In the ninth chapter of Acts we find the conversion experience of the greatest missionary that ever lived, the Apostle Paul. Before his name was changed to Paul, he was known as Saul of Tarsus. The account of this conversion experience teaches us some very valuable lessons concerning salvation and God’s call on our lives.
The pre-converted Saul. In verses 1-2 we see that Saul was a terrible man. He was a persecutor of the church. There is a huge contrast between the pre-converted Saul and the converted Saul. We find Saul appearing first in the account of the stoning of Stephen. In Acts 7:58 it reads, “and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.” He is also mentioned in Acts 8:3 which says, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” His role was to be an arresting officer of those who would claim the name of Jesus. His intent was to stamp out the new movement of the church. His activity primarily focused on Jerusalem; however, in this case he had special permission to go after Christians who had fled to Damascus and to bring them back to Jerusalem for trial and arrest. In verse one of chapter nine; we see that Saul posed a great threat to the disciples of Jesus. Saul was very vicious in his attacks on Christians.
The conversion of Saul. We find the conversion of Saul recorded several times in the book of Acts as a part of the testimony of Paul. Here in Acts chapter nine, we have the actual account of his conversion. We can read this in verses 3-9. As Saul was on his way to arrest the Christians in Damascus, suddenly a great light shown around him. This light must have been extremely bright due to the fact that this took place around mid day. This light was the divine glory of God. Then a voice came from heaven asking Saul why he persecuted him. Immediately, Saul recognizes this one who appeared to him as Jesus. He responds by saying, ‘who are you, Lord?’ Everything that Saul ever believed was shattered in that moment. He was broken as he saw the resurrected Christ. He was told by Jesus to go into the city and wait for further instructions. There are a couple of things that we can learn here about salvation. First of all, salvation is found only in Jesus. The emphasis here is simply that Saul saw the Lord. There was no long discussion. His conversion experience was centered on the fact that he saw Jesus. This is in keeping with Paul’s testimony recorded in 1 Cor. 9:1 ; 15:8 and Gal. 1:16. This is a reminder to us today that salvation is found only in Jesus. It is only by God’s grace given to us through Jesus that we can be saved. There is nothing that you can do to be good enough to get to heaven. You cannot work your way to heaven. It is only in a personal relationship with Jesus that you can be saved. I am afraid that too often we try to make salvation an academic thing. We tend to think that people must arrive at some great understanding of the Gospel in order to be saved. The only thing you must understand, my friend, is that you are a sinner and you need a Savior and that, “God so loved the world that He gave is only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” Once you have come to Jesus for salvation, He will then begin the work of transforming you into His image through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. There is no certain level of understanding that you must come to in order to be saved, you must simply believe, you must simply see Jesus. Another thing we learn about salvation in the conversion of Saul is that fact that salvation is personally directed and offered. Notice in verse seven how that those with Saul only heard a voice or a noise but they did not see anyone. This appearance by Jesus was specifically for Saul. It was personally directed to Saul and salvation was personally offered to Saul. We must understand here that Christ died for the sins of the whole world and has given the gift of salvation to everyone. He also, in His own way, gives a personal and direct invitation to every human being to come to Him for salvation. God, through the Holy Spirit, may do this in various ways. You see, there is only one Gospel. There is only one way to heaven. However, the means by which one comes to the Gospel may vary in different circumstances. For Saul, it was in the great light and appearance of Jesus on the road to Damascus. For us today, we are primarily brought to the Gospel through the written word of God and the preaching of the word of God. For you, it may have been at a church service or through a friend or through some tragedy in your life. God used various circumstances to bring you to a place where you would believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You may say, well, what about those people that do not have access to the Bible? Is salvation offered to them to? I have heard many stories from missionaries around the world where God divinely and supernaturally appointed them to be in the right place at the right time to share the Gospel. No story, however, has gripped my heart and given me a greater understanding of the love of God, then what I experienced a few years ago in Vancouver, Canada. I was with a group of four men (pastors and missionaries) from Georgia on a ‘vision’ trip to Vancouver. We were there to see the work of our missionaries first hand and to catch the ‘vision’ for what God was doing. Vancouver