References and excerpts from an article on
Paul - from terrorizing Christians to Christian brother, Christian evangelist, and Christian healer
by Robert Nguyen Cramer (version 126.96.36.199)
|Top of Page|
1. Paul - from terrorizing Christians to Christian brother and Christian evangelist
TEV - Paul: 9 “I myself thought that I should do everything I could against the cause of Jesus of Nazareth. That is what I did in Jerusalem. I received authority from the chief priests and put many of God’s people in prison; and when they were sentenced to death, I also voted against them. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues and tried to make them deny their faith. I was so furious with them that I even went to foreign cities to persecute them.
NRSV - Paul: 9 “Indeed, I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And that is what I did in Jerusalem; with authority received from the chief priests, I not only locked up many of the saints in prison, but I also cast my vote against them when they were being condemned to death. 11 By punishing them often in all the synagogues I tried to force them to blaspheme; and since I was so furiously enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities.
Act 7:57-60; Act 8:1-4
TEV - 57 With a loud cry the members of the Council covered their ears with their hands. Then they all rushed at him at once, 58 threw him out of the city, and stoned him. The witnesses left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul. 59 They kept on stoning Stephen as he called out to the Lord, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 He knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord! Do not remember this sin against them!” He said this and died.1 And Saul approved of his murder.
That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria. 2 Some devout men buried Stephen, mourning for him with loud cries. 3 But Saul tried to destroy the church; going from house to house, he dragged out the believers, both men and women, and threw them into jail. 4 The believers who were scattered went everywhere, preaching the message.
NRSV - 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.8 1 And Saul approved of their killing him.
That day a severe persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made loud lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church by entering house after house; dragging off both men and women, he committed them to prison.
TEV - 1 In the meantime Saul kept up his violent threats of murder against the followers of the Lord. He went to the High Priest 2 and asked for letters of introduction to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he should find there any followers of the Way of the Lord, he would be able to arrest them, both men and women, and bring them back to Jerusalem.
3 As Saul was coming near the city of Damascus, suddenly a light from the sky flashed round him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus, whom you persecute,” the voice said. 6 “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were travelling with Saul had stopped, not saying a word; they heard the voice but could not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground and opened his eyes, but could not see a thing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was not able to see, and during that time he did not eat or drink anything.
10 There was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. He had a vision, in which the Lord said to him, “Ananias!” “Here I am, Lord,” he answered. 11 The Lord said to him, “Get ready and go to Straight Street, and at the house of Judas ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying, 12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come in and place his hands on him so that he might see again.” 13 Ananias answered, “Lord, many people have told me about this man and about all the terrible things he has done to your people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come to Damascus with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who worship you.” 15 The Lord said to him, “Go, because I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. 16 And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake.” 17 So Ananias went, entered the house where Saul was, and placed his hands on him. “Brother Saul,” he said, “the Lord has sent me—Jesus himself, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like fish scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was able to see again. He stood up and was baptized; 19 and after he had eaten, his strength came back.
Saul stayed for a few days with the believers in Damascus. 20 He went straight to the synagogues and began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. 21 All who heard him were amazed and asked, “Isn’t he the one who in Jerusalem was killing those who worship that man Jesus? And didn’t he come here for the very purpose of arresting those people and taking them back to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul’s preaching became even more powerful, and his proofs that Jesus was the Messiah were so convincing that the Jews who lived in Damascus could not answer him.
NRSV - 1 Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
3 Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” 5 He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The reply came, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named An`nias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16 I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20 and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” 21 All who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?” 22 Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Messiah.
