Friday, July 21, 2017

Sabbath School Insights: Commentary: Remission

Commentary: Remission

Remission 


I have met several patients of cancer in my life.  Some of them have gone through surgery or other kinds of therapy to get rid of the cancerous tissue.  On more than one occasions the treatment was successful.  But, the doctor's never said that the patients were cured.  The doctors always said that the patients were in remission.  I wondered what that meant.  And as I found out, I realized that remission from a disease is very similar to how God deals with Sin.  Let us talk a little about cancer and remission, and after this we will make the parallels between Sin and cancer, and being in remission from a disease and Sin.


Cancer refers to a class of diseases.  Therefore, it is unlikely that there will ever be a single "cure for cancer" any more than there will be a single treatment for all infectious diseases.  Cancer can be treated by surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, monoclonal antibody therapy or other methods. The choice of therapy depends upon the location and grade of the tumor and the stage of the disease, as well as the general state of the patient (performance status).  There are challenges inherent in some of the treatment that can limit its effectiveness.  The effectiveness of chemotherapy is often limited by toxicity to other tissues in the body. Radiation can also cause damage to normal tissue.  Complete removal of the cancer without damage to the rest of the body is the goal of treatment. Sometimes this can be accomplished by surgery, but the propensity of cancers to invade adjacent tissue or to spread to distant sites by microscopic metastasis often limits its effectiveness. 


That is why it is not said that a person is to be cured of cancer, but that the cancer is in remission.  A remission is a temporary end to the medical signs and symptoms of an incurable disease.  Remission is the state of absence of disease activity in patients known to have a chronic illness that cannot be cured. It is commonly used to refer to absence of active cancer or inflammatory bowel disease when these diseases are expected to manifest again in the future.  


Sin, this side of eternity, is like cancer in that it can be treated but it does not disappear.  As long as we live in this earth, those who live by faith can stop committing Sin; however their sinful nature is still alive.  As long as we live in this Earth, Sin is always a threat.  Just like cancer can show its ugly face when and where you least expect it, so can Sin when not held in check.  It is always present and always fighting for the upper hand.  But, as long as we subject ourselves to the Jesus treatment, Sin will be in remission.  This is what Peter talks about Jesus in Acts 10:43,


Acts 10:43 To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins.


There is a similar expression in John 3:16, "…that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."  The verb believeth in the Greek is in the continual present.  This means that it should read as such, "whosoever continually believes in Him …" Also, the Greek word for believe here is the same for faith.  So, "whosoever continually has faith – believes, trust, has confidence …" So, the remission of Sin comes through believing and so does righteousness.  We know this from Genesis 15:6,

Genesis 15:6 And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.


Ellen White said that "The law demands righteousness, and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering it. The only way in which he can attain righteousness is through faith" (Selected Messages, book 1, p. 367).  So, now we see that there is a relationship between remission of Sin, "not perishing, but having everlasting life," and being righteous.  Believing causes all three.  So, this means that those who are righteous by continually believing, experience remission of Sin, and eventually receive incorrupt and immortal bodies (1 Corinthians 15:53).  


The word righteous is a synonym for just.  So, the expression justification by faith means, made righteous by continually believing.  So, Paul tell the Galatians,


Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.


True justification by faith always produces law keeping Christians.  And, since the law is summed up (fulfilled) in Love (Romans 10:13), true justification by faith always produces people that love God above all things and their neighbor as themselves (Galatians 5:14).


https://sabbathschoolinsights.blogspot.com/2011/10/commentary-remission.html

Friday, July 14, 2017

Did Peter know he was wrong?

Did Peter know he was wrong?

