There is a television program on AMC that has found a consistent audience named “Better call Saul”. Better Call Saul is an American television crime drama series created by Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould. It is a spin-off prequel of Gilligan’s prior series Breaking Bad. Set in the early 2000s, Better Call Saul follows the story of con-man turned small-time lawyer, Jimmy McGill, six years before the events of another AMC show, Breaking Bad, showing his transformation into the persona of criminal-for-hire Saul Goodman. Story lines revolve around how Saul becomes indispensable to crime figures both logistically and legally thus, the series name. Criminal elements learn that when there is trouble in “gangland”, you had… “Better Call Saul”.
There is another “Saul” that came to the rescue of a much different enterprise. That enterprise was the nascent yet burgeoning New Testament Church. This Saul was Saul of Tarsus. He was a much learned Pharisee and enemy of the Church and Christianity, persecuting them whenever he had the chance. He was such a notorious antagonist of the Church that he was known as such far and wide. If the New Testament Church was going to do an AMC program based on him the title might have been, “Better Watch Out for Saul”.
But as we come to find out in Acts 9, Saul is confronted by Jesus on the Damascus road; on his way to persecute Christians and have them thrown into jail. Saul is gloriously converted and subsequently, a few days later, baptized by Ananias. However, this did not mean that the church embraced him with open arms. As a matter of fact, according to Galatians, it is not until three years later that he even goes up to Jerusalem to be interviewed by the Apostles as to his bona fides (Gal. 1:15-18). He spent those three years in Arabia and Damascus building his knowledge of “the Way”, his testimony, and his legitimacy as a disciple of Christ, even though he was once a severe protagonist. During the following 14 years before he goes up to Jerusalem again (Gal. 2:1) we find that “Saul” has become “Paul”; the name change doubtless meant to help convince the Church that he was indeed a different man.
But even before his name was changed, Saul became an indispensable cog in the machinery of the New Testament Church. Having developed a testimony for preaching and teaching about Jesus, Saul flees Damascus under threat of the Jews. He comes to Jerusalem where “they were all afraid of him because they did not believe he was a disciple” (9:23-26.) But Barnabas…good old “son of encouragement” Barnabas, takes Saul, makes introduction to the Apostles, and kind of “sponsors” him as one who is genuinely converted and a valuable asset to the work.
Saul then goes back to Tarsus for the next 14 years. He stays there, continuing in the grace of God, until a “breakout of the gospel” among Gentiles (of all things!) occurs in a city northwest of Jerusalem called Antioch. The Apostles hear of it and send Barnabas down there to see what is going on (Acts 11:19-24). Because of the extraordinary thing that was happening there, Barnabas realized that he had “Better call Saul” so to speak because the next verses say, “So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch” (11:25, 26). By this time, Saul had so established his usefulness for Christ, that Barnabas thought him indispensable to what was happening at Antioch to the end that he traveled to Tarsus to seek him out and bring him back. Saul, for 3 years in Arabia and Damascus and 14 more in Tarsus, had so faithfully and consistently ministered the gospel, that when the time came, Barnabas thought, “I’d better call Saul…he will be so useful to the church in Antioch in dealing with this situation.”
I wonder if we have, through our consistent and faithful service in the church, come to place where we have made ourselves “indispensable” in some way. I wonder if anyone in the church would ever face a situation in a ministry or in their personal lives where they would think, “I’d better call (place your name here).” Have you become so “useful and helpful” to the church and to the lives of individuals that they would think to call upon you for your help and insight? No, none of us are “indispensable” in the absolute sense or in the sense that “God needs us”. God needs no one. But in terms of how we can be of benefit to the cause of Christ or to the good of others in Christ, would anyone ever say of us, “Better call him/her”?
Saul Goodman made himself indispensable in the show “Better Call Saul”. Saul of Tarsus made himself indispensable to the church in the human sense. How true of us is that? Ask yourself the question, “If I disappeared today, would the church have a hard time replacing me? Or would they even know I was gone?” I’m afraid some Christian’s absence from the church would be akin to how much you would notice the water level in a barrel go down if you drew your hand out from it. The level would go down…but so slightly so as to be unnoticed. Wow! Don’t let this be said of you. May every one of us, in some area of the ministry or in the life of some person, have it said of us, “Better Call Saul”.