“At that time, I did not go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus.” “I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they were glorifying God because of me.” – Galatians 1:17, 22-24
Today, we look at Part Three of Paul’s story, which is his life after meeting Christ.
Following his encounter with Jesus, Paul, formally known as Saul, was struck blind for three days. As instructed by the Lord, he was led into Damascus where God sent a man by the name of Ananias to come and baptize him as a new follower of Jesus Christ. We also see that immediately, Paul began to testify of his life change. Now this had to be dumbfounding to the followers of Jesus in Damascus – I imagine they all knew of the old “Saul” as a religious terrorist, so they probably weren’t sure how to take all this new “Paul.”
After a short time in Damascus, Pual was sent to Arabia. A desert. Wilderness. Not surprising, when you think about how many great men of the faith in Scripture were sent into the wilderness at the beginning of their callings: Moses, Elijah, even Jesus Christ. And now we see Paul spending up to three years in the wilderness returning to Damascus.
Interestingly enough, after he returned from the wilderness, Paul spent the majority of his first three years in his hometown of Tarsus just going about the work of ministry. Imagine the people in his hometown who witnessed the change in this man! Look at verse 22 again:
“I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they were glorifying God because of me.“ Can you imagine the joy Paul must have felt? To have gone from being someone hated and feared, to being someone who was sharing the joy of the Lord wherever he went?
If God’s grace can be extended to a religious terrorist like Paul, then what’s your excuse? Do you think the grace of God cannot be extended to you for the things you’ve done in your life? Of course it can!
And another thing to realize – Paul’s greatest influence in the lives of his contemporaries and in all of the lives of those who came after him – didn’t happen overnight. It took 14 years of being a follower of Jesus Christ before Paul was seen as a leader in the church.
This is Paul’s story. Part One – his life before Christ. Part Two – his encounter with Christ. Part Three – his life after meeting Christ as his Savior and Lord. We all have a Part One in our life story. What about Part Two and Part Three? No life story is completely fulfilled without three parts. What story is your life telling?