Credentials are just that. They confer credibility.

Paul’s ability to speak Hebrew was his credential that opened up the possibility for him to testify to his Jewishness, his pedigree in the faith so revered by those whom he addressed.

Hence, they were all ears. He had their attention.

He commanded the audience and had them listen to the story of his conversion.

“I was blind but now I see-” words of the converted slave-trader John Newton, could well be Paul’s. In both literal and figurative senses, he experienced it- blindness.

But now, in the light of God’s Holy Spirit, he was able to see things for what they were. He was able to put his history and his religious background into perspective. The law which he had been so zealous to advance was indeed only a schoolteacher to lead people to the truth in Christ.

The imprisonment that he had previously threatened Christians with would prove to be what James Matheson described as “perfect liberty” as he came to understand that “those whom the Son set free are free indeed!”

Had Paul hoped all along to be able to tell his story in Rome? Was that the drive that kept beckoning him ‘through many dangers, toils and [scares]’?

He had reached the place where he could, in no uncertain manner, publish his calling to preach to the Gentiles, to let Hebrew speaking and Greek speaking believers alike know that in Christ we are neither slave not free, Jew or Gentile, but one, united in God’s purpose.

And then Paul used another credential. He was a Roman citizen! I remember one of my Bible teachers at seminary being somewhat suspicious. He said, “Paul pulled rank there”.

Are there times when it is OK to use our “rank” or “pedigree” to advance the cause if the gospel? After all, these may well be God’s gifts.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

that saved a wretch like me.

I once was lost but now I’m found,

was blind but now I see.

John Newton, 1725-1807

Make me a captive Lord,
and then I shall be free;
Force me to render up my sword,
and I shall conqueror be.
I sink in life’s alarms
when by myself I stand.
Imprison me within thine arms,
And strong shall be my hand.

George Matheson ,1842-1906.

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