3 I’ve been extremely passionate in my desire to please God, just as all of you are today. 4 I’ve hunted down and killed the followers of this Way. I have seized them and thrown them into prison, both men and women. 5 All of this can be verified by the high priest and the Supreme Council of Elders. For they even wrote letters to our fellow Jews of Damascus, authorizing me to arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.
6 “As I was on the road approaching Damascus, about noon, a brilliant heavenly light suddenly appeared, flashing all around me. 7 As I fell to the ground I heard a voice say, ‘Saul, Saul . . . why are you persecuting me?’
8 “I answered, ‘Who are you, my Lord?’
“He said to me, ‘I am Jesus, the Victorious. I am the one you are persecuting.’
9 “Those who were with me saw the brilliant light, but they didn’t hear the voice of the one who spoke to me.
10 “So I asked, ‘Lord, what am I to do?’
“And the Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go into Damascus, and there you will be told about all that you are destined to do.’
11 “Because of the dazzling glory of the light, I couldn’t see—I was left blind. So they had to lead me by the hand the rest of the way into Damascus.
12 “A Jewish man living there named Ananias came to see me. He was a godly man who lived according to the law of Moses and was highly esteemed by the Jewish community. 13 He stood beside me and said, ‘Saul! My brother, Saul—open your eyes and see again!’ At that very instant I opened my eyes and I could see! 14 Then he said to me, ‘The God of our ancestors has destined you[e] to know his plan and for you to see the Holy One and to hear his voice. 15 For you will be his witness to every race of people and will share with them everything that you’ve seen and heard.
In our passage today, Paul is giving his testimony at the Temple in Jerusalem. He is trying to get the men of Israel to pay attention to his story about Jesus. They falsely accuse him of teaching against the laws of Moses. A mob comes after Paul with the purpose of killing him; they beat him until a regiment of Roman soldiers come to break up the attack. Paul lets these religious zealots know he understands where they find themselves. He, too, was deceived by Satan into misinterpreting the Word of God, as well as harming the Lord and his servants.
Organized religion may or may not correctly represent the Truth of God’s Word or will. Be careful. Humans have an inclination to make God in their own image—based on their personal opinions, rather than conform to his image and his ways revealed in the Word. Jesus came to draw us into a relationship based on personal responsibility; he brings the power to live for God. We must read the Word of God, stay true to what is written and taught about living a life that pleases God, and listen to the Holy Spirit who bears witness to the Truth and brings the power to live as an obedient Christ follower. Otherwise, like Paul, some well-meaning folks may find themselves using a false religion to silence others who are actually standing on the Word and obeying the Lord who is Truth. In the last days, deceived government/world leaders and deceived religious teachers will partner with Satan for the purpose of trying one last time to silence Christ’s followers and dethrone and Lord of all (Rev. 13).
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the witness of the apostle Paul and his courage to speak Truth even when others did not want to hear it. I pray for Truth to rise up in me and in all your followers, so we will continue to speak honestly and accurately for your heart. In Jesus’ name. Amen.