Read: Acts 7:54-8:3

Saul was ravaging the church. (8:3)

The man we will come to know as the apostle Paul first appears in Acts as one of the men responsible for Stephen’s martyrdom. As a junior member of the mob that stoned Stephen to death, Saul was given the job of “holding the coats” of the actual executioners.

According to early Christian tradition, Paul wasn’t much to look at—bald-headed, bandy-legged, little guy. By his own admission, Paul came across as not especially powerful or impressive (1 Cor. 2:3-4). But his passion, intellect, energy, and courage made him stand out. Shortly after Stephen’s death we find that Saul has become a leader of the effort to stamp out the Jesus movement. Paul himself summed up his early life this way: “Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief . . . Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost (1 Tim. 1:13-15).

Despite all that he would become, Paul never forgot what he once was. To himself he would always be “the chief of sinners.” Paul never lost his sense of wonder that the Lord who knew all that he was and everything he had done, still “loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Centuries later another notorious sinner who was wonderfully converted wrote a hymn about God’s “Amazing Grace.” It wasn’t just a phrase. To John Newton, as to Paul, the grace of God’s acceptance and forgiveness really was amazing. —David Bast

Prayer: Fill me with wonder at your grace.