Monday: Saul’s Conversion
avatar

“And he said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ Then the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads’”(Acts 9:5, NKJV).

Although Saul’s persecution of the early church begins rather inconspicuously (as he only holds the coats of Stephen’s executioners), it quickly intensifies (see Acts 8:1–39:1, 2, 13, 14, 2122:3–5). Several of the words Luke uses to describe Saul paint a picture of a wild, ferocious beast or a pillaging soldier bent on the destruction of his opponent. The word translated “ravaging” in Acts 8:3 (ESV), for example, is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (Ps. 80:13) to describe the uncontrolled and destructive behavior of a wild boar. Saul’s crusade against the Christians was clearly not a half-hearted matter of convenience; it was a deliberate and sustained plan to exterminate the Christian faith.

Look at the three descriptions of Saul’s conversion (Acts 9:1–1822:6–21, and 26:12–19). What role did the grace of God have in this experience? In other words, how much did Saul deserve the goodness that the Lord showed toward him?



Saul’s conversion, from a human perspective, must have seemed impossible (hence the skepticism that many expressed when they first heard about it).

The only thing Saul deserved was punishment, but God extended grace to this fervent Jew instead. It is important to note, however, that Saul’s conversion did not happen in a vacuum, nor was it forced.

Saul was no atheist. He was a religious man, though gravely mistaken in his understanding of God. Jesus’ words to Paul, “ ‘ “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” ’ ” (Acts 26:14, ESV), indicate that the Spirit had been convicting Saul. In the ancient world, a “goad” was a stick with a sharp point used to prod oxen whenever they resisted plowing. Saul had resisted God’s prodding for some time, but finally on his way to Damascus, through a miraculous encounter with the risen Jesus, Saul chose to fight no longer.

Think back about your own conversion experience. Maybe it wasn’t as dramatic as Paul’s (most aren’t), but in what similar ways were you the recipient of God’s grace? Why is it important never to forget what we have been given in Christ?

Share Button

Comments

Monday: Saul’s Conversion — 25 Comments

  1. At times I wonder how many times do i persecute Jesus Christ even though im not a killer. There are so many things that we do as christians to persecute Jesus. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit convict us so that we may see the light.

    Like(0)
    • Good Day Tracy,
      I appreciate your comment about "how many times do i persecute Jesus Christ".
      Jesus died for us a horrible death some 2,000 yrs ago. Although it does not make Him happy when we do wrong, He suffered back then & is not today in a state of suffering today for the sin you & I commit today.
      His suffering was once & for all. Done. Finished. End. Paid.
      It's for you & I to now accept.

      Like(0)
      • Jesus is still suffering for us today right now in the Santuary in Heaven, Till he comes again all the pain of this world is a burden to him that we cannot imagine. I surely don't think he enjoys the influence of Satan on his people. Oh what a day when Christ comes again as King. Then we can rejoice in His Glory. He awaits for us to get it right and spread his word and finish the work. We that strive to have the Testimony of Jesus and the keep the Commandments.

        Like(0)
    • I think the principal you are applying here is this, "Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me" (Mat 25:40 NKJV). In other words we can persecute Jesus by what we do to His people (Ref. Acts 22:7-8).

      Like(0)
      • Hi Tyler;
        The way Jesus was persecuted on earth ------- Are you saying we "can persecute Jesus by what we do to His people", now while He is in heaven?
        Some people believe you "Crucify Jesus every time you sin". That was the context I was referring to but I failed to clarify. I am of the opinion that after Jesus was raised from the dead & lived amongst the disciples for weeks, He was not suffering over & over for the new sins they & thousands had recently committed that day or week. Do you agree?

        Like(0)
      • Basil, if you are looking at it from a literal physical point of view you would be right. We certainly can't crucify Christ physically again which is a theological problem Catholics seem to have with their offering of the Eucharist during Communion.

        Perhaps the best way to explain it, especially if you are a parent, is to realize that if someone touches your child they might as well have touched you. In most cases that I have seen when a child hurts, their parents hurt also. It is in this way that we can persecute Christ by persecuting His church.

        As far as the crucifixion is concerned we can crucify Christ again spiritually (Heb. 6:4-6). Read Jesus' discourse on the bread of life (John 6:53-63) in order to understand the spiritual application of something literal.

        Like(0)
  2. What are the real reasons why Saul was persecuting the Christians? It is also said that he was genuine in what he was doing or that he really believe that what he was doing was right? explain please

    Like(0)
    • He was genuine in what he was doing. That is why God could use him. that is why we has Christian need to be genuine about our christian life if we are looking for Christ return

      Like(0)
    • Hey Oliver, what impressed me that may answer your question in my mind is Acts 22:1-5 (NIV):

      ".....Then Paul said: 3 “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. I studied under Gamaliel and was thoroughly trained in the law of our ancestors. I was just as zealous for God as any of you are today. 4 I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison...."

