Those who treasure a Post-It Note!
Published 4:59 pm Saturday, July 15, 2023
By R.A. Tea Mathews
It’s a famous place. Just say the name and many Christians know what happened there: The Damascus Road.
It’s where Jesus chose a Pharisee to guide the church—the most unlikely possibility.
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Here’s what that Pharisee said in his own words, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the Council of the elders can testify. From them I also received letters to the brothers, and started off for Damascus in order to bring even those who were there to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.” (Acts 22:4-5)
But Jesus stopped Saul as he was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus, a city 135 miles to the north.
It happened at noon, and the ambitious young Pharisee, seeking favor from the leading Jews in Jerusalem, suddenly found himself on the ground. Here are his words, “…as I was on my way, approaching Damascus at about noon, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’” (Acts 22:6-7)
The Lord had Saul’s attention now and told Saul that a man would come to explain what Saul had been chosen to do.
Because of the brightness of the light, Saul could no longer see, so his companions led him to Damascus. He continues his story:
“Now a certain Ananias, … well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there … came to me and … said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’” (Acts 22:12-13)
What did Ananias tell Saul to do?
“The God of our fathers has appointed you to … be a witness for Him … Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins by calling on His name.” (Acts 22:13-16)
This is a powerful moment in Scripture. It’s also easy to overlook!
Even more important, do you recall where Saul, whose name was later changed to Paul, was when he told this story of his conversion?
Understand that the early church began with men like the disciples, who were Jews. They added Jesus to their Jewish faith. By the time Paul tells this story, he had begun to preach the unthinkable. Paul realized that the Law of Moses and circumcision, central to Judaism, were pointless in the face of the crucifixion. Salvation was in the blood of Jesus and that alone.
It was unadulterated blasphemy and the Jews in Jerusalem wanted Paul dead! (Acts 21-22)
So Paul told them his story, which didn’t change their minds.
The early church was confused and Jesus chose Paul to right the faltering ship. But Paul was nearly killed in Jerusalem for ideas the church did not want to hear.
It didn’t end there.
Well into the nineteenth century, nine words in Scripture were used to uphold slavery and many died believing God was with them. “Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters….” (Ephesians 6:5, Colossians 3:22)
If God had meant for the Bible to be nine words, He would have written it on a Post-It Note. Paul’s writings contain more than two verses and speak against slavery.
Just so, Paul’s words are now quoted to harm women. Paul didn’t stand for that either. Nor does the Bible.
Ask the naysayers:
- About Deborah and Huldah. They’ll stare at you. Who?
- About the woman at the well, chosen to preach Jesus. Why not a man?
- About the prophet Joel‘s words, which Peter chose for his first sermon. The prophet said women shall speak the very words of God.
- About Paul’s declaration that there is neither male nor female but that all are one in Christ.
- About the person whom God chose to be the greatest preacher in the Bible!
Ask them who first proclaimed the Good News?
Our Lord chose Paul on the Damascus Road because he alone would stare at Judaism and say only the cross is necessary.
Paul guided the church through incredibly stormy weather. Don’t let his words be used now to damage your faith.
Study the Bible before you speak to harm others—all of it. (2 Timothy 2:15)
The Rev. Mathews, BA, MDiv, JD, is a newspaper faith columnist and the author of “Reaching to God.” Contact her at Hello@RAMathews.com to join her 1-Minute Bible Study.
Copyright © 2023 R.A. Mathews. All rights reserved.