The book of Acts contains three accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who would later be known as the apostle Paul. This militant opponent of Jesus Christ was destined to become one of the most ardent advocates of Christianity. The story of Paul’s conversion teaches us that God is able to convert the most unlikely of sinners and use them to spread the Gospel in His name.
Saul was Vicious
If we look at the type of person Saul was, one could debate that he was not the most likely candidate for salvation. Saul was a vicious and malicious human being. Luke states (9:1) how he threatened murder against the Lord’s disciples. He was consumed by the idea of eradicating any follower of Jesus from human existence. Saul had already destroyed Jerusalem’s church after Stephen’s death. He was now on a personal quest to travel 125 miles to Damascus in search of followers of Christ so he could bring them in chains back to Jerusalem. During this time, early Christians had not yet broken away from the synagogues, and so the high priest in Jerusalem had jurisdiction, even in Damascus.
Saul’s heartless cruelty knew no bounds. He sought to capture both men and women. He didn’t care what families he destroyed or whose lives he ruined. Saul was motivated by intrinsic hatred for Christ and his followers. He believed it was right for these individuals to suffer. Saul was considered to be devoted to the Law of Moses and in his mind, any follower of Jesus was perpetuating heresy amongst Israel. Little did he know what Christ had in store for him.
Blinded by Light
As Saul approached Damascus with his henchmen, a bright light from heaven flashed before them and they fell to the ground. Saul heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” The other men heard a voice, but could not understand what was said (22:9). In his confusion and shock, Saul replied, “Who are You, Lord?” He recognized the voice of God who replied, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.” At this moment, Saul got a glimpse of Jesus in His glory (9:17, 27), but the brightness of the light caused him to go temporarily blind. The Lord continued speaking, instructing Saul to go into the city, where he would learn his true mission. Three days later the Lord spoke to the godly Ananias, who only appears in this Scripture. Ananias goes to Saul and prays for him to receive his sight. Then he baptized him. By his laying of the hands-on Saul, Ananias restores his vision.
Who Deserves Salvation?
This passage in Acts reminds each of us that salvation does not depend on the merits of man’s nature, but rather on God’s free grace. It’s clear that God did not choose Saul because He was a “good person.” Saul had not done anything in his life to make himself worthy of God’s grace. The Bible is clear that if salvation depends on anything in us, then no one would be saved, because no one seeks for God (Rom. 3:10). “Those who are in the flesh cannot [not will not, but cannot] please God” (Rom. 8:8). Since faith and repentance are pleasing to God, the natural man cannot believe in Christ or repent of his sins unless it is granted to him (Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 1:29; Acts 5:31; 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25).
Saul is proof positive that God can take even the worst human being, an enemy of faith, and change his heart and mind. God can make us “see” his glory and can help us submit to His power. When God decides this, the change can take place instantaneously. However, to truly commit to this conversion takes years of submission. God is able to convert the most unlikely of sinners – and make the blind man see.