The Conversion of Paul
On January 25th, the Church celebrates the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle to the Gentiles. Though not one of the Twelve Apostles, Paul converted after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and he preached the Gospel and wrote many letters that are part of the New Testament of the Bible. There are other feast days upon which St. Paul is honored; however January 25th is specifically focused on his conversion.
Saul, Persecutor of Christians
“For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it”
Prior to his conversion to Christianity, Paul was Saul, a Pharisee who persecuted Christians. He was very zealous in his persecution, noting of himself in his letter to the Galatians that he was more zealous even than many of his peers. Saul was present at and oversaw the stoning of St. Stephen, the first martyr.
The Conversion of St. Paul
“Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me.
And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?'
And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles – to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'”
Saul left Jerusalem to head toward Damascus around the year 36. His reason for the journey was more Christian persecutions. Saul had papers permitting him to arrest any possible followers of Jesus that he found; those followers were to be brought back to Jerusalem for questioning and execution.
He was not far from Damascus when Christ appeared to him. Saul was, as described in the above passage as well as other passages in the New Testament, struck by a brilliant flash of light that caused him and those with him to fall to the ground. After the above exchange took place, Saul’s companions helped him the rest of the way to Damascus, as he had been rendered blind. For three days, Saul remained blind and did not eat or drink.
A disciple in Damascus, Ananias, also received a vision from God, instructing him to go to the house where Saul was, to heal the man who had once persecuted so many of Christ’s followers. Ananias mentioned what he had heard of Saul, but God replied to him “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” ( Acts 9:15-16). Ananias did as God instructed, going to the house and laying his hands on Saul, saying “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ananias also baptized the former persecutor, who took on the name Paul. Paul then went out to do the task given to him – to preach about Jesus. He traveled and preached for many years, and converted many. Paul was eventually arrested and martyred sometime between 60 and 65 AD.
This article was adapted from Wikipedia.