“And Saul approved of his execution…” From Acts 8:1, speaking of the stoning of one of the first deacons and the first martyr, Stephen… Can you imagine how the apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul) must have struggled with the fact that he was responsible for the torture, imprisonment, and even death of Christians! No doubt those words, “And Saul approved of his execution…” must have haunted him and lived in the forefront of Paul’s mind consistently. If Paul was like most of us, the thought of his former self, his former sin, probably consumed his thoughts and brought him much agony. But we must remember that this was before God breathed spiritual life into him, made his heart of stone a heart of flesh, forgave his sins, and imputed the righteousness of Christ upon him! Let that sink in for a moment… This was the same man whose life seemed to be devoted to extinguishing Christianity and anything to do with it!
If you read a bit farther into the Acts 8 you will find these words, “But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (ESV). Say what you want, but this is a clear case of human depravity manifesting itself. This was a self-righteous human doing what self-righteous humans do… Saul, in one sense was the worst of the worst; the epitome of ungodliness; a picture of evil! He hated the thought of Jesus and Christianity; so much so that he practiced what could be called an inverse Holocaust. Saul simply wanted to rid the world of what was known as “The Way”, or what we know as Christianity, and he was passionate and good at it! He continued that endeavor until God rocked his world!!
There he was, on his way to Damascus, no doubt thinking he was in control and would soon put an end to this nonsense they call Christianity; when Jesus appeared to him, blinded him with his glory, and breathed life into his wretchedly dead self! This is when the Christian killer Saul became the Christ exalting Paul and his purpose and desire in life was to bring glory to Christ and to take the gospel of Jesus to the entire world!!
So what’s my point? My point is God’s grace is more amazing than any human can fathom and, because of the sacrifice of Jesus, can cover the most wretched of sins. A.W. Pink described Grace like this,
“…grace is something more than “unmerited favor.” To feed a tramp who calls on me is “unmerited favor,” but it is scarcely grace. But suppose that after robbing me I should feed this starving tramp—that would be “grace.” Grace, then, is favor shown where there is positive de-merit in the one receiving it.”
This definition describes the apostle Paul perfectly. It also describes the remainder of humanity! All of humanity has sinned against the Holy God, not only in our actions but with our nature as well. Our sin is sickening to the holy God and He has every right to pour out his wrath on the whole of us! But for those who have been redeemed, bought with and by the blood of Christ, that sin is a thing of the past, never to be held against us! The amazingly gracious God has removed our sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103)! In other words, there’s no sin so large that the sacrifice of the righteous Jesus can’t cover!
If we say our sins are too large or horrible to be forgiven, we are doing nothing less than cheapening the sacrifice of Christ, watering down God’s grace, and making a mockery of the gospel. So, as a Christian, when we think about our sin before Jesus made us alive; when we have those, “And Saul approved of his execution…” moments; remember that we have been redeemed from that sin and that the remembrance of them should only be used to remind of of God’s grace, mercy, love, and glory!!
Rest in God’s grace…