Transformers, “more than meets the eye”, a tag line from a TV commercial from the 80’s about a robot alien race from another planet. They are mysteriously disguised as cars that change into robots when they spring into action to save the human race from another group of bad robot aliens. Today the Transformers are experiencing even more success as a movie franchise. They take two cool things cars and robots and combines them. With today’s engineering wizardry the toys and even costumes do a good job of allowing your imagination to run wild and take these concepts out of the cartoon and CGI (computer-generated imagery) world into reality. The transformation of Paul is just as fascinating and there may be more than meets the eye to it also.
When I heard for the first time that Paul, the Apostle, had a history of persecuting and killing Christians, I was dumbfounded. It took me a while to get my head around what I heard and was confused. How could that be? How could one of the good guys that wrote so many letters in our New Testament have been a party to such terrible acts? How could someone of such strong Christian faith ever persecute other Christians? How could those Christians ever accept him as a fellow believer? Let’s look closer at the life of Saul of Tarsus, before he became Paul the Apostle.
Saul was raised in the strictest way a Jew. He was also a Roman citizen. Being a citizen gave him rights and privileges not afforded to the typical Jew of the time especially under the legal system of justice. He was carefully taught to become a Pharisee. Just like today, there were different groups or sects of Judaism. One was of these sects were the Pharisees. The Pharisees were primarily a society of scholars. To the Pharisee, worship consisted not in bloody sacrifices but prayer and in the study of God’s law. Saul was well educated in Jewish tradition and its laws and observance of those laws. He was raised as his father was, to become a leader in this sect of Judaism with all its rights and privileges.
Paul’s own testimony before Agrippa at his trial as a Roman citizen, which allowed him to have a voice in his defense stated, “As the Jewish leaders are well aware, I was given a thorough Jewish training from my earliest childhood among my own people and in Jerusalem. If they would admit it, they know that I have been a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of our religion” Acts 26:4-5 NLT.
He goes on “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities Acts 26:9-11. It is clear by Paul’s own words Christianity was not to be tolerated and was punishable by death.
What would need to happen in order to change years and years of training, upbringing, thinking, a culture intertwined with faith, sense of society, family and a very strict belief system that you studied and accepted? Stop and seriously consider what Saul was giving up to become a Christian known as Paul. Here was a man that was okay with the stoning of Stephen for his belief. Changing and believing exactly what Stephen believed. This is a man that asked for the permission of his sect to go seek out and imprison Jews believing as he came to believe. This is a man that now was accepted by fellow Christians the same one the feared him when he was Saul. This is a transformation like no other.
Paul ended up suffering greatly for his new faith in Jesus. Let us look at his words again, " ... I have been in prison more, I have been flogged more severely, many times exposed to death. Five times I have been given thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; three times I have been beaten with sticks, once I was stoned; three times I have been shipwrecked, and once I have been in the open sea for a night and a day; continually traveling, I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from brigades, in danger from my own people and in danger from the Gentiles in danger in the town's and in danger in the open country, in danger at sea and in danger from people masquerading as brothers. I have worked not sparing energy, for many nights without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty, and often altogether without food or drink; I have been cold and lacked clothing. ..." 2 Corinthians 11:23-29
Why did Paul change into a believer in Jesus Christ and one of His fiercest witnesses? Does his transformation give you confidence that he truly saw the resurrected Jesus? If not what caused this extreme transition? The New Testament states he met the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus Act 9:1-18. The point is to consider the dramatic change in him more than just changing his name from Saul to Paul. It was a change in his heart soul and mind. I don't think I will ever fully appreciate Paul’s life and testimony. I do know the more I think about it the more I know something extraordinary happened to him. This event caused him to move from a very prestigious position in his community to a very horrible place, as he puts it ...We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world … 1 Corinthians 4:13: This is truly a remarkable transformation maybe even more than a car turning into a living robot to save the world.
Author - Guy Yasika
Looking to profess my faith to anyone that will listen.