Throughout this devotional, we’ve looked at the women and men of Hebrews 11 as “the cloud of witnesses” that encourage us and call us to action in Hebrews 12:1–3. But perhaps the best place to finish our study is with a faithful believer who was still alive during Hebrews 11’s writing and embodies its strength as well as anyone.
He was born Saul of Tarsus, but you may know him better as the apostle Paul. We meet the man when he was still Saul, the Pharisee and a fierce enemy to Christianity. Saul’s opposition to the early church made Nehemiah’s accusers look shabby. Saul was present and approving of Stephen’s death by stoning (Acts 7:58, 8:1). He went house to house throughout Jerusalem, dragging Christians out of their homes and putting them in prison (Acts 8:3). When he was finished in Jerusalem, he asked permission to go through the countryside and foreign places to find and imprison Christians. Luke, the author of Acts, describes Saul as “breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1).
That’s when Saul met Jesus.
While pursuing Christians in faraway Damascus, Saul was blinded by a bright light along the road. This was no ordinary light, and it wasn’t merely an angel. It was the Son of God, Jesus Christ, risen and ascended, appearing in glory to Saul on the road. Saul fell on his face, was blinded for three days, and was led by the hand to Damascus where he would finally submit to the Lord and begin to pray (Acts 9:1–28).
When Saul emerged from his retreat in Damascus, he was no longer Saul. Such a profound transformation had taken place, that his old name simply wouldn’t do anymore. He was now Paul. Immediately he began to encourage the disciples and preach the good news of Jesus’s resurrection.
Paul—by virtue of having a personal encounter with the risen Lord on the road—was given apostle status along with the original disciples. He was charged with leading the spread of the gospel and the planting of churches in the Roman world, everything outside of Jerusalem and Israel. Over the next few decades, he would plant hundreds of churches, be imprisoned many times, and write more than a dozen of the letters that remain in our New Testament today.
And most important for our study: Paul finished well.
Paul ran the race, he kept the faith, and he reached the end.
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