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SauI'INE' Letter To Damascus : An Overview .

"Then Saul , still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the LORD , went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus , so that if he found any who were of the Way , whether men or women , he might bring them bound to Jerusalem ." (Acts 9 :1-2).

Introduction :

Yes , ' Saul'INE ' ! It was not a typo . It's rather a coinage . Having started his persecution of the gospel in person , in Acts 8 : 3 , Saul took a step further requesting letter from the high priest , empowering him to intensify the persecution in Damascus . It is the content of this letter to Damascus that forms the bedrock of this discourse . It is so tagged Saul'INE ' letter after the order of his other letters he later wrote as Paul - a changed person and an unrepentant advocate of the gospel . Such letters being generally referred to as " Pauline Letters / Epistles " in modern day christendom , occupy a substantial part of the New Testament .

What Are Letters ?

Letters are official documents expressing a statement of an action , intention , demand , or request . Letters are written from one person to another on behalf of an individual . One of such was written by Paul on behalf of Onesimus , a slave that escaped from his master , Philemon . He pleaded for Onesimus to be reinstated , " I am sending him back . You therefore receive him , that is, my own heart ." (Philm . 18) . Letters are written by one organization to another for several reasons . At times , letters could be written on behalf of a group of people .The Greek word for letters is "EPISTLE."

Letters can be drafted and crafted in series of languages depending on the locality and the audience . The addressees of such letters are more often than not , bound to act on the receipt of such , vis - a - vis the contents . Compliance is key ! In our contemporary world , virtually everyone of us might have at one time or the other written or received letters . Such letters , for example can be transitional : ranging from interview , ( varieties of interviews ) to employment , to deployment / transfer , promotional , termination / retirement , or eviction letters . Letters are for informational purposes . In their various tones and contexts , they are all saying one and the same thing - that the contents of such letters be honored and acted upon , within a certain time frame . Letters that bear good news , in our days , usually start with the caption "CONGRATULATIONS ." There are also letters that are ' vindictive ' in contents and purposes . Such was the letter of Saul to Damascus - the crux of this submission . Letters bear a signature or seal at the end , to make it official , regardless of whether they are favorable or vindictive .

I pray, our letters of congratulations will NOT be delayed anymore ! And they shall not fall into wrong hands . Amen !

Henceforth , we shall begin to receive favorable letters . Amen !

Sister Jezebel , the boisterous wife of king Ahab , took advantage of her weakling husband , usurped his position to write such vindictive letters to the elders and nobles who were dwelling in the city , to get rid of Naboth before taking over the poor man's family vineyard . "And she wrote letters in Ahab's name , sealed them with his seal , and sent the letters to the elders and nobles who were dwelling in the city with Naboth . " (1 Kgs. 21 : 8 ). There are letters and there are letters !

The aforementioned presupposes that letters are not written in a vacuum . As a literary student back in the days , I , and several others were not only taught , but also believed , till eternity that , " no writer writes in a vacuum ! " In other words , for any written letter or document , the writer must have been influenced by certain prevailing thoughts at the time of writing . Aside from being official documents , such thoughts scribbled on paper are uppermost and agitating the mind of the writer . These thoughts and agitations are what find expressions in written form . And in that written form , letters can be transmitted from one state to another , archived , digitalized and documented for future references . With particular reference to 'Saul'INE letter , the future is here for us to have a brief insight of its contents .

Acts 9 : 1-2 :

Within the frame work of " letter writings " , this discourse will delve into the purposes and contents of the ' supposedly' ' Sau'line ' letter 'and the eventual divine turnaround , he encountered in the process of pursuing his demand .

Though captured within just within the first two verses of Acts 9, Saul's letter of his intending persecution of the gospel , carried so much weight that it cannot go unnoticed . Hence , it was impeccably edited and packaged in such a way that everything burning in the heart of Saul was clearly stated and expressed therein ! And until he achieved his aim , he was not ready to relent . He was up to no good anyway . His influence within the circles of the powers of the day , was equally enormous . He exerted so much influence that whoever crafted the letter , did not leave anything out of Saul's demands . The high priest probably held him in a ' higher ' esteem that he did not query Saul's mission and motive for the demand . He rather pulled his weight behind the ungodly and infamous proposed mission . He , ( the high priest ) , probably was as good as being charged as an accomplice . Saul was a one man riot squad in his days , so much so that his demand was met , just for the asking .

The sole purpose of Saul's mission to Damascus , as captured in this historic letter was simple , "if he found any who were of the Way , whether men or women , he might bring them bound to Jerusalem ." (Acts 9 : 1-2) . Achieving this is all that would give him peace - whatever peace meant to him at that time of his life , anyway . This destructive mission was to be carried out in a blanket style pattern akin to Herod's massacre (though a verbal instruction it was , from Herod ) , of all male children in Bethlehem in the days Jesus Christ was born , "from two years old and under according to the time which he had determined from the wise men " (Mt. 2 :16) . This was to ensure Jesus Christ , being in this age bracket , did not escape the Herodic destruction . To express their intention , Saul and the writer(s) of the ' Damascus letter ' were not ambiguous in expression . They simply set the simple criterion as "any who were of the way . " Meaning : age , gender , complexion , language , race , height , were all captured within the scope of his targeted oppression with the larger picture being 'BELONGING TO THE WAY . '

I pray , the LORD will exempt us from any criterion and criteria the enemy is using to capture our generation for destruction . Amen !

