Summary: Ananias- God’s man of the hour
Saxlingham- Langham 25-01-03
The Conversion of St. Paul
The passage that I want to look at today is our epistle Acts 9: 1-19
The story of the Conversion of St. Paul.
It is one of the watersheds in the New Testament.
What sort of man was Paul before his conversion
We have our first glimpse of St. Paul – known then as “Saul of Tarsus” in Acts 7:58 - at the stoning of Stephen, we read
Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
8 1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
Here was a man that looked hardly likely material to become the Apostle to the Gentiles.
But even as Stephen was dying, he was praying for the likes of Saul of Tarsus.
"Lord, do not hold this sin against them."
What a prayer and what an answer.
Saul of Tarsus could best be described as Satan’s Hitman in Syria
At the beginning of Chapter 9 we see how he was not just apathetic to church.
He positively persecuted it and took delight in throwing Chrsitains into prison.
Not exactly the sort of person the church would have been counting on converting.
But then God’s ways are not always our ways.
Saul was on his way to DAMASCUS doing what he thought was God’s work.
Here was this sect called the WAY claiming a crucified convict was the Son of God. This was outrageous blasphemy to a strict Pharisee’s ears.
Yet Christ met him on the way. “A Close Encounter of the Third Kind” you might say.
2. Paul’s pedigree
Paul had a top notch Jewish pedigree. In Philippians he said this of his judaistic background:
5 I had the mark of a Jew cut in my body when I was eight days old. I was born of the people of Israel. I belong to the family of Benjamin, so I was born a true Jew. I was a Pharisee, so I obeyed the Jewish law very carefully.
6 I was so full of my own ideas that I sent Christians to prison. But I was a good man in the way the Jewish law calls a man good.
7 But all these things that might have helped me, I call them all nothing, because of Christ. (Phil 3:5-8)
Paul was probably a member of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish council of 70 - that condemned Stephen to death.
We read in the book of Acts 22:3 that Paul studied at the feet of Gamaliel, one of the top Jewish scholars of the time. It was a bit like saying today that he studied theology at Oxford or Cambridge University today.
3. The Event – the conversion of St. Paul
St. Paul’s conversion is key in the development of Christianity, because it is Paul who starts to flesh out the theology of the bones of Christianity.
But that is not where I want to go today.
What struck me about the conversion of such an important figure in the church was that God did not use one of the Church’s super stars.
None of the 12 apostles were called to be God’s messenger to Paul. The Lotrdc did not send one of the remaining six deacons. (You will recall there were 7 deacons until Stephen was martyred).