An enemy of Christ and the church during the early days of the church was Saul of Tarsus. Luke records that Saul was persecuting the church in very horrible manner; “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…asked letters …so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2). It was during Saul’s effort to destroy the Lord’s church that he heard the gospel, believed and obeyed it becoming himself a Christian and member of the church that he had once tried to destroy (Acts 9:6,11,18).
Saul’s like and direction change and instead of persecuting Jesus he began as Luke records; “immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Even though Saul (Paul) was now preaching the gospel of Christ to the Jews the results were not as he had expected. He probably thought that because he had fought against the truth, but now was convinced of it that he could easily persuade other Jews. This was not the case and as Luke records; “Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him” (Acts 9:23). Saul who became known as Paul during the next years of his life would go into synagogue after synagogue in community after community preaching Christ. At times some would believe and become Christians, but as so often was the case most rejected the gospel. As Paul was writing to the Roman brethren he expresses his sentiments regarding the fact that generally the Jews were rejecting Jesus. “I tell the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have a great sorrow and continual grief in my heart…for my countrymen according to the flesh, who are Israelites…” (Romans 9:1-4).
The fact that Paul’s fellow Jews were rejecting the gospel of Christ was no trivial thing to him. He says that there was “a great sorrow and continual grief in his heart.” Even though Paul rejoiced when people Jews or Gentiles responded to the gospel that is the power of God unto salvation (Romans 1:16), always in the back of his mind, in his heart was the deep sorrow for the lost. This example from Paul should motivate every Christian to be faithful and fervent in taking the gospel to the world and supporting those that do. Like Paul every Christian should rejoice at the victories through the preaching of the gospel, but at the same time hurt for the lost. Hurt for the lost family and friends that are in our lives. Hurt for the neighbors that are lost and hurt for the billions of individuals in this world that either do not know Christ or simply do not care.
Paul hurt and he provided the answer in the next chapter of Romans. “Brethren my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved…so then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:1, 17). The answer for the 21st Century is still the same; pray for and take the word of God to them.