"By all Your saints in warfare, for all Your saints at rest, Your holy Name, O Jesus, forevermore be blest! For You have won the battle that they might wear the crown; And now they shine in glory reflected from Your throne.
"Praise for the light from heaven and for the voice of awe; Praise for the glorious vision the persecutor saw. O Lord, for Paul's conversion, we bless Your Name today; Come shine within our darkness, and guide us on our way."
Many members of the religious party of the Pharisees rejected Jesus as their Messiah and opposed Him at every turn. They challenged Him with questions, trying to "entangle Him in His words" (see Matthew 22:15), hoping that He would speak against the law of Moses. Along with the chief priests, they successfully plotted the Savior's arrest and death. So, in His wise and unexpected ways, the risen Lord chose an especially angry Pharisee named Saul as His ambassador.
After witnessing with approval the martyrdom of Stephen, Saul began to persecute the followers of Jesus. "Breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord," (Acts 9:1a), Saul received permission to go to Damascus and arrest believers there. On the way, the risen Lord confronted Saul. The Lord Jesus challenged the awestruck Pharisee, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" (Acts 9:4b) Blinded by the glorious vision, Saul, who would later be known as Paul, was baptized. Summoned by his Lord to suffering and service, Paul proclaimed the crucified and risen Savior throughout the Mediterranean world.
We were once headed in the wrong direction on our own various Damascus roads, just as surely as St. Paul was: "None is righteous, no, not one ... There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:10b, 18). Just as surely as Paul once did, we dealt in hatred and rebellion against God (see Titus 3:3). Then we were called by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel and claimed as God's own possession in the water and Word of Baptism. United with the risen and reigning Lord, we were baptized into His death, buried with Him, and raised to newness of life. We are called to suffer and serve for the sake of Jesus.
Jesus told Paul what he would suffer in the cause of the Gospel (see Acts 9:16), and we are also warned, "You will be hated by all for My Name's sake" (Luke 21:17). Yet we too are ambassadors for our Lord. As we go about our daily work in life, we are always ready to testify to those who ask us about the hope that we have in Christ Jesus. We pray that they will, by the Spirit's power, come to faith and join us one day as we stand with all the saints—and with St. Paul—shining in glory before Christ's throne.
THE PRAYER: "O Lord, for Paul's conversion, we bless Your Name today; come shine within our darkness, and guide us on our way." Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "By All Your Saints in Warfare," which is found on page 517 of the Lutheran Service Book.
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