascus
Given his powerful and astounding turnaround is it any wonder the Jews hated him. Apart from all the teaching and proofs he provided for the early church, he turned away from the Jews and proved them to be wrong. He confounded the Jews and he continued to grow stronger in the lord. Thus they plotted and planned to have him killed.
But as at that time and as it happens today, The Lord will protect and support his people. The plot became known to the church and so they took Paul in secret by night and lowered him over the city wall to escape to freedom.
Issues for Today
Now we must understand who it was that Paul was speaking to in those early days in Damascus. He was speaking to the Jewish people who knew the ways of The Lord from regular attendance at the synagogues, and he was speaking to the early Christian church. He was not at that time speaking to unbelievers, atheists or followers of other gods and divinities at that time. He was speaking to people who knew there was a Messiah promised to come and bring freedom to the house of Israel.
Thus the early focus of his ministry was not proving there was a god or proving there was a Messiah to come but Paul was proving that Jesus was the Messiah or Christ who was promised in all of the writings of the prophets.
Today however we have a different problem. The people today have turned away from God totally and do not accept there is a God. Their god is the passions of this life and the lusts of the flesh, not The Lord Jesus Christ or God the Father. So our challenge today is different to that of Paul in his day.
For many of us there is the need to go back to basics and show that there is a god and that Jesus is the Son of God who came to give us salvation. S for those who do not yet believe in Jesus there is a different challenge to that of Paul.
But there is also another challenge today that is in some ways similar to the problem Paul faced later in his ministry. As in his days there is corruption in the preaching of the word today. Paul faced the issue of the Jews attempting to bring back in the teachings of the law which would negate the power of the death of Jesus Christ and empty the power of what He did for us. In fact pretty much the whole of the book of Galatians speaks about this issue for in that church the Jews were trying to force the Galatians to succumb to and go back under the old law of Moses.
We have the very same problem today. Too many churches and preachers speak the words of the freedom of Jesus Christ one minute, and then in the next breath insist that the people are bound under the law and under the power of sin. They insist that the people must keep the Ten Commandments along with many of the other Old Testament laws such as tithing, and if the people fail in these things they say they are sinners.
But Jesus set us free from sin. Jesus set us free from the law. Jesus took away these two things and in Him we have been given freedom through the grace of God. We are no longer under the law when we enter into the death of Jesus Christ through baptism, and if no longer under law we are no longer under the power of sin. These have all been taken away so that we can come and stand before the Father, not on the grounds of law and works, but on the grounds of faith in the redeeming power of the death of The Lord Jesus Christ.
Do not succumb to the ministries of those who would take you back into bondage under the law and under the power of sin. Look to the freedom The Lord offers through the death of Jesus Christ, for it is by that path alone that we will be perfected and gain entry into the kingdom of God now.
(Image sourced from stock.xchng taken by Myles Davidson)
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