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Discovering Paul – Chapter 2: Paul the Persecutor

2. Paul the Persecutor

Jesus rose from the dead. That changed everything. The resurrection fact released with power a resurrection faith.

The early preaching

The early Christians, inspired by the example of Peter and John, proclaimed the gospel everywhere. Although they had no fixed message, their preaching contained frequent repetitions of the same theme.

When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he possibly repeated one of the early creeds:

I passed on to you what I received, which is of the greatest importance: that Christ died for our sins, as written in the scriptures; that he was buried and that he was raised to life three days later, as written in the scriptures; that he appeared to Peter and then to all twelve apostles. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of his followers at once, most of whom are still alive, although some have died. Then he appeared to James, and afterward to all of the apostles. Last of all he appeared also to me. 1

This passage, the various sermons in the book of Acts and the shape of Mark’s Gospel, led the British scholar C.H. Dodd to conclude that there were six basic elements in the early apostolic preaching:

  • The age of the kingdom is at hand.
  • It has been fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection and ascension of Jesus.
  • Jesus is the Messiah reigning at God’ s right hand.
  • The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Jesus’ power.
  • The Messiah will come again to judge the world.
  • All men must repent, receive forgiveness and baptism, and are promised the gift of salvation. 2

As a teenager, I well remember the preaching holding up five fingers and indicating the New Testament expectation when the gospel has been proclaimed: faith, repentance, confession, baptism and reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit. In recent decades, following the theology of Rudolf Bultmann, a group of European scholars has claimed it is not a series of actions (gospel proclamations) that creates faith in the hearer; rather it is personal encounter with Jesus Christ as Lord which creates faith, which then is demonstrated in personal response.

But true preaching is never static or abstract, but always involves encounter with the living God. When the early Christians preached, faith resulted and the gospel spread. This was in fulfillment of the following command of Christ:

When the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be filled with power, and you will be witness for me in Jerusalem in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. 3

With the spread of this message, a new community came into being. They were known simply as the ‘people of the Way’. They were the fellowship of the new age, a community of believers who followed the life and teachings of Jesus, receiving from him the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. What they possessed primarily was not a new creed of doctrine or code of behaviour, but the experience of the indwelling of Jesus.

J.B. Philips once said:

The great difference between present-day Christianity and that of which we read in these letters is that to us it is primarily a performance, to them it was a real experience. We are apt to reduce the Christian religion to a code, or at best a rule of heart and life. To these men it is quite plainly the invasion of their lives by a new quality of life altogether. They did not hesitate to describe this as Christ ‘living in’ them. 4

That newborn church, with all of its freshness and vitality, brought into history a unique and unconquerable spirit. No wonder that others became threatened by their presence and fearful of their message. The Jewish religious leaders (wrongly) accused Stephen of speaking against the Temple and the law of Moses:

We heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will tear down the Temple and change all the customs that have come down to us. 5

The fear that everything would be changed — including their positions of power and status — caused position to the young church as much as any profound theological objections. The establishment dragged Christians before the city authorities, shouting: ‘These men have caused trouble everywhere!’.6 It was an accusation that was repeated many times.

Opposition to the Christians

The early church faced immense opposition from every sector of society. The growing unrest rapidly spread throughout the whole of Israel.

The Pharisees, who had proved so obstinate and confrontationist with Jesus, continued their opposition to the new church. They had very few theological objections — after all, the early Christian carried out many of the traditions of worship approved of by the Pharisees. They attended the Temple not only on every Sabbath but every day; they observed the Law. However, those young Christians also kept proclaiming the truth that Jesus was the Messiah. This was too much for the Pharisees. Having had Jesus executed, they now sought to stamp out this new and dangerous teaching. Some of the Pharisees were moved by the courage and witness of the early Christians, subsequently being baptized and joining the believers. Other Pharisees argued strongly that the Christian faith must obey all the commands of Judaism and remain within the fold. Some of these later were to strongly oppose the introduction of Gentiles into the church.

The Sadducees violently opposed the Christians who emphasized strongly that God had raised Jesus from the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection. Consequently, arguments that Jesus had been raised by God from the dead cut across the very basis of their teaching:

Some Sadducees arrived. They were annoyed because Peter and John were teaching the people that Jesus had risen from death, which proved that the death will rise to life. So they arrested them and put them in gaol until the next day since it was already late, but many who heard the message believed; and the number of men grew to about five thousand. 7

Those same Sadducees were to be in the forefront of the movement to have Peter and John also put to death.

