Who was Saul? He was a man who hated Jesus. He hated everything about Him, including His followers. He wanted every disciple to be put in jail and killed. Why? Because Jesus interfered with his world view.
Who Jesus was and what He proclaimed was an assault on how Saul desired to live his life. Saul had spent his life believing that being a good person was the key to life, and Jesus flipped this on its head and stated that there is no one good, only God is good; hence why faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. The Gospel shook the foundation of his life and things were starting to crumble. Saul’s response was to fight back.
In America, it is hard for us to imagine a modern day Saul in our lives. As I write this, there is still the accepted concept of freedom of religion, however, this seems to be shifting; therefore I believe we will see more and more Sauls in the days to come. Perhaps they will be disguised in suits, hiding behind picket signs, or be masquerading as the politically correct hall monitor at your office. No matter what form they take, I am convinced they will come.
With this said, what should be our response?
To answer this I think we need to understand Saul’s story. Saul did not remain Saul. He became a new creation in Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus. Jesus revealed Himself to Paul in an irresistible way, and Paul responded by placing his faith in Christ, not works, for his salvation. Jesus then goes on to say this about His purpose for choosing Saul, “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” (Acts 9:15).
After the conversion of Saul he starts going by his other name, Paul. Paul then goes on three missionary journeys, writes a good portion of the New Testament, and becomes a martyr for Jesus while imprisoned in Rome. Why the change? Sovereign Grace. Listen to what Paul says, “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles,” (Galatians 1:15-16)
So how does this help in figuring out our response to a potential rising of the Sauls?
First, the conversion of Saul should enhance our trust in God’s Sovereignty. Saul was one of the most aggressive opponents of the Gospel for a season; however, when it pleased God, He flipped the switch and changed Paul forever. From this truth, we can find deep comfort that God is in control. The rising of the Sauls in America is not in God’s blind spot. He is allowing it, for His purposes, and who knows how He will use it for His glory.
Second, the conversion of Saul gives us hope for those whom we love and who vehemently reject Jesus. His conversion opens our eyes to the reality that no mountain is too big for God to move, no matter how hard their heart appears. No one is beyond God’s reach. If God wills, He can open anyone’s eyes at any given moment; therefore our prayers and our evangelism must rest upon the rock of God’s election.
Third, it is important to realize that we were once all Sauls. His story is our story. Listen to what Paul says in Colossians 1:21, “And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death.” We all began as an enemy to God, and at the right moment, when it pleased Him, He chose us. We must realize that we are no different than Bill Nye, Bill Maher, and Richard Dawkins. They are sinners, and we are sinners. They are Sauls and we were Sauls. It is only by the grace of God that we are who we are, and for that we must worship Him.