How did a Jew from the strictest sect in Judaism, the Pharisees, become a Christian himself? And how did this person, who not only zealously persecuted, imprisoned, and condemned to death followers of the Way in his own region, but also travelled more than 190 miles by donkey for the opportunity to persecute, imprison, and condemn to death MORE followers of the Way in ANOTHER region, become so radically transformed that he became not only an avid follower of Christ, but the leading apostle, evangelist, and ‘discipler’ in the early Church?
I love the conversion story that Paul relays to King Agrippa. It involves the dramatic turn his life took in response to a mostly one-sided conversation he had with Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.
Christ basically told him, “Why are you persecuting Me, Paul? You’re fighting my plan for you. Stop it. Get it, go to Damascus & I’ll give you what you need for your real mission: bringing My Good News to Jews & Gentiles so they can TURN from darkness to light & from the power of Satan to God. They will receive forgiveness of sins & a place in My family.”
Paul’s conversion experience doesn’t involve sinner’s prayer, a lot of emotion, or even teaching from the Scriptures so he would know that Jesus was the Christ.
He was converted in response to his encounter with Christ – confronted by his sin & the error of his misguided persecutions, he turned from his wrong path, & turned towards obedience… to put into practice what he had heard from Christ.
Repentance. Is it really that simple?
Within a short time of his arrival in Damascus, Paul was filled with the Holy Spirit, & immediately began to share the gospel with the same zeal, fervor, & urgency with which he had previously persecuted the church.
Paul was a changed man; he’d been redirected to his true purpose, calling, & life-mission.