A Tale Of Two Sauls

Jonathan McAnulty

The Bible tells us of two men by the name of Saul. The first lived as a king under the Old Testament law, and the second worked as an apostle of Christ under the New Testament. Comparing and contrasting these two men make an interesting and instructive study.

King Saul was tall and handsome, yet, as we are introduced to him in 1 Samuel 9-10, we find him to be unassuming and humble in his demeanor. Following his anointing by the prophet Samuel, Saul hides himself for a time among the baggage and must be brought out by the people, in order to be made king. Saul exhibits courage and faith in God in 1 Samuel 11 as he leads the Israelites in victory over the Ammonites and, in that same chapter, displays a merciful, magnanimous spirit as he forgives political opponents. Yet, as we continue reading about this man, chosen of God, we find that his character begins to change as he loses his humility. His authority begins to go to his head. In 1 Samuel 13, he offers unlawful sacrifice, breaking the Law of God concerning worship. Trusting in his own wisdom, he chooses to ignore God's plain command in 1 Samuel 15 when he spares the life of King Agag and is subsequently rejected by God as king. When confronted with Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, Saul, no longer in a right relationship with God, seems to have lost his courage. By the time we get to 1 Samuel 20:32, this once humble, merciful man is trying to kill his own son because of anger at a political rival, David. King Saul is a grand illustration of a man who, having been chosen by God, loses his place in God's kingdom because of a growth of pride and selfish ambition. 

Saul of Tarsus, on the other hand, does not begin nearly so well. When we are first introduced to Saul in Acts 8:58, he is busy with the business of killing a Christian. This Saul wanted to please God, but, in his pride, he mistakenly assumed he knew what God wanted from him and thus set himself to the destruction of God's own gospel. He dragged men and women into prison because of their faith in Jesus as Lord, and, when given the opportunity, cast his vote for their death (Acts 26:10). Yet, on the road to Damascus, when confronted by the risen Christ, Saul realized the error of his ways and repented. Humbled in his thinking (cf. 1 Timothy 1:12-15), he went on, as an apostle of Christ, to preach the gospel, win souls, build the church, and suffer, even to the point of death, for the Lord. Saul of Tarsus is a wonderful example of a man who turned from pride to humility and, in doing so, found an eternal home in God's kingdom. 

Jesus tells a parable, in Matthew 21:28-32, of two sons who were told to go work in their father's vineyard. The first son initially refused, but, after repenting, did what he was supposed to do. The second, who proclaimed his initial willingness to work, changed his mind and did not obey. Jesus applied this parable to those Jewish officials who refused to listen to God, though they claimed to be righteous. Contrarily, there were tax collectors and prostitutes, who, having initially chosen a sinful life, were able to repent and follow God's will, finding salvation. We can see the same dynamic in our overview of the two Sauls. Past faithfulness is not indicative of future salvation, for it is possible for a righteous man to change and fall from his station. At the same time, it is possible for a sinner to repent, in humility and obedience – turning to God. When the once-wicked do this, God counts them among the righteous. Examine Ezekiel 18 for God's clear explanation that this is so. 

Pride, it seems, was the downfall of King Saul. He became full of his own self-importance, forgetting that it was God who had placed him upon the throne and that it was to God he owed his full allegiance and obedience. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5). Humility, on the other hand, was what allowed Saul of Tarsus to move from being a persecutor to an apostle. The apostle, realizing the enormity of his error, confessed his faults and allowed God to work to change him. He knew that it was Christ who had saved him and, in that knowledge, Saul of Tarsus was able to accomplish great things. 

No matter what mistakes we may have made in the past, let us be humble and wise, allowing Christ to work in us and through us to do his will, that we, too, may have an eternal place in His kingdom. –54549 Saint Joe Rd, Bellaire OH, 43906; wicht@soundsermons.com

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