“And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (ESV) This sentence was to be the first of many that Saul, later Paul, would hear from God. Beginning in Acts 9, Saul’s conversion story to becoming one of the best known Bible authors starts off with a trip. However, it wasn’t an ordinary casual vacation. Saul was traveling to Damascus with a letter in his hand, which gave him permission to imprison any believers whether they were men, women, or children. They were to be bound in chains and marched back to Jerusalem and hear the verdict of the end of their earthly life.
Saul had an extremely impressive resume of his life. He could be considered a Jew of the Jews with five outstanding credentials. First, his parents had been what would be defined as “good Jewish parents”. They made sure that their baby son was circumcised on his eighth day as was religious custom. Second, he was “of the stock of Israel”. In that time, many people were half-Jewish having married into society or different cultures. But Paul was different. Consisting of only full-blooded Jews, Paul’s family tree showed that he was Jew through and through, leading to the third credential. Not only was Paul a full-blooded Jew, he was also from the tribe of Benjamin. Benjamin was the youngest out of the twelve sons of Jacob and one of Jacob’s most beloved. The tribe of Benjamin was the wealthiest and best Jewish family a Jew could be part of. Fourth, Paul was a “Hebrew of the Hebrews” not only the“Jew of the Jews”. A “Hebrew of the Hebrews” meant that Saul was directly related to Abraham. On the other hand, “A Jew of the Jews” meant that Saul’s ancestors were from the Israelite homeland. As a “Hebrew of the Hebrews”, Paul had an extremely good social standing as a Jewish leader. He was extremely influential in his position as a leader. And finally, Paul’s final credential: Paul was a Pharisee, which was what gave him his power and influence over the Jewish people in the areas surrounding Jerusalem. Saul was part of the elite group of Jewish leaders. These credentials are what spurred him to jail those innocent children of his future, great Father before his conversion.
Saul didn’t feel guilty as he was traveling to Damascus to imprison innocent people because he thought that it was his calling from God. The calling to rid the world of these heretics. The heretics who claimed that the long prophesied Messiah had already come. Come into the world as a lowly baby in a stable, in a manger? In Saul’s mind, there was no possible way that this had come to pass. He had followed the law as long as he remembered and now he was “helping God” by destroying what these people were teaching. He was there at the stoning of Stephen. He was the one who initiated it! If anyone was to know when the Messiah was coming, it should be him. Shouldn’t it? But this whole philosophy was shattered on his way to Damascus.
Saul was complete from his point of view. He thought that everything that he had done made him perfect. He followed the law, killed “heretics”, and had the envied genes of a perfect Jew. However, as it says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”(ESV). Saul’s credentials and good works were not going to get him to heaven only his faith.
Hancock, Harold. “Is There a Difference Between Hebrews, Jews and Israelites?” Timberland Drive, www.timberlandchurch.org/articles/is-there-a-difference-between-hebrews-jews-and-israelites.
ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, 2016.