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An Unlikely Convert: Saul of Tarsus

There have always been people hostile to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pharaoh hardened his heart to the LORD when Moses entreated him (Exodus 7:13), Goliath defied the armies of the living God (1 Samuel 17:36), and Jesus was opposed in his message and mission (John 7:19). And any discussion about the chief opponents to the kingdom of God must include Saul of Tarsus.

Saul breathed threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1). He absolutely hated Christians. In fact, when the first martyr Stephen was being stoned to death, Saul was there keeping watch over the garments of his killers and approved of it (Acts 7:58; 8:1). Humanly speaking, Saul was far gone in terms of being saved. There was really no inclination on Saul's part to turn from being a Christ-hater into a Christ-lover. He ranks in history as one of the most unlikely converts.

Do you know someone like Saul? Do know someone who is utterly hostile to the Lord and his message of salvation? If you've known a person like this over a period of years or decades it can seem impossible that they would ever be changed. Maybe you've even attempted to pray for such a person or share the gospel with them to your own harm.

Humanly speaking there is no hope for such a person. But in the power of the Spirit of God and according to God's sovereign grace there is much hope! The Lord Jesus stopped Saul in his tracks. He wrote nearly 30 years later, "Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." (1 Timothy 1:13-16)

The hardness, blindness, and bravado of Saul was broken in a moment. He went from being the chief opponent of the church and of Christ to being a humble servant and proclaimer. He received mercy. He received patient mercy as he says, "as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life." Saul's life is an example. It's an example of how unlikely converts can receive mercy from God and be radically changed. It's an example of what was and is to come.

Do you believe the Lord can show this kind of heart-humbling mercy to the hardest hearts you know? He did it for us. He did it for Saul. He can do it for them. Let's ask God to do this miracle for those who we are praying for this month!


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