February 08, 2022 South

Paul: A Life of Redemption and Transformation

Paul: A Life of Redemption and Transformation

How much junk mail do you receive? What do you do with it?

What happens when you receive a letter from a beloved friend that you haven’t seen in a while? It’s interesting in our digital age how a hand written letter or card in the mail box grabs our attention. When you know the sender, even more when you know the authors heart mail increases in value.

To know the value of the letter from Paul to the Church family in Corinth maybe it would be helpful to know Paul a little more. One great way to do that is the the Faithlife Study Bible. I like because it’s free, it’s very smart without being over our heads, and it connects the dot’s in Scripture. Here is a sample of the simple yet helpful insight from the Faithlife Study Bible.

Paul: A Life of Redemption and Transformation

Paul’s life demonstrates God’s amazing ability to redeem and transform. Paul once lived as an enemy of the Christian faith. He sought to destroy everything that Christ achieved through His death and resurrection. Yet God did not simply stop Paul; in His grace He utterly transformed Paul. He even took Paul’s strengths as a Pharisee—his knowledge of the Hebrew Bible, his education in the Greek and Roman system, and his overwhelming zeal—and used it to help spread the gospel.

In the New Testament we learn that Paul, who was first known as “Saul,” was born in Tarsus, a Hellenistic city in the Roman province of Cilicia in modern Turkey (Acts 22:3). According to the book of Acts, Paul was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28). In his letters Paul traces his Jewish ancestry back to the tribe of Benjamin (Rom 11:1; Phil 3:5).

Like other young Jewish boys, Paul would have learned a trade. In Paul’s case, the skills he learned as a tentmaker would later support him during his missionary journey (e.g., Acts 18:3). While he was still young, Paul went to Jerusalem and studied under the well-known Rabbi Gamaliel (Acts 5:34; 22:3). Following such tutelage, Paul eventually became a Pharisee himself (Acts 26:5; Phil 3:5)

Paul first appears in the book of Acts at the stoning of Stephen. This account paints Paul in a terrible, even shocking light. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, was a man full of the Spirit who remained faithful even in the face of death (Acts 7:55). As Stephen was stoned, Paul silently stood witness, approving of the killing (Acts 8:1; 22:20). Following this horrific act, Paul committed himself to destroying the Church (Acts 22:4–5; Gal 1:13). He even received authority from the high priest to pursue Christians outside of Jerusalem to bring them back as prisoners (Acts 9:1–2; 26:9–10). Paul passionately and zealously pursued those whom he believed to be blasphemers of God. His quest to eradicate the Church created widespread fear among early Christian believers (Acts 9:13).

During this period of his life, while on the road to Damascus, he had a supernatural and life-changing encounter with the risen Christ (Acts 9:1–9). The man known and feared throughout the Christian world by the Hebrew name Saul was renamed and reborn. He turned his zealous, unstoppable passion to persecute the Church into an obsessive obedience to the risen Christ (Phil 3:7–11). In his new Christian life, he never forgot where he came from, how he persecuted the Church, or his God-given calling (1 Cor 15:9).

As an apostle called by God, Paul devoted himself to spreading the good news of Jesus Christ, the very message he once vehemently opposed. The work God accomplished through Paul was nothing short of miraculous. In his many years of ministry, he preached the gospel in many cities, established many new churches, and gathered a collection of financial support among the Gentiles for the poor in Jerusalem.

"Paul’s life bears testimony to God’s amazing power and to His ability to take our past rebellion and transform it and use it for His glory, His Church, and the world. Through God’s work in Paul’s life, we glimpse the miraculous beauty and possibilities of God.

Jason J. Bowman"