The Essenes were a third group who played an important part in the life of ancient Israel. From the discoveries of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran, there are some suggestions that the Essenes were warmly disposed towards the young church. It is possible that John the Baptist had come from the Essene Community: his message of repentance and baptism was very similar to that of the Essenes; he preached at the mouth of the river Jordan (one day’s walk from Qumran) and a number of passages of scripture used in John’s preaching were favourite verses with the teachers and writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Today, permanently enshrined in the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem, is the perfectly preserved copy of the Book of Isaiah, possibly handled by John the Baptist. 8

The early Christian met with great success as they preached that Jesus was Lord. Both ordinary people and even a number of priests accepted the faith. Beginning with Old Testament prophecy (from Moses, Samuel, Abraham or Joel), they demonstrated these events were fulfilled in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Psalm 118:22 was a particularly favourite passage of scripture because it indicated that God’s living stone was rejected by the builders (the Jewish religious leaders). Jesus the enthroned Christ, the Son of David, the promised Messiah, the abused servant was the rejected corner stone.

Still the establishment did succeed in harassing the young church. Its members were persecuted and gaoled. Two of its leaders, Peter and John, were forbidden ever again ‘to speak to anyone in the name of Jesus’. However, the young Christians with courage and boldness answered:

You yourselves judge which is right in God’s sight — to obey you or to obey God. For we cannot stop speaking of what we ourselves have seen and heard. 9

They were again later arrested and put in the public gaol. Paul’s own teacher, Gamaliel, advocated a cautious response to this new-found teaching. The Sanhedrin agreed:

They called the apostles in, had them whipped, and ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus; and then they set them free. As the apostles left the Council, they were happy, because God had considered them worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of Jesus. And every day in the Temple and in people’s homes they continued to teach and preach the good news about Jesus the Messiah. 10

Obviously, something more had to be done to silence the boldness of the early preachers.

The martyrdom of Stephen

The situation came to a head with the effective preaching of Stephen. He was one of the first deacons, elected by the church to help care for the needy and the poor, distributing money among the widows and the impoverished. A man ‘full of faith and the Holy Spirit’, Stephen was opposed by a large number of orthodox Jews. Some who were from overseas synagogue debated and argued violently against him. Stephen faced a savage retribution on some trumped-up charges from people who had been bribed. ‘We heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will tear down the Temple and change all the customs that have come down to us from Moses!’. 11

It is easy to understand how they misconstrued the teaching of Jesus about the Temple, but it was the threat of changing the customs more than anything else that caused the religious leaders to move with violence against him.

(a) Stephen’s speech

Luke records the speech in which Stephen rehearsed the details of the history of Israel. This was probably a carefully constructed sermon used over and over again by many of the early Christian preachers.

His carefully reasoned, powerfully argued case of Jesus as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecies brought strong reaction from the members of the council. Not only was Stephen blaspheming against the Temple (a charge that was made against Jesus 12); he was claiming that Jesus had ascended into heaven and was standing in the place of honour and authority beside God.

That was the worst of blasphemies and for that there was a penalty ascribed in the Law:

Take that man out of the camp. Everyone who heard him curse shall put his hands on the man’s head to testify that he is guilty, and then the whole community shall stone him to death. 13

(b) Stephen’s stoning

When the Romans conquered Israel, they removed the right of execution of people from the hands of the Jewish Council and put it in the hands of the Roman governor. However, they did allow the Jews one exception to this rule. If anyone should desecrate the sanctity of the Temple in Jerusalem, then the Jews had the authority to execute the man under their own law by their own hands. It was under this provision that Stephen was immediately executed.

Most Sunday School drawings of the stoning of Stephen have completely missed the point. It wasn’t a case of a man being surrounded by people who threw stones at him. Death by stoning was much more certain than that. The victim was forced to stand naked on the city well while the charge against him was read out. He was then thrown down from the wall — perhaps twenty or thirty feet — to the rocks below. His accusers then one at a time would carry boulders to the edge of the wall and drop them down upon his prostrate body.

In one of those touches which authenticate the story, Luke records the witnesses ‘left their cloaks in the care of a young man named Saul…and Saul approved of his murder.’ 14 So Saul of Tarsus is introduced into the history of the Christian church.

