There is a fabulous paradoxical combo-lesson about salvation from the life of Paul: (1) If someone as bad as Paul can be saved, then so can we and (2) If someone as good as Paul needed to trust in Jesus to be saved, then so do we. In other words, he was so bad but not beyond salvation and so good but couldn’t earn salvation.
I was reading Philippians last night and thinking about how I like the Apostle Paul. I appreciate his writing and especially his passion in conveying the word of God. He gets a bad rap for allegedly being anti-female, but if you read him properly and in the context of his culture, he was quite the feminist (in the good sense). A woman in a Bible study once said, “I don’t like Paul. He’s a chauvinist.” I thought to myself, “I’ve got bad news for you. You’re wrong, and he wrote much of the New Testament.”
Paul had perhaps the most dramatic conversion experience ever. He went from a full-time job of persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist for Christianity of all time. That would be like Osama Bin Laden quitting terrorism to head up the Anti-Defamation League.
Paul’s life has at least two great lesson about salvation, though it is powerfully important how different they are:
1. If someone as awful as Paul can be redeemed, there is hope for us. Jesus’ sacrifice covers all our sins if we will only repent and believe. In Acts 9:5, Jesus said that Paul was persecuting Christ himself. Paul went about terrorizing, jailing and murdering Christians as his day job. If his sins can be forgiven, so can yours.
2. If an outstanding Jew like Paul still needed Jesus to be saved, then so does every other human on the planet. Consider Philippians 3:4-6:
“. . . If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.”
Paul had the ultimate Jewish resume — part of the chosen people, well educated, zealous, very righteous on human terms and so much more. He had all that going for him but He still needed Christ. If such a stellar Jewish person like Paul had to have faith in Jesus to be saved then, then so do we. (Side note: What makes any Christian think we shouldn’t witness to Jewish people?)
Don’t swallow the stereotypes. Read Paul (and more!) and learn for yourself. Rejoice in the truth that just like him, you need to be saved and you can be saved.