Are we RISKING our ‘ALL’ for the SAKE of the GOSPEL? Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ. (Acts 9:20-22)
The dramatic conversion of Saul of Tarsus was a turning point in the history of the first century church, and his conversion resulted from a miraculous encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ as he was heading for Damascus in Syria, which is about 150 miles from Jerusalem. Saul was singularly determined to capture and destroy as many people of ‘the Way’ as possible (9:1). Apart from being the person who guarded the clothes of the people who were stoning Stephen (7:58), Saul "made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison" (8:3).
Saul had great credentials to boast about since he was a Roman citizen by birth (22:27-28), who came from a wealthy Jewish family in Tarsus of Cilicia, and who underwent his education "at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of (the) law, and was zealous toward God" (22:3). He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Phil. 3:5-6). However, after his conversion, Saul became God’s primary instrument in the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles. The church’s greatest opponent became her greatest advocate!
Luke records that after three days of temporary blindness Saul has now regained his sight. What a difference three days can make in a person’s life! During this brief period of blindness, Saul was able to see himself as the ‘worst of sinners’. Alone with his guilt bearing upon his conscience due to the blood of innocent followers of Christ in his hands, Saul repented of his sins and wrongdoings and asked Jesus to forgive him for all his atrocities that he had committed in the past (9:4-5). He then started praying earnestly to God after making a radical decision to serve Him alone going forward (9:11b). God then gave Saul a vision about a person called Ananias laying his hands upon him to get his eyesight back (9:12). Just as his vision revealed, Saul got his eyesight restored, got baptised in water and got filled with the Holy Spirit (9:17-18).
It was then that Saul decided to risk his ‘all’ for the sake of the gospel. As soon as he became a follower of Jesus, he began to proclaim in the Damascus synagogue that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah (9:19b–22). Note that this is the only reference to Jesus Christ as the Son of God in the book of the Acts. It is significant that it occurred very early in the preaching of Paul, indicating that he immediately recognized not only that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel, but that Jesus was the true Son of God as well. The radical changes that took place in Saul proved the genuineness of his conversion and this prepared him for a very fruitful ministry among the Gentiles. He proved that his conversion was real, in that he confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus. Saul’s apostolic authority had come directly from Jesus Christ, and not by succession through one of the apostles (Gal. 1:1, 11, 12).