We first hear of Saul, the man who would later become known as the Apostle Paul, as a witness to the martydom of Stephen. After Stephen was dragged out of the city to be stoned, his accusers laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul (Acts 7:58). As Stephen was stoned, he prayed two things. First he asked Jesus to receive his spirit. Secondly, he asked that Jesus be merciful to his accusers and executioners, entreating Him to not charge them with this sin. History does not tell us what happened to any of those men except Saul who would eventually take the Gospel throughout the Roman World and pen more than half of the New Testament.
So what motivated this man to be there at the execution of Stephen? Why did he go everywhere trying to destroy the church, going from house to house arresting men and women and throwing them into prison (Acts 8:3)? Why was he utterly consumed to kill those who followed Jesus Christ to the point that Acts 9:1 tells us:
...Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord's followers.
At first glance, you might answer hatred but what produced that hatred? The answer is simple. He believed he was acting in obedience to God. He believed that what he perceived to be the truth, was indeed the truth and he zealously pursued it. The problem was, he was wrong. His truth, was not THE TRUTH and if something is not the truth, it is in fact, a lie.
Saul genuinely believed he was doing the will of God when he persecuted Christians. Only God could open his eyes to the truth and when He did, on the road to Damascus, (Acts 9), Paul responded by asking God a question, "Who are you, Lord?"
The answer was not what Saul expected to hear. In fact, I suspect it was the last thing he wanted to hear. Saul's eyes were opened to the fact that what he believed to be true was not and what he believed to be a lie was in fact was not only true, it was "The Truth".
At this point, Saul found himself at a crossroad. He could either reject the truth and knowingly embrace the lie or he could reject the lie and embrace the truth. Saul formed the latter. He not only listened, he accepted The Truth and his life was transformed.
You know, after typing those words I found myself thinking about the missionary journeys and the writings of the Apostle Paul. His life was not only impacted on the road that day but the lives of millions of others would be impacted as well. That's what happens when we receive the Truth. There is a ripple-effect.
We may be sincere in our beliefs but does that mean they are necessarily true? When confronted by God who reveals the Truth, will we listen like Paul or will we stubbornly cling to the lie?
May we not only hear but receive God's Truth which is The Truth all of the days of our lives and walk in His ways rather than our own way.
Amen & Amen
Way too many blood thirsty crusades based on the thinking that the will of God was being done.