One Sabbath School class was discussing the life of Peter. The class
gave Emphasis to Peter's life before conversion and after conversion.
Before conversion, although Peter was boisterous and short tempered,
he denied the Lord; After conversion, Peter was the opposite. After
this, they briefly discussed Paul confronting Peter about his
prejudice behavior as recorded in Galatians 1. The teacher then
asked the class, "With which Peter do you identify: the one before
conversion or the one after conversion?" There was murmuring in the
class. Tony, who was sitting in the back raised his hand and said, "I
identify with Peter." The teacher and some of the students turned
around and asked him to clarify, "which Peter, the one before
conversion or the one after?" The student referring to the event of
Paul confronting Peter, answered, "I identify with Peter in that even
though I know, as he knew, that the crowd is wrong, I see myself
following them." The class hushed for a few seconds, and then there
was murmuring again. Tony looked around and saw people nodding. The
teacher sighed but did not speak. A sister in front of Tony smiled
and nodded at him. Another sister, walking down the aisle, smiled and
touched his arm. It seemed that many agreed with him. They saw
themselves drifting the wrong way knowingly. Now, just because many
people do this does not make it right?

Paul found that this was wrong, which is why he confronted Peter. Did
Peter know He was wrong? Peter was present at the Jerusalem Council
when the Apostles declared that circumcision was not necessary to
salvation and (Acts 15:1-24). He had encountered this situation
before when God had clearly revealed to him that he was not to
consider any one class of people as "common or unclean" (Acts 10:28).
He had even declared that he understood "that God is no respecter of
persons: But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh
righteousness, is accepted with him" (Acts 10:34, 35). The Holy
Spirit bore a Clear testimony by the other apostles, and the corporate
church body that there was no distinction between Jew and Gentile and
that righteousness is by faith alone in Christ Jesus. In light of all
this, Peter and others withdrew themselves from the uncircumcised
Gentile believers. This discrimination was in effect saying, "Except
ye be circumcised... ye cannot be saved" (Acts 15:1). This action on
the part of Peter and the others was not only a denial of the gospel,
but it was a virtual denial of Christ. Based on the statements stated
above we can conclude that Peter knew better. But, he allowed himself
to be carried away by the influence of the other Jews, "fearing them
which were of the circumcision" (Galatians 2:12). Peter's attitude
grieved God. Ellen White says,

"Even the best of men, if left to themselves, will make grave
blunders. The more responsibilities placed upon the human agent, the
higher his position to dictate and control, the more mischief he is
sure to do in perverting minds and hearts if he does not carefully
follow the way of the Lord. At Antioch Peter failed in the principles
of integrity. Paul had to withstand his subverting influence face to
face; This is recorded that others may profit by it, and that the
lesson may be a solemn warning to the men in high places, that they
may not fail in integrity, but keep close to principle."—Ellen G.
White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1108.

We too can fail in integrity and violate the principles laid out by
the Gospel. Even so, Peter should still be an example to us in that
he was humble. The fact that Peter died a martyr for Christ tells us
that Peter repented. In that sense, we should be like Peter after
conversion.
--
Raul Diaz
www.wolfsoath.com
RR
Raul Diaz
https://about.me/raul.diaz
Posted by Ulee at 3/31/2017 07:29:00 PM

--



Raul Diaz
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Friday, July 07, 2017

What exactly IS righteousness by faith?


What exactly IS righteousness by faith?


This article from Advent Review and Sabbath Herald is an excellent foundation for this quarter's lessons.  



"Studies in Galatians"

What exactly IS righteousness by faith? -- 

Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, 76, 37 , pp. 588, 589.
IT was "certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed" who had caused all the trouble in the churches in Galatia, and called forth a letter to the Galatians. It was these also who had troubled the brethren at Antioch, and raised there the controversy abroad on the council Jerusalem.  It was these who, even after the council, had caused Peter to swerve, at Antioch, from the truth of the Gospel, which, in turn, forced Paul to withstand him to the face. It was these of the sect of the Pharisees who spread a false gospel against the true, and subverted souls who were even already saved—as at Antioch and in Galatia. In a study of the Book of Galatians, it is, therefore, essential to know just what the sect of the Pharisees did hold.

