Saul, later called Paul, appears to have been the driver of the stoning of Stephen. Acts 9 tells us of his decision to go to Damascus “so that if he found any belonging to the Way, man or woman, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem”. It is interesting that the first description of the followers of Jesus was “the Way” (see also Acts 9:23; 24:14,22).
How this came about is not clear, but it reminds us of the words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). There is only one way to live eternally, and that is to gain “the life” Jesus offers. Saul was heading the wrong way; we read (verses 3,4), “Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Saul was not persecuting Jesus – or was he? Paul uses the phrase “in Christ” at least 80 times in his letters! For example, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price” he told the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). Paul soon felt he was not his own, but that Christ owned him, he seems to have felt this more than anyone else. How much do you and I feel this?
Reading on in Acts we see how Paul twice defends himself against false accusations from those he formerly associated with. In chapter 24 he defends himself in Caesarea saying, “… but this I confess to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers … that there will be a resurrection both of the just and the unjust” (verses 14,15).
Let us make sure we will be among “the just” – that we are following the right way. Paul experienced much persecution, but those truly “in Christ” will know that Christ is “in” them and “will not let you be tempted (or tested) beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).