Soon after he was converted to Christianity, Saul “began proclaiming in the synagogues: ‘He is the Son of God.’ But all who heard him were astounded and said, ‘Isn’t this the man who, in Jerusalem, was destroying those who called on this name and then came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?’ But Saul grew more capable and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this One is the Messiah. After many days had passed, the Jews conspired to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. So they were watching the gates day and night intending to kill him, but his disciples took him by night and lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the wall” (Acts 9:20-23). Using these verses, let’s make some key observations about the conversion of Saul, also called Paul.
- First, the identity of Jesus Christ—who Jesus is—is at the heart of Paul’s about-face. Scripture states he began declaring that Jesus was God’s Son and that he grew increasingly effective in making his arguments for Jesus’ deity, “proving that this One is the Messiah.”
- Second, Saul’s life was transformed to such an extent the changes were noticeable and undeniable. People were amazed! Here was a man who had traveled extensively harassing and arresting Christians; now he was publicly defending the Christian belief about who Jesus was.
- Third, Paul used intellectual and reasonable arguments, not primarily emotional appeals, in his efforts to convince people that Jesus was God’s Son. This affirms that Paul was defending a solid reality, not just his opinion.
- Fourth, the fact that Saul’s enemies became his friends and his friends became his enemies underscores the power of Jesus Christ to transform. Not long after Paul’s encounter with Christ, Jews who’d earlier supported him were plotting to kill him! Paul was controversial both before and after he became a Christian, but with exception of soon after his conversion (when people were adjusting to the news he’d become a Christian), no one who knew anything about Paul ever could doubt what—and who—were most important to him.
- Fifth, as a believer, Paul pursued Christ with a passion and an intensity that mirrored the passion and intensity with which he’d previously opposed Christ.
In the 1700s, a lawyer named Lord Lyttleton sought to disprove Christianity by researching and compiling evidence against the biblical account of Paul’s conversion. His research, however, led him to conclude the opposite—that the biblical account was indeed true and that Paul really was transformed by Jesus Christ. (Of course, Lyttleton examined much more that we’ve considered here. Still, these observations represent a good starting place.) Faced with compelling evidence for Paul’s transformation in Christ, Lord Lyttleton himself became a Christian. Jesus really does change lives!