When Jesus would give an illustration of "certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others," he chose "a Pharisee." And this Pharisee, even in praying, first thanked God that he was not like other men; and then presented himself to the Lord for approval upon what he had done. Luke 18:9-12. It is therefore perfectly plain that the one great peculiarity of the sect of the Pharisees was self-righteousness—claiming righteousness upon what they have done.

Consequently everything that a Pharisee did, was done that he might obtain righteousness by the doing. And if there was anything that he was not inclined to do, he must force himself to do it, by a direct vow, and then still claim the merit of righteousness in the doing.

And it was the very righteousness of God that was claimed as the merit and the result of the doing; because it was the word of God that was followed, it was the command of the Lord that was obeyed, in the doing.

The word "Pharisee" is from "parash," which signifies "separated," or "set apart." The Pharisees were those who were separated, set apart, from the rest of the people by their superior righteousness, which was because they had done more than any others; and they were separated, set apart, unto God because it was in the doing of the law of God that their righteousness consisted.  Everything that God had commanded, required, or directed, must be done in order that righteousness may be obtained in the doing.  And to be perfectly certain that they could rightfully claim the righteousness when the thing was done, it was essential that every obligation must be performed so exactly right that there could be no question. And in order that this might be so, every requirement in the word of God was drawn out in divisions and subdivisions to the smallest minutiae, even to each particular letter of each word, each one to be scrupulously and ceremoniously performed. "The very raison d'etre of the Pharisees was to create 'hedges' of oral tradition about the law."—Farrar's "Life of Christ," Excursus 9, par. 1. These "hedges" were of course to protect the law from violation. They were assurances to the doer of them that in the doing of them he was preserved from violating the law, and that so he was a doer of the law.

This led to an utter perversion not only of every commandment and ordinance of the Lord, but of the very idea of every commandment and ordinance.

God had given the ten commandments, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by the doing of them, but (1) to give the true knowledge of sin, that forgiveness and salvation might be found by faith; and (2) to witness to the righteousness obtained by (that) faith.

This was shown (a) in the service that was commanded, and (b) in the very terms used in speaking of the tables of the law. (a) In the service commanded it was plainly said that when they had done anything against the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and were guilty, they were to bring a sacrifice of a young bullock, and confess the sin, and with the blood the priest should make atonement for them, and it should be forgiven them. Lev. 4:13-21. Here were the ten commandments to give the knowledge of sin, and of the guilt; here was forgiveness and at-one-ment with God without the doing of the law, but solely through faith. (b) The term used in speaking of the was "the tables of the testimony;" the ark, in which was the law, was called the "ark of the testament;" and the tabernacle, in which was the ark, was called the "tabernacle of the testimony." Now testimony is the evidence borne by a witness; and that this is the meaning of the word here is certain by the fact that the tabernacle was plainly called "the tabernacle of witness." Num. 17:7, 8; 18:2; 2 Chron. 24:6. The tables of the testimony were the tables of witness, which in itself testified that the law was intended, not to be a means of the righteousness of God obtained by it, but to be witness to the righteousness of God obtained without it.

God had given the ordinances of sacrifice and offering and burnt offering and offering for sin, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by them, but as expressions of the faith that obtained the righteousness of God without them—faith that obtained the righteousness of God through a sacrifice and offering already made by God, and promised to be sent in due time.

God had given circumcision, not as a means of obtaining righteousness by it, but as a sign of the righteousness of God obtained by faith and held by faith before circumcision was performed.

Thus the Pharisees perverted into works and righteousness by works, all that God had given to be of faith. All that God had given to be a blessing and a delight they turned into a burden and a yoke of bondage. And when it did not give peace to the straining and toiling workers, as it could not, to the many fine-spun distinctions drawn upon the plain word of God they yet further added a multitude of exactions of their own. To the Sabbath commandment alone there were added four hundred and one requirements. A whole treatise was devoted to hand-washings (Mark 7:1-5); another whole treatise was occupied with the proper method of killing a fowl. "The letter of the law thus lost its comparative simplicity in bound-less complications, until the Talmud tells us how Akibba was seen in a vision by the astonished Moses, drawing from every horn of every letter whole bushels of decisions."—Farrar.

