Saul, the Persecutor: Acts 9:1-2
“1) Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2) and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts‬ ‭9‬:‭1‬-‭2
Saul took his role seriously. Damascus was located over 160 miles north and slightly west of Jerusalem in Syria. It was a strong 70 miles north west of the Sea of Galilee. Saul intended on eradicating the followers of Jesus Christ from them whole of Palestine.
Technically, the high priest had no authority in Syria, except over the Jewish synagogues. Saul was prepared to track down any men or women who attended the synagogues who were also followers of “the Way.”
Some date his trip to Damascus 3-5 years after the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Many doubt that he was personally acquainted with Jesus Christ during His public ministry.
When you compare Acts 8:3 with Acts 9:1-2, Saul was the primary force leading the first wave of deadly persecution against the church. His cruel reputation spread far and wide. Galatians 1:22-24 and Philippians 3:6 both refer to him as the primary source of persecution in the early church.
We are here introduced to the term “the Way” used for the early believers. The term is used six times throughout the book of Acts. It was the term the early disciples used to describe themselves. The term was most likely anchored in both Isaiah 40:3 and the words of Jesus in John 14:6 where He referred to Himself as the way, the truth and the life.
His followers viewed Him as the Messiah and the only way to God. (See Acts 4:11-2) They saw no other means of salvation but through the name of Jesus Christ.
It was this exclusive message of the Gospel and faith in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation that brought the wrath of the Jewish religious leaders. “The Way” was viewed a direct threat to their existence. This perceived threat became the fuel for the deadly persecution led by Saul.
We now discover a common denominator behind all persecution of Christians. There is a real and perceived threat that obedience to the Gospel and the teachings of Jesus Christ will bring an end to any competing doctrine, religious institution, system of morality, evil enterprise or form of corruption. This is a true conclusion. Following Jesus Christ changes people.
It can be inferred that all wicked and evil men from the drug lords to Hollywood screenwriters understand this truth. Their only recourse to preserve “their own way of life” is to persecute Jesus Christ and those who follow Him as “the Way.”
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global