He breathed on the remaining disciples the murder that he had already breathed in from the death of the others. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.” Other than being from Tarsus and overseeing the death of Stephen, this is all we know about Saul before his conversion. Conversion is not meant only for non-Christians or non-Catholics; conversion is not something that is only meant for those who have led dramatically sinful lives; conversion is a re-orientation of our wills toward God’s, a change of heart wherein we seek what God wills, and strive to do what He is calling us to do. Queen’s Street, which runs straight through Damascus from east to west, may be the street called Straight (Acts 9:11). Have you received your calling yet? These five different texts include several repeated elements: 1) Paul was chosen by the Lord; 2) Paul is sent as a witness to both Jews and Gentiles; 3) Paul’s mission will encounter rejection and require suffering; 4) Paul will bring light; 5) Paul will preach repentance; 6) Paul’s witness will be based on his Damascus Road experience — what he has seen and heard. He went to those very synagogues in order to gain disciples of the Lord. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin — a real Hebrew if there ever was one! This man who had once facilitated, expedited, and perpetrated the persecution of the followers of Jesus, was now His instrument. Matthew 25:40, 45); and what has happened to him—viz. Furthermore, how could he be addressing Saul? It is an ongoing change of heart, a perpetual reorientation of ourselves in order to align our wills with that of God. This is a man who had explicitly, and apparently with some relish, persecuted the followers of Jesus Christ. Paul had essentially made a career out of persecuting Christians for their faith. Before his conversion from Saul to Paul, Saul was a Jewish Pharisee who was tasked with the investigation of Jesus. Straight Street — Certain localities are shown as the site of those scriptural events which specially interest us in its history. Here they are: 1) That God can save anyone, even the most antagonistic to the faith. The importance of Saul’s conversion in Luke’s mind is shown by the fact that Luke gives the story no less than 3 full treatments, from three slightly different angles, with the latter narratives in Acts 22 and 26 supplementing the basic third-person account in Acts 9. He exhaled what he inhaled. The conversion of St. Paul is important to us for two reasons. We know already that this man is to be important, that his role is to be unparalleled, and that he will yield great things in the service of God. Discuss your experience with the idea of a calling from God with your group. Our wills are not perfectly in line with God’s. image: Renata Sedmakova / Shutterstock.com. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. crucifixion and resurrection—has happened to us who believe in him (Galatians 2:20). Stephen was preaching the Gospel, which infuriated those who heard, to the point that they threw him out of the city to stone him. Ananias was familiar with Saul by reputation. In what ways has God used you in unlikely ways or used your weaknesses to bring glory to His name. After his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul recognized the folly of his ways, and had a dramatic change of heart. We know this was the same man, as Paul himself would later recount the story and identify himself and his role: “And when the blood of your witness Stephen was being shed, I myself stood by giving my approval and keeping guard over the cloaks of his murders.” (Acts 22:20) What a dramatic change! Catholic Exchange is a project of Sophia Institute Press. (Witherington). There are a lot of things we can learn from Paul's conversion, but for this article we will choose to zero-in on three things I consider the most important. Saul — Much of what we need to know about Paul at this point in the Acts narrative can be found in Paul’s letter to the Philippians. (Witherington) “The choice of Ananias for this task made it clear that Saul of Tarsus was not dependent upon the Twelve, and also that an apostle was not required for bestowing the Spirit (as might have been concluded from the case in Samaria).” (Kent), “In this passage we have the most famous conversion story in all history.” -Barclay, “This was a radical change of religious direction, and it was accompanied by a radical change of action: the active persecutor became an even more active preacher and evangelist.” -Barrett, “The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch was in a chariot; the conversion of Saul of Tarsus was down in the dust.” -McGee, “He who had intended to enter Damascus like an avenging fury was led by the hand into that city, blind and helpless as a child.”-Barclay, “Saul became God’s primary instrument in taking the gospel to the Gentile world.” -Constable. Many of us are on our own personal journey into the idea of calling. The house of Judas and that of Ananias are shown, but little confidence can be placed in any of these traditions. Ananias came to Saul, and told him that he had been sent by the Lord. (Constable & Bruce) Lying on main route from Egypt to Mesopotamia, it became a major commercial center. The Way — This was one of the earliest designations of Christianity (cf. Jesus? Question: "When and why was Saul’s name changed to Paul?" While this is a tale that most of us are familiar with, it would behoove us to recount the story here, in order to fully immerse ourselves in this seminal moment. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus was one of the most remarkable facts in Christian history. As Tannehill points out, there are not only close parallels between the statement about Saul’s commission and what is said in Acts 22 and 26, but one also must compare Paul’s own statement about his mission in 13:46–47 and in 20:18–35. I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. Yet Acts 9 is closer to Acts 10, as we will see, in that both recount a crucial conversion narrative involving two visions and the overcoming of considerable obstacles, first in the case of the future primary missionary to the Gentiles, Saul, and next of the prominent Gentile, Cornelius. The one whom the adherents of The Way cling to as their Messiah? (Robertson). We do not know how Ananias first heard about Jesus, but he is probably not one of those who fled from Jerusalem because of the persecution of Christians there. “Go, for this man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings, and Israelites, and I will show him what he will have to suffer for my name.” Here we are told, out of the mouth of the Lord Himself, that Paul is to carry the word of God to all peoples, to the gentiles, as well as the Israelites (Paul’s own people), kings as well as common folk. Side note — if you find yourself at a point in your life where you are interested in learning what your calling is, the Underground offers a fantastic resource to help you with this pursuit. All rights reserved. Visit the Calling Lab to get started. He writes, “I was circumcised when I was eight days old. We need to carefully consider the import of this event. Now, however, he was seeking disciples of Jesus in order that they might know and accept the Gospel. Conversion does not simply mean changing religious adherence. Paul’s conversion didn’t only consist of his acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, but a change of heart. By this remark, Luke indicates the comprehensive scope of Saul’s commission, involving as it does both Gentiles and Jews, the fact that a special focus will be on Gentiles, and that he will be testifying before authorities as well. Without question, the story of Saul’s “conversion” is one of the most important events, if not the most important event, that Luke records in Acts. Acts 9 – The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus A. Saul on the road to Damascus. A light from the sky flashed around Saul, and he fell to the ground. crucifixion and resurrection—has happened to us who believe in him (Galatians 2:20). It’s clear that Ananias is a Christian disciple, and he is apparently one who has always lived in Damascus, for he has only heard about Saul’s persecution of Christians in Jerusalem, not experienced it.
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