Paul’s conversion to Christ is one of the proofs for the physical resurrection of Jesus from the grave and evidence that Jesus was who he claimed to be, the Son of God. Known as Saul of Tarsus, before He met Christ—Saul was not just your average antagonist—Saul was so enraged by those who had placed their faith in Christ that he was involved in plots that killed early Christians.
Josh was my colleague of 24 years from 1979-2003 as I served as the CEO of Josh McDowell Ministry – a Division of Cru.
“More Than a Carpenter” has been translated into 128 languages with over 27 million books printed.
Jack, a Christian friend of mine who has spoken at many universities, arrived at a campus one morning to discover that the students had arranged for him to have a public discussion that night with the “university atheist.” His opponent was an eloquent philosophy professor who was extremely antagonistic to Christianity. Jack was to speak first. He discussed various proofs for the resurrection of Jesus as well as the conversion of the apostle Paul, and then he gave his personal testimony about how Christ had changed his life when he was a university student.
When the philosophy professor got up to speak, he was quite nervous. He couldn’t refute the evidence for the Resurrection or Jack’s personal testimony, so he attacked the apostle Paul’s radical conversion to Christianity. He used the argument that “people can often become so psychologically involved in what they’re combating that they end up embracing it.”
My friend smiled gently and responded, “You’d better be careful, sir, or you’re liable to become a Christian.”
The story of the apostle Paul is one of the most influential testimonies to Christianity. Saul of Tarsus, perhaps the most rabid antagonist of early Christianity, became the apostle Paul, the most energetic and influential spokesman for the new movement. Paul was a Hebrew zealot, a religious leader. His birth in Tarsus gave him exposure to the most advanced learning of his day. Tarsus was a university city known for its Stoic philosophers and culture. Strabo, the Greek geographer, praised Tarsus for its Stoic philosophers and culture. Strabo, the Greek geographer, praised Tarsus for its avid interest in education and philosophy.
What Do You Think?
The apostle Paul completely reversed his beliefs about Jesus after experiencing a life-transforming encounter with him. Have you ever seen that kind of transformation in anyone? Have you ever experienced it?
Paul, like his father, possessed Roman citizenship, a high privilege. Paul seemed to be well versed in Hellenistic culture and thought. He had great command of the Greek language and displayed superb dialectic skill. He often quoted from less familiar poets and philosophers. In one of his sermons Paul quotes and alludes to Epimenides, Aratus, and Cleanthes: “In him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring’” (Acts 17:28). In a letter Paul quotes Menander: “Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Corinthians 15:33). In a later letter to Titus, Paul again quotes Epimenides: “One of their own men, a prophet from Crete, has said about them, ‘The people of Crete are all liars, cruel animals, and lazy gluttons’” (Titus 1:12).
Paul’s education was Jewish and took place under the strict doctrines of the Pharisees. When Paul was about age fourteen, he was sent to study under Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel and one of the great rabbis of the time. Paul asserted that he was not only a Pharisee but also the son of Pharisees (see Acts 23:6). He could boast: “I was far ahead of my fellow Jews in my zeal for the traditions of my ancestors” (Galatians 1:14).
To understand Paul’s conversion, it is necessary to see why he was so vehemently anti-Christian. It was his devotion to the Jewish law that triggered his adamant opposition to Christ and the early church. Paul’s “offense with the Christian message was not,” as French theologian Jacques Dupont writes,
with the affirmation of Jesus’ messiahship [but] . . . with the attributing to Jesus of a saving role which robbed the law of all its value in the purpose of salvation. . . . [Paul was] violently hostile to the Christian faith because of the importance which he attached to the law as a way of salvation.
The Encyclopedia Britannica states that the members of the new sect of Judaism calling themselves Christians struck at the essence of Paul’s Jewish training and rabbinic studies. He became passionate about exterminating this sect (see Galatians 1:13). So Paul began his pursuit to death of all Christians (see Acts 26:9–11). He single-mindedly began to destroy the church (see Acts 8:3). He set out for Damascus with documents authorizing him to seize the followers of Jesus and bring them back to face trial.
Then something happened to Paul.
Meanwhile, Saul [later known as Paul] was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to destroy the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He
fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying his hands on him so he can see again.” Acts 9:1–12
Excerpted with permission from the 5th Chapter of “When Everyone Leads” by Ed O’Malley and...
Happy Thanksgiving! Family and Friends are coming! Pumpkin Pies are baked! Turkey is ready to put in the...
Excerpted With Permission from Chapter 5 of “How To Talk About Jesus Without Looking Like an...
Guest Post by Jeffrey Davis Originally posted at Psychology Today Social psychology shows people are eager to...
Guest Post by Kevin Herring Originally Posted @ Ascent Management Consulting How can leaders increase...
Guest Post by Jeff Haden This works whether you’re trying to make a great first impression or deepen a...
Excerpted With Permission from the 3rd Chapter of “Win the RELATIONSHIP- not the DEAL” by Casey...