The seed for this post came from my former pastor in Rome, but I’m taking it further than he did in his sermons 🙂
As someone has said, The Acts of the Apostles should be titled The Acts of the Holy Spirit. The third person of the Trinity transformed a group of fearful Galileans into bold proclaimers of the message of Christ (Acts 4:13). He transformed a religious terrorist into the man who would suffer and die for the cause he once vigorously sought to stamp out (Acts 22:4-16). Yet the Spirit also works in quiet, easily-missed ways… Here are two examples:
Saul of Tarsus, who just days (or even hours) before had been breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord was sitting in a house on Straight Street in Damascus. The Lord speaks to a disciple named Ananias telling him to go lay hands on Saul. Ananias understandably objects before consenting. When he meets his former enemy, he addresses him as “Brother Saul” (Acts 9:17).
On his way to Jerusalem for the last time, Paul and his companions enjoyed the hospitality of Philip the evangelist (Acts 21:8). This is the same Philip who, years before, left Jerusalem after persecution broke out there. The catalyst for the persecution was the martyrdom of Stephen—whose death was approved of by Saul of Tarsus.
In his epistle to the Romans, Paul sends greetings to Andronicus and Junia, who “were in Christ before me” (16:7). I wonder, had they had some run-ins with the pre-conversion Saul? Maybe he’d imprisoned someone they knew. Maybe he’d imprisoned them. It’s all speculation, of course 🙂 Yet, just like Philip, Barnabas, the Jerusalem apostles, etc., they counted Paul as a friend.
The Holy Spirit was producing His fruit in the lives of believers (Galatians 5:22-23). People who, humanly, should have been antagonistic to each other (Jews and Gentiles, Jews and Samaritans, masters and slaves, etc.) went around calling each other ‘brother’ and ‘sister’ and exchanging holy kisses.
The early Christians took over the Roman empire not by political or social reform, but by their love for all (though it did take them a few centuries and cost countless lives). May we also let the Holy Spirit work in us to transform us into the likeness of our Saviour.