“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” —Acts 9:15-16
There are those in this world who do evil to the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Many times it is those who are of a “religious” group who will do the persecuting. This has been true down through the ages. Wicked, evil and barbaric practices toward those who love Jesus have taken place. These malicious people invent ways of practicing evil on God’s people.
After the stoning execution of Stephen, “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” There was a great persecution that started in Jerusalem. Saul was not content with persecuting just the local believers. As he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
Here is his own testimony about himself at this time— “I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. I was so obsessed with persecuting them that I even hunted them down in foreign cities” (Acts 26:9-11). We are not told how Saul did it, but he used some type of “persuasion” to “force them to blaspheme” so they could be put to death.
When Jesus confronted Saul on the Road to Damascus (Saul was traveling the one week to this city just to arrest believers and then travel another week back to Jerusalem to have them put in prison.) He said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 26:14). When Saul was persecuting the church, He was really persecuting Jesus!
Beware you who would persecute those who follow the Lord Jesus Christ because the actions you are taking against His followers you are actually doing against the Lord Jesus Christ Himself and “It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31). Romans 12:19 says, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.
So Saul was seeking to destroy the church, but the Lord Jesus changed the man (Acts chapter 9:1-31). He who caused many faithful followers of Jesus to suffer would now, as a follower of Jesus, suffer much. The Lord took a man who was a great persecutor of the church and changed him into being a great preacher in the church. There were those who were skeptical that Saul’s conversion was true (Acts 9:2, 26). On the other hand, as Saul was preaching about Jesus the Jews now wanted to kill him! (Acts 9:22). He who was once the persecutor was now being the persecuted. The Lord God Almighty can change any life. Nothing is impossible with Him.
Dear Father, be please to touch the lives of those who have heard the gospel in this area and around the world. Thank You for Your Word being shared with those who so desperately need You. May they respond and trust the Lord Jesus Christ.