When a Decision is Required
The Apostle Paul had some of the strangest life experiences of any one person in the Scriptures.
A culturally diverse and highly educated man, “Saul” (his original name) took his religion so seriously that he sought to annihilate this new sect called “The Way” (the early church’s original name). So zealous was Saul that he was named as being there and consenting to Stephen’s death – the church’s first martyr.
One day Saul had a life-altering encounter with Jesus Christ. Traveling down the road with a team of men, Saul was struck to the ground by a bright and blinding light. A strong voice reverberated from the heavens asking, “Why are you persecuting Me?”
After that heavenly confrontation Saul was met by a disciple of Jesus named Ananias, who laid hands on him and healed his blindness, and further explained to him the way of salvation.
Saul’s conversion was perhaps one of the most significant turnaround stories in the Bible. Not only did his life change, his name changed from Saul to Paul, signifying that he was no longer who he used to be. The skeptic became the saved. The persecutor became the persecuted.
The transformation in Paul’s life was evidenced by his passion to share the gospel (good news) of Jesus Christ to everyone he encountered. Paul gave the rest of his life to the mission of reaching people for Jesus. He was rejected, persecuted, arrested, beaten, and eventually killed for his faith – and considered it an honor to die for the One whom he had once persecuted.
Paul’s approach in each city was to first go the the Jewish people. If they rejected his message, he would go to the gentiles (non-Jews). Everywhere he went people experienced the power and presence of God, but he also experienced persecution.
For many years he desired to go to Rome, to encourage the believers and minister to the Roman people, he himself being a Roman citizen by birth. He did eventually make it to Rome, but not in the way he imagined it. Paul came to Rome as a prisoner.
While in Rome he was under what we might consider “house arrest”. He had a few freedoms, including the privilege to have others come in to see him. Taking full advantage of that, Paul spent two years in that residence, having hundreds of people come in for conversations about Jesus.
“When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.”
Acts 28:23-24 ESV
A subtle, but important aspect of Paul’s approach to sharing the message of Jesus is that he sat down and had logical, reasonable conversations with them. The gospel was (is) not based on emotional pleas – although he was more than passionate – the gospel was (is) something to be considered, valued, and chosen (or rejected).
The essence of the gospel is that it requires more than an emotional reaction, it demands a willful response. “What will you do with the message of Jesus? Will you accept Him by faith, or will you reject Him?”
The gospel demands a decision. What is yours?