“God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16). In fact, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, ESV). “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV). God’s love drove Him to sacrifice His One and Only Son’s life so that wretched sinners might live!
Jesus illustrated His love by touching the Leper (Mark 1:41), by raising the dead (Mark 5:42; Luke 7:15; John 11:43), by giving sight to the blind (Mark 10:52), by protecting the adulteress from her accusers (John 8:8-11), and by praying for those that condemned Him; “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
The Gospel of Jesus is the doctrine of love. When He was asked, “ ‘Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?’ He said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Matthew 22:36–40). He taught His disciples to “love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34–35) and “no one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
The day before His crucifixion, Jesus warned His disciples. “If the world hates you, understand that it hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of it, the world hates you. Remember the word I spoke to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18–20).
Saul of Tarsus hated Jesus! He couldn’t fathom a poor carpenter from Nazareth claiming to be the King, the Son of David, the Promised Messiah. Never!
Years after his conversion, the Apostle Paul testified, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strictness of our ancestral law. I was zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, arresting and putting both men and women in jail, as both the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. After I received letters from them to the brothers, I traveled to Damascus to arrest those who were there and bring them to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3–5). “I locked up many of the saints in prison, since I had received authority for that from the chief priests. When they were put to death, I was in agreement against them. In all the synagogues I often punished them and tried to make them blaspheme. Since I was terribly enraged at them, I pursued them even to foreign cities” (Acts 26:10–11).
After overseeing the execution of Stephen, “Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1–2).
This was the man that Jesus revealed Himself to on the road to Damascus. “Saul, Saul!” (Acts 9:4). Saul was filled with hatred… but you know the rest of the story…