Paul’s Conversion to the Way

KEY VERSE: “It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.” —Galatians 1:15,16

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Acts 7:59, 60; 8:1; 9:3-8

OUR lesson for today concerns the remarkable conversion to Christianity of Saul of Tarsus, that zealous but misguided persecutor of the Early Christian Church. Saul (Paul) was no ordinary man. He was brilliant, courageous, zealous, and yet humble. Also, he was well educated, having been privileged to sit at the feet of Gamaliel, a prominent Pharisee and celebrated Doctor of the Law.

We first come upon this remarkable man in connection with the brutal death of the first Christian martyr—Stephen, who, full of faith and power, had just delivered a masterful statement of his own faith, and of the stiff-necked Jewish rejection of the fulfilled prophecies of the coming Messiah. This so angered his listeners of the Sanhedrin that they cast him out of the city and stoned him to death. “The witnesses [his murderers] laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul.” (Acts 7:58) As Stephen went down under the heartless attack he cried with a loud voice, “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul was consenting unto his death.”—Acts 7:60; 8:1

This was but the beginning of a ruthless campaign by the Jews, largely led by Paul, to stamp out this new, supposedly heretical faith. Paul, still fired by his misdirected zeal, continued his relentless efforts to root out this growing threat to the ancient Jewish religion.—Acts 9:1,2

At this critical point in the life of the budding church, the Lord intervened. As Paul journeyed toward Damascus, Jesus made himself known to him, and instructed him to go into Damascus, where he would be told what he should do. Ananias went to deliver Jesus’ instructions to Paul that he would be “a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings and the children of Israel.” There also, in the house of Judas, Paul received his sight, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and was baptized. And what an amazing transformation thereupon took place in the life of Paul! “Straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”—Acts 9:1-20

One might ask, how could the great God of the universe, all-wise and all-loving, choose and establish as an apostle and outstanding leader in the church one who had so cruelly persecuted the faithful disciples of his only begotten Son, Jesus! Perhaps it was because a new dispensation was beginning in the outworking of his great plan of salvation for the world—a time for laying the foundation of understanding, faith, love, and sacrifice of those who would henceforth be called to suffer and die with Christ, that they might also reign with him for the blessing of the world of mankind in the coming kingdom. Under these circumstances, with his keen intellect, his thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, and his unswerving perseverance in what he saw to be his conscientious duty, Paul would be uniquely useful in building up the Early Church.

True, Paul had persecuted the church unto death. But in so doing he honestly believed he was doing God a service. (John 16:2) But God looked into Paul’s heart, and found it good. Those three memorable days in the house of Judas in Damascus, searching his own heart under the Lord’s leadings, must have been revealing to Paul, for they changed him at once from a persecutor of the Lord’s jewels to a newly begotten Christian. What a remarkable display of the power of the Holy Spirit in a pure and honest heart!

And who can tell how large a part in bringing about this glorious result in the making of a great apostle was played by the deacon, Stephen, and his courageous sermon, by his faithfulness unto death, and by his dying prayer on behalf of his murderers? One must suppose that never for a single day thereafter would Paul fail to see Stephen’s face, “as it had been the face of an angel.”—Acts 6:15

The great Lord God of the universe is still looking for those whose hearts, like Paul’s, are right, and who, also like Paul, desire to serve him in truth and in love. To such who are faithful, the Lord promises the surpassing prize of “glory and honor and immortality, eternal life.”—Rom. 2:7; II Pet. 1:4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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