      What I am personally getting from the text is that Paul was "trained in the law of his ancestors"...he also "studied under Gamaliel".

      How often do we let traditions and even leadership dictate to us what is "thus sayeth the lord". We see the same thing repeated during the dark ages where christian zealots persecuted others in the name of "Christianity". Not surprising as most either did not have access to His word (many reasons) or was not literate enough to understand it. Most were told what the word said.

      A similiar trend was seen during the western institution of slavery. The masses were appeased by the use of the bible to justify slavery. How many of the people during that time studied the word in detail to know the truth. How many were literate enough to do so. Why were the slaves forbidden to learn to read or write.

      "Knowledge is power?"

      Thank God the Bible is the most translated and available to us all so we can study to show ourselves approved and never let a person, church or organization create a set of rules or regulation that makes us accept their interpretation of his word. (Matthew 24:24)We pray that our church leaders and organization continue to be led by the Holy Spirit as is evident in this and other quarterlies, but the onus is on us to study his word as diligently as a good student to know the difference between tradition and opinions as oppose to what his word says. BTW, we know the bibles will be taken away from us during the times of trouble, right! Are we ready?

      I am suggesting that Paul studied the traditional understanding and accepted the additions that was made in the Torah as truth. No wonder he was so passionate. Do we not see this in our churches today? Learned men who will excommunicate their kids in a heart beat?

      So maybe the lack of knowledge or knowing the incorrect information is equally dangerous. As a pastor @DoctorJohns recently told me that the answers to many questions I have would actually come from diligent study of his word and influence by the Holy Spirit and those answers may actually benefit many others.

      **then teach, baptize and teach again**

      Like(0)
    • It is for the same reason that muslims and so many other christians today and throught the ages have been able to persecute,attack and kill christians. Because they believe they are right and we are wrong and depending on the branch of teaching of their religion they get such as fundermental or orthodox or even extreme will determine if they can find it in their conscience to do or support acts of violence. We all have the tendency in us. It just need to be watered in the right direction. Saul being of the pharisees and their divergent views, had already conspired with the sadducees to kill Christ and even back then it was their aim to stamp out this new teaching so this was just a continuing of the same

      Like(0)
  3. Proverbs 3:4-6
    So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
    Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
    In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

    Everything Paul did before falling off his high horse was a waist of precious time. If he had died a day earlier, he would have gone down in history with his name spoken in the same breath with Pilot. God spared his life until he was finally ready to make a commitment to consider the Truth in the Matter of Jesus the Christ.
    Once God saw that his heart was ripe, like the loving savior He is, He acted swiftly, and dramatically as He has always done.
    He is always waiting and watching patiently, prodding us to that moment when our hearts are ready to listen.

    Like(0)
    • Perfect text that speaks to Oliver's question. "lean not on one's own understanding". Paul was not in tune with God but man.

      Like(0)
        • Reminds me of a song I heard growing up.
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vYcx7Bp0IO0

          HELEN BAYLOR THE SEA OF FORGETFULNESS LYRICS
          I stand before you guilty and unworthy
          How can I be forgiven and holy
          And I know I break your heart
          But you promised I could start all over
          and all the things I've done
          you've placed them each and every one

          CHORUS
          Into the sea of forgetfulness
          You've placed all of my sins
          For I'm the one who keeps reminding you
          Over and over again
          Into the sea of forgetfulness
          As far as the east from the west
          Seventy times seven
          You've forgiven me
          And you keep cleansing me
          And placing my sins into the sea of forgetfulness
          ****
          That is why he died, ain't it? He wants us by faith to accept his gift as a living sacrifice and by the Holy Spirit to continue to move forward by studying then sharing then studying some more.

          But you brought up an important point. You letting go is critical. However, at times, you may need to discover his love on your own. Doctrine and knowledge is one thing but do you have the Holy Spirit? Paul asked the church that question. Pray for a renewing of his Spirit and keep studying brother. God will reveal it to you. I will look out for your testimony before or by this quarter's end.

          Like(0)
        • Past mistakes are great. If you can't remember them U will do them again. So please don't forget.

          After your 1st car accident, U R a better driver. Adam & Eve, Satan & the universe know the result of sin & won't forget it or repeat disloyalty to God.

          Examples of wrongdoing in the Bible is for us to learn & avoid. Just know U R forgiven but don't forget or U may do it again.

          The lesson this quarter will show us the wrong & right way to represent God to those around us.

