Things have changed, nations have changed, and even the church and culture has changed. The entire once-Christianised nations and the missionary once-evangelised developing nations are no longer the same as before. Christian values, traditions, and terminologies that were once common knowledge have become a thing of the past. The world is experiencing and seeing spiritual and moral relativism, spreading ‘like an infectious disease.’ The collect of today, on the conversion of Apostle Paul brings to our remembrance and renewal his preaching that continue to cause the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world. The conversion of Apostle Paul awakens us to effectively share the relevance and message of salvation in our changing culture. Paul’s conversion makes clear about what constitutes true conversion, the need to know it for ourselves, so as to be sure about our own conversion.
Apostle Paul of Jewish parents who were descended from the tribe of Benjamin was born at Tarsus, Cilicia. Paul as a Roman citizen from birth was educated in Jerusalem at the feet of the learned Gamaliel. Paul as a convinced and zealous Pharisee made his zeal develop to a religious fanaticism against the infant Church. It is on record that Paul took part in the stoning of the first martyr, St. Stephen, and in the fierce persecution of the Christians that followed.
Saul, entrusted with a formal mission, ‘breathing out threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, and desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem’ (Acts 9). Mysteriously, when he came near Damascus, ‘suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecute thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecute: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he, trembling and astonished, said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.’ Saul’s written authorisation from the high priest not only empowered him to arrest any followers of Jesus in the city of Damascus, he swore to wipe out the new Christian church. God, Who is able to raise a most unlikely of sinners from the dump site of sin converted Saul and changed his name to Paul.
Luke states that ‘the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.’ Saul’s experience on the Road to Damascus was first personal when he heard a voice say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul was knocked off his horse and struck blind for three days without eating or drink for three day.
The reflection about Saul’s conversion is that he was not searching for salvation. Like many today, he would have argued ‘that he was already one of God’s chosen people: “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee” (Phil 3:5). The Lord did not plead with Saul, he was confronted, convicted and converted. Through the instrumentality of Ananias, who laid his hands on Saul he was able to see again when something like scales fell from his eyes. The scales from Paul’s eyes symbolised a spiritual transformation that allowed him to see and know the truth about Jesus. Just as conviction of sin is a mark of true conversion, a new person emerged as Paul and he was baptised into the Christian faith until he was martyred as an Apostle in Rome around 65 AD. Indeed God is able to convert the most unlikely of sinners.
Paul’s conversion points to the relevance of salvation through undiluted sharing the truth of God’s Word and Gospel of Jesus Christ in our changed world. We are in a world with people riding different horses of pride, sin, unbelief, and greed. Paul’s conversion speaks about the unchanging Gospel truth of Jesus Christ in today’s changing culture. Just as the preaching of Paul after his conversion was foolishness to some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, the relevance of salvation in our world today may be a stumbling block to many. When we understand the depravity of man in relation to the power of the Cross reconciling sinners to God, Paul’s conversion points us to the power of the Gospel alone that transform lives and reform the society.
Apostle Paul writes in Titus chapter 2, “The grace of God that brings salvation hath appeared to all men.” The reflection is that, the grace that brought salvation to Paul and others as a past event is relevant to us today and in the future. On the grace of God, Paul says, “Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; … looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” The relevance of Paul’s salvation today invites us not only to learn in the light of a past deliverance, we should be looking for a future deliverance in Jesus Christ (vs 11-13). Beloved, remember, God provides salvation for us to bestow upon us eternal life (Jn 3:16). Receive Jesus today.