The death of Stephen finally succeeded in scattering the believers. Widespread persecution broke out and many of the faithful fled to safer towns, even those in countries outside of Israel:

That very day the church in Jerusalem began to suffer cruel persecution. All of the believers, except the apostles, were scattered throughout the provinces of Judea and Samaria…but Saul tried to destroy the church; going from house to house, he dragged out the believers, both men and women, and threw them into gaol. 15

Later, when Paul was himself on trial for his faith, he described his motives at the time as follows:

I myself thought that I should do everything I could against the cause of Jesus of Nazareth. That is what I did in Jerusalem. I received authority from the chief priests and put many of God’s people in prison; and when they were sentenced to death, I also voted against them. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues and tried to make them deny their faith. I was so furious with them that I even went to foreign cities to persecute them. 16

(c) Stephen’s significance

Stephen’s death, however, played an important part in the conversion of Saul. The great psychiatrist, Carl Jung, said it was at this point that Saul was actually converted; his later Damascus road experience was his final surrender to God. Stephen’s death started a chain of thoughts in the mind of Saul of Tarsus which must have created a whirlwind of conflicting concepts. Saul’s decision to go to Damascus was in response to the rapid spread of the faith.

In his history, Luke carefully records the next stage of the church’s outward growth when, like ripples on the surface of a still pond, the influence of the early Christians radiated out into the known world.

Jesus had commanded his disciples to take the message into all the world. The disciples spread the message throughout Jerusalem and Judea. Philip took the message to Samaria. He was supported by Peter and John who helped the word spread in that region. Philip then took the word to the Gaza Strip and the conversion of an Ethiopian then took the message down into the North of Africa. At the same time other Christian were fleeing north into Syria and to Damascus.

Josephus records that there was a large group of Jews in Damascus at this time (AD 35). He mentions that some 18,000 Jewish soldiers from Damascus had died during the Jewish wars. It seems natural that the early Christians would flee for safety to such a large city where many would have relatives and friends who would shelter them. But Saul was a persistent persecutor. Hearing of their presence in Damascus he gained letters of authority in order that he might persecute those who were adulterating the faith, describing it later as his being ‘so zealous that I persecuted the church.’17 The journey with his retinue of soldiers, Temple police and attendants probably took about six days up the hard and hot road into Syria.

Paul, the new man

In all of literature there is probably no more clear account of a person’s changed attitude than that of the account repeated several times in the book of Acts on the conversion of Saul. The facts are simple: as he was traveling and approaching Damascus, ‘suddenly a light from the sky flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul! Why do you persecute me?” “Who are you, Lord?” he asked. “I am Jesus whom you persecute,” the voice said. “But get up and go into the city, where you will be told what you must do.” 18

Saul saw the light in more ways than one. Later he would write to the Christians in Corinth that ‘it is not ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. The God who said, “Out of darkness the light shall shine!” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ.’ 19

With the light came a voice asking why he was hurting himself by kicking against the inevitable pressure of God. Saul realized that Jesus Christ was risen from the death, that he was God’s Son and that it was as if Saul was running his hand against the grain of the universe. Everything he had previously said and done had been wrong. The inward illumination was to change Saul’s life completely, so much as that from now on he would no longer be known as Saul, but Paul. The change of name indicated to Saul that he now had a task to take the message to his own people and then beyond them to the Gentiles. Later Paul was to write ‘God in his grace chose me even before I was born, and called me to serve him.’ 20

What a change was observed outwardly in Paul’s life! He came riding in pride and zealousness to persecute the Christians, but now he needed to be helped from the ground and guided, for his eyes had been blinded by the light, and quietly and humbly was led into Damascus where for three days he was unable to see, eat or drink.

Paul’s life had been absolutely shattered, but out of that shattering a new man was to emerge. Jesus Christ held him in his grip and his brokenness was simply in order to allow for a new vitality.

Into his life came an older Christian who in the most beautiful way accepted him and helped him to realize what God was doing for him. Ananias heard from the Lord that he should go to the house of Judas in Straight Street where Saul would be praying, lay hands on him, and restore to Saul his sight. Naturally he protested for he knew the reputation of Saul and believed it was a trick in order to capture other Christians. But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘I have chosen him to serve me, to make my name known to the Gentiles and kings and to the people of Israel. And I myself will show him all that he must suffer for my sake.’ 21

In one of the most moving scenes in the New Testament Ananias reached out to the persecutor and says, ‘Brother Saul…the Lord has sent me — Jesus himself, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here. He sent me so that you might see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit’,22 giving to Saul the reassurance, comfort and companionship he needed if he was to come within the ranks of those whom he had so bitterly distressed.

