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During the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the man we now refer to as the Apostle Paul was known as Saul of Tarsus. Saul was a member of the sect known as the Pharisees or pious ones. Saul studied at the school of Gamaliel, a member of the Sanhedrin or ruling council. It was this Saul who held the cloaks of the men who stoned Stephen in Acts 7:58. Paul, when speaking of his early life, identified himself as a Pharisee and the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6). He did so for two purposes. First, Paul used his standing in the strict sect to reach the Jewish population. Secondly, Paul showed the gentile believers that even though he had the genealogy of a Jew all members of the church, the Body of Christ, were equal in the sight of God. The racial difference is no longer present. It was these same Pharisees that Jesus berated for their hypocrisy. They made a great show of study of the Scriptures, but they were blind to the fact that Jesus fulfilled the prophesies as Messiah. An important point for us to remember is that Saul of Tarsus was an enemy of Christ's church, and persecuted believers to death. Yet after his conversion, Paul was used in a great manner by the Lord. This should be taken to heart by all of us for it shows that God can and will make dramatic changes in the lives of those that come to Him. One of my favorite verses is, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." (1Tim 1:15)
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