During these weeks between Easter Sunday and Pentecost, we are called to reflect on the meaning of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, for our individual lives, for the lives of those around us, and for the entire world. “What difference does it make?”, as a former Secretary of State once quipped. In First Corinthians 15, Saint Paul addressed this question, but particularly how the resurrected Christ changed his own life and therefore why he believed it should change ours.
1 Corinthians 15:8-11
8: Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
9: For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.
11: Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.
Saul the Persecutor of the Church (Acts 8)
1: And Saul was consenting to his death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Sama’ria, except the apostles.
2: Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him.
3: But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
The conversion of Saul the Persecutor (Acts 9)
1: But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
2: 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.
3: Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him.
4: And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5: And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;
6: but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Saul (Paul) the Persecutor became an Evangelist (Gal 1:22-24)
22: And I was still not known by sight to the churches of Christ in Judea;
23: they only heard it said, “He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.”
24: And they glorified God because of me.
Paul is a chosen instrument but this entails suffering (Acts 9:15-16)
15: But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel;
16: for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Paul, least of the apostles, yet recipient of God’s mercy and Grace (1 Tim12-16)
12: I thank him who has given me strength for this, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful by appointing me to his service,
13: though I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and insulted him; but I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief,
14: and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
15: The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners;
16: but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
Paul’s labors and increasing the grace of God within himself (2 Cor 11:22-30)
22: Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they descendants of Abraham? So am I.
23: Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.
24: Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.
25: Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea;
26: on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren;
27: in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
28: And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches.
29: Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
30: If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.
Paul’s reward (2 Tim 4:6-8)
6: For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.
7: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
8: Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.