When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, shouting,
‘Fellow-Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.’
For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting,
‘Away with him!’
Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune,
‘May I say something to you?’
The tribune replied,
‘Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?’
‘I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.’ When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language.
Paul’s conversion, on his way to Damascus, possibly the most iconic testimony of all time, was certainly dramatic and had a significant impact on both early church growth and the development of Christianity. Pauls’ story has encouraged and inspired faith in Jesus ever since.
As an evangelism and renewal advocate for GEAR, I have visited a number of URCs to teach on the subject of evangelism. I have on occasions used Paul’s testimony as an illustration, that anybody can be saved, even the self-confessed ‘worst of sinners’. As we consider our conversion, our beginnings with God, whether it’s dramatic like Paul’s, or more gradual, like most of us. It is important to share our story. Sometimes we may be reluctant to tell our story, particularly if we feel it’s unremarkable. But all testimony has real potential to encourage and ignite the gift of faith in others.
Take a moment to reflect on your story, pray that God will help you to begin to share your story with others.
Lord thank you for the many ways in which you have touched my life and blessed me. Please give me courage, through your Holy Spirit, to share my story with others, so it in turn may be an encouragement, blessing and inspiration to them, Amen.
The Revd Sally Willett, Evangelism and Renewal Advocate for GEAR and minister of West Thamesmead Community Church.