but saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the way, men or women, he might bring them bound to jerusalem. [acts 9:1-2]
still breathing threats and murder
what an incredible introduction to saul in this chapter. we’ve seen him before overseeing the stoning of stephen, and here he remains, violently opposing the move of Christ. i am reminded of the words he will later pen in his letter to the romans:
for while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. for one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (v. 6-9)
this is the state in which Jesus died for saul. this is the state in which Christ finds all of us—murderers at heart (1 john 3:15), idolaters, thieves, adulterers—at our worst, that is the state in which Christ died for us. his punishment paid for every sin his believers commit. what love! we see those we love with rose-tinted glasses, letting the parts of them we love cover a multitude of their flaws and sins, but not so with Christ! he knew our sin fully, and lived and died and rose again for us all the same. oh, that we could show even a shadow of that love to those who persecute us!
Lord, thank you for dying for us in full knowledge of our sin. thank you for sending your Holy Spirit so that that love could begin to be lived out in us. forgive us for failing to love those who persecute us in thankfulness for what you have done for us; help us in our weakness!
~ stephen hall