Another evil was wrapped up in this: The facility of interpretation that was developed in drawing out the infinite variety of distinctions in sentences, in words, and even in letters, in order to discover the exact degree of obedience required to attain to righteousness, was readily employed in evading any obligation of the law of God that the covetous heart might desire. Mark 7:9-13; Matt. 23:14-28. "We know the minute and intense scrupulosity of Sabbath observance wasting itself in all those abhoth and toldoth,—those primary and derivative rules and prohibitions, and inferences from rules and prohibitions, and combinations of inferences from rules and prohibitions, and cases of casuistry and conscience arising out of the infinite possible variety of circumstances to which those combinations of inference might apply,—which had degraded the Sabbath from 'a delight, holy of the Lord, honorable,' partly into an anxious and pitiless burden, and partly into a network of contrivances hypocritically designed, as it were, in the lowest spirit of heathenism, to cheat the Deity with the mere semblance of accurate observance. . . .

"Teachers who were on the high road to a casuistry which could construct 'rules' out of every superfluous particle, had found it easy to win credit for ingenuity by elaborating prescriptions, to which Moses would have listened in mute astonishment. If there be one thing more definitely laid down in the law than another, it is the uncleanness of creeping things; yet the Talmud assures us that 'no one is appointed and member of the Sanhedrin who does not possess sufficient ingenuity to prove from the written law that a creeping thing is ceremonially cleaned,' and that there is an unimpeachable disciple, at Jabne, who could produce one hundred and fifty arguments in favor of the ceremonial cleanness of creeping things.  Sophistry like this was at work even in the days when the young student at Tarsus set at the feet of Gamaliel."—Ib., "Life and Work of Paul," chap. 4, par. 2-6.

Thus the Pharisees in their exactions and ceremonialism had developed to perfection the self-love of self-righteousness in the merit of their own doings. A perfect illustration is found in what Rabbi Simeon, the son of Jochai, said: "If there were only thirty righteous persons in the world, I and my son should make two of them; and if there were but twenty, I and my son would be of the number; and if there were but ten, and I and my son would be of the number; and if there were but five, and I and my son would be of the five; and if there were but two, I and my son would be those two; and if there were but one, MYSELF should be that one.:—Emphatic Diaglott, at Luke 18:11.

"They had received unsanctified and confused interpretations of the law given them by Moses: they had added tradition to tradition; they had restricted freedom of thought and action until the commandments, ordinances, and services of God were lost in a ceaseless round of meaning less rights and ceremonies. Their religion was a yoke of bondage." "The views of the people were so narrow that they had become slaves to their own useless regulations." "This confidence in themselves and their own regulations, with its attendant prejudices against all other nations, caused them to resist the Spirit of God, which would have corrected their errors." "Thus, in their earthliness, separated from God in Spirit, while professedly serving him, they were doing just the work that Satan wanted them to do—taking a course to impeach the character of God, and cause the people to view him as a tyrant. In presenting their sacrificial offerings in the temple, they were as actors in a play. The rabbis, the priests and rulers, had ceased to look beyond the symbol of the truth that was signified by their outward ceremonies." They expected to derive righteousness acceptable to God from the performance of the ceremony of offering a symbol which, to them, was meaningless for any other purpose than as a means of gaining righteousness in the performance of the ceremony. The beginning and end, the all in all of the religion of the Pharisees, whether it related to the moral law, to the God-given ceremonial law, or to their own traditions, was ceremonialism, and ceremonialism alone. And Paul had been one of these Pharisees, of "the most straitest sect."

