New years being such a recent holiday, most people have New Year’s Resolutions they are intent on keeping for the coming year. Some are vowing to cut down on the sweets while others are working on their less-than-endearing personality quirks. Regardless of what each person is vowing to change, the common theme is that each person is acknowledging that their is some part of their life that they are unsatisfied with that they would like to change.
The concept of the ‘second chance’ is pretty crucial to the teachings of Christ. In the Bible, we explore many themes that support the description of the ultimate second chance offered to all through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Some Introductory Thoughts On Paul/Saul
In my research for various church projects, I’ve come across a lot of interesting stuff about the man we know as Paul or “the former Saul”. One of the most interesting factoids I found was that “Saul” never really changed his name to “Paul” as many of us teach in Sunday School. In reality, Paul was half-Roman and half-Hebrew due to having a Jewish father and Roman mother. According to the rules of Rome, this made him a Roman citizen and entitled to a Roman name…. such as the Roman name we would call ‘Paul’. It would also be customary for Paul to have a Hebrew name that he would use when he was with the Jews… a name such as “Sha’ul” or “Saul” as we would say. What we often teach in Sunday School as Saul changing his name to Paul was really just Paul realizing that his ministry was to speak to the gentiles (anyone not Jewish) and therefore using his gentile name to reach a wider audience.
Another interesting fact about Paul is how rocky his ministry began. Paul, as “Saul”, spent a lot of time hunting and arresting Christians. In fact, Paul was responsible for the death of the first recorded martyr in Acts, Stephen. Because of this sorted past, it’s no shock that many in the early church looked at Paul with a skeptical eye. They had a hard time believing that this man who hunted Christians was now fully committed to Christ. Paul needed a second chance before his ministry would gain any traction.
Paul’s Second Chance
Paul’s second chance was dramatic to say the least. He didn’t realize he needed a second chance by having some personal realization or by having a deep conversation with a buddy at summer camp. He had his realization through a blinding flash of light and the appearance of Christ, himself!
Meanwhile, Sha’ul (Paul), still breathing murderous threats against the Lord’s talmidim (disciples), went to the cohenhagadol (high priest) and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Dammesek (Damascus), authorizing him to arrest any people he might find, whether men or women, who belonged to “the Way,” and bring them back to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem).
He was on the road and nearing Dammesek, when suddenly a light from heaven flashed all around him. Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Sha’ul! Sha’ul! Why do you keep persecuting me?” “Sir, who are you?” he asked. “I am Yeshua, and you are persecuting me. But get up, and go into the city, and you will be told what you have to do.”
The men traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. They helped Sha’ul get up off the ground; but when he opened his eyes, he could see nothing. So, leading him by the hand, they brought him into Dammesek. For three days he remained unable to see, and he neither ate nor drank. (Acts 9:1-9)
This is a rude awakening that demands a response. Sometimes God has to help us realize we need a second chance through unexpected life events or even personal crises. It can seem unfair when we find ourselves in the middle of a trial we feel unable to bear, but sometimes those trials are the result of God trying to wake us up. It won’t always be in the dramatic fashion that Paul experienced, but it may be in some way that seems extreme to us.
There was a talmid (disciple) in Dammesek (Damascus), Hananyah (Ananias) by name; and in a vision the Lord said to him, “Hananyah!” He said, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to Straight Street, to Y’hudah’s (Judah’s) house; and ask for a man from Tarsus named Sha’ul (Paul); for he is praying, and in a vision he has seen a man named Hananyah coming in and placing his hands on him to restore his sight.” But Hananyah answered, “Lord, many have told me about this man, how much harm he has done to your people in Yerushalayim (Jerusalem); and here he has a warrant from the head cohanim (priest) to arrest everyone who calls on your name.” But the Lord said to him, “Go, because this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name to the Goyim (gentiles), even to their kings, and to the sons of Isra’el as well. For I myself will show him how much he will have to suffer on account of my name.” (Acts 9:10-16)
When Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, heard that Paul was coming, he couldn’t understand God’s plan. He protested out of his own ignorance. Here, we see another important facet of second chances: Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense to us because we are part of a bigger plan… possibly someone’s second chance. God’s plans may not always make sense to us and we may feel like God is putting us in a tough spot when we don’t “need” an awakening, but its important that we answer His call nonetheless. God works within His plans, not our own understanding.
So Hananyah (Ananias) left and went into the house. Placing his hands on him, he said, “Brother Sha’ul (Paul), the Lord — Yeshua, the one who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here — has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the RuachHaKodesh (Holy Spirit).” In that moment, something like scales fell away from Sha’ul’s eyes; and he could see again. He got up and was immersed; then he ate some food and regained his strength. (Acts 9:17-22)
Paul’s second chance started with a revelation and executed by someone who followed God’s plan even when it didn’t make sense to him. In life, we will find ourselves playing both roles from time to time; sometimes we are the person needing a second chance and sometimes we are the person there to tell the person near us that a second chance is freely offered through Christ alone. This is why it is important that we always be prepared to boldly share our faith with those who already believe and those who have yet to believe so that when God speaks to that person’s heart, we are available to be a tool used to support God’s plan.
God’s Grand Plan is a Giant Second Chance
When mankind introduced sin to the world, there was zero doubt that we needed a second chance. God offered a second chance through giving us His Word (the Torah, or God’s Law) and he offered us a second chance through the sacrifice of His son. There is still one more ‘second chance’ that is going to be induced upon creation instead of merely “offered”.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had passed away, and the sea was no longer there. Also I saw the holy city, New Yerushalayim, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne say, “See! God’s Sh’khinah (spirit) is with mankind, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and he himself, God-with-them, will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will no longer be any death; and there will no longer be any mourning, crying or pain; because the old order has passed away.”
Then the One sitting on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new!” Also he said, “Write, ‘These words are true and trustworthy!’” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the ‘A’ and the ‘Z,’ the Beginning and the End. To anyone who is thirsty I myself will give water free of charge from the Fountain of Life. He who wins the victory will receive these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son. (Revelation 21:1-7)
God’s master plan is leading up to one last ‘Grand second chance’. This second chance will establish a kingdom that lasts for a thousand years when God’s glory will reign supreme. Sin will have no hold on the earth and all who have accepted Christ will live in unity with God’s spirit. One of the reasons why the ‘second chance’ of Christ is so important to the average believer is because it is a foretaste of the ‘second chance’ that will be revealed to all the earth.
One day Christ will come again. When He does, it will be the ‘second chance’ of ‘second chances’. There will be no more need for a sacrifice and no more need for individual second chances. We live our lives securely in God’s grace knowing that we live with a foretaste of what is to come and the excitement to share that foretaste with anyone who will listen. Who could stand to keep this to themselves?