“For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it”
For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism,
Paul speaks of his “conduct” before he became a Christian while he was still a leader in Jewish religion in verses 13 and 14. Paul was a religious leader of first rank (Philippians 3:5-6). His conduct shows that he did not receive the gospel from Christian men. He was a legalist to the core before he became a Christian; he did not think of grace at all.
how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure
Paul explained his furious persecution of Christians to Herod Agrippa in Acts 26:9-11. The Greek indicates that Paul persecuted the church on an unrelenting basis. He was the supreme Jewish militant of his time. He pursued the church on every occasion he could (Acts 9:4).
As a Pharisee, Paul was a stickler for rules as a way to live for God. He saw no exceptions to legalism. He was not open to a view of salvation by grace. Now, as a Christian, Paul has found grace and it is the single prevailing passion of his life.
and tried to destroy it
It was not enough for Paul to persecute the church, he wanted to “destroy” [waste] it. Secular Greek used this term for ravaging a city or sacking a city. As an arch-persecutor, Paul wanted to apply a scorched earth policy to the church. He made a career out of persistently destroying God’s church (Acts 9:21; 22:4; 26:10,11; 1 Timothy 1:12-15).
“As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:3).
“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem” (Acts 9:1-2).
Legalism is rooted in our ability to perform; grace rests in the performance of Christ.
Legalism attempts to gain God’s approval by works. Grace rests in the work of God. If God does the doing then God gets the glory. If we do the doing then we get the glory.
People who try to gain God’s approval by works cannot perform enough. They never know whether they measure up enough to gain God’s favor. Those who humbly accept God’s provision for salvation or sanctification can rest in what He did for us, remembering that Jesus died for our sins and provided all that is needed for the Christian life.
The glory of Christianity is found by resting in what Christ did for us. Have you come to rest in what God did for you in Christ?