Saul, a Person on Fire with Religious Zeal
In Acts 9, we are told what Saul experienced while he was on his way to Damascus, “breathing threatening and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1). It is difficult to believe that Saul at that time was so determined to wipe out the churches that he would even murder the Lord’s followers!
Saul was witness to Stephen’s murder. Perhaps he even played a part in instigating his stoning, for he was extremely zealous, and a leader by nature. He might have kept his hands clean by guarding the clothes of those who did the actual stoning, but he was there approving it.
Seeing the Heavenly, Great Corporate “Me”
From this we can see that it is more serious to be religious than it is to be worldly. Those in the world realize that “the love of the Father is not in them.” When you watch a movie, you probably know that you are not doing the Lord’s will. A religious person, however, may in name of God zealously carry out things totally against God while thinking he is doing God’s work. Saul was such a zealous person. As he drew near to Damascus, however, a heavenly light shined all about him, and he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4) The voice did not say to him, “Why are you persecuting my saints?” In this very word Saul saw a great light. In the light from the heavens, there was a voice, and certainly behind a voice, there is a person. And this person was saying, “Saul, you persecuted Stephen. Saul, you are now persecuting many others. Yet those you are persecuting are ME. You are breathing out threatening and murder against ME. Those you persecute are part of ME.”
What a light this is! And what a great advance from what Peter saw! Peter saw an individual Christ who would build His church. Paul’s revelation was much more concrete. Paul saw that Christ was one with His believers, who were now His organic Body. In Paul’s vision, Christ has become enlarged. He is no longer just the individual Christ. Through resurrection, He has begotten all His believers, who have become the members of His Body. Saints, we should appreciate who we are! We are Christ’s Body!
If Saul had not been so subdued by this revelation of the heavenly Christ in glory, he might have been tempted to argue, “Lord, how can You say these who believe in You are You? Are they as perfect as You are? Are they living as You all the time?” To this the Lord might have responded, “Well, they are on their way, and My blood covers them.” Saul could have said then, “Well, I should be rewarded, then, for my persecution has caused them to turn to You and grow more.” But he was not in this realm. When we consider the saints in the church life, are they not all headaches? Doesn’t every one of us have problems and weaknesses? Are we not many times natural and even sinful? Yet it seems as if the Lord does not care about this, for He says, “When you touch this believer, You are touching Me. When you persecute this brother or sister, you are persecuting Me. You must respect not only Me, but also all My members.”
Jesus says, “When You touch one of My believers, You are touching me.” But from another angle, Saul persecuted those who were standing for the Lord. It may be that Saul would not even consider persecuting some of us, for we may not have such a testimony that we are one of the Lord’s people. Our manner of life may instead disqualify us from being persecuted by Saul; he might have just passed us by if he saw us on the street. Saul sought out those who called on the name of the Lord. He was after those who stood with the Lord for His testimony.
Follow Christ, Share in the Persecution of Jesus
In this there is one matter of which we must be very clear. When we follow Christ, we will experience Jesus. The Lord did not say to Saul, “I am the resurrected Christ.” Instead, He said, “I am Jesus under your persecution.” Here the revelation has advanced in such a sweet way, for in it we see not merely the Body being one with Christ, but also enduring persecution as the followers of Jesus. The Lord desires that we would all be overcomers standing with Him and gaining Him in this process that involves suffering for His name’s sake.
Whom do we follow? We follow Christ. Whom do we experience as we follow Christ? We experience Jesus, the One who left everything for the sake of God’s will, who sought nothing for Himself, who existed only for the purpose of satisfying God’s heart. This is Jesus. You have to be His follower and stand with Him. If this is your testimony, expect to be identified as one of His followers by those who are His persecutors, for you are not only a member of the Body of Christ; you have the reality of the Body of Christ.