“And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.”
A preacher asked me, “Bro. Domelle, should I allow people who have visible tattoos to hold positions in my church?” This pastor was sincere with his question because he didn’t want to glorify sin. I answered this pastor by asking, “Would you allow the Apostle Paul to teach in your church?” Of course, he answered affirmatively. Any pastor would be crazy not to want Paul to teach and preach in their church. I told this pastor that he cannot be afraid of grace. Those tattoos on that man was his story of God’s grace in his life. It wasn’t that he got the tattoos after he got saved and while he was holding a position in the church, but those tattoos were the happenings of sin before he got saved.
The church in Jerusalem was very similar to this pastor, but maybe with a greater reason. After Saul was miraculously saved, he began to preach about the same Christ whom he had previously condemned. The result of his preaching about Christ was that the Jews sought to kill him. The only place Saul could go to be safe at that time was to the church in Jerusalem. Yet, when he arrived at the church, they were afraid of him because they knew this was the guy who previously persecuted Christians. It was Barnabas who told the church of Saul’s conversion and reminded them that they didn’t need to be afraid of grace. Had these Christians not received Saul, they would have robbed the Gentile world of the opportunity for salvation. There are a couple of lessons from which we can glean about not being afraid of grace.
First, any church that is fulfilling the Great Commission will be filled with Christians who are stories of grace. In the time period of the verse above, the greatest world sin was the persecution of Christians. Every age is going to have many people who are involved in a common sin. If a church is doing what it is supposed to be doing, it will be filled with people from all backgrounds of life. The church’s responsibility is to reach the lost for Christ. You can’t expect the lost to live according to the Scriptures because they have a different father. When the lost get saved, they are not going to be able to help but have the marks of sin that they will have to live with until they get to Heaven.
Second, you can’t be afraid of God’s stories of grace. Just because people have the marks and backgrounds of sin doesn’t mean that they should never be used. When Saul got saved and began to preach, the people that heard him were amazed because they knew he had previously persecuted anyone who spoke about Christ. The great thing about stories of grace is that it will help you to reach people who you previously could not reach. The church must be careful about becoming pharisaical by not allowing God’s grace to be on display in the church. It is not that you are glorifying sin by doing so, but it is that you are glorifying the grace of God by allowing these people to be used in the church.
If you are doing your part as a Christian, you are going to reach people from all different backgrounds. Let me encourage you not to let the marks of sin cause you to be afraid to witness to people. The grace of God can reach to the lowest sinner to give them the gift of eternal life. Don’t be afraid of God’s grace. Embrace God’s grace and realize that it can save anyone, and His grace can change any life that sin has marked.