READ: Acts 9:1-19
- Reach back to Acts 7:58 and 8:1-3. In that light, the first few words of chapter 9 come to life: “But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples…” Saul hates the church because He believes it attacks the roots of his commitment to Yahweh. He can’t fathom a man who was hanged on a tree (crucified) being the Messiah. Anyone who is hanged is condemned (Deuteronomy 21:23; Galatians 3:13).
- Saul is on his way to Damascus to continue his relentless pursuit of any who claim to follow Jesus. He has sought and received blessing and legal permission from the Jewish leadership to continue his campaign of cleansing. His quest included both men and women and they were to be returned to Jerusalem, ostensibly for trial.
- Saul (having become Paul), referred to this period of his life when he wrote to Timothy. He wrote, “formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent” and “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.” Paul, having found grace from God (1 Timothy 1:12-17), might have called himself “the most resistant sinner ever saved.” His heart started out hardened against Jesus; he ended up one of Jesus’ greatest proponents.
- How do you compare your initial response to Christianity to Saul’s response?
- Who do you know that seems antagonistic to Jesus as Saul was?
- What do you think is the best approach to softening these kinds of hard hearts?
PRAY: Pray for those with hardened hearts. Ask God to keep you compassionate toward the hardened. Commit to keeping your heart soft toward God.