Give Me the Bible: Paul’s Profound PivotJohn Allan
The apostle Paul is one of the most-beloved personalities in the Bible. He’s regarded this way largely because of his zeal and willingness to change his life to obey the Lord.
Indeed, he went from Saul (one who bound Jesus’ disciples and brought them to Jerusalem for punishment) to Paul (who himself would be bound in Jerusalem for being a disciple of Jesus).
How was Paul able to make that 180 degree change in his life? We’ll notice three characteristics:
1. He was Sincere (Although Mistaken)
Saul persecuted disciples (Acts 7:58ff, Acts 9:1-2, 22:3-5), but believed he was doing what was right (Acts 22:3, 23:1). He lived in accordance with his beliefs, and sincerely thought he was doing the right thing. Surely his zeal is unquestioned, even though his actions were wrong.
Saul gives us proof that beliefs and feelings can be wrong, and that sincerity does not turn a wrong into a right. Deep down we know this, but sometimes we have trouble seeing it in ourselves or the lives of people we care about. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart is deceitful above all things. Instead of relying on our feelings, we must look to the Bible to see if we are living the way it tells us to. If Saul’s feelings were wrong, mine can be too!
2. He had the Courage to Convert
Although Saul’s sincerity was misplaced, being a sincere man surely helped him to have the courage he needed to change from doing what was wrong to doing what was right.
We learn in Acts 9 that Saul had permission from the high priest to go round up disciples and bring them bound to Jerusalem. Saul was on the road to Damascus in the heat of the day to carry out this task. He was more than willing to have the assignment. Yet, on that trip he had an encounter with Jesus that changed his life (Acts 22:6-10, 9:1-9, 26:12-18).
- A light shone from Heaven
- A voice spoke to Saul. When Saul asked who it was, the voice identified himself as Jesus (Acts 9:5, 26:15)
Saul had to confront the reality that he had been doing the wrong thing (consider Acts 22:10, 9:6). He asked the Lord what he wanted him to do. Jesus instructed Saul to go to Damascus, where he would be told what to do.
God instructed Ananias to go to Saul (Acts 9). Ananias initially had concern, understandable in light of Saul’s reputation, but listened to God and went.
When Ananias met Saul, Saul had gone three days without vision, food, or water (Acts 9:9), and was praying (9:11). Ananias greeted Saul as “brother” because of their common Jewish background (Acts 9:17, 22:12-13). Despite the claims made by some, Saul had not yet been forgiven of his sins; we know this because of Saul’s own testimony in Acts 22:16.
Saul received his sight and was told by Ananias “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16; NKJV)
If Saul had already been forgiven, Ananias would not have urged him to be baptized and wash away his sins.
Learning that we’ve been wrong about a deeply-held belief can be hard. Sometimes a man learns he is wrong, but refuses to humble himself and change. Sometimes a person realizes he’s wrong but then tries to justify his actions instead of changing. Some know they are wrong and have a desire to change, but external forces like threats from family members scare them into staying where they are.
When we realize we’ve done wrong, we naturally feel that something should be done about it. What a blessing, then, that the Gospel is for all regardless of our background.
Paul described himself as chief of sinners, but he was forgiven (1 Timothy 1:13-17).
People who have committed grievous sins have been forgiven (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).
There is sin in everybody’s background, but maybe you feel like yours is too great for God to forgive. As we have noticed, the Bible says otherwise!
When we seek forgiveness on God’s terms, God forgives us!
- Hear the Gospel (Romans 10:17)
- Believe it! (Mark 16:16)
- Repent of your sins (Luke 13:3)
- Confess Jesus Christ (Matthew 10:32-33)
- Be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 22:16)
3. He Had the Determination to Persist
Paul had the courage to start his walk as a disciple of Jesus, and the determination to persist in living for God.
He was faithful to God in spite of persecution (2 Corinthians 11:22-28, Philippians 4:11-12). We learn from Acts 9:20-25 that persecution started on Paul shortly after his conversion, but it never stopped him.
He was faithful to God despite what was waiting for him in Jerusalem (Acts 21:10-14).
Paul was determined to press for the prize (Philippians 3:14).
Hebrews 11:13-16 speaks of people who sought a heavenly country. They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on this earth because of that desire. When our eyes are firmly fixed on Heaven it helps us persist no matter the obstacles (Romans 8:37-39, Revelation 2:10, Acts 20:18-24).
Saul (or Paul as we better know him) gave us a powerful example. While we can be impressed and consider this life to be extraordinary, we should not think he is an example we can’t follow.
Paul was able to make such a dramatic change in his life because he had sincerity, courage, and determination.
- Sincerity in his desire to please God.
- Courage to change when he realized he was wrong.
- Determination to persist in spite of obstacles.
You can possess these characteristics too!
Scripture quotations in this lesson were taken from Holy Bible. New King James Version. Copyright Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982. Used by permission. All rights reserved. If we can assist you in obeying the Gospel, or if you have Bible questions or other comments, please contact us or visit one of our services.
This entry was posted on Sunday, September 6th, 2015 at 7:52 am and is filed under Give Me the Bible Radio.