Summary: The remarkable conversion of Saul, in which he put his faith in the Savior he had been so viciously persecuting, unfolds in five phases: 1) contact (Acts 9:3), 2) conviction (Acts 9:4), 3) conversion (Acts 9:5), 4) consecration (Acts 9:6–8), and 5) commun
A certain church found itself suddenly without a pastor, and a search committee was formed. In due course it received a letter from a man applying for the vacant position. The committee chairman read:
“I am considered to be a good preacher, and I have been a leader in most of the places I have served. I have also done some writing on the side.
“I am over 50 years old, and while my health is not the best, I still manage to get enough work done to please any parish.
“As for references, I am somewhat handicapped. I have never preached anywhere for more than three years. And most of the churches I have preached in have been small, even though they were located in rather large cities. I had to leave some places because my ministry caused riots and disturbances. Even where I stayed, I did not get along too well with other religious leaders, which may influence the kind of references these places will supply. I have also been threatened and physically attacked. I have even gone to jail several times for my preaching.
“I am not particularly good at keeping records. I have to admit I don’t even remember all those whom I’ve baptized. However, if you can use me, I should be pleased to be considered. I feel sure I can bring vitality to your church.”
When the chairman finished reading the letter, the committee members were aghast. How could anyone think that a church like theirs would consider a man who was nothing but a troublemaking, absentminded, ex-jailbird? What was his name? “Well,” said the chairman, “the letter is signed Paul.” (Quoted by Richard N. Bolles in Reader’s Digest)
Church history is replete with accounts which highlight the marvelous power of the gospel to transform sinners. But no transformation is as remarkable, or has had such far-reaching implications for history, as the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. So significant an event was his conversion that Scripture records it no less than three times (cf. Acts 22:1–16; 26:4–18).
It is fitting that such a unique individual would have a unique conversion. Saul was by birth a Jew, by citizenship a Roman, by education a Greek, and purely by the grace of God a Christian (cf. Phil. 3:4–9). He was a missionary, theologian, evangelist, pastor, organizer, leader, thinker, fighter for truth, and lover of souls. Never has a more godly man lived, except our Lord Himself. The change of Saul’s name to Paul [which will be first reported in Acts 13:9] is not connected with his conversion; he continues having a right to both names, the first Jewish, the second Roman; Paul continues to call himself [and to be called] Saul until his ministry in Cyprus [13:9].( Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (2099). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.)
The first two verses (of Acts 9) provide the chronological and geographical setting. More significantly, they picture the preconversion Paul, which contrasts radically with the picture of Paul after the encounter on the Damascus road. Acts 9:1 picks up the picture in 8:3. Paul was still the church’s number one enemy, still raging against it (Polhill, J. B. (2001). Vol. 26: Acts (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary (233). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)