3. PAUL, THE CRIMINAL
First Contacts With Christianity.
Come with me to one of the famous gates of the old city of Jerusalem.
This one is called St. Stephan’s Gate.
Paul’s 1st known contact with Christianity was in connection with the death of Stephen.
Listen to what Dr. Luke wrote about the Stephen debate:
Acts 6:9 Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen.
6:10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke.
Was Paul connected to the Cilicians?
Listen to the following text:
Acts 21:39 But Paul said, “I am a Jew from Tarsus, in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city; and I implore you, permit me to speak to the people.”
So there is a possibility that Paul engage in a dialogue with Stephen but that he came off second best.
Here at the St Stephen’s Gate he apparently cast no stones at Stephen but he sanctioned the stoning of Stephen.
Acts 8:1 Now Saul was consenting to his death.
Acts 7:58 and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Stephen marked the beginning of the 1st period of persecution that ravaged the infant church; and Saul, it seems, was foremost in the persecution.
Listen to Dr. Lukas his biographer concerning his fanatical frenzy of hatred against the Christians:
Acts 26:11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
Was his conscience pricking him while he persecuted God’s people?
26:14 And when we all had fallen to the ground, I heard a voice speaking to me and saying in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’
I feel so sorry for people who carry the load of hatred and bitterness; I feel so sorry for people who consciences make it hard to cope. I know because I was there.
8:3 As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.
I am sure he caused overpopulation problem the different prisons.
Listen to this confession:
22:19 So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You.
26:11 And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
He also gave his consent to their death (chs 22:4; 26:10).
22:4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women,
26:10 This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.
CAN SUCH A MURDERER EVER BE SAVED?
And you and I?