KEY SCRIPTURE: Acts 8:1 “And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles”.
We now come to the new testament to study another important character, Paul. His Jewish name before his conversion was Saul. This means ‘desired’. Who was Paul?
We would take our studies about him from various passages and books that talk about him. Paul speaking about himself in Philippians 3:5, says he was “circumcised the eight day of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews, as touching the law, a Pharisee. The law required that the Hebrew males be circumcise on the eight day (Leviticus 12:3) and his parent did exactly that for him. Paul was a Pharisee. The Pharisee were the strictest seats who adhered to the laws of Moses. As a Pharisee, he sat under the feet of Gamaliel, a renowned doctor of the Jewish law. (Acts 22:3) He ardently persecuted the church and claims he was blameless in obeying the law (Philippians 3:6)
Our key scripture says Paul was consenting to the stoning of Stephen. Around that period too there was a very great persecution of the church. In Acts 7:58 “Paul stood by as, Stephen was stoned. Stephen did not call for God’s judgement on his killers, rather he prayed that the Lord should not lay their sin unto their change. Could Stephen’s prayer be an intercession on Paul’s behalf that helped to save his life? I believe it had a part to play in Paul’s conversion.
May we understand that, intercession for the lost and seeking for God’s mercy on them, is very important for the salvation of many that are lost. God may want to intervene in the affairs of men, yet without a man’s role of intercession God is legally hindered from intervening. It is very easy to get bitter and rain curses on those who may be persecuting and hurting us. The Christian must always know that our life is not a natural one. We have eternal life. We have the very life of God. This is the experience of all born again children of God according to 2nd Timothy 1:10 “But is now made manifest by the appearing of our saviour Jesus Christ who had abolished death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel”. We have a super life. This is the reason Stephen did not curse his killers. This is also our reason to love all men inspite of what they do against us.
Our main duty towards the lost and those who oppose the spread of the gospel, is to intercede for them in love, and to reach out to them with the gospel. Without our intercessions, they will remain in their sin.
The persecution did not stop the spread of the gospel. As they were scattered, they kept spreading the gospel.
O Father stir up in the church the resolve to intercede diligently in love for the Lost, and also to share the good news with them.
1 Timothy 2:1” I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;”
Acts 9:1 ” And Saul, yet breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,”