[Paul detailed his own personal history before Festus and King Agrippa as he defended his innocence:] "I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities."
"One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.'"
— Acts 26:9-14 NLT
For me, this is one of the most poignant, open, and haunting confessions Paul made about his violent persecution of Christians before he met Jesus. He never completely "got over" this part of his story. Notice what he confessed about his past:
- Sent Christians to prison.
- Condemned them to death.
- Punished them in the synagogues.
- Tried to get them to curse Jesus.
- Chased them down in foreign cities.
Paul was being honest when he told Timothy he felt as if he was the worst of all sinners.* Despite his past, God's grace in Jesus is greater than his sins. God not only forgave Paul but also gave him a new mission in leading others to Jesus.** Since God's grace could do that for Paul, and with Paul, imagine what God's grace can do in you — no matter what your past may be!
Thank you, our dear Father, for your grace that exhausts the power of words for us to describe. Thank you for sending Jesus and blessing us through Jesus with the riches of your mercy and empowering us through the Holy Spirit to live a new life of mission and purpose. Reawaken us to our mission and purpose as we journey with Paul to Rome and see him share Jesus with others, through word and deed, every step of the way. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.