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The Life Changing Conversion of Saul: Powerful Evidence of the Holy Spirit
Significance of the Coversion of Saul
The story of Saul from Acts 9 is an extraordinary example of conversion. In the beginning, Saul is out to crucify Jesus and his followers. Saul is seen breathing threats against all disciples of Jesus with full intent of persecuting them. His hatred for Christians is clearly defined and sets the stage for the authenticity and magnitude of his conversion because after his encounter with Jesus, Saul is completely changed and begins speaking out boldly in the name of Jesus Christ. The complete turnaround Saul makes is emphasized by the contrast in behavior that is witnessed after his conversion, and sheds light on the significant wake-up call that occurs in the hearts of many individuals, when they are called by Christ.
The life changing conversion, that Saul experience, occurs after an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus. After his encounter with Jesus Saul becomes temporarily blind. His vision is taken away. He therefore needs to be lead by the other men, on the rest of his journey. For three days Saul does not eat or drink. Saul finds himself in a physically weakened state and his once strong demeanor is compromised, as he is humbled to the will of God. Saul’s loss of vision and weak state brings deep meaning to the conversion process encountered by every soul. Individuals accept the will of God and diminish the importance of their own will, as they learn humility in the physical world. The message of complete surrender is an important piece in the conversion process that delivers healing and renewal and in the case of Saul, prepares him to be an instrument to fulfill the will of God.
In the later part of the passage, God sends Ananias to visit Saul and return his sight to him. Saul was informed in a dream that Ananias was coming to heal him. The action of God to reveal HIS plan to Saul ahead of time is a reminder of the mercy and compassion of God, WHO always gives hope. Ananias does visit Saul at God’s request and Saul’s sight is returned to him. The scales that fall from his eyes represent a new vision given to individuals in conversion; the scales of deception fall off to reveal the truth. Saul in a humbled state is healed and renewed in his ability to see clearly the Glory of God.
It is interesting that Ananias protested with God about taking on the mission to heal the vision of Saul, believing Saul was dangerous to the disciples of Jesus. This is understandable when Ananias only knows Saul to be a persecutor of Christians. But God made it clear to Ananias that HE will show Saul how much he must suffer for my name’s sake. What could be interpreted as vengeful I believe instead sheds light on the authenticity of Saul’s conversion, and the natural consequences that will result as he professes God’s Glory to others. God in HIS compassion knows the disciples do not have it easy, and that they will be persecuted by many. This message is one that can remind all converted souls of the challenges that can be faced, in a life transformed in Jesus Christ.
Saul's Dramatic Transformation
After his conversion, Saul must prove to the disciples that he is for Christ and no longer an enemy. We see that people who listened to Saul speak continue to be amazed at the change in his nature. Saul’s commitment to Jesus is attested to by Barnabas, who gives an account of Saul boldly speaking out in the name of the Lord. The theme of boldly speaking out is repeated in verses 27 and 28 and helps set the stage for the intensity of Saul’s new conviction in Christ. He is even described as arguing with the Hellenistic Jews, who wanted to put him to death. The bold position held by Saul after his conversion juxtaposes the bold position he held prior to his conversion. After his conversion, Saul now faces the persecution and the threat of death he once executed on Christians. The behaviour of Saul, before and after his conversion, paints a picture of the dramatic transformation that took place through the Holy Spirit. When Ananias laid his hands on Saul he was clear to pronounce him filled with the Holy Spirit. This momentous action further supports the supernatural transformation witnessed in Saul and the ritual of laying hands, helps to define the spiritual significance of the event in the physical world.
The Laying of Hands
The gesture of the laying of hands represents a token...whereby that gift ( Holy Spirit) was bestowed and then followed by Saul’s baptism, and his welcoming into the growing community of Christians. Ananias’ own words express the sentiment of brotherhood after his laying hands on Saul, when he warmly addresses him as Brother Saul. The growing community of Christians surfacing in Damascus during this time is gaining momentum and followers are being recognized in society, as people who belong to the Way. This creates a distinction among believers and non-believers and presents a community of people in society, who have adopted a distinctive way of life. When considering this social distinction likely to exist among the people of the time, it becomes clear that after his conversion, Saul would have experienced dramatic changes in his social milieu. Saul’s social status is totally redefined and as a result he now faces severe persecution, from oppposition groups he was once a member.
The Conversion of Many by the Holy Spirit
In the big picture we need to remember that the Holy Spirit is alive and penetrating the souls of many people during the time of Saul’s conversion. In a previous chapter the Holy Spirit is having its influence on the eunuch and Philip, as they go to be baptised in the water. When they came up out of the water the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away...and the eunuch went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:39). The hearts of many unsuspecting souls are being converted and transformed by the Holy Spirit and the most unlikely individuals are becoming witnesses, to Christ as the Way. As Peter says in the following chapter, I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality but in every nation the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him (Acts 10:34). These powerful words give insight to the awesome renewal that is occurring during the time, and the conversion of Saul signifies the total turnaround occurring in the hearts of many. The structure of the text emphasizes the before and after conversion of Saul and sheds light on the supernatural occurrences, happening on a larger scale in society at the time.
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The Meaning of Saul's Conversion for Christians
Saul’s conversion experience makes him a witness to the disciples and anyone else, struck by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit during the time. The testimony of Saul brings validity to the unexplained supernatural events occurring in believers everywhere and strengthens a case, for faith in Jesus as the Way. Saul’s conversion is an important part of the big picture because it stresses the experiential dimension of conversion. The before and after of Saul’s conversion is profoundly represented by the changes that occur in his life. Saul’s heart was transformed and so was his world, as he was adopted into Christian brotherhood. This created a distinction in society that contradicted everything he previously stood for. Saul persevered in his convictions, even in the face of death, and his passionate proclamations fuelled the faithful hearts of others believers. His conversion is an example of the process that occurs when one receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God’s great grace chose Saul to be an instrument for him. God humbled Saul both spiritually and physically during his three days of blindness. But Saul was not left in darkness. Hope remained in him as he awaited the promise of renewed site. The scales of deception were removed and was followed by a conversion so significant, it changed Saul’s life entirely and gave him the passion to testify to the Glory of Jesus Christ, regardless of the consequences. The reading of Saul’s conversion expresses the truth and strength that is bestowed upon souls who receive conversion through Jesus Christ. There is a fire that is ignited in the believer which opposition cannot quiet. Followers of the Way are the Instruments of God filled with the gifts of HIS Holy Spirit.