God Knows…When I Wonder if I can Change – Part 3
Because of the trouble in Jerusalem, the gospel message spread quickly. Some who believed in Jesus moved to Antioch, a city in Syria, about 300 miles (480 km) north of Jerusalem. They preached to whoever would listen. “A great number believed, and turned to the Lord.” When the disciples in Jerusalem heard this good news, they asked Barnabas to visit the new believers. So many new believers joined the church in Antioch that Barnabas realized he could use some help. So he traveled over to Tarsus, about 100 miles (160 km) northwest, to recruit Saul. Saul agreed to help.
For a year Barnabas and Saul worked together, teaching many that Jesus of Nazareth had opened the way to salvation. Antioch was the first place where the believers were called Christians. They were given the name because Christ was the center of their lives. They talked about Christ. They preached Christ. They prayed to God in Christ’s name. They followed the example of Christ. They belonged to Christ.
As Saul worked in Antioch, he became positive that God wanted him to specialize in working for the Gentile world—the many people in many places whose roots did not go back to Jacob and Abraham. Now the Holy Spirit gave the church leaders some guidance: “Separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Saul and Barnabas were about to be sent out as missionaries, but first they were solemnly dedicated to God in a special way. The church leaders laid their hands on the heads of Saul and Barnabas, asking God to give them His blessing in the great work they were about to do.
A New Name for a New Man
Not very long after this Saul became known by another new name. Beginning in Acts 13:9, the Bible calls Saul by the name of Paul. In those days, most Jews had a couple of names. One was Hebrew name used at home among friends—Saul was the son of Jewish parents. The other was a Greek or Roman name, used in the wider world—Saul was a Roman citizen by birth. Now that he was embarking on his mission as God’s messenger to other parts of the world, perhaps Paul decided that using his Roman name would be an advantage. At any rate, it helped mark the complete change that had come over this man.
Paul’s direction had changed 180 degrees. The One he had persecuted he now loved. Instead of trying to blast Believers out of existence, he was now devoting his live to increasing their number. Starting out as an apostle of evil, sent forth to kill, he had become and apostle of Christ, sent forth to “open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith” (Acts 26:18).
The next 15 years or so Paul would be traveling throughout much of the Roman Empire. There would be three major round trips and a final one-way journey to Italy. He would cover between 10,000-20,000 miles (15,000-30,000 km), some by boat but much of it on foot. He would do this at the risk of his life. Never idle, he would carefully write letters and manuscripts that now form half the books of the New Testament.
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Following Christ makes bad people good. A bad person can never change himself into a good one. But what he or she cannot do, Jesus CAN. If God could change Saul, He can change you and me too!
Where to find the story: Acts 9, 11, 13, and 22
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