OceanSide church of Christ

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THE CONVERSION OF SAUL OF TARSUS (1)

Victor M. Eskew

INTRODUCTION

A.             Prior to His ascension to the right hand of God, Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

B.              The book of Acts involves the response of the disciples to that command.

1.                In Acts 2, the gospel was proclaimed and obeyed for the first time.

2.                Following that notable day, we have example after example of men and women submitting themselves to the call of the gospel.

C.              We need to pay very close attention to each one of these conversion accounts.

1.                These individuals were saved by their actions.

2.                We, too, can be saved if we do as they did.

D.             This morning we want to examine one of the most radical conversions found in the book of Acts.

1.                It was the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.

2.                Three chapters in Acts, 9, 22, and 26, speak of this conversion.  In these passages of scripture, we see Saul in five different positions.

I.        THE PERSECUTOR

A.             Saul was a Pharisee (Acts 26:5).

1.                As such, he was very zealous of the traditions of the Jewish fathers (Gal. 1:14).

2.                His zeal for Judaism caused him to be very angry against the Christians of the first century (Acts 26:11).

And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities.

B.              One of the cities to which Saul went was Damascus.  His intentions that day involved the arrest of Christians.  He wanted to bring them back to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 9:1-2).

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings 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.

C.              Saul, at this time, was a fierce opponent of Jesus Christ and of the church.

1.                He was a sinner.  In fact, he would later refer to himself while in this state as the chief of sinners (I Tim. 1:15).

2.                What is interesting is that Paul was both religious and sincere.

a.         He believed he was right.  He believed he was doing Godís will.

b.         In Acts 23:1, he noted that he had always lived with a good conscience before God.

c.         NOTE:  It is possible to be religious, sincere, and have no sting of conscience, and still be wrong.

3.         Saul was the kind of man who needed the salvation offered by Christ.  He did not realize this, but He did.

II.      THE PERSUADED

A.             As a Jew, Saul did not believe that Jesus was the Christ.

1.                He refused to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead.

2.                He probably believed the lie that the disciples had stolen the body of Jesus (Matt. 28:11-15).

B.              These beliefs were disposed of at noon as Paul neared the city of Damascus.  Letís hear about this event in Saulís own words (Acts 26:13-15).

At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.  And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  And I said, Who art thou Lord?  And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.

1.                Three things helped to persuade Paul that day:

a.         The suddenness of the event.

b.         The shining light from heaven.

c.         The spoken words of Jesus Christ.

                        2.         Acts 9:6 reveals that Saul was trembling and was astonished.

                                    a.         The Jesus he thought was dead was alive.

b.         The Christ that he warred against was now confronting him directly.

C.              The purpose of this appearance of Jesus to Saul of Tarsus was twofold:

1.                To cause him to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.

2.                To qualify Saul to become an apostle of Jesus Christ.

a.         One of the qualifications needed to become an apostle was to have seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 1:22).

b.         Having seen Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul could write:  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time (I Cor. 15:8).

D.             One point that must be emphasized is that Saulís belief while on the road to Damascus did not save him.

1.                Those who believe in salvation by faith only teach that Saul was saved while on the road.  They appeal to two things to support their belief.

a.         Passages that link faith and salvation (John 5:24).

Verily, verily I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shalt not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life.

ANSWER:  The problem with this view is that it sees saving faith as a single act of belief instead of a process of numerous acts that begin with belief.

                                                1)         Faith only, as a single act, does not save (James 2:24).

Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

2)         A faith that repents of sin, confesses the name of Christ, and submits to the command to be baptized will save (Acts 16:30-34).

b.         A second argument for Saulís salvation while on the road to Damascus is in the conversion account itself.  When Ananias came to Saul he addressed him as ďBrother Saul.Ē 

1)         The Argument:  Ananias referred to Saul as a brother because he was now a brother in Christ.

2)         Answer:  Could Ananias have addressed Saul as a Jewish brother instead of addressing him as a Christian brother?  Absolutely.  Listen to Paulís description of Anaias in Acts 22:12.

And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews that dwelt therein.

2.                Saul was not saved on the road to Damascus.  Upon seeing the Christ, Saul, then asked Him a question (Acts 9:6).

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.

a.               Saul believed, but there was more for him to do.  One thing that he would be told to do is to arise, and be baptized in order to wash away his sins (Acts 22:16).

b.               Isnít it interesting that Jesus did not say:  ďThere is nothing more for you to do.  Youíve believed, therefore, you are saved.Ē  Jesus said:  ďArise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.Ē

CONCLUSION

A.             What started as a normal day in Saulís life, turned to trembling, blindness, and astonishment.

B.              This, however, is not the conclusion of the story.  In our next lesson, we will look at the remainder of Saulís conversion account.