I love the origins of greatness. As a lover of comic book movies, I want to know how a hero got his powers or chose to fight crime. I even enjoy origins revealing the dark motivations of the villain. Today I want to look at the origin story of a man I would look at and declare one of the most wicked men in the Bible. However, God looked at him and said I can take his horrid past and make something amazing out of it!
His name was Saul and he was a murderer. He relentlessly hunted down, persecuted, arrested and even killed believers in the early church. He was a devout man and truly believed the followers of Jesus were blasphemers and needed to be stopped. He passionately pursued his goal, until God stopped him.
Acts 9:1-5 (ESV) But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Everything Saul had done at this point was done in ignorance. He truly did not know who Jesus was. He had never encountered the Messiah. This was a moment that changed his trajectory. I imagine he had a choice. Even in this miraculous moment, he could have hardened his heart and continued his persecution of the church. Thankfully, he did not do that. His exact response is not recorded, but he must have responded in humble repentance.
I can’t imagine that moment. All the weight crashing down on him. The realization that he had been persecuting the true followers of the Messiah, but he immediately changed his path. Now blind, Saul obeyed the Lord as He told him to go into the city of Damascus.
In the city there was a man named Ananias and the Lord also appeared to him and gave him this instruction.
Acts 9:11-15 (ESV) And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
Ananias was understandably afraid of this man Saul. It is no surprise that he would protest, “Umm…isn’t this the guy killing people who follow You Lord?” But God was clear, “I have chosen Him to spread my name to the Gentiles!”
And Saul did accomplish much for the Lord. He travelled to many many places to present the gospel. He was arrested and suffered greatly, but the Lord used him and is still using him to build up the church. We know him today as the apostle Paul. God used him to write at least 13, possibly 14, books of the New Testament.
I never would have picked Saul the great persecuter of Christians to be saved let alone a prolific writer of the inspired Word of God. That’s not the origin story I would want to have, yet God often picks the unlikely to carry out His will.
What is your origin story? What is in your past? Sometimes we are ashamed of our past, we feel like our brokenness and our sin is too great for God to use, but the apostle Paul should be an encouragement to us. No matter how messed up our past may be, God wants to take it and use it for His glory.
Your origin story is a part of your testimony, good, bad or ugly, it should not be hidden. You are perfectly established in God as His child. Let Him take your past and use it to bring others to the saving knowledge of Jesus.