Leading a Rebellion: Saul/Paul
Acts 8:1-4; 9:1-9
-A rebel is a person who resists any authority, control, or tradition.
The Story So Far:
-In Acts 7, we have recorded for us Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish version of the Supreme Court. He was put on trial for being a Christian—literally for blasphemy for saying that Jesus was in fact God.
*Side Note* If you were put on trial for being a Christian, would they have enough evidence to convict you? Bible studies? Evangelism? Prayer? Church attendance?
Throughout Stephen’s entire defense, he is simply recounting the history of Israel in order to prove two points: He was a good Jewish man who knew his history; and Jesus was the fulfillment of all of the messianic prophecies. At the end of his defense you can sense that Stephen is getting more and more fired up as his audience became more and more angry and riled up. It was beginning to look like an European futbol match in that courtroom.
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Verse 58 says all of the members of the Sanhedrin threw their coats at a young man named Saul. Saul was a prized student of the greatest teacher in Israel—a guy named Gamaliel. He was basically an intern, a rising star in the Jewish world. The greatest student studying under the greatest teacher, but for now he was simply a coat rack for the elder members of the Sanhedrin.
Acts 8:1-4 begins to tell of the destruction that Saul would wreak on the new Christian sect. “And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.”
I should be able to go up to each member of Ferris Hill Baptist Church, or any church for that matter, and ask, “What ministry are you involved with?” And everybody should have answer. Just here at FHBC we have the Clothes Closet, Food Give-away, Cold Weather Shelter, Nursery, Worship team, Media, and a bunch of different outreach efforts. Everyone should be involved in some ministry. If you are not involved in a ministry it’s like sitting in a boat and asking everyone else to row. That being said, Saul’s ministry was to ravage the Christian church, seek out all Christians—men and women, drag them into the courts, where they would either face imprisonment or death. That was his major contribution to Judaism. He was zealous for it.
“But 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 belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. 8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.”
Saul was a Jew’s Jew. A prodigy. Everyone knew Saul. He was going to be the next big thing, but when he had his conversion experience on the way to Damascus, and became a follower of Christ he lost everything. His family disowned him. He lost all of his friends. He spent his entire life in school studying to be the next big thing in the Jewish circle. When he came to know Christ that all went down the drain and he had to find a new way to earn a living. His entire life was changed so much that Saul even changed his identity and came to be known as Paul.
*Side Note* What has it cost you to be a Christian? Rabbi Tokajer, who came an spoke to us a while back was cut out of his parents’ will, which was worth millions, and they had a tombstone carved and put up complete with his date of death, the day he became a follower of Christ. What has it cost you?
Paul lost everything, but as he wrote in Philippians 3, he considered everything he lost garbage compared to knowing Christ. Phil. 3:7-11
“7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.”
-What have you lost by becoming a Christian?
-What are you afraid to lose, which is the reason you are not giving up everything to Christ?
-Even if you have trusted Jesus to get you into Heaven, have you given up control and let Him be lord of your life?
-Paul said in Acts 20:24 that he considers his life worth nothing, if only to finish the race Jesus set out for him. Paul gave up all of his hopes, dreams, and plans. I know, because I’m right there with you all, we say things like, “I’ll serve God as long as….” Then just fill in the blank. “As long as I don’t have to quit smoking pot.” “As long as I don’t have to quit having sex.” “As long as I don’t have to break up with Pretty Patty or Handsome Hank.” “As long as it doesn’t interrupt my plans to be a professional bull rider.” Everybody, and I mean everybody, has an “As long as….” We have to get over it.