TEV - 17 “After I had returned to Jerusalem and while I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And while the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing by, approving and keeping the coats of those who killed him.’ 21 Then he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ ”
NRSV - 17 “I went back to Jerusalem, and while I was praying in the Temple, I had a vision, 18 in which I saw the Lord, as he said to me, ‘Hurry and leave Jerusalem quickly, because the people here will not accept your witness about me.’ 19 ‘Lord,’ I answered, ‘they know very well that I went to the synagogues and arrested and beat those who believe in you. 20 And when your witness Stephen was put to death, I myself was there, approving of his murder and taking care of the cloaks of his murderers.’ 21 ‘Go,’ the Lord said to me, ‘for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’
TEV - 9 For I am the least of all the apostles—I do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted God’s church. 10 But by God’s grace I am what I am, and the grace that he gave me was not without effect. On the contrary, I have worked harder than any of the other apostles, although it was not really my own doing, but God’s grace working with me.
NRSV - 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.
TEV - 6 I was so zealous that I persecuted the church.
NRSV - 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church;
TEV - 12 I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength for my work. I thank him for considering me worthy and appointing me to serve him, 13 even though in the past I spoke evil of him and persecuted and insulted him. But God was merciful to me because I did not yet have faith and so did not know what I was doing. 14 And our Lord poured out his abundant grace on me and gave me the faith and love which are ours in union with Christ Jesus. 15 This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16 but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life.
NRSV - 12 I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14 and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience, making me an example to those who would come to believe in him for eternal life.
2. Paul - as Christian healer (together with various health-care and "miracle" related passages)
Rom 8:26-30 (written 55-56 A.D.)
TEV - 26 In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express. 27 And God, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with God on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will. 28 We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him, those whom he has called according to his purpose. 29 Those whom God had already chosen he also set apart to become like his Son, so that the Son would be the eldest brother in a large family. 30 And so those whom God set apart, he called; and those he called, he put right with himself, and he shared his glory with them.
NRSV - 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spiritintercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
1Co 2:3-5 (written 52-56 A.D.)
TEV - 3 So when I came to you, I was weak and trembled all over with fear, 4 and my teaching and message were not delivered with skilful words of human wisdom, but with convincing proof of the power of Gods Spirit. 5 Your faith, then, does not rest on human wisdom but on Gods power.
NRSV - 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
1Co 4:4-11 (written 52-56 A.D.)
TEV - 4 There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit gives them. 5 There are different ways of serving, but the same Lord is served. 6 There are different abilities to perform service, but the same God gives ability to all for their particular service. 7 The Spirits presence is shown in some way in each person for the good of all. 8 The Spirit gives one person a message full of wisdom, while to another person the same Spirit gives a message full of knowledge. 9 One and the same Spirit gives faith to one person, while to another person he gives the power to heal. 10 The Spirit gives one person the power to work miracles; to another, the gift of speaking Gods message; and to yet another, the ability to tell the difference between gifts that come from the Spirit and those that do not. To one person he gives the ability to speak in strange tongues, and to another he gives the ability to explain what is said. 11 But it is one and the same Spirit who does all this; as he wishes, he gives a different gift to each person.
NRSV - 4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of services, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who activates all of them in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are activated by one and the same Spirit, who allots to each one individually just as the Spirit chooses.
1Co 12:27-31; 13:7, 8, 13 (written 52-56 A.D.)
TEV - 27 All of you are Christs body, and each one is a part of it. 28 In the church God has put all in place: in the first place apostles, in the second place prophets, and in the third place teachers; then those who perform miracles, followed by those who are given the power to heal or to help others or to direct them or to speak in strange tongues. 29 They are not all apostles or prophets or teachers. Not everyone has the power to work miracles 30 or to heal diseases or to speak in strange tongues or to explain what is said. 31 Set your hearts, then, on the more important gifts. Best of all, however, is the following way... 7 Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail. 8 Love is eternal... 13 ..these three remain: faith, hope, and love; and the greatest of these is love.
NRSV - 27 Now you
are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed
in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds
of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership,
various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?
Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in
tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But strive for the greater gifts. And I will
show you a still more excellent way... 7 [Love] bears all things, believes
all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never ends. But as
for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease;
as for knowledge, it will come to an end... 13 ..now faith, hope, and love
abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
2Co 12:7-10 (written 52-56 A.D.)
