Anyone who says, “People don’t change,” never read the story of Saul/Paul.
Originally named Saul, Paul was enemy number one to all Jesus followers. He made it his life’s work to seek out and persecute Christians. And, when I say “persecute” I really mean he stoned, arrested, crucified, tortured, and killed all those who believed. He was not a nice guy.
I am starting my walkthrough Philippians but to understand this letter Paul wrote to the people of Philippi we first must understand who he was before he became a believer.
If you’ve ever wanted to have a deeper understanding of the Bible, I hope you will join me in this mini-Bible study. A little disclaimer, I am not a Bible scholar. I don’t have a degree in theology. I am just a woman who desperately wants to understand the Bible and develop a deeper walk with Jesus. I try my best to state truth and understanding. I pray that anything I say here that is untrue or misunderstood will be forgotten and only the good stuff is remembered.
Now, to help us along this journey, I have a free Bible study tool called S.O.A.P. (Scripture, Observation, Application, & Prayer). You can grab the free download below. I hope that you will take advantage of this useful Bible study tool. I have found this a great way to dive deeper into scripture and remember it easier.
Let’s dive in. Paul knew he was a great sinner. Let’s take a look at his life before Philippians:
- He persecuted and arrested Christians. (Acts 8:3) Note Saul “shamefully treated and laid waste to the church continuously…”
- Saul had a zealous obsession for punishing the faithful. (Acts 26:9-11)
- He took part in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7:58–Acts 8:1) and others (Acts 22:4).
- Paul admits how awful he was to the church (Galatians 1:13).
Side note: Saul was first mentioned by his new name of Paul by Luke (Acts 13:13 and Acts 13:9) after he starts his journey of missionary work. Some believe (as I did) that Jesus gave him the new name of Paul when blinded on the road to Damascus. It totally spoils the idea of Bad Saul and Good Paul, but it’s important to study scripture as intended, and not think in Hollywood terms. I am guilty of this as well. I love a good redemption story. Actually, the names Saul and Paul are the same–one being the Hebrew version and the latter being the Greek version of the same name. (Read more about that here.)
Now that we know that Paul was coming from a bad place, let’s read Acts 16:10-30 and Acts 28:11-31. Write out the scripture. I did write out the short version and use the back of the sheet.
The book of Acts picks up where the Gospels left off. Paul has already recovered from his blindness and is now a believer. He had a vision to go to Macedonia because the people needed help. So, he sets off from Troas for Macedonia and ending in the chief city of Philippi. He is with Luke, Timothy, and Silas (probably others too).
They go out to a place to pray and meet Lydia, a fabric dealer. She is baptized and offers them a place to stay. On the way to her home, Paul and his group meet a slave girl who is possessed. I can just imagine this scene.
The fortunetelling slave girl is following the group, shouting, and harassing, “They announce to you the way of salvation!” (Acts 16:17) She continues to harass them for days. Then, Paul gets so annoyed, saying, “Enough, already!” (again, this is what I imagine) and turns to her, commanding the spirit within her to come out. And it did. Just like that.
Well, the slave girl’s owners get so angry because now their “hope of profit is gone”. They drag Paul and Silas in front of the magistrates and accuse them of what? Practicing customs that are not Roman. Forget the miracle Paul just preformed, right? Silly Romans miss the miracle. When a crowd gathers, the rulers have no other choice but to rip “the clothes off of them and commanded that they were to be beaten with rods,” then thrown in jail. But they were innocent. And, oh.my.gosh. can you imagine being Paul and Silas right now?
Have you ever been mistreated by someone when you didn’t deserve it? Maybe it was a friend over a misunderstanding, or maybe it is a co-worker, or a family member. How do you feel? I feel hurt, angry, spiteful, I mean, who is she to treat me that way, I think. We all get that way from time to time. We feel mistreated and our vengeful side comes roaring out. But, listen to what happened next.
Paul and Silas are thrown in jail. I know their flesh was broken and bleeding from the beating they just endured. I would have been in the fetal position in the corner crying, but not these guys. Nope. They started praying and singing hymns. (Acts 16:25) They did what? Are you kidding me!
They were in a dark dungeon but they were choosing to be in the light of Christ.
They were praising God in all circumstances. Even in the worst circumstances. Then there was a great earthquake, shaking the foundation, scaring the cramp out of the jailer, and unfastening all the shackles and cell doors. When the jailer, who was asleep on the job, awoke and saw this “he drew his sword and was on the point of killing himself.” He thought he was as good as dead anyway if all the prisoners had escaped. But they had not taken advantage of the situation. The jailer realized this and bowed to them and asked, “what is it necessary for me to do that I may be saved?” And they answered, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ…”
That’s it. Believe. I read on to find out what happened to the jailer (Acts 16:32-40). The jailer took Paul and Silas out, bandaged their bloody wounds, feed them, and they baptized the jailer. The magistrates did realize their mistake and released Paul and Silas, but not before they transformed the jailer’s life and the life of his family.
Don’t you think that is a cool story? Me too. How can I apply this truth of “just believe in Jesus Christ” to my own life? How can I have joy in circumstances that are not so joyful? In my daily life, I can keep speaking the Word and its truth, and keep learning. Show grace to others that have hurt me. Be slow to react. Think first, speak second, speak in love. Let it go.
Finish in Prayer.
Dear Lord, As I read Philippians, help me to remember Paul’s story of redemption and faith. He stayed in the light even when it was dark. I ask that you open my heart and mind to these truths. In God’s name, I pray, Amen.
Thanks for joining me. If you liked this mini-Bible study, please follow via email so that you don’t miss the next post where I start Philippians.