Every great superhero has a compelling origin story, and in this week’s passage, we learn about the origins of one of the heroes of our faith — the apostle Paul*. In Acts 9:1-19a we gain insight into the person of Paul as a recipient of God’s amazing grace.
Looking at his early life, we learn of a zealous, sincere Pharisee who saw his persecution of Jesus’ followers to be his way of honoring God in protecting the Law. He approved of Stephen’s stoning in Acts 8:1, was seen “ravaging the church”, chasing down and imprisoning Jesus followers in Acts 8:3, and was all set to continue his path of persecuting believers in Damascus. But then, he encountered Jesus, and his life was forever changed.
*Note: Paul was referred to as Saul from Acts 8-13:9, where he is said to be “also called Paul”, thereafter he is referred to as Paul.
[Bonus Task: Find out why Paul talks about his experience as a “commendation” or an “approval” in 2 Corinthians 6:4 – the context of the letter will help.]
WHAT WILL YOU DO
In Paul’s encounter with Jesus, his eyes were blinded and yet he could finally see clearly the truth that he is nobody and he has nothing apart from Christ. In fact, we are all nobodies, and God miraculously pours out His grace on us. Not one of us can hold up any credential or achievement that would make us worthy of His love, and yet He loves us. When we truly grasp that God is everything and we are nobodies, we are freed to love and serve Him without reservation. When we cling to some sense of personal achievement, we miss the point. As Paul realized that the “somebody” he thought he was was actually “nobody” compared with Christ, he became an unstoppable force in advancing the gospel. May we embrace the humility of Paul and allow God to use us for His glory, thanks to His grace.
“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order 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 comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-” – Philippians 3:8-9 ESV