Saul’s sight returned. He was baptized. He was strengthened by God and immediately went straight to the synagogues and began to preach that Jesus was the Son of God. All who heard him were amazed and asked, ‘Isn’t he the one who in Jerusalem was killing those who worshipped that man Jesus? And didn’t he come here for the very purpose of arresting those people and taking them back to the chief priests?’ But Saul’s preaching became even more powerful, and his proofs that Jesus was the Messiah were so convincing that the Jews who lived in Damascus could not answer him. The powerful prosecutor had now become an even more powerful advocate for the faith. The old Saul had died and a new Paul was born. His mind, conscience, emotions, will, personality and purpose were all changed. He was literally ‘born anew’. So great was the change that later he was called by the new name, Paul.

From his own experience he knew that ‘when anyone is joined to Christ, he is a new being; the old is gone and the new has come. All this is done by God, who through Christ changed us from enemies into his friends and gave us the task of making others his friends also. Our message is that God was making all mankind his friends through Christ.’23 His conversion is the clue to understanding his theology, the power of his ministry, and the force within his life.

This raises some relevant questions:

(a) Did Paul know Jesus?

Paul raises the matter himself when he asks the cryptic questions ‘Am I not a free man? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord?’, 24 and, at the end of his list of witnesses of the resurrected Christ: ‘Last of all he appeared also to me’. 25 Were these two references to his meeting with Jesus referring to the experience on the Damascus road only?

Paul seems to have considerable evidence about the life and teaching for Jesus. He develops the teaching of Jesus. He develops the teaching and spirit of Jesus as no other apostle did. Was this solely as a result of the enquiries that he made after his conversion of the apostle Peter? Paul says, ‘It was three years [after I returned to Damascus] that I went to Jerusalem to obtain information from Peter and stayed with him for two weeks. I did not see any other apostle except James, the Lord’s brother’. 26

It was fashionable once to indicate there was a vast difference between the simple Jesus of Galilee in the Gospels and the complex Savior of the world presented by Paul. However, surely no scholar would today make those same claims: from the epistles of Paul one can gain considerable information about the life of Jesus.

A.M. Hunter lists all the significant factors about the earthly life of Jesus and the insights into the character of Jesus gained through the writings of Paul. The list is long and significant. He also lists the teachings of Jesus alluded to in the writings of Paul and this constitutes a major listing of Christian doctrines. These details of his life, character and teachings indicate a detailed knowledge of the Savior by Paul. 27

Paul also gives us further insights into the teachings of Jesus which are not found in any of the Gospels. Further, there are insights taken from the teaching of Jesus that Paul referred to and mentioned in his epistles before the Gospels were ever written, including the way Jesus uses the word ‘Abba’, Father. In writing to the Corinthians about the question of remarriage he indicates that his guidelines on marriage come not from himself, but from Jesus. In this section Paul goes further than what is revealed in the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

In the same way he speaks about the second advent of the Lord to the Thessalonians and presents to us material not found elsewhere in the scriptures. Paul knew Jesus after his conversion in the same way the disciples did when they met with him and talked about his death.

(b) How did Paul learn the teachings of Jesus?

Paul may have learnt much in his brief encounters with Peter and James or, alternatively, by further direct revelation of Christ himself. Only in these ways could he have written of the teachings of Jesus as expressed in the Gospel before they were written.

A careful examination of the parables of Jesus and the teachings of Paul on the question of salvation, the kingdom of God and our redemption show remarkable insights. The dates of his own training in Palestine coincided with the silent years of Jesus prior to his baptism. During the public ministry of Jesus, Paul was back in Tarsus. It seems to me that it was a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus which gave the apostle the insights he needed as he developed the teaching of Jesus through his addresses and letters.

(c) What is the ministry of the Holy Spirit?

From the presence of the Holy Spirit in the first chapter of Acts every new movement within the early church was seen as a direct result of the influence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised that the Spirit would come as a counsellor and companion and would come upon those who believed in him. From the day of Pentecost we see the ministry of the Spirit of God among the leaders of the church. First Peter, then John, then Stephen, then Philip, and now the Spirit is moving through the life of Paul. In a very real sense The Acts of the Apostles could be called The Acts of the Holy Spirit.

