“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV Do You Follow Saul or Paul?
The Apostle Paul is a wonderful example of God’s grace. Paul, who was Saul, represents, in Saul, our elites today. He was a Pharisee of Pharisees! He was highly intelligent. He was a cut above many in his own nation. Saul was fanatical about his beliefs. Saul, like many of our political classes, professors, journalists, and their followers, could not think or reason beyond the zealous mindset of their ideological dogmas. These have a mindset which is cemented in myopia. They think anyone, outside their mindset, is a disease which needs to be eradicated.
Such was the misfortune of Stephen. Once he thought like Saul. He was accepted by the elites. Stephen could not accept anyone different from him and his fellow Israelites. However, Stephen had an encounter with others who had a distinct point of view. This new view challenged everything he believed. In fact, it enlightened all he understood about the Law and the Prophets. He came to believe in the reality of Christ as the Savior. This enraged Saul and his companions. They captured Stephen. The progressives considered him a ringleader of the Nazarenes. Upon his capture, they immediately put him on trial. The reason, because he dared to stray away from their politically correct world view. After, Stephen gave his defense and testimony, a tragedy happened. The politically correct and corrupt religious order became infuriated beyond belief. How dare this fellow to have a different belief than us. Let us kill him; they shouted. The verdict was unanimous. The group think, without any thought given to Stephen’s facts, descended on him. Along with Saul, they dragged Stephen outdoors and stoned him to death.
Saul’s hatred for these people was ignited. He began a bitter campaign to persecute and prosecute all those who did not tow his religious-political viewpoint. His anger and hate had no bounds. He began destroying, jailing and putting to death as many of the Nazarene believers he could. The ruling body labeled the Nazarenes as blasphemers or in today’s language, racists. Regardless of facts, the mob mind cannot be assuaged. The views of Saul and the group think were wrong. However, the Nazarenes whom they hated, were correct. To the thought control people like Saul, truth does not matter. What matters is their opinion of truth and version of the facts. In Saul, we see our world today. We live with a world full of brilliant people, but oh so narrow-minded and bigoted. In every nation, there is a Saul or group of Saul’s ready to descend on anyone who does not fit their world view. The history among the nations is littered with people like Saul. The victims of this system are numerous. People are persecuted, enslaved, tormented and murdered because they dare to desire truth and freedom. Our modern era has not learned the lesson of Saul. In Saul, we sadly must say, things do not look hopeful. The Saul-life is a bad example to follow.
However, all is not hopeless. The world of Saul was interrupted with a transformational moment. In this moment, Saul became Paul. In the moment of his transformation, the light of Christ bursts forth and delivered Paul from Saul. Saul became a new creation called Paul. In Paul, the light and love of God broke forth in ways of merciful splendor. Paul immediately began to proclaim the ways of forgiveness and abundant life of liberty to all. In Paul, the world has hope to defeat the Saul’s. In Paul, God’s truth in Christ brings liberty and freedom to all. Paul began to bring change to the Roman world order. The Roman world order didn’t react well to Paul and the followers of Christ. Paul was murdered for his newfound beliefs. What Saul did to Stephen; the Roman Saul’s now did to Paul. However, the wonderful grace of God towards Paul, was not in vain. The world through Paul’s writings has never been the same. Thousands upon thousands have escaped the brutality of Saul and found freedom in Christ. Thomas Jefferson, penned these words, in the Declaration of Independence, probably from his understanding of Paul’s letters, concerning the Creator.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
The Saul’s of this world do not hold to these truths. They, like Saul, categorize people to fit their mindset. The colorblind Paul, with the love of Christ, ends categorization of people. All people are of worth and value to a loving God. He doesn’t see people as a gain to individual power, but as an opportunity to love, serve, and edify. Where Saul was angered, Paul is understanding. Where Saul was hateful, Paul is loving. Where Saul was filled with malice, Paul is filled with good will to all. Where Saul had bitterness, Paul now has joy. Where Saul was continually agitated with others, Paul is at peace with all. On the one hand, we have the example of Saul. On the other hand, we have the example of Paul.
What was the difference between Saul and Paul? The difference was stark. Saul was religious, full of dogma, not truth. Saul professed he knew God, when he didn’t. Saul’s life was a life of works. However, Paul was not religious, but spiritual, full of grace and truth. Paul knows God and has a living relationship with Him through Christ. Paul’s life is a life of grace and witness, walking in the works of God. The choice of whose example to follow is before all. Will the choice be to follow the so-called religious Saul, or the Christ filled Paul? The decision is clear, do you want to live around the world of Saul or the world of Paul? Look at the world and yourself, then make your verdict.
“The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:9 NKJV
Guy Calandra, Author of, The Inside Word