Saul of Tarsus – Part 1

The Most Successful Loser of All Times

DATE: 25 May, 2003  AM          PLACE: BBC Blarney

I.         Introduction (Isa 30:15; Mt 10:39)


A.      It is always hardest to lose. We humans really hate to lose.

B.       The example of Israel


1.        In Isaiah 30, the northern 10 tribes of Israel were facing certain defeat at the hands of the Assyrians.

2.        The people were frantic, and stressed out, and terrified of the impending defeat that was facing them

3.        As they sought how to defend themselves, Isaiah told them to return to the Lord and rest in Him – allow the Lord to humble them, and defeat them, so that like a potter, He could start all over with them, and make them over again!

4.        It is in that kind of defeat, and in that kind of rest, that you find success, and victory


C.       The Subject of Saul of tarsus

1.        Saul thought he was a winner – thought he was the greatest thing since sliced pan bread!

2.        Disciplined himself to win by his life, by his effort, by his accomplishments – like many a sports player

3.        Figured that “this was the life” – full of pride, self, and satisfaction!

4.        But when he met Jesus on that clear sunny day, on the road to Damascus, he discovered he had never lived yet, he had never found life, and had no real accomplishments worth mentioning

5.        Saul of Tarsus discovered that he was a Loser

6.        But when he discovered he was a loser, in the presence of Jesus the Saviour, he was transformed into a winner – into the greatest Christian who has probably ever lived.


D.      I want to look at how that happened!


II.       Message – Saul, the Most Successful Loser of All Time


A.      Saul’s Success was not in His Pedigree – Family Background (Acts 22:3a)


1.        He was Born in Tarsus, of Cilicia. Known as Saul of Tarsus


a.       It was a city distinguished for the wealth of its inhabitants.

b.       Tarsus was the seat of a famous university, higher in reputation even than the universities of Athens and Alexandria, the only others that then existed.

c.       Here Saul was born, and here he spent his youth, enjoying the best education his native city could afford.


2.        He was born to a Roman Citizen – which made Saul VERY free in the empire. Most everybody else were slaves, and second class citizens, but not Saul!

3.        He was Named “Saul” which meant “prayed for.” What a spiritual name – not like Albert, or George, or Harry. No, Saul was a GREAT name, like “Edward” and Charles, and Israel. His was a great name!


a.       They had prayed for a boy, and knew that God had given them the best boy

b.       Just as Hannah prayed and got Samuel

c.       Here was a man who knew his parents loved him and wanted him, and expected great things to happen in his life


4.        He Grew up in Jerusalem – THE spiritual place to be


a.       The city of David

b.       The city of Peace

c.       The place where the Messiah one day would rule from

d.       Here in Jerusalem is where great people lived


5.        And for Saul, it just seemed to be in his blood to be great

6.        But it only SEEMED that way

7.        It was a mirage – Saul of Tarsus was really, only a NOBODY from NOWHERES-VILLE


B.       Saul’s Success was not in His Religion (Act 22:3-6; Philp 3:3-6)


1.        His father was of the strictest sect of the Jews, a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin, of pure and unmixed Jewish blood #Ac 23:6 Php 3:5

2.        Not just a law-keeper, but a law-teacher – a Pharisee


a.       Taught by the best teachers

b.       Gamaliel

c.       Groomed for great things – for greatness!


3.        Zealous – full of zeal, energy, activity (Act 26:9-12)


a.       Like the sports fanatics today

b.       Just very consumed with God, and righteousness

c.       To the point where he


1)       Attacked and resisted anything that was not of his religion

2)       Persecuted Christians who did not fight (Act 7:57-59; 8:1-3; 22:4-5)


a)       Bound them

b)       Imprisoned them

c)       Punished them

d)       Compelled them to blaspheme – forced them to recant, and blaspheme the name of their Saviour!

e)       Even, enjoyed seeing them die

f)        Basically, he made havoc of the lives of Christians – chaos (is your life all in order, and disciplined, and full y under control – mine neither – so I guess the devil doesn’t like us either!)


4.        And, Paul really believed he remained in all this, Blameless


a.       Believed it was the duty of man to obey God,

b.       Nobody could point a finger at him and say he was doing anything against the Old Testament law

c.       But what he was doing was making sure he obeyed only the aspects of the law that didn’t deal with his heart


5.        But in Paul’s own words, he acknowledges that his greatness did not, and could not ever come from his religion! No religious activity saves (Eph 2:8,9)


C.       Saul’s Defeat – the greatest defeat of all time (Philp 3:7,8)


1.        Something happened to Saul – something so drastic that ALL of those accomplishments, and the respect he had earned, and goals he had set were actually liabilities, burdens, millstones around his neck, drowning him, and ruining him

2.        What was it that changed so “great” a man into so great a sinner (1Tim 1:15)? One word – Jesus!


a.       Jesus will do that to you

b.       No church does it – no prayer can do it – no religious effort can do it – all of those were what kept Saul of Tarsus blind and damned!


3.        Look at those words “but loss” – only debt, and grief, and a black hole

4.        When Saul compares all of himself with all that Jesus is, he only sees a black hole even when compared to just knowing Jesus


a.       The value of our personal relationship with Jesus

b.       Born again into the very family of God – younger brother of Jesus

c.       Not just knowing ABOUT Jesus

d.       But knowing Him personally

e.       I let Him in my Heart

f.        He intertwines in my thoughts

g.       He speaks to me, and gently encourages me, and guides me moment by moment through the workings of the Holy Spirit

h.       NONE of religion, NONE of our pedigree and heritage can compare to just personally talking and walking with Jesus

i.         Calling God not just my Father, but my Abba (Rom 8:15)


5.        This defeat was so successful that Saul even changed his own name from Saul, to Paul in Acts 16


a.       Saul was the proud, very spiritual name of a man who thought he was everything

b.       Paul meant little, not much, as if to say, limited – the name of a man who now knew he was really not much at all!


III.     Application – Our Need (Philp 3:8-14)


A.      Go ahead and lose


1.        Mt 10:39  He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

2.        Mt 16:25  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his  life for my sake shall find it.

3.        If you do not lose this world and all it has to offer

4.        You will lose your own soul, and all that God offers

5.        You cannot have both – serve two masters!

6.        Humble yourself, be humiliated, and acknowledge you are a sinner, maybe very self-righteously, but still a hell-bound sinner


B.       Develop your faith (3:9)


1.        Saul had religion – his own righteousness – his own way of doing things for God

2.        Paul had a Person who was so easy to follow day after day, confidently

3.        Living by faith – like the people listed throughout the pages of the Bible, especially Heb 11

4.        Faith comes only by hearing the word of God (Rom 10:13)


C.       Seek only to get to know Him ever more and more (3:10)


1.        Your religion is what you know ABOUT God – ends in failure – even all the Bible knowledge in the world

2.        Your reason for being here on this plant is that you would get to know God, personally, and intimately, daily, really know Him


D.      Bury the past (3:13)


1.        The accomplishments

2.        AND the failures


E.       Press on with the same zeal you had before you got saved, but this time for real (3:14)


1.        Zealous about our drink, or drugs, or girls, or guys

2.        Be zealous about Jesus, and souls getting saved, and the world being turned upside for Christ – not some church!


F.       THAT is the recipe for a truly Successful Life

Craig Ledbetter

Bible Baptist Church
Blarney, Co. Cork
Mallow, Co. Cork

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