I'm finally back! Sorry I had to take a few days off from posting. The last time we met we looked at two reasons, or possibilities, as to why Saul persecuted the Church the way he did. I suggested that Saul simply was preserving a way of life (Judaism), and I also proposed that Saul had anger issues and was taking things out on God by way of persecuting the new Christian movement. Today, I will propose a third possibility.
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what to do.'" (Acts 9:5-6) We looked more into this verse the last time we were together. But, if you will notice Saul does not argue with Jesus at all. This is pretty much the "end of the discussion." Saul, gets up from the ground and "he could see nothing." (Acts 9:8b) Now, the one who had been terrorizing the believers is led by the hand by others. Why was Saul blinded? Could this have simply been a great irony to the whole story? Could Saul's blindness have been symbolic of his spiritual blindness? That's a possibility because before the chapter concludes "something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again." (Acts 9:18) Let's continue to explore this idea, and at the same time answer the question: what was the third possibility as to what drove Saul to such a rage?
If you recall, when Stephen was being stoned Saul was present. It has always been assumed that the stoning of Stephen was what changed Saul. Many argue that Saul was touched by Stephen's testimony and witness to his faith even upon death. I am not arguing against that, but...I believe there is more to it. We know that if this is the case, Saul's transformation did not happen immediately after Stephen's death. "Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples." (Acts 9:1) It appears that his rage only intensified after the death of Stephen. So, did Stephen's death have an impact on Saul? If so, why did it take so long, and why did Saul get worse before he got better?
Saul had lived his life according to the Law. I would suggest that upon seeing Stephen die in the manner in which he died, Saul's real struggle intensified. What was his real struggle? It was the one within him. I believe that Saul struggled with the Law's inability to provide such things as grace and forgiveness. If you recall Stephen was full of both grace and forgiveness. Saul may very well have struggled with what he was realizing more and more in regards to the Law. I believe that as we read further and study Paul's letters we will discover this to be the case.
We have already discussed the statement found in the King James Version where Jesus said "It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks." (Acts 9:5) Jesus was simply saying, "You are only hurting yourself, like you would if you kept kicking an iron anvil. Saul's resistance to the Lord was in vain. Yes, I believe that Saul was resisting what he knew to be true.
Saul is led away, no longer resisting, but submissive. "He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength." (Acts 9:18b-19) Yes, Saul/Paul was baptized. I am still amazed at those who argue that baptism is irreverent. In fact, there is not even a recorded statement of repentance by Paul. Yes, he was praying when Ananias found him, but we are not told what the prayer was. Later, Paul will discuss baptism often. We will read his remarks soon.
We will revisit Peter (remember him) in tomorrow's lesson. You may be surprised to see that Peter has not changed much. Jon me again tomorrow.