TEV - 7 ...to keep me from being puffed up with pride because of the many wonderful things I saw, I was given a painful physical ailment, which acts as Satans messenger to beat me and keep me from being proud. 8 Three times I prayed to the Lord about this and asked him to take it away. 9 But his answer was: My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak. I am most happy, then, to be proud of my weaknesses, in order to feel the protection of Christs power over me. 10 I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties for Christs sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
NRSV - 7 ...to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. 8 Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, 9 but he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness. So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.
1Co 13:3,4 (written 52-56 A.D.)
TEV - 3 You will have all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. When he deals with you, he is not weak; instead, he shows his power among you. 4 For even though it was in weakness that he was put to death on the cross, it is by Gods power that he lives. In union with him we also are weak; but in our relations with you we shall share Gods power in his life.
NRSV - 3 ...you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me. He is not weak in dealing with you, but is powerful in you. 4 For he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we are weak in him, but in dealing with you we will live with him by the power of God.
Gal 3:5 (written 52-54 A.D.)
TEV - 5 Does God give you the Spirit and work miracles among you because you do what the Law requires or because you hear the gospel and believe it?
NRSV - 5 Well then,
does God supply you with the Spirit and work miracles among you by your doing
the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
Gal 4:13,14 (written 52-54 A.D.)
TEV - 13 You remember why I preached the gospel to you the first time; it was because I was ill. 14 But even though my physical condition was a great trial to you, you did not despise or reject me. Instead, you received me as you would an angel from heaven; you received me as you would Christ Jesus.
NRSV - 13 You know
that it was because of a physical infirmity that I first announced the gospel
to you; 14 though my condition put you to the test, you did not scorn or despise
me, but welcomed me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.
Phi 2:25-30 (written 52-54 A.D.)
TEV - 25 I have thought it necessary to send you our brother Epaphroditus, who has worked and fought by my side and who has served as your messenger in helping me. 26 He is anxious to see you all and is very upset because you had heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God had pity on him, and not only on him but on me, too, and spared me an even greater sorrow. 28 I am all the more eager, then, to send him to you, so that you will be glad again when you see him, and my own sorrow will disappear. 29 Receive him, then, with joy, as a brother in the Lord. Show respect to all such people as he, 30 because he risked his life and nearly died for the sake of the work of Christ, in order to give me the help that you yourselves could not give.
NRSV - 25 Still, I think it necessary to send to you Epaphroditusmy brother and co-worker and fellow soldier, your messenger and minister to my need; 26 for he has been longing for all of you, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 He was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me.
TEV - 8 In Lystra there was a man who had been lame from birth and had never been able to walk. 9 He sat there and listened to Paul’s words. Paul saw that he believed and could be healed, so he looked straight at him 10 and said in a loud voice, “Stand up straight on your feet!” The man jumped up and started walking around.
NRSV - 8 In Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet and had never walked, for he had been crippled from birth. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. And Paul, looking at him intently and seeing that he had faith to be healed, 10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And the man sprang up and began to walk.
TEV -12 The whole group was silent as they heard Barnabas and Paul report all the miracles and wonders that God had performed through them among the Gentiles.
NRSV - 12 The whole assembly kept silence, and listened to Barnabas and Paul as they told of all the signs and wonders that God had done through them among the Gentiles.
TEV -11 God was performing unusual miracles through Paul.
NRSV - 11 God did extraordinary miracles through Paul.
TEV - 7 On Saturday evening we gathered together for the fellowship meal. Paul spoke to the people and kept on speaking until midnight, since he was going to leave the next day. 8 Many lamps were burning in the upstairs room where we were meeting. 9 A young man named Eutychus was sitting in the window, and as Paul kept on talking, Eutychus got sleepier and sleepier, until he finally went sound asleep and fell from the third storey to the ground. When they picked him up, he was dead. 10 But Paul went down and threw himself on him and hugged him. “Don’t worry,” he said, “he is still alive!” 11Then he went back upstairs, broke bread, and ate. After talking with them for a long time, even until sunrise, Paul left. 12 They took the young man home alive and were greatly comforted.
NRSV - 7 On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. 8 There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. 9 A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. 10 But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” 11 Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. 12 Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.
