Yes, Paul was a murderer, but he was also a Godís creation regardless of anything Paul had done or not done in or with his life. God sees in all of us what we could become if we just gave Him a chance to change us from the inside out. Godís grace is a way of telling us ďHey, I know youíve done wrong things in your life, some even in My Name. But, I want you to know that I not only still love you, I also know what you could be if you would just let me make you whole again. My love for you will not allow me to let you go, not for even one second, for if I were to let you go, you would truly be lost forever.Ē
In Paulís case, I believe that God saw that Paulís heart was leaning in the right direction, but didnít really know how to get to the right side he needed to be on. Paul was learned in the Jewish way, who, in fact, became one of its biggest followers. Paul wanted to help God, but he was, again, going in the wrong direction giving out the wrong kind of help. I believe that Godís grace toward Paul knocked him off his high horse and grounded him in a way that Paul would have never imagined. I donít believe that Paul ever thought that he would meet this Jesus he was persecuting. But when he did, he saw the wrong direction he was going in and found that Jesus wanted him to change course in a way that would bring not only God, but Paul fame that he probably never thought he would have, the kind of fame that led to beatings, shipwrecks, snake bites, and so on. Godís grace was given to Paul and Paul used it to bring grace to the nations around him as he travelled. This grace brought people together like nothing else ever had, while at the same time dividing those who did not agree with it.
Which brings me to the topic of this response: the grace of God is severely lacking in the church of today, both locally and globally. This is exemplified in the fact that there are too many denominations of Christians, all teaching a little something different to those who attend their churches. It would (and has taken) books to fully talk about this division in our churches. Man has spent more time going over each line of doctrine than they have preaching the Gospel and spreading the grace of God around the world. Yes, grace is being taught in churches, but whose grace is it Ė the churches or Godís?
In one denomination, in order to be absolved of sin, you have to confess to a man in a box. This is something that is clearly not taught in Scripture of any kind, but it is done nonetheless. Whose grace is being extended here to the sinner Ė manís or Godís? Many churches are so legalistic that a parishioner canít tell if he truly sinned or not. Is it a sin to eat meat on a Friday during Lent or isnít it? And where did Lent come from anyway? Again, in my opinion, man has taken the roll of extending grace away from God and is using it as a ďGet out of Jail FreeĒ card. Man has taken the church from God and is holding it hostage from Him.
Grace is to be freely given to all by all in all things. Grace can only be given by the One who has the true power to forgive. Only God can take His grace and change a life with it, as He did the Apostle Paulís life. No man ever affected my life as God has done by extending me His grace. No man has ever given me the tools I need to live a righteous life every day. The church must stop playing God and let God be God. Honestly, in the last few months I have been trying to find a church that lets God be God. Itís hard to find grace when there are just too many people looking miserable, especially for a true God-fearing, Bible-believing church where joy is supposed to be found. Grace can only come from a truly joyful, Jesus-loving heart. So, why are our churches not full of these kinds of people?