Paul’s Conversion – Acts 9:1-31

ACTS 9:1-31                                                            PAUL’S CONVERSION                                                                      Day 28

Saul of Tarsus was a student of Gamalial, the greatest Rabbi of the 1st century, and possibly one of the Sanhedrin. Saul held the coats of those who stoned Stephen.  This began a persecution that scattered the disciples through Judea and Samaria. Saul led this, even going to other cities to find Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for prison or death.

On one such trip, to Damascus, Jesus himself appeared to him in blinding light (Acts 9:1ff; 22:1-22; 26:4ff). In his epistles Paul often wrote of his early life.

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 1:12-14)

After his baptism, he immediately began preaching in the synagogues of Damascus saying Jesus is God’s son. Later, after being in Arabia three years, he met a few apostles in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-30). Many believe in those early years he was taught by the Lord in the wilderness.

From Jerusalem, the church sent him back to Tarsus. Barnabas invited Saul to join him in Antioch in Syria where the gospel was advancing among the Gentiles (Acts 11:19-27). This continued until the Holy Spirit said to separate Barnabas and Saul for a special mission journey (Acts 13:1-3). Early in this first journey, Saul took leadership of the group, and he became called Paul (13:9).

He made three separate “missionary journeys” through modern Turkey and Greece, visiting cities such as Philippi, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus – as well as many smaller cities.

After he brought alms to the poor saints in Jerusalem from the Gentile churches he had established, the unbelieving Jews were about to lynch him because they thought he had taken a Gentile into the Temple, but he was rescued by the Romans. Kept in protective custody for two years, he appealed to Caesar when the Roman governor was about to send him to Jerusalem for trial there. He spent two more years in Rome waiting to be tried. Tradition says he was released briefly before being arrested again and beheaded by Nero c. A.D. 66.

Along the way he wrote at least 13 (some think 14) of the books of the New Testament (Romans – Philemon or Hebrews). Everywhere he went, the Jews pursued him from city to city. He was also arrested by the Roman authorities at times. Read a list of his trials in 2 Corinthians 11:22-33.

The Jews hated him, yet he never lost his love for them, saying, “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh….” (Rom. 9:3). Most of his work was among the Gentiles, though in every city he preached “to the Jew first, and also to the Greeks” (Rom 1:16). Near the end of his life, he wrote:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)

Our next reading is about the first Gentile converts and how that fits into God’s STORY of redemption.