The Call of Saul of Tarsus
“But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is My chosen instrument to carry My name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel’” (v. 15).- Acts 9:1–10
Saul of Tarsus was present at the execution of Stephen, and became inflamed with hatred for the followers of Jesus. He sought to destroy the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1–3), and then headed for Damascus to tear up the church there (Acts 9:1–2).
Along the way to Damascus, Jesus spoke to Saul. A great light from heaven, which Saul would have recognized as the glory of God, accompanied the words of Jesus. Jesus told Saul that in persecuting the church he was persecuting Jesus Himself, because the Lord is associated with His body. Jesus told Saul to go to Damascus and await instructions. When Saul got up, he found that he was blind. Saul now realized that the Christian claim was correct. The Lord who appeared to Israel in the shekinah glory in the Old Testament became incarnate and was now enthroned at the right hand of the Father.
God called to a disciple in Damascus named Ananias and told him to go to Saul, lay hands on him, and restore his sight. Ananias was fearful because he knew of Saul’s reputation, but the Lord assured him that He had chosen Saul, and that in the future, Saul himself would “suffer for My name” (Acts 9:16). So Ananias went to Saul, laid hands on him and healed him, and then baptized him into the church.
One of the most alarming trends in modern Christianity, including even some conservative circles, is the trend to downplay and even despise Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus. Paul is presented as harsh and mean, in contrast to Jesus who supposedly was nice and sweet. Some conservative evangelicals take it upon themselves to correct what Paul said in certain areas, particularly in the area of women’s role in the church.
This is a very dangerous trend, because it is abundantly clear that Paul was chosen by God to be the author of most of the theologically weighty parts of the New Testament. Paul’s stature in the New Testament church was like that of a new Moses. God said that Paul was His chosen instrument. Those who presume to correct the apostle Paul are presuming to correct God.
There have been few conversions as dramatic as Paul’s. True conversion, however, need not be dramatic to be authentic. Think back on your conversion. Thank God for “invading” your life and calling you, and consider how or if you have suffered for Him in His service. If you haven’t, should you have?
Passages for Further Study
Acts 22:1–21; 26:1–32