And this is what those "certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed" thought to drag over and fasten upon Christianity. They wished to force even the divine faith of Christ into their low, narrow human ceremonialism. Oh, yes! it is well enough to believe in Jesus; but that is not enough: "except ye be circumcised and keep the law [their whole boneless system of interpretations of the law, moral and ceremonial, there whole mass of ceremonialism], ye cannot be saved." And that even when they had done all that the system of the Pharisees supply and demand it, they could not be saved, was confessed in the despairing cry of the rabbis: "If but one person could only for one day keep whole law, and not offended one point,—nay, if but one person could but keep that one point of the law which affects the due observance of the Sabbath,—then the troubles of Israel would be ended, and the Messiah at last would come."—Id., par. 3. And from every really conscientious heart it forced that other despairing cry, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Rom. 7:24.

But in his great mercy and his divine goodness, without requiring all the burdens and toil of the Pharisaic ceremonialism, and in answer to the longing cry of every burdened heart, the Messiah came, and brought to all men the free gift of the righteousness of God, and of his full salvation. This righteousness and this full salvation, Saul the Pharisee found, and it made him forever Paul the Christian, nevermore desire in the "righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." And then, having in Christ perfect righteousness, full salvation, and the power of an endless life; having found in Christ the living gospel instead of the dead form of law; because he would never more admit the multitudinous exactions, the vain strivings, the hollow self-righteousness, and the false gospel of the Pharisees, he was persecuted, and his work in the gospel of Christ was opposed, till the day of his death, by "the Pharisees which believed," as well as by all the Jews, who did not believe, by false brethren as well as by open enemies.

And this it was that called forth the book of Galatians. 
 RR
Raul Diaz

Friday, June 30, 2017

What can we learn from Paul?

What can we learn from Paul?

There is much we can learn from the life of the Apostle Paul. Far from ordinary, the Lord gave Paul the opportunity to do extraordinary things for the kingdom of God. The story of Paul is a story of redemption in Jesus Christ and gives testimony that no one is beyond the saving grace of the Lord. However, to gain the full measure of the man, we must examine his dark side and what he symbolized before becoming "the Apostle of Grace." Paul's early life was marked by religious zeal, brutal violence, and the relentless persecution of the early church. Fortunately, the later years of Paul's life show a marked difference as he lived his life for Christ and the advancement of His kingdom. 

Paul was actually born as Saul. He was born in Tarsus in Cilicia in a province in the southeastern corner of modern day Tersous, Turkey. He was of Benjamite lineage and Hebrew ancestry. His parents were Pharisees—fervent Jewish nationalists who adhered strictly to the Law of Moses. His household probably spoke Aramaic, a derivative of Hebrew, which was the official language of Judea.  Saul and his family were Roman citizens but viewed Jerusalem as a truly sacred and holy city. 

Saul was probably sent at the age of thirteen to Palestine to learn from a rabbi named Gamaliel, under whom Saul mastered Jewish history, the Psalms and the works of the prophets. His education would continue for five or six years as Saul learned such things as dissecting Scripture.  Saul went on to become a lawyer.  Paul says in Galatians that he excelled more than any of his contemporaries. 

In Acts 5:27-42, Peter delivered his defense of the gospel and of Jesus in front of the Sanhedrin, which Saul probably heard.  Gamaliel was also present and delivered a message to calm the council and prevent them from stoning Peter.  Ellen White says about this event, 

So enraged were the Jews at these words [of Peter] that they decided to take the law into their own hands and without further trial, or without authority from the Roman officers, to put the prisoners to death. Already guilty of the blood of Christ, they were now eager to stain their hands with the blood of His disciples.  But in the council there was one man who recognized the voice of God in the words spoken by the disciples. This was Gamaliel, a Pharisee of good reputation and a man of learning and high position. His clear intellect saw that the violent step contemplated by the priests would lead to terrible consequences. Before addressing those present, he requested that the prisoners be removed. He well knew the elements he had to deal with; he knew that the murderers of Christ would hesitate at nothing in order to carry out their purpose.  {AA 82}  
It is possible that from that moment on, Saul became even more determined to eradicate Christians as he watched the Sanhedrin flog Peter and the others.  Saul was zealous for his faith, and this faith did not allow for compromise. It is this zeal that led Saul down the path of religious extremism. 

