Faith alone, in Christ alone
A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem; and all the believers except the apostles were scattered through the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Some devout men came and buried Stephen with great mourning.) But Saul was going everywhere to destroy the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into prison. Acts 8:1-3
Saul, before he became the apostle Paul was brought up in a strict Jewish home. He learned the Old Testament from childhood. His family includes coming from the prominent clan of the tribe of Benjamin. This is where Israel’s first king, Saul, came from. Saul decided to follow a strict religious order known as Pharisee. Becoming a part of this religious order meant that he would follow a very strict discipline. The commitment involved a strong sense of sacrifice. He also studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3) and this education made him to be devoted in strict adherence to the laws of the fathers. He was very religious yet he ended up taking part in the stoning of Stephen. “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen” (Acts 8:1a). So how could a religious person such as Saul take part in stoning a man whose only charge was that he was a follower of Christ? Saul grew up and dedicated his life to strict adherence to religion. But his religiosity did not prevent him in taking the life of Stephen. Religion can become a vicious force that could resort to acts that are inconsistent to being godly people. Even when Pilate said that he found Jesus innocent it was the religious people that conspired and shouted to crucify him. People could be very sincere in their allegiance to their religion but this does not mean that they experienced the saving faith in Christ. This is what Saul later discovered in life that righteousness is not obtained by being religious but by having faith in Christ. “This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life” (Romans 1:17). There are instances that it is religion that keeps people from knowing Christ as Lord and Savior. Religion can give an individual a false sense of security. As Paul said later on after he placed his faith in what Christ did on the cross, he told those whose security is found in their religion that “it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit that receives praise from God and not from people” (Romans 2:29). Changed of heart from religion to relationship with God will lead to transformation. Faith placed to the right focus produces right action. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Noel De Guzman