A Different Kind of Zealot
Upon Saul’s rebirth through the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus Christ, the passage goes on to tell us: “And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’” Immediately. Saul did not wait one minute. He had experienced the most powerful life-changing event anyone will ever have. And while some who come face to face with the knowledge that everything they had ever thought was wrong will possibly harm themselves, Saul embraced his newfound faith with an even greater fervor than the fervor with which he had persecuted the Church before. And of all places, this Pharisee turned Christian would enter the synagogues and argue from the Scriptures “proving that Jesus was the Christ.”
And so I make two points here: First, that no one need wait to share their faith and tell someone about Christ. Granted, Saul had a knowledge of the Scriptures far beyond that of any newborn believer, then or now, given his education before his conversion. Still, he waited not and neither must anyone else. One may share Christ immediately upon their regeneration. Second, we read that as Saul shared the gospel, studying the Scriptures (at that time, the Old Testament) and reading them anew in the light of Christ, he “increased all the more in strength.” Faith is like a muscle; it must be exercised to become stronger. The more we minister to others with the gospel of Jesus Christ, the stronger our faith becomes.
After escaping a plot to kill him in Caesarea (proving again that one may flee persecution), Paul tells us in his Letter to the Churches in Galatia 1:15-24 that he spent time in Arabia and returned to Damascus before making his trip to Jerusalem. (Luke skips this bit of information in his retelling of the account.) And when he finally did visit the church in Jerusalem three years later, the believers there were afraid of him, as is understandable. Just a few years before, this man was dragging them off to judgment; now he was trying to join them. What if he were really a spy? But Barnabas, the Son of Encouragement, stood by him and recounted his experience on the road to Damascus and his boldness preaching the gospel. And so the believers rejoiced that the one who once persecuted them was now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy (Galatians 1:23).
The best antidote to persecution is the salvation of the persecutors. May we never forget that the greatest apostle and missionary was once the most hateful enemies of the Church. And so Jesus said, “Love your enemies.”