03684_000_028(See Acts 7–9, 11.)
The angry mob dropped their cloaks at Saul’s feet. Cursing and yelling, they began to hurl stones at Stephen for preaching about Jesus. The rocks bruised and cut Stephen’s body. Wounded, he knelt on the ground and cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge,” and died.
Saul was unmoved by the innocent man’s dying words of forgiveness. He thought Christians were wicked, and he worked hard to rid the empire of them. He searched the towns and homes, and when he found any men or women who believed in Christ, they were put into prison.
So great was Saul’s vengeance that he went to the high priest and obtained letters to take to the synagogues in Damascus. The letters gave Saul the authority to take prisoner any Christian he found on his journey.
Carrying the letters, Saul started for Damascus, determined to destroy the Christians. But as he neared the city, a light from heaven encircled him. Bewildered, Saul fell to the earth.
“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” asked a voice hovering near.
Frightened, Saul asked, “Who art thou, Lord?”
The voice answered, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”
Trembling, Saul asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”
“Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do,” the Lord instructed.
Obediently Saul arose, only to find that he was blind. Saul’s companions led him into Damascus, where for three days his blindness continued and he neither ate nor drank.
After the three days a man named Ananias was sent to Saul by the Lord. Putting his hands on Saul’s head, Ananias prayed, “Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.”
Immediately Saul could see again. Saul now knew that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah, and he asked to be baptized into His church.
For many days Saul remained with Jesus’ disciples, learning all that he could from them. Before long, Saul, the man who had persecuted Christians, was testifying of Jesus Christ in the synagogues. Nevertheless, many people continued to persecute the Christians. One time when the people decided to kill Saul, he escaped by being lowered over the city wall in a basket by some of the disciples.
Saul traveled to Jerusalem and tried to join the Christians there, but they remembered his persecutions and were afraid of him. However, one of the disciples, Barnabas, took him to the Apostles Peter and James, the brother of Jesus. Saul told them of his wonderful vision and conversion. They knew that he spoke the truth and accepted him with love.
For fifteen days Saul taught boldly in the name of Jesus Christ and bore his testimony to the people. But the people would not listen and again tried to kill Saul. The Apostles feared for Saul’s life and instructed him to return to his home in Tarsus, where they hoped that he would be safe.
After six or seven years Barnabas traveled to Tarsus, found Saul, and took him to Antioch, where for a year they taught the people of that city about Jesus.
Barnabas and Saul then traveled to Jerusalem and back to Antioch, where they preached the gospel. About this time Saul began to be called by his Latin name, Paul. Throughout the rest of the scriptures he was known by the name Paul.
(To be concluded.)