The Conversion Of Paul

The Apostle Paul started out as Saul, Pharisee and persecutor of the Christian Church. What happened to transform his life?

The Apostle Paul, author of much of the New Testament, started out as Saul, tentmaker, Pharisee and persecutor of the Christian Church. What happened to transform this man's life and what does it mean to me 2000 years later?

The story of Saul's conversion begins with the stoning of Stephen. Stephen preached Christ boldly and was drug out of town and stoned to death. Acts records that Saul was there and in full support of the stoning. (Acts 8:1) Saul was an enemy of the Church and a persecutor of its believers. "As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison." (Acts 8:3)

Saul went to the chief priests and got permission to go to Damascus to hunt for Christians. His intention was to find them and haul them back to Jerusalem to prison. He set off and when he got close to the city, a bright light surrounded him. "And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4)

Saul was terrified "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest." (Acts 9:5) Paul asked the Lord what he should do and was told to continue on into the city; he would be told there what to do. Those traveling with him had seen the light and heard the voice, but didn't see who spoke. Saul arose from the ground and discovered that he was blind. His companions led him the rest of the way into Damascus.

Saul remained blind and didn't eat or drink for three days. A believer named Ananias lived in Damascus and the Lord spoke to him in a vision telling him to go to Straight Street to the home of Judas where he would find Saul of Tarsus. This frightened Ananias for Saul's persecution of believers was well known. "But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:" (Acts 9:15)

Saul had also had a vision from the Lord; his vision was of a man named Ananias laying hands on him and his sight being restored. When Ananias arrived and laid hands on Saul, scales fell from his eyes and his sight was restored. Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and was baptized. He stayed on in Damascus for several days and preached Christ in the synagogues. (Acts 9:18-22)

The Jews there didn't trust Saul for they knew of his persecution of the Christians. They plotted to kill him, but the plot was revealed to him and he was smuggled safely out of the city in a basket. He returned to Jerusalem where he sought to meet with the Apostles. The Apostles weren't anxious to meet with him, though. They too were frightened of this man who had so doggedly pursued believers. (Acts 9:23-26) "But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus." (Acts 9:27) So began the ministry of Saul, now Paul.

Few of us have as dramatic a conversion experience as Paul yet the change in our lives can be just as dramatic. But why would God choose a persecutor of the Church to be an Apostle? What was there about Paul that made him useful to God? What significance does his life have to us today?

Paul was a Pharisee, one of the religious leaders of the day. He was a devout Jew with a profound knowledge and understanding of Scripture. He persecuted the Church because he truly believed that the teaching of Christ was dangerous and heretical. After his encounter with Christ, his knowledge of Scripture made him an authoritative preacher of the gospel. His ability to apply the Old Testament teachings to the new covenant in Christ made him uniquely effective.

Although Paul was a Jew, he was also a Roman citizen. His citizenship gave him an entrance into audiences he would not otherwise have enjoyed. He is known as the Apostle to the gentiles because his ministry focused on non-Jewish Greeks and Romans. The Lord looks at all of our talents and circumstances and puts them to use for His service.

Paul worked feverishly to stamp out the Christian Church before his salvation and worked as diligently or more so for the Church after he was converted. His fire and zeal were powerful qualities, qualities that made him a successful missionary. Paul's ministry reached throughout the Roman Empire and his slavish devotion to Christ helped him spread the Word as far or farther than any other Apostle. God used Paul's single-mindedness and dedication to their best advantage.

The story of Paul's conversion teaches us some lessons about the nature of God and about the nature of salvation. God meets us where we are at, whether it is on the road to Damascus preparing to persecute His people or whether it's on the road to ruin from drugs, alcohol or any other kind of self-destructive sin. Just as Jesus went to the homes of sinners to share His Good News with them, so does He come to us where we are to offer His salvation. We only have to say yes to His invitation, like Paul did.

Paul's blindness before his conversion is a metaphor about our spiritual blindness before we accept salvation. Paul couldn't see the worth of Christ; he could only see the danger to his set of beliefs. When Christ opens our eyes, we see the things of this world for what they really are, paths to death. When Paul's sight was restored, his spiritual eyes were opened too and he immediately repented of his former persecution of the Church and devoted himself entirely to the service of Christ.

Paul's story is a testimony to the absolute forgiveness that we are offered by Christ. If any man should have been condemned, it should have been Paul. He hunted Christians and sent them to prison and perhaps even torture and death. Yet, the Lord forgave him completely and made him one of the greatest servants in Christian history. No life is useless or too far gone for God. He has a purpose for all of us and can forgive us no matter what if we are willing to ask for His forgiveness and accept it as His gift to us. What miracle life might He have in store for you?

(All Scripture is KJV)

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