Acts 9:1-21 tells the story of the conversion of Saul (later known as Paul). Saul hated Christians and would stop at nothing to persecute them. He had them arrested and even stood watch over the stoning of Stephen (see Acts 8:1-3). Saul was on a passionate mission to destroy The Way, the name commonly given to the Christian movement. We know from scripture that after the death of Stephen the Jerusalem Christians scattered, most likely to Saul’s content. But his mission only increased the spread of the gospel. As Christians scattered, they took the gospel with them thus increasing it’s growth and spread throughout the world.
Saul was on his way to Damascus with papers giving him authority to arrest Christians. Why Damascus? It was a large commercial hub with trade routes that extended to Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia, Arabia, and other places. If Christianity caught on there, it would spread far and wide. Stopping it in Damascus would be a huge step towards snuffing it out altogether.
It was on this journey that Saul, whose name means asked of God, met his match. Scripture tells us that a light from heaven flashed around him and as Saul lay on the ground shaking in his sandals, Christ called out, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” Saul asked who it was and the voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Then he instructed Saul to get up, go into the city, and there he would be told what to do. Saul rose in utter darkness, struck blind. Now Saul, the great and powerful persecutor, had to be led by the hand like a helpless child into Damascus. Later Saul was called Paul. It is interesting to note here the meaning of Paul. It means little. At this point, I am sure that Paul was feeling small and insignificant in light of Jesus’ blinding light and power.
During his three days of blindness, Paul spent time praying and communing with God. And in verse 12 of Acts chapter 9 we see that God even showed Paul a vision during this time. Paul did not eat or drink during his blindness. He was too busy being schooled by Christ. What lesson can we learn from this? When God stops you in your tracks, get on your knees before him. Seek his face and commune with your Savior. Allow him to teach you and give you a new vision for your future.
God sent Ananias to Paul. He told him that Paul was chosen to carry the gospel to the Gentiles. That’s you and me people! We are Gentiles! God didn’t reserve his gospel just for the Jews. He handpicked Paul to bring the message of hope and salvation to all who would believe. Because of Paul’s obedience, I heard the message and knelt at the front seat of a Sunday school bus to accept Christ as my savior! The message reached me, a Gentile!
God also told Ananias that Paul would suffer. Paul had imprisoned and persecuted Christians and the time was coming when he too would be imprisoned and persecuted. Paul had to reap what he had sown, but that reaping would bear fruit and bring glory to God. Just because we become a Christian, doesn’t mean we escape all of the consequences of our sins. Sometimes, like Paul, we will still reap what we have sown, but as a Christian we can lean on Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
After three days of blindness, Ananias came to Paul and laid hands on him, and scales fell from Paul’s eyes. Not only did physical scales fall from his eyes, but spiritual ones did as well. Just as Christ was resurrected on the third day, Paul was resurrected as a new believer on the third day. What spiritual scales need to fall from our eyes? Where do we have blindness? Ask the Lord today, to remove the scales so that you can see clearly.
Paul immediately began his ministry, teaching and preaching Christ as Messiah. He had a radical life-change and was now preaching the same message that he once persecuted. He found himself sailing a ship with The Way painted across its bow. Now, you’re probably not out blatantly persecuting others, but are you quick to look down on certain types of people? Do you cast hasty, unfair, judgment on those around you? Do you gossip and talk about others behind their backs? Be careful whom you persecute. God just might put you in their boat!
There are so many rich lessons to be learned from God’s word and we’ve gleaned a few powerful ones just from the story of one man’s conversion. I hope that you will be inspired to dig into God’s word and see what other lessons you can learn from the lives of those who came before us.