Arguably one of the most iconic and well-known events in the Bible, Paul’s conversion was one that astounded everyone in his time. Prior to Acts 9, Paul was a horrendous person. He believed that he was made self-righteous through his actions, as mentioned in the precious article. His entire life centered around the belief that because of his works, he was “a-okay” to get to Heaven. Fortunately, that belief was shattered on his way to Damascus.
“But Saul…went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (ESV). Saul was a man intent on executing “justice” to these people. As he approached Damascus, a light from heaven appeared. ‘And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”’(Acts 9: 1-6 ESV). Here began Saul’s conversion to becoming one of the most recognized apostles of Christ.
When Saul stood up and opened his eyes, he saw nothing for he was blind. So the men who were with him led him into Damascus by hand. His blindness to the world lasted for three days, during which he “neither ate nor drank” (ESV).
‘Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”’ (Acts 9: 10-12 ESV).
Now one must imagine how skeptical Ananias was of this request. Christians all over the Roman Empire had heard of this fearful Pharisee named Saul. Saul was an infamous and fearsome character among Christians. Every single believer was on the lookout for him.
‘But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”’ (Acts 9: 15-16 ESV).
As a faithful Christian, Aninias listened to God’s will for both himself and Saul:
“So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized” (Acts 9:17-18 ESV).
After his conversion, Saul changed in many ways. First, he changed his name from Saul, which was Hebrew, to Paul, which was his Roman name. This was to signify that he was no longer associated with his past of persecution towards his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Second, he changed his perspective. Previously, he had believed that he was good enough to get to Heaven through his own means. However, after becoming a true believer, his eyes were opened to the truth about salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”(ESV) These words were to be penned by Paul himself later in his ministry.
Paul is such an iconic character in Church History. His impact and legacy on the world is obvious, especially the books of the Bible that he had penned. His testimony is a powerful example of God using the worst people for his purpose. Although most of us probably have never gone to the extreme of killing fellow Christians, we are all equally sinful in God’s eyes. To him, sin is sin, no matter how us, as humans, view the extent of the sin. We may not be the worst person, but God has always been a merciful and gracious God. His ability to choose someone to glorify Him has always been evident in the world. God chose Paul, despite his failings, like how he can choose and redeem us despite our sins. Paul’s conversion also shows that we can be a testimony to God, despite our failings. Our lives are used by God for His purpose, not ours. Let us continue to be a witness like Ananias and reach people beyond our comfort zone. We must take the first step and take the initiative to witness to those around us. Like Ananias, at that time, we may not know the impact that we have imparted on that person and even future generations around the world. This is a reason for us to continue our mission and the purpose God has given us!
ESV: Study Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, 2016.