TEV - 8 Publius’ father was in bed, sick with fever and dysentery. Paul went into his room, prayed, placed his hands on him, and healed him. 9 When this happened, all the other sick people on the island came and were healed.
NRSV - 8 The father of Publius lay sick in bed with fever and dysentery. Paul visited him and cured him by praying and putting his hands on him. 9 After this happened, the rest of the people on the island who had diseases also came and were cured.
See also a topical index on "Christian healing," including a description of the practice and role of Christian healing during the first several centuries A.D.
References in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures [book review] - by Mary Baker Eddy
|Top of Page|
Paul was not at first a disciple of Jesus but a persecutor of Jesus' followers. When the truth first appeared to him in Science, Paul was made blind, and his blindness was felt; but spiritual light soon enabled him to follow the example and teachings of Jesus, healing the sick and preaching Christianity throughout Asia Minor, Greece, and even in imperial Rome.
Saul of Tarsus beheld the way--the Christ, or Truth --only when his uncertain sense of right yielded to a spiritual sense, which is always right. Then the man was changed. Thought assumed a nobler outlook, and his life became more spiritual. He learned the wrong that he had done in persecuting Christians, whose religion he had not understood, and in humility he took the new name of Paul. He beheld for the first time the true idea of Love, and learned a lesson in divine Science.
Reform comes by understanding that there is no abiding pleasure in evil, and also by gaining an affection for good according to Science, which reveals the immortal fact that neither pleasure nor pain, appetite nor passion, can exist in or of matter, while divine Mind can and does destroy the false beliefs of pleasure, pain, or fear and all the sinful appetites of the human mind.
What a pitiful sight is malice, finding pleasure in revenge! Evil is sometimes a man's highest conception of right, until his grasp on good grows stronger. Then he loses pleasure in wickedness, and it becomes his torment. The way to escape the misery of sin is to cease sinning. There is no other way. Sin is the image of the beast to be effaced by the sweat of agony. It is a moral madness which rushes forth to clamor with midnight and tempest.
To the physical senses, the strict demands of Christian Science seem peremptory; but mortals are hastening to learn that Life is God, good, and that evil has in reality neither place nor power in the human or the divine economy.
Fear of punishment never made man truly honest. Moral courage is requisite to meet the wrong and to proclaim the right. But how shall we reform the man who has more animal than moral courage, and who has not the true idea of good? Through human consciousness, convince the mortal of his mistake in seeking material means for gaining happiness. Reason is the most active human faculty. Let that inform the sentiments and awaken the man's dormant sense of moral obligation, and by degrees he will learn the nothingness of the pleasures of human sense and the grandeur and bliss of a spiritual sense, which silences the material or corporeal. Then he not only will be saved, but is saved.
Abuse of the motives and religion of St. Paul hid from view the apostle's character, which made him equal to his great mission. Persecution of all who have spoken something new and better of God has not only obscured the light of the ages, but has been fatal to the persecutors. Why? Because it has hid from them the true idea which has been presented. To misunderstand Paul, was to be ignorant of the divine idea he taught. Ignorance of the divine idea betrays at once a greater ignorance of the divine Principle of the idea--ignorance of Truth and Love. The understanding of Truth and Love, the Principle which works out the ends of eternal good and destroys both faith in evil and the practice of evil, leads to the discernment of the divine idea.
|Top of Page|
PAUL: FROM VIOLENT OPPONENT TO CONVERT TO PIONEER
Let's describe a scenario that has many similarities to what happens too often in our inner cities. Picture yourself being present when a gang is beating up on someone in the neighborhood. They don't like what this guy had said. Finally it is clear that they are going to kill him. But at this point the man looks up and says, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge." Paul was in exactly this situation. In fact the Book of Acts indicates that he gave his consent to Stephen's murder. But as we also know, Paul was blessed by Stephen's prayer of forgiveness -- and we have been blessed as the result of Paul's subsequent ministry. [Acts,7:57-9:20]
Now if that scene had happened in Camden [New Jersey, USA] today, Paul would have been subject to city and state law and could have been brought to trial for his participation in the murder of Stephen and for his campaign of genocide against Christians. If it had happened in another state, Paul himself might even have faced death row. But that's not what happened. Within a short time, this most unlikely of converts became one of the most outspoken ministers of the gospel of Christ. He was in fact later jailed quite a few times, but not for "jihad" or "holy war" crimes, but because of his religious beliefs. (And he didn't even have Amnesty International to protest his being a prisoner of conscience.)
