My name is Paul. I was born Saul of Tarsus in the province of
Cilicia. My family of the tribe of Benjamin were Zealots for the keeping of the
Law of Moses. I called myself a Pharisee of the Pharisees. I had as a youth
diligently applied myself to the carrying out of all family traditions.
I was sent to Jerusalem as a young man to study under Gamaliel, the great teacher of Jewish Law. I applied myself day and night, determined to rise to the top to be counted worthy for any responsibilities that would come my way. I was ready. It was given me to round up, persecute, and put to death people known as Christians. I was mad against them and forced some to blaspheme. They were heretics following a certain Jesus who was the greatest of impostors so I thought. He claimed to be God's son.
And then Stephen, a preacher of the Gospel, appeared on the scene. He was so pure in appearance, so fervent, so dedicated and actually looked like an angel. One might think he had seen God, so impressive was his manner. But he was a heretic and I was to destroy heretics so I gave the order "Stone him to death. He is one of them." In this dying moment, he looked up and claimed to see into Heaven. Such blasphemy!
I was making progress. I had papers of permission to hunt out heretics, both men and women, bring them bound to Jerusalem to be put in prison. I was key man in this important work. Those so-called Christians would never destroy the Law of Moses if I could prevent it.
Well, some Jews under my supervision and I were on our way to Damascus to arrest more people when suddenly a bolt of light hit me, blinded me and knocked me down. We had been chatting and laughing and there was not a cloud in the sky. I was the one hit by the bolt of light. The others saw the light and knew there was a voice, but I was the one addressed:
"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?"
I was terrified. Frightened as I was, I asked:
"Who art Thou, Lord?". The reply was:
"Jesus whom thou persecutest It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks? Continue on your journey and in Damascus, it will be told thee what thou must do."
Must do? What kind of things will I be told I must do? I arose and could see nothing. My companions led me by the hand and continually spoke words of encouragement as we traveled on.
In Damascus, I could neither eat nor drink. Three days I suffered such anguish and agony. I had been destroying Jesus and now He would tell me what I must do. I felt weak, tears flowed from my blistered eyes and never-ceasing prayers from my lips. I was so distressed, so miserable. Ananias, the preacher, came and my partial sight was restored. A new Spiritual sight was given me because I was told to be baptized to wash away the sins I had committed and start on a new and most important kind of work; i.e., preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ who had died and risen from the dead; to bring salvation to a lost and dying world.
Accepting this new commission meant I had to make a very important choice - I would have to say no to my Jewish family and brethren. I would forfeit the honors and admiration I had gained from hard work. Fervent Jews would hunt me down, as I had done to others, and attempt to kill me. Some of the hardships I would suffer in accepting and furthering the teachings of Jesus are written in Second Corinthians:
- Of the Jews, five times I received 40 stripes, save one - Thrice I was beaten with rods - Once I was stoned - Thrice I suffered shipwreck - A night and a day I have been in the deep - In journeyings often - In perils of water - In perils of robbers - In Damascus, through a window in a basket I was let down by the wall to escape the governor under Aretas the King.
I appealed to Caesar to go to Rome and thus escaped the Jews in Palestine who were determined to take my life.
But at this late date in my life, I rejoice, and count all things but worthless refuse for I have won Christ. I have finished my course and kept the faith. I have fought a good fight and a crown of life in God's own Heaven is awaiting me.
From my prison cell here in Rome, I think of Nero and his wicked life. I look out the window and see the guillotine that soon will sever my head from my body. Shortly it will all be over. Nero can take away this life, but he cannot touch my immortal Soul. It will return to God who gave it. I rejoice in knowing Him and I glorify His Holy Name.
Come Quickly, Lord Jesus.
Gladys Koonce (91 years old)
Editor's note: I was somewhat surprised when I previewed my co-editor's "guest editorial" this month. I really enjoy reading Warren's editorials. I figured he must have found something really good to yield his space. I was right; he had.
I was even more surprised when I read the writer's name. Gladys Koonce... I had an English professor in college by that name back in the 1971-1972 school year (Florida College, located near Tampa). I E-mailed Warren and told him. Could this be the same person?
He told me that it was; that she has connections in the McAllen, Texas area where he preaches (I am located in Illinois).
I hope that the writer of the guest editorial knows how much I enjoyed reading her work. (J.Q.)
Submitted By Warren E. Berkley
The Final Page
From Expository Files 4.8; August 1997