After apostle Paul (Saul) who was a chosen vessel of Christ out of a miracle in Damascus became a saint, he didn’t waste much time in going about fulfilling his ministry in preaching the good news of Jesus and his resurrection which was the center of religious conflict at that time. As he was directly involved in discharging all the affairs of persecution against the church in Jerusalem himself, he never would have thought it so quickly backfired on him because of the miracle that happened.
It was somewhat ironical that someone who persecuted others would turn around to become the persecuted so much so that he too ended up as a martyr. But on the contrary, it was amazing that apostle Paul never regretted his calling as it was clear in what he said later in his epistle to the Philippians in 3: 6-14 saying, “Concerning zeal, persecuting the church: touching the righteousness which is of the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not for myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
In the miracle, a bright light shone on Paul and it blinded him for three days. Why did God choose him? It’s pretty obvious. It was the only option to open his eyes and to change him because he was directly in charge of all the persecutions. So this miracle came as a great test for the apostle to have to kick against the pricks he once not have to. But because of his faith, he became a ‘miracle’ himself bearing witness for Christ. If the religious law of committing “apostasy” of today, was enforced at that time, he immediately would have faced the death penalty whether he is a son of a Pharisee in a religious council. But nonetheless, he would not have regretted it either way. In fact, he found even greater strength in Christ when he told the brethren in his epistle to the Philippians in chapter 4: 13, saying, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
Prior to his unexpected conversion, apostle Paul himself even had consented and witnessed the first persecution and death of a disciple by the name of Stephen being stoned to death for preaching Jesus and his resurrection. “And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” –Acts 22: 20. Stephen was one of the multitude of disciples who had followed the apostle Peter after Jesus’ death and resurrection. He was chosen as the first of the seven disciples because they were full of faith and of the Holy Ghost among the multitude. The reason that Peter suggested to choose seven only out of the multitude of disciples was because there were complaints that many disciples were neglecting their wives to follow him in preaching the gospel of Jesus. The other six chosen were by the name of Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas. These dedicated “soldiers” of Christ, of course, had now joined the list of the Christian martyrs.
A Righteous Act
However, there was one incident that happened that is prior to the conversion of apostle Paul and it is worthy of mentioning. It’s about one particular person who was a Pharisee by the name of Gamaliel. This man was a doctor of the law by profession and commanded great reputation among the people in the council. Naturally, as a Pharisee who is either a high priest or a religious scholar, he had authority to speak at any time when a council convened. But as a Pharisee, he was pretty much different from other Pharisees who were mostly self-righteous and arrogant. Instead, this was a man of integrity and wisdom because he was upright and fair when presenting his point of views in the incident when apostle Peter and other apostles got arrested and brought to the council. He was the only one who managed to subdue a situation where anger and hatred was the order of the day all because of the resurrected Jesus that the unbelieving Jews couldn’t come to terms with at that time.
In that incident, the apostles who were arrested and brought before the council to mete out punishment on them for repeating the same offense of preaching Jesus and his resurrection. To the orthodox Jews, it was speaking blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. Gamaliel was present at the council. The Jews were very angry that Peter and the other apostles “escaped” from prison earlier and were found preaching the gospel of Jesus again in the temple early in the morning the following day. But those angry Jews had no idea it was the angel of the Lord who opened the doors of the prison at night and set them free and therefore allowing them to “escape” and to continue preaching the good news of Jesus.
So Gamaliel stood up in the council and spoke with all fairness, “And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, even as many obeyed him, were scattered, and were brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all , even as many obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God”.
A Rational Judgment
This man, Gamaliel was actually trying to drive some sense into his own people not to arbitrarily or senselessly take the law in their hands for wanting to kill Peter and other apostles just because of what they had done and continued doing even though they did not show fears of getting killed. Gamaliel must have been pretty smart for being able to have like, “smelled” and “detected” why Peter and other apostles were showing so much of passion, importance and the urgency in preaching the good news of Jesus. He somehow must have “sensed” that Peter and the apostles could have done the work of God. So that’s why he managed to stop the angry Jews from condemning the apostles and even subtly warning them not to play with fire by telling them to refrain from killing Peter and the other apostles. Finally, the angry mob agreed with him and after only beating up Peter and the other apostles, and having warned them not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore, they let them go.
The Faith Of A Christian Today
Not surprisingly, persecuting the followers of Jesus Christ still is on until today as is clear in the latest case of Asia Bibi, a devout mother and a Christian who is now languishing in a Pakistani jail awaiting the so-called religious court order to put to death for committing “blasphemy” against another religion. All she ever did was she believed that Christ is still alive. But she is now facing the death penalty for attesting to it verbally even while in jail. This episode of the modern-day persecution is clearly revealing one important message as it was in the heydays of the apostles and disciples of Jesus. That is…
Yes, Christ is alive in her, as much as he was, in the apostles as well. Asia Bibi is a true Christian indeed, and who is ever ready to die for the sake of her Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ who also during his mission on earth had suffered the same fate of “blasphemy.” Now the darkest hours of her life as a follower of Jesus Christ is about to unfold when the sentence will soon be passed under the sharia court in Pakistan. If she’d be hanged under the hands of those religious bigots who claimed themselves as “men of God”, and if they ever intended to bring Asia Bibi’s blood upon themselves, then it’s only clear that they are only making themselves as nothing but a bunch of hypocrites and not only in the sight of all humans, but also God! What if they have also spoken against others and their religions? Should they not be handed down the same punishment as Asia Bibi?
A Divine Call For Wisdom.
All the incredible changes seen in apostle Paul within a short span of time during his ministry in preaching the good news of Jesus is indeed remarkable if one would take into account of the character he once was.
Just imagine – if he being a ruthless person can do an about-turn to become so attached to the spiritual calling of Jesus to do God’s will on earth, how difficult could it be, and how impossible would it be for those “self-righteous” religious teachers of today to consider emulating him and walk the same footsteps of such a great man since Jesus who is famous for saying, “Let those without sin cast the first stone.” This scripture can relay such powerful influence that it easily catch people’s attention as it is found to have been often quoted even in the media. This is because it is as relevant today as it was during the heydays of Jesus who once walked the earth as a human.
Although apostle Paul made it very clear to the Christians in Galatians chapter 2 that it was their duties to make others who were “uncircumcised”, understand that because all of us are sinners, therefore no one should become “circumcised” so as to become justified by the works of the law of which even “religious teachers” today have grossly misunderstood. What Paul was trying to say is simple and straightforward. The salvation that was made possible to us through the Lord Jesus Christ because of our sins, is not because of what good things we have done or doing according to the law or how righteous we conduct ourselves in the sight of God, but only because of the faith of Christ that caused him to have his blood shed on the cross for our sins..
That’s why Paul said in verse 16, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid. For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
His faith in Christ was what got Paul thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, thrice suffered shipwreck and many other perils and finally executed by decapitation for not stopping to preach that “Christ Is Alive.” It’s the same thing happening now in the case of Asia Bibi who perhaps would suffer the same fate as Paul and other disciples of Jesus. Now to vindicate Asia Bibi from the charge of committing the so-called “blasphemy” which is a “crime” they accused her of having committed under the Islāmic laws, there is certainly a need for the world to call for the wisdom of Gamaliel made known urgently. Everyone needs to stand up as “Gamaliel” and stand up quick to stop the angry mob from thirsting for Asia Bibi’s blood. Please go towww.callformercy and sign the petition.
Jesus is now saying to the persecutors of Asia Bibi.
“Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” — Luke 6: 36 & 37 —