After this incident, Stephen comes into the picture.  Those arguing with Stephen could not hold their ground against him, so they took him to the Sanhedrin, where Paul was enlisted to show that Stephen was wrong.  Ellen White says, 

Saul of Tarsus was present and took a leading part against Stephen. He brought the weight of eloquence and the logic of the rabbis to bear upon the case, to convince the people that Stephen was preaching delusive and dangerous doctrines; but in Stephen he met one who had a full understanding of the purpose of God in the spreading of the gospel to other nations.  {AA 98}  
Stephen's voice and words were like the screeching of fingers on a black board to the listeners.  They covered their ears.  Also, Stephen radiant face was offensive to onlookers.  They decided to take Stephen out of the city and stone him.  Saul was present for his stoning and death.  The Bible says that he held the garments of those who did the stoning (Acts 7:58).  The Jews saw themselves as victorious.  Paul was rewarded for his role in the Stephen trial. He was made a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Supreme Court of 71 men who ruled over Jewish life and religion (Acts of Apostles 102). 

Saul became more ruthless in his pursuit of Christians as he believed he was doing it in the name of God.  Arguably, there is no one more frightening or more vicious than a religious terrorist, especially when he believes that he is doing the will of the Lord by killing innocent people. Acts 8:3 states, "He began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison." 

But according to Ellen White,

The martyrdom of Stephen made a deep impression upon all who witnessed it. The memory of the signet of God upon his face; his words, which touched the very souls of those who heard them, remained in the minds of the beholders, and testified to the truth of that which he had proclaimed. His death was a sore trial to the church, but it resulted in the conviction of Saul, who could not efface from his memory the faith and constancy of the martyr, and the glory that had rested on his countenance.    At the scene of Stephen's trial and death, Saul had seemed to be imbued with a frenzied zeal. Afterward he was angered by his own secret conviction that Stephen had been honored by God at the very time when he was dishonored by men (AA 101).

Ellen White adds,

Saul had taken a prominent part in the trial and conviction of Stephen, and the striking evidences of God's presence with the martyr had led Saul to doubt the righteousness of the cause he had espoused against the followers of Jesus.  His mind was deeply stirred. In his perplexity he appealed to those in whose wisdom and judgment he had full confidence. The arguments of the priests and rulers finally convinced him that Stephen was a blasphemer, that the Christ whom the martyred disciple had preached was an impostor, and that those ministering in holy office must be right.  Not without severe trial did Saul come to this conclusion. But in the end his education and prejudices, his respect for his former teachers, and his pride of popularity braced him to rebel against the voice of conscience and the grace of God. And having fully decided that the priests and scribes were right, Saul became very bitter in his opposition to the doctrines taught by the disciples of Jesus. His activity in causing holy men and women to be dragged before tribunals, where some were condemned to imprisonment and some even to death, solely because of their faith in Jesus, brought sadness and gloom to the newly organized church, and caused many to seek safety in flight.  {AA 113} 

The passage about this pivotal moment in Paul's story is in Acts 9:1-22, which recounts Paul's meeting with Jesus Christ on the road from Jerusalem to Damascus, a journey of about 150 miles. Saul was angered by what he had seen and filled with murderous rage against the Christians.

