Pivotal web buttonNote: This is a devotional from our Pivotal series. For more, please go here.

By the time the story of Saul’s conversion is related to us, he’s already appeared two other times in the book of Acts.

Both times are in conjunction with the violent murder of Stephen. First, in 7:58, Saul acts as a keeper of the robes of the people who rushed to throw stones at Stephen. Based on the second reference in 8:1, we can only surmise that Paul was cheering them on as they carried out what amounted to a public lynching of a man of God who had done no harm to anyone.

Now as the account of his conversion begins, we find Saul “still breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.” (8:4). It’s important for us to understand Luke’s meaning here, as hinted by the word “still.”

By now Stephen had been murdered. The Hellenistic Christians had scattered from Jerusalem. The Hebraists were laying low. The Apostles were still in the city but that does not mean they were spared the violence of the angry mob.

One less zealous than Saul would probably raise the triumphant flag and go home to celebrate with his partners in crime. But not Saul. He was determined to pursue disciples of Christ whenever and wherever they might be found. Saul would not stop until he had wiped out any semblance of witness to the Name of Christ in the world of that time.

Saul’s murderous mission against Christ’s followers is not that different from the mission of contemporary groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram today. They are enemies of Christ just as Saul was. His conversion, therefore, should offer us hope.

Jesus told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I wonder how many of us pray for ISIS and people like “Jihadi John” today?

I do. And you may or may not agree with my prayer, but here is what it usually looks like:

“Father, please bring these thugs to the knowledge of truth; make them bow before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. And if they won’t, please nullify their efforts and bring them to naught. Protect your people, bind up their wounds, stop the hands of those who would harm them and give them courage to face opposition. Assure them of your presence through your power. In Jesus’ Name, amen.”

Questions:

The conversion of one single man changed the trajectory of the Church once and for all. That was then, how about today: which historical figure could impact the gospel forever if she/he were to come to Christ? Why not start praying for that person’s conversion?

What would your own prayer for the persecutors and the persecuted church look like?

What do you think of Ananias’ first reaction to the information that Paul had become a disciples in Acts 9:10-18?

Pastor Ivanildo Trindade
Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

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