is an international city. People from all over the world live there. As part of our trip, a missionary from Vancouver took us on a tour of a Buddhist temple. While we were there, we noticed a young lady following along with us and listening very intently to what the missionary was telling us. We were able to strike up a conversation with her and what she told us was incredible. She said that she was from the Philippines. She was a clothes designer. She had very little work in her own country. She was also very confused and was searching for answers concerning life and faith. She told us that back in her home country, she kept having the same dream over and over again. In her dream, a man appeared to her and told her to go to Vancouver to start her business. Finally, she took the plunge and moved to Vancouver. She had only been in Vancouver for about a week when she started to have another dream with the same man appearing to her. She went on to tell us that she was really struggling in trying to figure out the whole purpose of life and was trying out various religions. One night as this man appeared to her in a dream, he told her to go to the Buddhist temple at a certain day and certain time and there will be five men there who will show her the truth. There were four of us from Georgia and the one missionary from Vancouver, five men. She asked us if we were those men. The man leading us, just smiled and asked, ‘do you know who that man is in your dreams?’ She replied, with, ‘no.’ He went on to say that he knew who the man was. He asked her if she ever heard of Jesus. She said she knew the name but did not know who He really was. Of course; we preachers from Georgia could not hardly contain ourselves! To make a long story short, the Gospel was presented to her and contact information was exchanged for more connection with her and the missionary. After we left there, we were told by the man who was leading our trip that there were reports of similar things happening around the world. Missionaries have been approached by people who said they were told in a dream to come and see them. These occurrences have become so prevalent, that missionaries started printing tracks with a picture of Jesus that simply reads, “Have you seen this man in a dream?” An address is printed on the tracks for people to come to certain locations at certain times and the missionaries say that people come out in droves! You see, God’s ways are far higher than our ways. Yes, it is the Gospel that one must believe. Yes, they must be given the Word. But, God can and does use many different ways to draw people to Himself. I firmly believe; that somehow and someway, God is drawing every single person on this planet to the Gospel. He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. If you have never trusted Christ as your Savior, the fact that you are reading or listening to this sermon is proof that God is calling you to salvation. It is not just a coincidence. He gives you just what you need at just the right moment to bring you to Himself. The question is, will you believe? Will you respond to God’s call on your life for salvation? God’s call to salvation is personal and direct. It is designed in this moment just for you. Will answer the call?
The post-converted Saul. After Saul sees Jesus, he then proceeds to obey God and to answer His call on his life. There are two things we see here. First of all, he was called to preach the Gospel. We see this in verses 10-22. Notice specifically in verse 20 how Saul (now Paul) immediately preached the Gospel of Jesus. Instead of arresting the Christians, he started preaching! What a glorious change! A second thing we see here is that he was called to be persecuted. Something very interesting is stated in verse 16 where it says that he will be shown all the things he must suffer for the name of Jesus. In verses 23-25 we find that persecution came almost immediately after he began to preach.
Lessons learned from Saul’s conversion. There are several lessons in this account of the conversion of Saul that we can apply to our lives. The first lesson is that Salvation is offered to you. We have already seen how the call to salvation is a personal call. If you have never given your life to Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God is calling out to you right now. God loves you and desires that you be a part of His family. All you must do is place your faith and trust in Jesus. A second lesson we learn is that all believers are called to preach. Once you have been saved, you now have the responsibility of telling others about Jesus. Sharing our faith is not an option, it is a command. True born-again believers must tell people about Jesus. A third and final lesson we learn is that all believers are called to suffer. “All those who live Godly in Christ Jesus, will suffer persecution.” Some may be persecuted greater than others. Persecution can come in many forms. The bottom line is; we have an enemy. His name is Satan. He is going to do everything he can to hinder the cause of Christ. He will attack you and try to destroy you. That is why we must put on the armor of God and take up our cross daily and follow Him.
What a wonderful story of a life that was transformed by the power of God! Has your life been changed? Have you come to faith in Christ? If so, are you living like it?