In our recent beginning to a series of sermons in 1 Timothy, I made much of the fact that that particular book of the Bible is actually a letter – a piece of personally crafted communication from the apostle Paul to his beloved protégé. And, of course, all of Paul’s writings come to us in the form of letters – some more personal, and others more tract-like. But Paul was the great letter writer! And maybe there is a hint for us there, as to one way that we, too, might build up fellow believers across the miles!
But when I think of the apostle Paul, and of letters … my mind is also drawn back to the time, before Paul’s conversion, when he (known as Saul) was making use of letters of a very different kind. Do you remember the occasion in Acts 9? Saul hated the church of Jesus Christ and was, in fact, “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” And, more than just making threats, Saul was making efforts to follow through on them in the city of Damascus – having obtained the sanction of the high priest that any Christians found in the synagogues of that city might be arrested and brought back to Jerusalem, presumably to face charges and imprisonment.
And what did Saul take with him to Damascus, as proof of his permission, granted by the high priest, to make such arrests? Letters, we are told in Acts 9:2!
What an irony! Here was this angry young Pharisee, carrying in his satchel a handful of letters, written for the purpose of binding the followers of Jesus, and making their lives miserable! But on the road to Damascus, he met with something (or Someone, rather) he did not expect! Jesus stopped him in his tracks, and brought him to his knees, and set him on a whole new course … so that this man, carrying such hateful letters in his knapsack, would eventually begin to write the most helpful and oft-read letters in all the history of human writing – letters meant not to bind Christ’s followers, but to point out to us the freedom that we have in Christ; letters meant, not to discomfort, but to comfort the disciples of Jesus!
And it just reminds me that God can still do the same today! He can take a dealer of illicit and deadly narcotics, and make him into one who dispenses the healing balm of the gospel! He can take a tongue that once spread slander, gossip, and rumors … and loose it to begin spreading the truth of Jesus Christ. He can take an impatient and sharp-tongued man, and make him an encourager of struggling saints; a loose woman, and make her a Titus 2 wife and mother; a whiny child and make him or her a future leader of praise!
Here is the power of the gospel! Here is the power of Jesus to remake any heart; to take what was once wasteful, hateful, harmful, and ugly … and to make it useful, loving, healing, and beautiful for God! Pray that He will do just that in the lives of the Saul’s all around you, and in your own life as well! He is “able” (Eph.3:20) “to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think.”