“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2). These words are powerful and convicting for any Christian. They are even more powerful when you consider they were written by one who had himself been transformed. He had lived his life conforming to the Jewish culture of hostility toward Christians, yet through his encounter with Jesus, he was completely transformed.
His story is one of powerful transformation. He went from being a passionate persecutor into a passionate preacher. The fundamental change which occurred in Paul was the direction of his passion. In this article, we will focus on his story as he himself told it in Acts 22.
Here Paul was just arrested for being accused of bringing Gentiles into the temple. Right before he was about to be taken away, he was given permission to speak. He then proceeded to tell the story of his conversion.
Paul Was Living Passionately Against the Name of Christ
It is no secret that before Paul’s encounter with Jesus, he was actively and passionately living to punish those who lived in the name of Christ. He said, “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. 4 I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, 5 as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished” (Acts 22:3-5 ESV).
Paul admitted to having persecuted those who claimed to be Christians. He said he did this as one who believed he was working for God as a faithful Jew. He was zealous and passionate for his cause. He said that he pursued this passion even to the point of bringing Christians to their death. He was present and active in the murder of Stephen (Acts 8:1). The text even indicates that Paul (then referred to as Saul) was part of the reason Christians had to scatter for fear of being imprisoned by him and others (Acts 8:1-4).
Perhaps Paul said it best when in his defense before Agrippa. He said, “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth” (Acts 26:9 ESV). He claimed he lived his life in opposition to the name of Jesus.
Have you ever met anyone who passionately lived against the name of Jesus? They not only do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, they probably do not believe in God at all. Yet it is not enough for them to simply disagree with you, but they have made it their life mission to crush Christianity.
There are many who fall into this category. They are active in our media, schools, and other religions. They like Paul live passionately against the name of Jesus. Their life is spent attacking Christians, in various ways, whether verbally or physically.
Paul’s life changed dramatically. While on the road to Damascus, to persecute more Christians, he had an encounter with Jesus. This encounter is recorded in Acts 9:3-19 and is explained again in our text, Acts 22:6-16. After this encounter with Jesus, Paul’s life was truly transformed. He no longer lived against the name of Christ. Part 1 of 3 (Will appear in the Gospel Advocate this winter).