Acts 9:1-31

It is important to take a moment to contemplate this story in the flow of the entire Bible. The rest of the New Testament is dominated by this one man, Saul of Tarsus (who later went by his Greek name, Paul). Why did God choose this man when he had already trained 11 others for three years? Simply put, Paul was the best man for the job. Jesus’ original disciples were simple men from Galilee. They were very, very Jewish in their perspective on the world. Thus, they tended to be very Jewish in their interpretation of the gospel.

Paul, on the other hand, was a very unique individual. Here are the key points to the unique design of Paul:

  1. He was a Greek Jew. There were two kinds of Jews in the first century; those who were born and raised in Jerusalem, Jewish through and through, and those who were born in a foreign city, forced to be Jewish in a pagan environment. These foreign-born Jews were called Hellenistic Jews, because they were more open to the Hellenistic (Greek) culture in which they were forced to live. Because of Paul’s Hellenistic background (having been born in Tarsus), he was fluent in Greek language and culture.
  2. He was a zealous Pharisee. Despite his Greek upbringing, Paul had abandoned his Hellenistic ways and had moved to Jerusalem to become a student of the Law and a defender of the true faith of Israel. Paul had been trained by one of the greatest rabbis in Jerusalem to know the Law. Paul’s motivation in life was to fulfill the obligations that Israel had to God to obey the Law according to the instructions of Moses. His conviction was that, through obeying the Law, the nations would receive the blessing of the Kingdom of Heaven and the Messiah would come.
  3. He was a Roman citizen. Very few Jews could claim to be a Roman citizen. Somehow, Saul’s father, in Tarsus, had received citizenship and had passed it on to Saul. As a citizen Saul had rights to a fair trial in the Empire.

You see, if Peter, or any of the other original disciples, had tried to spread the gospel to non-Jewish people in the Empire, they would have been stopped dead in their tracks. Being fully Jewish, they would not have been able to connect to the pagan populations of the world. Not being Roman citizens, they would have been murdered before they had a chance to go to the next city. Jesus chose Paul because he had been uniquely designed to be the catalytic messenger of the gospel. Having been trained in the Law, Paul realized that Jesus truly was the Messiah and the embodiment of the Kingdom that the Pharisees were so eagerly awaiting. Once convinced that Jesus was the Messiah he was waiting for, Paul transferred his zeal from being a Pharisee to being an apostle to the Gentiles. Being fluent in the Greek way of life, and having the magic ticket-out-of-a-jam of being a Roman citizen, Paul was truly able to be “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22) in a way that the other disciples were just not able to do.

Here is a final note about Paul. It could have been easy for Paul to put two and two together and realize that he was the right man for the job. Knowing this, God inflicted Paul with a “thorn in his flesh” that kept Paul humble and on his knees before God (2 Corinthians 12:7). We aren’t sure what the thorn was, but we do know that it kept Paul humble. So, the message for you is that, regardless of what you have been given, whether it is a brilliant mind and great resources, or a simple loaf of bread, it doesn’t matter. The key is to remember that it was given to you by God and God expects you to use it for Him. You can’t take credit for having something, or feel inadequate for not having something. You will be judged, not on what you have, but on the attitude in which you view and the way in which you use what you have been given.

All for God’s Glory!

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