Paul is a fascinating biblical figure. He went from Saul, the persecutor of Christians, to Paul, one of the most prolific and well-known apostles. Many of the epistles in the New Testament are attributed to Paul, meaning that he is still teaching Christians today, long after his death.
But while Paul was a great teacher, I think we can learn a lot from his life, not just his teachings. By looking at his testimony in Acts 26, we can learn several things, not just about our walk with Christ but about who Christ is.
- We can’t work our way to heaven.
“My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews; Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee” (Acts 26:4-5, KJV).
In every appearance, Saul (later renamed Paul) was a religious man, following Jewish rituals and beliefs, knowledgeable in the law, and highly revered. But he lacked an important element in his life: Christ.
We can go to church, follow all the rules to the best of our ability, and know the Bible like the back of our hand, but that’s not enough to save us. In fact, Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9, KJV). All the rules aren’t enough if we haven’t accepted God’s gift: His Son.
“At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me. And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, ‘Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’ And I said, ‘Who art thou, Lord?’ And he said, ‘I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.'” (Acts 26:13-15, KJV).
He was drawn by Christ (John 14:6). No matter how much he followed Jewish laws and customs, it wasn’t enough. Because, as stated earlier, salvation isn’t won through works or following a set of rules. Salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone. When Saul realized it was Jesus speaking, that Jesus was the Son of God and acknowledged Him (see Acts 9:6), then was he saved (Romans 10:9).
- Christ can save the worst of sinners.
“Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities” (Acts 26:10-11, KJV).
Paul committed many horrors against Christians. Paul was present when Stephen was stoned (Acts 7:58 and Acts 8:1). He hauled men and women to jail for their faith (Acts 8:3). He threatened Christ’s disciples (Acts 9:1). In fact, when he was saved, he was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians. But even though he’d done all these things, he wasn’t too far gone for God.
Satan will try to tell us otherwise. He’ll try to say we’re too far gone, that we’ve done too much, that God could never forgive. But we are never too far gone for Christ’s love as long as we’re on this earth. Christ can save the most wretched of sinners.
- God can use anyone.
“Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance” (Acts 26:19-20, KJV).
God can use anyone in mighty ways. We are all called to spread the Gospel, and He’s given us not only the ability to do so but the tools. The main tool we have is the Bible. And that Bible tells us to “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15b, KJV).
Paul is a good example of this. He allowed himself to be used by God in mighty ways, and he took the need to spread the Gospel seriously. A lot of us today are afraid of offending someone. Yet Paul was thrown in prison but still preached the Gospel. And that’s something to think about.
- We must keep pushing forward and remember Who we’re working for.
“For these causes the Jews caught me in the temple, and went about to kill me. Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come” (Acts 26:21-22, KJV).
While Christians may not be persecuted by death in America, we will still suffer for our faith, but no suffering is greater than what Christ experienced on the cross. Notice here that the Jews, who were once Paul’s people, who once revered him and respected him, were now turning on him because of his newfound faith. The world applauds us when we think like them, but when we seek truth ourselves and find the Truth in Jesus, they turn on us.
No matter how many times Paul was imprisoned, he still kept spreading the Word of God. It’s important to keep working despite the trials that come our way. Satan would love nothing more than to discourage us from working for God, but it’s important that we keep pushing forward and spreading the Gospel.
It would have been easy for Paul to turn his back on God when he faced hardships, but he stayed true to his faith and the mission God had given him. And Paul gave God credit for the work. Paul recognized that he was an ordinary man but he worked for an extraordinary God.
God will always be there for us, guiding us and working in ways we can’t imagine and often can’t understand.
- Truth is on our side.
“And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness” (Acts 26:24-25, KJV).
Paul didn’t back down from his faith even though he faced ridicule. Someone will always be there to comment that you’re a “fanatic” and you take Christianity too seriously. Someone will always question why you’re so involved in church. Someone will always question your convictions. But just like Paul, we can stay strong. Because we know the truth (John 8:32).
- We will face disappointment.
“Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian” (Acts 26:28, KJV).
Even though King Agrippa wasn’t persuaded, Paul continued preaching the Gospel. We can preach and teach and talk about Jesus to everyone we come across, but that doesn’t mean everyone will come to know Christ as their Savior. It would be easy to wonder if evangelism is worth it, but it is. Jesus didn’t give us a fruitless mission.
King Agrippa wasn’t the first or the last to “almost” be persuaded. But Jesus died for them anyway. When He hung on the cross, He knew the names of all the people from the beginning of time to the end who would never accept Him. But He died anyway. He knew the names of the people who mocked Him, but He died anyway. He knew the names of the soldiers who put the nails in His hands, but He died for them anyway. If He died for them, who are we to decide who gets to hear the Gospel and who doesn’t? Like Paul, we should keep preaching. We never know who we’re going to reach.
The biggest takeaway: God is a God of love and mercy.
Paul is an example of God’s love and mercy. How God can take someone and change their life. Paul didn’t think he needed Jesus, but God still welcomed him and completely changed him. It didn’t matter what Paul had done in his past. It didn’t matter that Paul was seen as a learned and religious man by his peers. What mattered was that someone who didn’t deserve God was loved by Him anyway. And that’s something we can all relate to.
This is an updated version of a post originally published on justjenniferpurcell.com.
Featured Image by Kelly Sikkema