A pattern of conversion

Paul’s great turnaround became the pattern of conversion of many Christians over the centuries who have seen in his turnaround the characteristics that they experienced. It was the sensualist Augustine who was turned around to become a saint and the greatest mind for the next thousand years, whose life was completely changed through reading some of the writings of Paul. Martin Luther, the strong-minded German monk who was anxious about his own salvation, discovered the freedom and grace of God through Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. John Wesley wrote in his diary on 24 May, 1738: ‘about a quarter before nine, while the reader of Luther’s preface to the Epistle of Romans was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for my salvation; and an assurance was given to me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.’

So the roll call has continued into the twentieth century with remarkable conversions, all of which have revealed some of the same characteristics as that of the apostle Paul. Chuck Colson, known as ‘the hatchet man’ for President Nixon, who was imprisoned for his involvement in the American Watergate scandal, found himself transformed from one of the most powerful men in the American White House to a prisoner in a dark cell. It was there he said he recalled Paul’s words to the Romans: ‘Do not be conformed to his world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, that which is good and acceptable and perfect’. (Romans 12:2). ‘The more I mused on it’, said Colson, ‘the more I realize what a key verse of scripture it is — maybe the key verse for growing up as a Christian. Grasping this concept was a turning point for me, as it is, I suspect, for many Christians. God, I now understand, was working a powerful transformation in my thought habits and forcing me to think about what it really means to live as a disciple of Christ’. 28

At the other end of the social strata, far from the White House with its trappings of power and wealth, an impoverished black, John Perkins, attended an adult Sunday School in Pasadena and studied the life of the apostle Paul. ‘How could religion mean so much to anybody like Paul? The question hounded me all summer. The answer came as I grappled with Paul’s message of law and grace. Paul wrote: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ live in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). At the age of twenty-seven for the first time in my life I came to see that the Christian life was more than what I was seeing in the churches. It was the outliving of the inliving Christ. I knew Christ wasn’t living inside me. I felt a deep hunger to know him in this personal way.’ 29 So began the turnaround in an uneducated, poor negro’s life which was in turn to lead him through education, status, position on presidential commissions and leadership among twentieth century blacks.

The quest for the conversion experience continues in the lives of many people. But it is not an experience that can be achieved or manufactured. The conversion experience is the outworking of the inner revealing of the resurrected Jesus. It was the belief in Christ as Lord and Savior that more than anything explains the phenomenal influence on the world that was Paul. The English poet, John Betjeman, said:

St Paul it often criticized.
By modern people who’re annoyed.
At his conversion, saying Freud explains it all.
But they omit,
The really vital point of it.
Which isn’t how it was achieved.
But what it was that Paul believed.
30

God had touched him, turned him round, transformed his life, and now had thrust him into his service. Ananias had been used by God in the healing of Paul’s blindness, in his baptism and in his encouragement to Paul as he commenced preaching immediately to the believers and to the Jews in the synagogues.

So powerful was Paul’s presentation and personal change in life that some of his former companions decide that he must be silenced. A plot was hatched to kill him. ‘But he was told of their plan. Day and night they watched the city gates in order to kill him. But one night Saul’s followers took him and let him down through and opening in the wall, lowering him in a basket.’ 31

A desert experience

Paul tells us that he went into the Nabataean kingdom in the area of Arabia where he spent time in prayer and study. He was in the area of Mount Horeb where both Moses and Elijah had communed with God in previous generations. He spent time reflecting on his conversion, on the reality of the resurrected Jesus and on his understanding of what Jesus was accomplishing through his life, death and resurrection. Paul claimed that his gospel came to him ‘by revelation’ and it was probably during this desert experience that he grew in his understanding of his faith and allegiance to Christ. It was here that he probably also witnessed to the caravans of people that travelled through the desert area.

The desert experience was an essential part of the spiritual growth of Moses, Elijah, Amos, John the Baptist and even Jesus. For Paul it was a time of sorting out his turned-around attitudes, of reflection on his persecution of the followers of Jesus, of dialogue with his Lord, and re-shaping of his life by Jesus.