Throughout his ministry he continued to be a very loyal member of the mother church in Jerusalem (as scholars now commonly call the Jerusalem church), and he continued to be very supportive to the branch churches springing up throughout the Mediterranean.
If we only had the vision to see in those now labeled "criminals" what Ananias saw in Paul. You most likely recall dear Ananias, who got the call from the Lord to pay a visit to this much-feared Christian persecutor. Though at first very apprehensive, Ananias finally and obediently went to Paul and said, "Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost." [Act 9:17]
Mary Baker Eddy once wrote: "[Jesus] threw upon mortals the truer reflection of God and lifted their lives higher than their poor thought models would allow, -- thoughts which presented man as fallen, sick, sinning, and dying. The Christlike understanding of scientific being and divine healing includes a perfect Principle and idea, -- perfect God and perfect man, -- as the basis of thought and demonstration." [S&H,259:8]
This was even illustrated in Jesus' choice of disciples. What a motley group they were! He not only had a disciple, Matthew, or Levi, who was formerly one of the publicans, who were heavily involved in extortion and in collecting taxes for the much despised Roman Empire, but Jesus also had a disciple, Simon Zelotes, or Simon the Zealot, who had been a part of the Jewish resistance movement, one of underground terrorist groups which carried out guerrilla warfare to attempt the ending of Roman occupation of Jewish lands. And now both of these guys, formerly mutual enemies, were marching to the same drummer. Jesus certainly did have vision, didn't he! And so do we. Isn't that why we are here today?
Eddy's Church Manual teaches to pray daily for God's Word to "enrich the affections of all mankind, and govern them." [Man,41:19] And we know that such fervent prayers, attested by our lives, provide practical proof of the truth of Jesus' teachings. As Jesus told us, the fields are all ready white to harvest. All we need to do is to act on our God-given vision.
PAUL'S VISION AND MINISTRY TO THE SAVAGE
To Paul this was not simply a choice but a requirement. He wrote (as translated in Today's English Version) [Rom 1:14 (TEV)]: "I have an obligation to all peoples, to the civilized and to the savage, to the educated and to the ignorant."
In a letter to the Colossians we read [Col 3:9-11], "Ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncirumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all."
It's particularly relevant to know a little something about the Scythians, to whom the letter to the Colossians referred. According to all the writings of that period, the Scythians were a group of people considered to be THE epitome of extreme savagery and barbarism. They had a reputation for being the wildest, most uncivilized people living. Yet we read, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncirumcision, Barbarian, SCYTHIAN, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all."
PAUL'S MINISTRY TO PHILEMON'S ONESIMUS
Paul wrote another letter to the Colossians, but this time it was a personal letter to a fellow named Philemon [Philemon]. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus, who apparently fled after robbing Philemon. Onesimus met up with Paul when Paul was in prison, and Onesimus became a Christian. Paul eventually sent Onesimus back to Philemon with a letter encouraging Philemon to forgive Onesimus and treat him as a brother. (Paul, too, was heavily involved in prison ministry -- though usually from the inside looking out.)
Just as Ananias was able to say, "Brother Saul," and just as Philemon was encouraged to consider Onesimus as his brother, so can we look with deep spiritual vision and welcome as brothers and sisters even those who seem to have wronged ourselves, our family, our neighbors, our city, or our country. Regardless of how serious their offenses have been. Who knows, any one of them could even become another Paul. This is where a little vision helps.
Copyright 1989 Robert Nguyen Cramer
Copyright 1996-2005 Robert Nguyen Cramer