Thursday 28 January 2021


The Conversion of Paul (Acts 9)

This week the Church honours the greatest name in the service of Christ, the Apostle Paul. The passage from Acts tells the story of his conversion. It is unique in the sense that Paul himself was unique.

The story of Paul is the one which reveals the enormous change that can take place in a person’s life.

Paul was a deeply religious man, a strict Pharisee, a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, who studied at Jerusalem University under the distinguished Rabbi Gamaliel. Prior to becoming a Rabbi he was by trade a tent maker. He fasted regularly and gave generously in his devotion to God, he was the type of man who would be of great worth in any Church.

He was a dedicated persecutor of Christians who he hunted with much determination. It was his sincere belief that in doing so he was pleasing God. He could not accept as a Jew that Jesus could possibly be the anticipated Messiah, for anyone executed by crucifixion was thought to be beyond God’s acceptance. He was not satisfied with hounding Christians in Jerusalem, but sought to go beyond that city.

One day he met Jesus and his life was permanently turned round but so bad was his reputation that no one thought it was genuine. Whilst on a journey to Damascus, without any warning, he was struck by a dazzling light and heard a voice asking him, ‘why do you persecute me?’ Paul said, ‘who are you Lord?’ Such a light caused blindness as a sign of divine revelation. The voice is accepted to have been of Jesus, enabling Paul always to claim to have heard from the risen Christ, so being called by Jesus in a very special way, and being given special authority and commission.

This teaches us that God  marks a person out some times in their life, and in his own time reaches out and calls into his service.  God had obviously been watching over Paul and touched him at the moment it would have such a dramatic effect.

You will hear people say they came to Christ at a particular time, but in reality God called them and they responded; God always makes the first move and we either respond or reject. Salvation comes from God in his mercy and grace.

God wants everyone to answer, and Jesus was sent to earth to bring people into God’s Kingdom.  Jesus calls us just as he called Paul, and waits for us to answer, he will not force us. We have to make the decision, and many people who reject later realise the gift he was offering.

.Jesus was demonstrating to Paul that his attack on Christians was in effect an attack on Jesus. This was God’s plan for a change in Paul’s life, in which he would offer such zeal and lead so many to know the Lord, creating Churches around the ancient world. Paul would become an Apostle to the Gentiles.

God wants us to see in this conversion the most unlikely people can be converted, and not only people from respectable families are called into God’s service. His conversion was a work of divine grace.

The Lord prepared for a prominent Christian, Ananias, to go to a house in the city where he would find Paul. This shook Ananias for Paul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians was well known, but he did as God had told him, for the Lord had indicated that He was going to use Paul. Paul would later claim God had marked him out before he was born.

Paul would spend days of fasting and much suffering in the service of his Lord; beaten, stoned, chased out of cities, imprisoned, yet he never wavered in his devotion.

Following his conversion Paul travelled widely across the ancient world planting Churches and arranging financial aid to those in need. Finally he arrived back in Jerusalem with money collected, but against the advice of his friends.

Paul was told it would be dangerous for him to go to Jerusalem for Jewish Christians objected to him allowing Gentile Christians to worship in the Temple. They challenged him on being an Apostle and claimed his message was wrong and not to be trusted. The failed to accept that his message came from God and Paul was chosen to deliver it

Despite this he went, and a riot broke out which resulted in Paul being arrested and taken to a Roman fortress. When he claimed he was a Roman citizen the commander released him, and he appeared before the Jewish Sanhedrin. When there he spoke of the resurrection of the dead, and he further upset them and was taken back to the fortress.

It became known that forty Jews were dedicated to killing Paul, so he was taken under guard to the Roman procurator Felix in Caesarea, where he was kept for two years. A new procurator was appointed and Paul demanded to appear before the Roman Emperor so was sent to Rome, but if he had not so demanded he would probably have been freed.

Eventually he arrived in Rome where he was kept under house arrest for two years, and his ultimate fate is not really known. It is a legend that he was beheaded.

The experience of Paul has been mocked and ridiculed and all sorts of explanations offered to try and discredit the story, but Paul always insisted and testified for the rest of his life, as to what happened on the road to Damascus, when it would have been easier for him not to do so, and would have saved him much hardship.

One important message and lesson we get from this story is no one is too far gone than to be found by God, he takes the worst of sinners ,  as Paul claimed he was, and makes the best saints.( I use the word saints in the biblical understanding, that is anyone who is a committed follower of Christ, and not just some notable man in the Catholic Church)

It is factual that many faithful followers of Jesus were from Christian homes, but its is also true finds his servants from the lowest of places.  No one is too far from God’s reach to be saved.

The greatest fallacy we face to day is the onslaught from the press and the ignorant people who claim to be so knowledgeable, but in fact know so little about faith or religion. You find them on television or radio and press, stating in arrogant tones that all religions are the same, we have the same God and will go to the same place. Such is complete nonsense and stupidity.

Christians worship the God of Israel, which a Muslim would see as offensive to them, and the same with other faiths. Christianity is not something someone made up, it is based on historical facts surrounding the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, details of which were witnessed and recorded at the time.

God’s amazing grace reaches out to all who will listen.  Keep on believing, and make sure the Church you attend is a bible believing one, teaching only that which is God given in the Scriptures.  May God bless you on your Christian journey.

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