And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
(Acts of the Apostles 9:20-22 NLT)
What a dramatic change!
Pharisee turned gospel preacher. He was probably the last person the church thought would be their ally but now he is preaching in the Jewish synagogues (houses of worship). His understanding of the scriptures had been opened. He no longer saw the Word of God as simply a religious code of legalism. He saw the principles, precepts, promises, and prophecies completely different than he had before. A light had turned on in his spirit. The Holy Spirit had opened his understanding. In I Corinthians 2:14 we are told that the natural (carnal - sinful) man cannot understand God's Word because it is spiritually discerned (understood). There is a distinct difference in someone who knows what the Bible says and someone who understands its meaning. Interpretation is essential to application. We are told in 2 Timothy 2:15 that we are to study the scriptures in order to be a workman that is prepared and properly trained in its application. Saul had been schooled in the Old Testament as well as one could be, yet he missed its understanding. He was definitely religious and zealous in his faith, yet he was nothing more than religious. He didn't know God. He thought he did but he was only deceived. This reminds me of Nicodemus in John 3. He was a ruler (religious leader) among the Jews but he was lost. I'm afraid we have people who attend church that have a head knowledge of Jesus but not a heart knowledge. Calling oneself a Christian because you own a bible, go to church, or hold an official church office is like calling yourself a car just because you are on the premises of a gas station. The gas station doesn't make the car, it fuels it. Only Jesus can save (re-create, breathe life into) us. Without the anointing of the Holy Spirit we are nothing more than a religious zealot.
Saul had experienced a total transformation. Rather than persecuting the church, he was now promoting it. The Holy Spirit made an undeniable difference in this man. He was boldly teaching and preaching in the Jewish synagogues that Jesus was indeed the Messiah (Christ). When you truly know God, you can't help but share the saving knowledge of Jesus with everyone even when it could cost you your life.
God, please cause the wind of The Holy Spirit to blow across the dry bones of the church again and raise up a mighty army for this time (See Ezekiel 37). In Jesus name!!! Amen!!!
Rev. Curtis Norris