Before departing on his journey, he had asked the High Priest for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for permission to bring any Christians (followers of "the Way," as they were known) back to Jerusalem to imprison them. On the road Saul was caught up in a bright light from heaven which caused him to fall face down on the ground. He heard the words, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?" He said, "Who are you Lord?" Jesus answered directly and clearly, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" (vv. 4-5). Ellen White says,

     Now Christ had spoken to Saul with His own voice, saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" And the question, "Who art Thou, Lord?" was answered by the same voice, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." Christ here identifies Himself with His people. In persecuting the followers of Jesus, Saul had struck directly against the Lord of heaven. In falsely accusing and testifying against them, he had falsely accused and testified against the Saviour of the world.
     No doubt entered the mind of Saul that the One who spoke to him was Jesus of Nazareth, the long-looked-for Messiah, the Consolation and Redeemer of Israel. "Trembling and astonished," he inquired, "Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."  {AA 117.2}  
From this moment on, Saul's life was turned upside down. The light of the Lord blinded him, and as he traveled on, he had to rely on his companions. Saul stayed with a man called Judas.  In the meantime Paul had time to think through what happened.    
For three days Saul was "without sight, and neither did eat nor drink." These days of soul agony were to him as years. Again and again he recalled, with an anguish of spirit, the part he had taken in the martyrdom of Stephen. With horror he thought of his guilt in allowing himself to be controlled by the malice and prejudice of the priests and rulers, even when the face of Stephen had been lighted up with the radiance of heaven. In sadness and brokenness of spirit, he recounted the many times he had closed his eyes and ears against the most striking evidences and had relentlessly urged on the persecution of the believers in Jesus of Nazareth.  
During the long hours when Saul was shut in with God alone, he recalled many of the passages of Scripture referring to the first advent of Christ. Carefully he traced down the prophecies, with a memory sharpened by the conviction that had taken possession of his mind. As he reflected on the meaning of these prophecies, he was astonished at his former blindness of understanding and at the blindness of the Jews in general, which had led to the rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. To his enlightened vision all now seemed plain. He knew that his former prejudice and unbelief had clouded his spiritual perception and had prevented him from discerning in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah of prophecy.  {AA 118 119.1}  

Jesus instructed a man named Ananias to meet Saul.   He was at first hesitant because he knew Saul's reputation as an evil man. But the Lord told Ananias that Saul was a "chosen instrument" to carry His name before the Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel (v.15) and would suffer for doing so (v.16). Ananias followed the Lord's instructions and found Saul, on whom he laid hands, and told him of his vision of Jesus Christ. Through prayer, Saul received the Holy Spirit (v.17), regained his sight and was baptized (v.18). Saul immediately went into the synagogues proclaiming Jesus and saying He is the Son of God (v.20). The people were amazed and skeptical, as Saul's reputation was well known. The Jews thought he had come to take away the Christians (v.21). Saul's boldness increased as the Jews living in Damascus were confounded by Saul's arguments proving that Jesus was the Christ (v.22).

As a result of this miraculous transformation, Saul became known as Paul (Acts 13:9). Paul spent time in Arabia, Damascus, Jerusalem, Syria and his native Cilicia, and Barnabas enlisted his help to teach those in the church in Antioch (Acts 11:25). Interestingly, the Christians driven out of Palestine by Saul of Tarsus founded this multiracial church (Acts 11:19-21). Paul took his first of three missionary journeys in the late 40s A.D. Paul wrote many of the New Testament books. As previously noted, the book of Acts gives us a historical look at Paul's life and times. The Apostle Paul spent his life proclaiming the risen Christ Jesus throughout the Roman world, often at great personal peril (2 Corinthians 11:24-27). It is assumed that Paul died a martyr's death in the mid-to-late 60s A.D. in Rome. 

So, what can we learn from the life of the Apostle Paul? First, we learn that God can save anyone.  Second, we learn from the life of Paul that anyone can be a powerful and humble witness for Jesus Christ. Finally, we learn that anyone can surrender completely to God. Paul was fully "sold-out" for God. "I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear" (Philippians 1:12-14). Paul was in prison when he wrote these words, yet he was still praising God and sharing the good news. Through his hardships and suffering, Paul knew the outcome of a life well lived for Christ. He had surrendered his life fully, trusting God for everything. "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Can we make the same claim?
 RR
Raul Diaz