If the letter to Damascus was so heavy , strong , and powerful that no one could stop it , then the oppression the " bounds " would suffer is better imagined than said ! However , in all his planning and schemings , Saul was oblivious of a Power , the HIGHEST Power that does not struggle to arrest even the most of stubborn souls . Fortunately or unfortunately , Saul did not go far before his mission was thwarted by this POWER . He was the LIGHT that shone around him from heaven ( Acts 9: 3 ) . He was not only disarmed of all the evil intentions in his mind , he was blinded and became helpless , at the mercy of the God he was fighting .

I pray , God will arrest whoever is preparing and bearing a letter of destruction against us ! Amen !

Looking at Saul's intention in retrospect Acts 9 :1 , "then Saul still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the LORD " , it is ironic that Saul found help and recourse in the very team he was waring against , by the time the chips were down . In his lonely and helpless state on the road to Damascus , he unequivocally asked who the LORD was " Who are You , LORD? " ( Acts 9: 5) . The pressing matters that were driving him to Damascus immediately became a thing of the past and never to be brought up again . The breathes of threats and murder against the disciples of the LORD subsided . He was soon to be at loggerheads with the powers that endorsed him as a bearer of the letter of destruction . As a matter of fact , at this point , the letter of destruction he was bearing became inconsequential . The imagery he had formed in his mind of how to further persecute and ultimately prosecute his victims , did not see the light of day . He needed to save his head .

If there was any higher position promised him if he succeeded on this mission , it became void instantly ! Physical and emotional severance with the high priest back home in his base , became imperative . The next time they would be hearing from Saul , he would have become a ' new person . ' In the interim , he was left alone , in his own world to bear the brunt of his insurrection . A spiritual rehabilitation was necessary and urgently , too . (How do we handle the new converts in our places of worship / society , especially those with strong spirit of repulsion for the gospel , like Saul was ? ) .The Savior of his soul had taken over and was charting another route for him . A route he will tread till the end of his life , with much zeal and vigor . Saul had to embrace this new life with immediate alacrity ! Further delay might be dangerous for him... and by extension , may not augur well for the body of Christ .

Ananias - Bridging The Gap :

On His part , God had gone ahead of him to provide a way of comfort , relief , deliverance , and a redirection , in the person of Ananias , a disciple at Damascus . It took God Himself to convince Ananias that He had disarmed Saul of all his " powers " and " authority " from the chief priests . Ananias developed a cold feet . ( How often do we develop cold feet as believers , in the face of turbulent situations as this ? ) Saul was to be used of God with more than double zeal and ferocity with which he persecuted the gospel . It was in this state of fear , apprehension , and utter disbelief that disciple Ananias went to minister to Saul . If asked , disciple Ananias would probably document this as this most trembling , frightening , and memorable experience and nightmare he ever had as a disciple ! Yet , he was was used of God to convert a man , who later did not only become a zealous apostle , but wrote a substantial part of the New Testament . ( How much have we trusted and believed God to use us to convert even the most apparently difficult soul even with His grace upon us ? ) .

Conclusion :

Saul was learned enough to know the strength of letters and he never underestimated it , even from his days as a lead persecutor of the gospel . Trained as a lawyer , "...brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel , taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law . " ( Acts 22: 3) , he combined his writing skills with his brilliant oratory as a lawyer , and coupled with the call of God upon his life , Saul , now Paul , was ready to go into the nations to not only retract his offensive utterances against the gospel , he was ready even to die for the gospel ! He said , " what do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart ? For I am ready not only to be bound , but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus . " (Acts 21 : 13) . What a transformation !

It is worthy of commendation that Paul was consistent in his vociferous expression of whatever he believed in . And either way , he was not timid , nor was he afraid of the consequences of his moves . In other words , while he failed in his Damascus letter as a persecutor of the gospel , he used the same medium of writing to preach and propagate the gospel , even when the tide changed . The writings continued even within and outside of his numerous confinements , " for which I am an ambassador in chains ; that in it I may speak boldly , as I ought to speak ." (Eph. 6. 20 ) . The writings were with much fervor to an extent that even the palace guard in Philippi knew his chains were not to impress men , rather it was divinely ordained . With this , he was able to take the gospel further , " for the furtherance of the gospel " (Phil. 1 : 12 ) , and instilled confidence in the brethren at Philippi (Phil. 1 : 14 ) .

Before the end of 2023, we all shall receive at least , one letter of joy . Amen !

To all my superiors , colleagues and contemporaries in ministry , I submit that , if apostle Paul did not leave anything for us , he left us with an embodiment of resilience , fearlessness , doggedness , sheer will and determination , and unalloyed commitment to a cause that is just and true . In addition , he demonstrated to us how we can use any major gifting in us to take the gospel beyond the frontiers of our physical location . You and I have the gifting , no doubt . All we need to do may be just to discover , tap into , and maximize it . Coupled with His grace on us , we can achieve so much for the LORD ! He is counting on us . God bless us . Amen !

Note : It's the 3rd " ember " month of the year , please be safe in the name of the LORD !

© November 2023

Being A Monthly Scripture Nugget

From The Desk Of :

Olusegun A Emosu

The Redeemed Christian Church Of God,

(Rehoboth Parish) ,

1879, S Stone Mountain Lithonia Rd,

Lithonia GA 30058

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