FROM SAUL OF TARSUS TO PAUL THE APOSTLE
The manner through which GOD reaches the hearts of His children is as diverse
as the stars of heaven. And the power through which GOD reaches His children has always been through the “still small
voice” of the Holy Spirit. And the tugs on the heart are never through coercion or fear, but always through love.
Such was the case with the conversion of Saul, of Tarsus. He was Judaism’s leading proponent to crush this new
fledgling movement of men called Christians. Saul had them imprisoned, dragged before tribunals, condoned their properties
to be confiscated, and rejoiced at every shameful deed that could be inflicted on the this fledgling church of Jesus Christ.
But a seed of salvation was sown into the heart
of Saul that sprang forth to His conversion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It was at a stoning of one of these new Christians:
“The witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling
upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this
sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:58-60. Saul said in his heart, ‘What was
this? Why did this man forgive us for stoning him? Why did he return the gentleness of love to us in response to our violent
hatred of him?’ Those words of Stephen haunted Saul. Saul had also seen this “Holy Spirit” in the lives
of other Christians who responded in like manner toward those who bitterly opposed their faith.
So, as Saul was on his way to Damascus to round up more of these
“Christians” Jesus met him by the way: “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. And as he journeyed, he came near
Damascus: and 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 persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:
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. And the men which journeyed
with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened,
he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither
did eat nor drink. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias.
And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight,
and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man
named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have
heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief
priests to bind all that call on thy name. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear
my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for
my name's sake. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul,
the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight,
and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith,
and arose, and was baptized.” Acts 9:1-18
The words of Christ to Saul, "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" are for every man and woman
who resists the call of the Holy Spirit on their hearts to "taste and see" the glory of the love seen in the life
of Jesus Christ. In the case of Saul, a new direction began, who from that moment forward became the Apostle Paul. “Saul”
in the language means “Great,” while “Paul” means “little.” But in this sudden change
of heart the Christians were very guarded and even doubting concerning Saul’s conversion. But there was one who believed
the Holy Spirit now resided in the heart of Paul: “But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles” (9:27).
In the billows of remorse, the new
Apostle, who was called to the Apostleship by Jesus Himself, wanted to undo the harm he had done to all those in the church
whom he had persecuted. He could've spent the rest of his life working to undo the wrongs he had done. But the LORD commanded
him to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. The LORD would see to it that the word would get to those in prison. They would
hear: “he that destroyed them which called on this name,” Jesus Christ, now stands among their number. And they
praised GOD for His mercy to Saul.
all the Apostles of Jesus Christ, Paul was the one who was best educated to meet the various obstacles to the Gospel that
would be placed in his path. This is why the LORD said, "he is a chosen vessel unto me." “And God wrought
special miracles by the hands of Paul: So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases
departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them” (19:11,12). In the course of his life, Paul accomplished
more for the cause of Christ than any man of his day. Even when Paul stood before Rome’s Emperor Nero and gave the Gospel
message, members of Nero’s own family believed the Gospel and praised GOD for their salvation through Jesus Christ (Phil.4:22).
So, the LORD shows us once again how He can
take the least likely man or woman to receive the Gospel; and through His arranging circumstances, orchestrating moments of
compassion, and tugging the heartstrings with Love’s urge by the power of the Holy Ghost, that least-likely soul will
breathe new life: a life that will live forever.