This month we’re finishing up our study through the book of Acts. Yesterday we came across this speech given by Paul in chapter twenty-six:
Why does it seem incredible to any of you that God can raise the dead? 9 “I used to believe that I ought to do everything I could to oppose the very name of Jesus the Nazarene. 10 Indeed, I did just that in Jerusalem. Authorized by the leading priests, I caused many believers there to be sent to prison. And I cast my vote against them when they were condemned to death. 11 Many times I had them punished in the synagogues to get them to curse Jesus. I was so violently opposed to them that I even chased them down in foreign cities. 12 “One day I was on such a mission to Damascus, armed with the authority and commission of the leading priests. 13 About noon, Your Majesty, as I was on the road, a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on me and my companions. 14 We all fell down, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is useless for you to fight against my will.’ 15 “‘Who are you, lord?’ I asked. “And the Lord replied, ‘I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting. 16 Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as my servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. 17 And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles 18 to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.’ 19 “And so, King Agrippa, I obeyed that vision from heaven. 20 I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God–and prove they have changed by the good things they do – Acts 26:8-20
Before he got to know Jesus, Paul was fully convinced that he was doing the right thing in chasing down and persecuting Christians. In fact he did so under the authority of his religious leaders, who approved his work. I think it’s easy for us as humans to justify our actions based on some external authority telling us they are okay. However this way of thinking is extremely dangerous as human government and authority figures can be corrupt, unethical and immoral. Just because society approves of certain agendas or actions does not make them right.
Thankfully God intervened and let Paul know that what he was doing was wrong, and He had a better plan for Paul’s life, but it’s also important to note that Paul then ‘obeyed that vision from heaven’. So who are we obeying? Worldly authorities, peer groups, societal norms & other false influences? Or God almighty!