The Conversion of Saul (Paul)
Saul was born a Roman citizen in the city of Tarsus, a city known for its schools of literature and philosophy. He was taught in Jerusalem by Gamaliel, a Pharisee and a respected teacher of the law (Acts 5:34-35; 22:3), and he became a member of the party of the Pharisees. Saul excelled beyond his contemporaries, being zealous for the law and for the traditions of his fathers. His early life and training certainly put him on the “fast track” when it came to his religious faith.
It was his zeal in defending his faith that led to his brief but fervent career as a persecutor of Christians. Saul was present at the death of the first Christian martyr named Stephen, consenting to his death (Acts 8:1). This was only the beginning of the havoc that Saul would bring to the church over the coming days and months. His goal was to destroy it. He entered the homes of Christians, dragging them out and throwing them into prison (Acts 8:3). He also beat those who he captured (Acts 22:19) and compelled them to blaspheme (Acts 26:11). He would stop at nothing, even going to foreign cities to capture and imprison the saints. Now, let Saul of Tarsus tell you the rest of the story:
12 “While so engaged [persecuting Christians] as I was journeying to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, 13 at midday, ...I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. 14 “And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ 15 “And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 ‘But get up and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; 17 rescuing you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, 18 to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ 19 “So... I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:12-20).
In a matter of three days, this fierce persecutor of Christians was convinced of the truth that Jesus is the Son of God. He submitted his life to Jesus and became a Christian. Then he got to work preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ with the hope of bringing other people to repentance and faith in Christ. Paul ended up writing at least 13 of the letters that are in our New Testaments, and he would also suffer many things for his faith in Christ. He even ended up losing his life for his preaching of the gospel!
How can this dramatic change in Saul of Tarsus be accounted for? What explanation can be given? The answer lies in his testimony. He saw the resurrected Son of God, Jesus the Christ. This is the only thing that can account for this kind of change in Saul’s life.
These events are one of the greatest evidences of the resurrection of Christ, and they show us what it truly means to become a new creation in Christ. Hopefully Paul’s testimony can strengthen your faith and challenge you to be more fruitful for the Lord.
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