The responsibilities of the apostles were to, by divine revelation, make known the mind of God to the world. Inspiration tells us this in Ephesians 3:1-5, one of Paul’s epistles: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” The words they spoke were truths from God (Gal. 1:11-12).
A study of Paul’s conversion and life thus following will give us greater insight as to our duty today to both the lost and saved. His far-reaching influence is indisputable. Before Paul officially became “Paul,” his name was Saul. At first we know of him as one who martyred Christians (Acts 8:1; 9:1-2). These references give us an account of Saul’s role in Stephen’s death as well as his general mission to slaughter any and all who followed Christ.
The conversion of Saul of Tarsus is one of the most dramatic stories in the Bible. As interesting and famous as it is, I believe it is also one of the most misunderstood. I personally believe Paul himself tells us what we are meant to learn from his conversion.
God Can Save Anyone
Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 1:15: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to saved sinners; of whom I am chief.” Therefore, this narrative of Paul’s conversion is rightly used as a paradigm of conversion. Here truly was the regeneration of a sinful person being declared righteous by faith in Christ. That there is no sin too bad, no evil too wicked, that can prevent us from obeying the gospel and becoming a Christian is evident according to this narrative (cf. 1 Tim. 1:15).
God was more than willing to forgive Paul for the countless lives that he took or consented to be taken, as well as for the persecution and havoc that was meted out to others of the church. In God’s forgiveness, He transformed Paul completely, making him an entirely different person. He went from a persecutor to a proclaimer!
Paul Was Not Saved By Praying
In God’s plan of salvation for lost humanity, there is nowhere mentioned that it was necessary for one to ray (Matt. 28:18-19; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Lk. 13:3, 5; Rom. 10:9-10; John 8:24; Gal. 3:27; Acts 22:16). In Acts 22, Ananias tells Saul that he has been sent by Jesus that Saul may not only have restored sight but also that he would be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” It is also here that Ananias stated, “…The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard” (vs. 14-15). Ananias, with obscure words, is telling Saul that he will be an apostle, i.e., one who has both seen and heard the Lord. By being “filled with the Holy Spirit,” Saul would not only have divinely inspired knowledge given to him, but he would also be able to perform miraculous manifestations of the Spirit. However, Saul had to be a Christian in order for any of this to be a reality. In order to become a Christian, he would have to be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Ananias preached the same sermon to Saul that Peter had preached to those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, the same sermon Philip preached to those in Samaria and to the Ethiopian eunuch. We know exactly what Ananias taught Saul. It was no different than the previous sermons that caused men and women to be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins and saved from the existing crooked generation.
We Are Not Defined By Our Past
I have heard it said, as I’m sure you have also heard, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” It is very evident that Paul had a very dark and wicked past, but he didn’t let that define who he was. Instead, he grew and learned from it and was transformed into an incredible man of God. He wrote, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13).
He Was Humble
In all that he was able to accomplish on behalf of God, Christ, and the New Testament church, Paul did not think of himself as immune to sin (1 Cor. 9:27). Whether his audience was Jew, Gentile, saved, or unsaved, he literally had the ability to be all things to all people, wherever he went. Even still, he maintained a lowly and humble attitude.
John is the associate minister at the St. Andrew’s Road congregation in Columbia, SC.