Paul’s subsequent years were not easy. He went to Jerusalem to try to join the disciples but they would not accept him or believe that he was a disciple out of their fear of him. Paul came to Jerusalem and made contact with the apostles, speaking with Peter and James over a two-week period. Paul was proud of the fact that by time he had already learnt much of the Christian faith and that it had not been necessary for him to ‘confer with flesh and blood’. However, he was undoubtedly at this time confirmed by Peter in his understanding and directions. How we want to know the background! ‘It was three years later that I went to Jerusalem to obtain information from Peter.’ 32 What was this information he obtained? Luke indicates that it was through Barnabas that Paul was brought together with Peter and James while the other disciples were not yet willing to accept him. Such as intermediary role would have been quite typical of Barnabas knew exactly the sort of man he was after when he went and searched for Paul to help him in the fulfillment of the missionary command of God.

Bold speaking

Paul’s boldness in proclaiming Jesus and his capacity to dispute and argue through the necessity of the cross and the resurrection resulted in a number of Greek-speaking Jews wanting to kill him. Already early in his career Paul was discovering what the penalty of bold proclamation was for the earnest disciple. After his brief reappearance in Jerusalem he was for the second time in his life as a Christian, smuggled out of the city, being taken this time to Caesarea and from there on to Tarsus. 33

The immediate impact of Saul’s conversion, according to Luke, is that ‘the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria had a time of peace. Through the help of the Holy Spirit it was strengthened and grew in numbers, as it lived in reverence for the Lord.’ 34 The church by now had grown not only through Jerusalem, Judea, Galilee and Samaria, but was also developing in Syria and, with the return of Paul to Tarsus, in Cilicia.

Paul spent the next years of his life in Tarsus and in the area surrounding his home town still preaching the faith he had once tried to destroy. He travelled throughout places in Syria and Cilicia proclaiming the truth and many came to faith because of his witness.

Paul had a commitment to the law of Moses in his early life that led him even to persecute the church. Now he had a commitment to Jesus that was to lead him to take the gospel throughout the entire empire.

His obligation to proclaim the gospel started with his complete turnaround in his conversion on the road to Damascus. It was only to end in Rome at the point of his execution.

Endnotes:

1. Corinthians 15:3-8
2. C.H. Dodd, The Apostolic Preaching and Its Development, Hodder and Stoughton, 936, pp.21-24
3. Acts 1:8
4. J.B. Philips, Introduction to Letters to Young Churches, Geoffrey Bles, 1955
5. Acts 6:14
6. Acts 17:6
7. Acts 4:1-3
8. E.M. Blaiklock, The Archaeology of the New Testament, Thomas Nelson, 1984, p140
9. Acts 4:19-20
10. Acts 5:40-42
11. Acts 6:14
12. Mark 14:57-58
13. Leviticus 24:14
14. Acts 7:58b and 8:1
15. Acts 8:1-3
16. Acts 26:9-11
17. Philippians 3:6
18. Acts 9:3-6
19. 2 Corinthians 4:5-6
20. Galatians 1:15
21. Acts 9:15-16
22. Acts 9:17
23. 2 Corinthians 5:17-19
24. 1 Corinthians 9:1
25. 1 Corinthians 15:8
26. Galatians 1:18-19
27. A.M. Hunter, The Gospel According to St Paul, SCM, 1966, pp.59-60
28. Charles W. Colson, Life Sentence, Hodder and Stoughton, 1979, pp.148-149
29. John Perkins, With Justice for All, Regal Books, 1982, pp.18-19
30. Sir John Betjeman, ‘The Conversation of St Paul’ in Collected Poems, Murray, 1971, p87
31. Acts 9:24-25
32. Galatians 1:18
33. Acts 9:29-31
34. Acts 9:31

For personal reading

Theme: Persecutor transformed

Monday : Filled with the Spirit (Acts 2:1-21)
Tuesday : Repent and be baptised (Acts 2:29-42)
Wednesday : Compelled to witness (Acts 4:13-22)
Thursday : A forgiving spirit (Acts 7-51-60)
Friday : Touched by Christ (Acts 26:9-18)
Saturday : Anointed for service (Acts 9:10-19)
Sunday : Strengthened by the Lord (Acts 9:19-31)

For group reading

Topic: Resurrection power and new life

1. Discuss the difference between Christianity as a ‘religious code’ and the Christian faith as a ‘personal experience’ of the risen Lord

2. What do you understand by the term ‘Messiah’? How did Jesus fulfill the role of the Messiah?

3. Can you tell the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus in your own words?

4. In what way did Paul ‘know’ Jesus and his teachings?

5. Have you also had a conversion experience? What was it that caused you to turn around from sin to salvation?

6. What were some of the proofs of Paul’s conversion and growth in faith?

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