          Like(0)
  4. I believe the lesson author was correct when he wrote that Paul was "gravely mistaken in his understanding of God."

    Of course we know we could never persecute others like Paul did. (The law doesn't allow it!) However, we may have the same misunderstanding and the same spirit.

    Paul seems to have seen God as an authority whose law must be obeyed and enforced. And since he was "faultless" in obeying the law (Phil. 3:6), he was in a good position to be God's enforcer. And he threw himself into his self-appointed task with enthusiasm.

    Is it possible for us to fall into the same trap? Are we ready to point out to others what they must do to fall into line?

    What Paul didn't realize, until he met Jesus, is that the foundation of God's law and His character is self-renouncing love (1 John 4:7,8). It took this zealous Pharisee three years in the desert to change His whole concept of God and realize that love does not compel. That he learned the lesson is clear from 1 Corinthians 13. Through the transforming power of the Spirit of God, Saul the zealous Pharisee was changed into Paul, the humble, obedient servant of God -- one who recognized himself as the "chief of sinners," (1 Timothy 1:15 as He looked at the self-renouncing love evident in the life of Jesus.

    I wonder how many of us still need to be confronted with the risen Christ so that we may also see ourselves as the sinners we are and recognize all other sinners as our brothers and sisters who need Jesus as much as we do -- no more, no less. I'm thinking that would cure a judgmental spirit and a readiness to point out the sins of others.

    What do you think?

    Like(0)
  5. I feel that Saul persecuction lead to his convictions . Act 9:5 when its hard to kick against the goads.

    What a blessing when God's graces cleans our hearts and He shows us favor by sending his Holy spirit so we can become inspired to obey Him. His grace give forgiveness. His favor gives instructions to become obedient.

    Saul was in darkness for 3days to reflect on his sins. Then He was purified by baptism and recieved the Holy spirit. After that He was instructed to preach to others about the Lord.
    Are we listening to the goads in our own conversions? I pray that we will hear when the Lord leads us to do His will. God bless and remember when we listen and then obey, He instructs and then we become inspired to do His will to glory Him.

    Like(0)
    • That is actually a great question. Just wanted to respond to possibly bring notice to it. One thing we saw is that Acts 9:7-9 that they "heard the sound" and was with him through the entire experience. They led him to Ananias. They were there. At least, they had the same opportunity and witnessed God's awesomeness. I hope they did. I am not sure if there are any bible students out there with a better answer but I am happy to know that our God is so amazing and gracious that he would actually give everyone the opportunity to be converted.

      Like(0)
    • Hey Oliver, am I a bible student? Well not officially but I am as the next guy should be. Trying to study with his Spirit. I will venture a brief answer but actually would love if you can let his spirit lead you by not just getting that answer which is straight forward but to experience that revelation in your life. Well, I am impressed to say that. :)

      Check out the Lord's prayer and then compare that with the Sanctuary process. What is amazing about both to me, is that they are very specific and each process or statement is for a purpose. Check it out carefully and tell me if you see a pattern. They both had the element of asking for forgiveness but is that all? Read the prayer or revisit the process and examine it before and after this point. Why do we need to be forgiven? Why is it we need to be cleansed? What do we do before and after this point. I think most of us at one time or another may ask for forgiveness but never in the right way. Thank God for His mercy and He works with us despite all.

      Before the disciples received that first outpouring, if you read back, you will see that they prepared themselves for it through prayer and fasting. If you look further back, they walked and studied with Christ. If you read between the lines, it was not until they accepted God's will were they truly able to let go of self and receive his anointing.

      Check John 14:16...We know that the Holy Spirit is always with us so that is different, I think. Even with Paul, the lesson alluded to the fact that He even resisted Acts 26:14 the call of The Spirit. So what was the difference with the before and after?

      Finally, as we may know this known text: Psalm 51:10 but I would ask you to consider reading the entire chapter. It may not be this week but I would love for you to tell us your story on or before the end of this quarter. In the mean while, please pray for me as I do you.

      Remember the big picture and by faith accept Jesus Christ as the victor that made a way that we only need to ask and he will give, open the door and he will come in. Him and his spirit and the father is one.

      The entire Great Controversy is about worship and worship is a choice and a way of life. We need to both worship God in Spirit and in Truth. Most of us have the truth/doctrines or think we do but the truth without the Spirit creates lukewarm Christianity.

      Like(0)
  6. many times.we have heard people say "experience is the best teacher and bad experience teaches more.." why cant we learn from the treasure of wisdom in this quarter?

    Like(0)

What do you think? If you like a comment, just [Like] it or post a thoughtful reply. Please provide a working email address and your real first AND last name to have your comment published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.