[Paul continued the defense of his ministry before the hostile mob in Jerusalem, saying:] "And I persecuted the followers of the Way, hounding some to death, arresting both men and women and throwing them in prison. The high priest and the whole council of elders can testify that this is so. For I received letters from them to our Jewish brothers in Damascus, authorizing me to bring the followers of the Way from there to Jerusalem, in chains, to be punished."
— Acts 22:4-5 NLT
Paul never forgot God's grace that saved him from continuing to be a persecutor of Jesus and his people.* Paul's past gave legitimacy to his claim that Jesus was the Messiah promised by God to the people of Israel. Paul was a rabbi, well trained in the Holy Scriptures. He had opposed the message of Jesus until Jesus had revealed himself personally to Paul. The problem Paul now faced was the hostile crowd that had been falsely told he had desecrated the Temple by bringing a Gentile into the places only faithful Jewish adherents were allowed to go. This was a false accusation, yet it was the problem he faced. Unfortunately, the anger and false information combined so that Paul was faced with a profoundly unreceptive audience when he mentioned Gentiles later in this message (Acts 22:21-22). However, God used this all to accomplish his mission for Paul in Rome and beyond. When we love God and follow his call for us, Satan and hostile people cannot derail God's plans for us (Romans 8:28-29)!
Gracious Father, many of us regret things in our past that we wish were not part of our story. However, dear Father, we believe that you weave all these past blunders, rebellions, mistakes, sins, wounds, and abuses into our story of your grace. Each of us who prays this prayer today asks that you use us and the bad as well as the good in our stories to bring you glory and bring others to Jesus. We pray in his most holy name. Amen.