Second Chances - PAUL
What does a second chance involve? Can we get a second chance just by changing our name?
Sometimes, I think if I changed my name, would it make me more outgoing, would it make me smarter, would it change anything about me? We might look at the story of Paul and think that a change of name changed a lot, but did it?
Before, he was known as Saul, and he wasn’t someone that you wanted to know. He was known as someone who persecuted the followers of Jesus; who savagely attacked and murdered Jesus’ followers. One of these followers, Stephen, was stoned to death, a horrendous, agonising death, and Paul was present for this killing - Stephen was killed for his faith, for faith in the God, whom Paul himself came to love.
Paul was a Pharisee, he was confident in his own righteousness, rather than seeing the righteousness of the one true King, Jesus. He believed that the early Church was dangerous, and to stop them, he arrested, imprisoned, and condemned them to death. He threatened the lives of Jesus’ disciples and many others.
In Galatians 1:13, Paul said this of himself, “For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.” And yet, with God, he became one of the best-known writers of the books of the Bible, he became someone who brought many others to faith, both in his lifetime and beyond.
But when did Paul’s second chance happen? Known as ‘Paul’s Damascus experience’, it was when Jesus Christ revealed himself to Paul. Imagine, if Jesus revealed himself to you or me, I wouldn’t know what to think! Jesus knew Paul… God had knit Paul together in his mother’s womb and though they knew all of the wrong things Paul had done, God still loved Paul. God still gave him a second chance.
On that day, Paul encountered Jesus. It must have been a terrifying experience, he didn’t know Jesus before his death, he had such hatred for his followers. Then on the road to Damascus, a sudden light shone around him, Paul fell to his knees as a voice called out to him, and as we read in Acts 9:4-6, this was his encounter with Jesus, “…Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me? Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. And the voices replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!” From this moment on, and because of this encounter with Jesus, Paul began to make changes to his life and of course his name.
The changes in Paul didn’t end here - God helped Paul to change himself, in a longer transformation, to not just change his name, but to change his heart too. He was fully transformed, no longer the old Saul, feared by many, but now Paul who lived every day for Jesus and took up his cross daily.
Paul says, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” - Galatians 2:20. It’s just amazing that a man who once hated the followers of Jesus was transformed by into an incredible man of faith.
Paul wrote many of the most famous letters in the Bible, some of his letters are found in Philippians, 1 & 2 Corinthians and Colossians. His writings are some of the most powerful books of the Bible; talking about issues that were relevant in Paul and Jesus’ time, but also in today’s world – fear and anxiety, how to live as a Christian in this world, and more.
While we might think the things we may have done aren’t as bad as the things Paul did, we have still done wrong. We still make mistakes and we still don’t deserve God’s love for us. We all need a second chance, just like Paul - not a new name, not to change what makes us unique, but we need a second chance to admit what we have done, to ask for forgiveness and to live out a life of faith, like Paul rather than living like Saul.
I hope that in the end, all of us can be like Paul and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” - 2 Timothy 4:7.