The Youth’s Instructor


November 15, 1900

From Persecutor to Disciple

Part 1.


Christ had suffered an ignominious death; and, in the most positive terms, the Sanhedrin had forbidden the disciples to preach the doctrines of Christianity. But every effort to put down the new religion seemed only to increase its strength, till it threatened to destroy the rites of the temple, and the customs which for generations had been followed by the Jewish nation. YI November 15, 1900, par. 1

Saul was aroused. He saw that decisive measures must be taken to suppress the new faith. A sensation had been created in Jerusalem by the death of Stephen. The persecution that followed drove the disciples abroad, and the priests and rulers hoped that by vigilant efforts and stern discipline the heresy might be suppressed. YI November 15, 1900, par. 2

In Damascus the new faith seemed to have acquired fresh life and energy. The work of suppression must be begun there, and Saul was selected for this work. “Breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,” he went to the high priest, “and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound up to Jerusalem.” YI November 15, 1900, par. 3

As Saul journeyed, “suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.” Frightened, bewildered, and blinded, he fell to the earth. As he fell, he heard a voice saying to him: “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who, art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” YI November 15, 1900, par. 4

A general slain in battle is a loss to his army, but his death gives no additional strength to the enemy. But when a man of integrity and sterling principle joins the opposing force, not only are his services lost, but those to whom he joins himself gain a decided advantage. Saul of Tarsus might easily have been struck dead by the Lord, as he was on his way to Damascus, and much force would have been withdrawn from the persecuting power. But his life was spared, and by the mighty power of God he was carried from the side of the enemy to the side of Christ. YI November 15, 1900, par. 5

Saul had talents that would have enabled him to serve in any position. He was courageous, independent, and persevering. His reasoning powers were of no ordinary value. By his withering sarcasm he could place an opponent in no enviable position. He was an eloquent speaker and a severe critic. A man of stern purpose and undaunted courage, he possessed the very qualifications needed in the Christian church. YI November 15, 1900, par. 6

After Paul's conversion, he spent some time in Damascus, showing his brethren there the genuineness of his experience. Then he went to Arabia. Returning to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples, that he might be recognized as a follower of the Saviour. But they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple. So great had been his zeal in persecuting the church, that the believers thought his conversion only a pretense. It was difficult for them to believe that so bigoted a Pharisee, one who had done so much to destroy the church, could become a sincere follower of Jesus. YI November 15, 1900, par. 7

“But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.” YI November 15, 1900, par. 8

In the past the labors of the apostles had been put forth wholly in Palestine. Round this place their hopes had clustered. They regarded the Jews as the covenant people of God. Paul was raised up by God to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Of him God said to Ananias, “He is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel.” While Paul and Barnabas were laboring in Antioch, the Holy Spirit gave direction, “Separate unto Me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” YI November 15, 1900, par. 9

Paul went to Greece to proclaim as the Christ a Jew of lowly origin, brought up in a town proverbial for its wickedness, a man who had been rejected by his own nation, and crucified as a malefactor. How could Paul awaken an interest in this man? YI November 15, 1900, par. 10

The Greeks looked upon philosophy and science as the only road to true elevation and honor. They believed that there was need of elevating the race; but could Paul lead them to believe that the cross of Christ would do this? There is to us a sacredness about the cross of Calvary. The scenes and associations connected with it are hallowed. But when Paul preached the gospel in Corinth, the cross was regarded with the same feeling of repulsion as the gibbet of today. Any reference to a Saviour who had met his death on the cross would naturally meet with opposition. YI November 15, 1900, par. 11

Paul knew how his message would be regarded by the Greeks. “We preach Christ crucified,” he said, “unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” In the estimation of the Greeks his words would be absurd folly. They would look upon Paul as weak-minded for endeavoring to show how the cross could have any connection with the elevation of the race or the salvation of men. YI November 15, 1900, par. 12

But the cross was to Paul the one object of interest in the world. He determined to know nothing among the Corinthians “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” He presented the cross to them as the only means of salvation. He stood forth before them declaring: “The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” YI November 15, 1900, par. 13

By Paul's labors in Corinth a church was established. Many were turned from the worship of idols. YI November 15, 1900, par. 14

Mrs. E. G. White