When we come to Paul in the word of God, we are well into the narrative of God’s work with man in time, for it is not until the seventh chapter of the book of Acts that we encounter this individual that, at the time, was known as Saul (Acts 7:58). From the record of scripture, we come to understand that this young man was an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, and although a native of Tarsus in Cilicia, he nevertheless was brought up after the perfect manner of the law of the fathers in Jerusalem (Rom. 11:1; Acts 22:3). In accordance with the Mosaic religion, this son of devout Jews had been circumcised the eighth day, and possessed a fleshly pedigree that claimed purity of lineage back to Abraham, for he was an Hebrew of the Hebrews (Phl. 3:5; Jn. 8:41). According to the most straitest sect of the Pharisees, Saul had been schooled at the feet of Gamaliel and possessed a zeal toward God unrivaled among those of his nation.
When we first encounter Saul of Tarsus, therefore, in the pages of God’s word, it is in the setting of his opposition to the testimony of Christ. The kingdom witness had already been put into motion during the earthly ministry of the Lord, and it had been continued on by the little flock who had thereafter born witness to the resurrection of Jesus by the coming of the Holy Ghost. While nothing until the seventh chapter of Acts is directly stated concerning Saul, his religious upbringing and noted zeal positioned him such that it was he who personalized Israel’s rebellion and blasphemy against their rejected King.
Acts 7:58 – …and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.
Acts 8:1 – And Saul was consenting unto his death…
Acts 8:3 – As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
Acts 9:1-2 – And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
In the vehement opposition that Saul showed to those that were of this way, his attacks were directed against the Lord Jesus Christ. When Saul is finally confronted by the Lord, it is the not his threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord that is called to mind, but rather his personal attacks and persecutions against Jesus Himself.
Acts 9:4-5 – And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Acts 22:7–8 – And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And I answered, Who art thou, Lord? And he said unto me, I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.
Acts 26:14-15 – 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.
Saul quickly had become the leader of Israel’s rebellion against the Lord, and as a Jew of Romans citizenship he aptly embodied the attitude and actions of the whole world against the LORD and against his anointed. Saul persecuted the church of God and wasted it, and as the Lord had promised His little flock, in this man, they were indeed coming to experience the same hatred that had been demonstrated toward their Master by those that thought they did God service. Saul was most zealous in this pursuit, though ignorant in his unbelief. He was a man of havock and destruction, and a chief blasphemer against those things being witnessed to by the Holy Ghost through Israel’s apostles. This man Saul led the world, as it were, to breaking point which deserved never forgiveness and the outpouring of divine justice in the Lord’s day as the Son of man stood from His heavenly seat at the Father’s right hand to make his foes his footstool.
However, unknown to prophecy, amazing grace had yet a secret unrevealed—the mystery response of God toward the wrath worthiness of the world! In this vessel of mercy, Saul of Tarsus, Jesus Christ chose to shew forth all longsuffering. It is in this injurious persecutor and blasphemer that the Lord first made a pattern of His longsuffering apart from prophecy, and revealed a mystery kept secret from before the foundation of the world that spelled grace that was exceeding abundant toward a world of blasphemers. This rebel in Israel was given and put into a particular ministry from the Lord and made chief of those sinners that Jesus Christ would now call out from among His enemies to form a heavenly body. To Paul, the good news of grace as found in the cross of Christ would be sent forth to a wrath worthy world that had overstepped every opportunity given for repentance according to prophecy. To a world whose time had come for the just execution of God’s wrath against it, the word of life would now be held out and held forth. With it, a host of spiritual riches would be bestowed according to God’s goodness and mercy as He makes known His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus, and the hidden wisdom of God, whereby He would reconcile all things unto himself in Christ according to the mystery of His will!
It is for this reason that Paul can speak of my gospel that would fulfill the word of God. It is for this reason that the preaching of this apostle would be according to the revelation of the mystery that was committed to his trust. That message abides today in the longsuffering of God, and the invitation into this grace wherein we stand is yet being held out for those willing to trust Him by faith. The good news of the cross and how that Christ died for our sins, was buried and rose again the third day is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth! Have you trusted the gospel for your salvation? Have you rested your confidence on Christ crucified for your justification with God? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…(Acts 16:31).