176. Saint Paul. Part one
The most moving lines in Bible, as for as this mote is concerned, are the following, said by Saint Paul:
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from His love. Death cannot, and life cannot. The angels cannot, and the demons cannot. Our fears for today, our worries for tomorrow, and even the powers of hell cannot keep God’s love away. Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
“My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them”.
Paul’s words are important, because they have been written by him, in his two thousand years old letters, or by his close disciple, Luke, in Acts. You probably know who Paul was. His original name was Saul. He never met Jesus. He persecuted early Christians with zeal. One day as he was going to Damascus, on a horse, he had a vision of Jesus, which I have described in detail, in blog 164. However for the sake of continuity I will narrate it again:
“As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul (see footnote), Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.
Paul was chosen by Jesus to spread Christianity to all nations, which he did. No other single person, except Christ himself, is responsible for Christianity being the number one religion of mankind. Here is what Jesus said to Ananias: “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16).
And suffer he did, and travel he did. He was beheaded in Rome in mid-60s. He spread Christianity in distant lands and wrote letters of guidance to disciples, such as Timothy, Titus and Philemon, and to Christian communities, such as; Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, and Thessalonians.
I cannot improve upon his own account of his suffering:
I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, and I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, know that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands. (2: Corinthians)
He also had some sort of physical suffering. He asked God to take it away. The answer of God is revealing:
7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,] a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.(2:Corinithians)
To be continued