Background on the Apostle Paul
Did you know that one of the greatest and most revered founding fathers of the Christian faith, the Apostle Paul, was a murderer?
Paul originally known as Saul of Tarsus (before his Damascus Road experience) persecuted, hated and even murdered Christians. Acts 8:3 indicates that, “…Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.” He himself admits he was at least complicit in murder when he is quoted in Acts 22:4 as saying, “I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death,…”.
And in his letters Paul often referred to himself as the chief sinner. In 1Timothy 1:15 he says, “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners– of whom I am the worst.”
The Damascus Road experience was described in the book of Acts. Acts 9:3-6 relates the following, “As he neared Damascus on his journey suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Saul asked. ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. ‘Now get up and go to the city, and you will be told what you must do.’ Then in Acts 9:8-9, “Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”
At Jesus’ command Saul was led to the house of Ananias. And in Acts 9:15-19 the story is completed., “…the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here – has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the the Holy Spirit.’ Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.’
It was Saul’s remarkable conversion through his “road to Damascus experience” by which he was transformed by God’s gift of grace. But some question why God chose Saul (thereafter known as Paul), a known and self-confessed sinner to become one of the great founders of the faith.That question was convincingly answered by Paul himself in 1 Timothy 1:16-17, “But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”If the Lord gave Saul, a murderer and a self-proclaimed “chief sinner”, such a dramatic conversion experience and used him to deliver the message of the faith to millions of people, He certainly not only forgives us of our sins but also has a divine purpose and plan for each of us.