The persecution carried out by Saul was foretold by Jesus: "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me." (John 16:1-2)

If Saul were asked, "Do you know the Father?" he would have confidently affirmed that he did. Furthermore, if he had been asked how he thought the Father viewed the persecution of the church, he would have said that the Father approved. This is borne out by his remarks when he was on trial before Felix: "I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." (Acts 24:16) The pursuit of a clear conscience did not begin when he became a follower of Jesus; throughout his life he had tried to live according to his conscience, but during his persecution of the church his conscience was misinformed. Later, in his trial before King Agrippa, he said, "I too was convinced that I ought to do all that was possible to oppose the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. Many a time I went from one synagogue to another to have them punished, and I tried to force them to blaspheme. In my obsession against them, I even went to foreign cities to persecute them." (Acts 26:9-11) His remark "I too was convinced" shows he knew where his accusers were coming from, for that is exactly how he once thought. He had been where they were.

Living By Rules

As a Pharisee, Paul practised a legalistic religion. He had received his education from the leading authority at that time. "Under Gamaliel," he said, "I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers." (Acts 22:3) He says of himself, "I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers." (Galatians 1:14) Saul was not boasting about his scholastic achievements; he was simply stating facts about himself that provide an insight into what he was like before his conversion to Jesus. He further expounds upon this in his letter to the church at Philippi. To the Jew, pedigree and the observance of religious rules and regulations were all important, and Saul was pleased to put his pedigree and performance on parade: "If anyone thinks to base his claims on externals, I could make a stronger case for myself: circumcised on the eighth day, Israelite by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born and bred: in my attitude to the law, a Pharisee; in pious zeal, a persecutor of the church; in legalistic rectitude, faultless." (Philippians 3:4-6 NEB) He was confident that his lineage back to Abraham, the father of the nation, and his meticulous observance of the law were sufficient to secure him his place in heaven. This was his passport to heaven.