Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 9, 1956
NUMBER 43, PAGE 6,10b

The Conversion Of Saul Of Tarsus

Jady W. Copeland, Center, Texas

We must ever be aware of the importance of the question, What must I do to be saved? I fear too many preachers and elders fail to see the importance of preaching the plan of salvation over and over again — especially when we preach in the same place each Sunday, year in and year out. We seem to get the idea that we need something "new" to hold the audience. It is possible that some must have something different to attract their attention, but I am of the opinion that the simple gospel of Christ — his death, burial, resurrection — the plan of salvation — the one body — church government — worship of the church, etc., are being neglected in some churches. Where I preach, we have as many who are not Christians to attend the services at regularly appointed times as during meetings, especially on Sunday mornings. Besides, young people need to be taught regularly the fundamentals of the gospel of Christ.

No better way, I think, can be found to answer the question "What must I do to be saved" than to study an actual case of conversion in the New Testament. Saul of Tarsus presents us with an ideal case of conversion for a number of reasons.

Religiously, Very Devout

Saul was a religious man — a very devout one. (Acts 22:3.) His zeal in religion is surpassed, or has been surpassed by few, if any in the history of the World. This verse says he was "zealous before God." Later he says, "I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." (Gal. 1:14.) It is so common today for people to argue that if they are religious, especially as devout as was Saul, that one church or religion is as good as another. It wasn't for Saul, else he would not have accepted Christianity and left Judaism.

Morally, Honest And Sincere

As far as I know, no one has ever accused Saul of being dishonest or insincere. In his defense before Agrippa, Saul said, "I verily thought with myself that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. And this I also did in Jerusalem: and I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them." (Acts 26:9-10.) Even while persecuting the church, Saul thought he was doing right. He was completely honest in this work, but honesty and sincerity of itself does not guarantee that one is right in his religious beliefs. Before the council he said, "Brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience until this day." (Acts 23:1.) We note by these passages that it is possible to be honest, sincere and conscientious about ones religious affiliation, and yet at the same time be wrong. Such was Saul of Tarsus.

Before God, A Sinner

When the church had its beginning in 33 A.D., Saul of Tarsus was a young man, and as the church began to grow Saul was very zealous in persecuting the church. He was present when Stephen was stoned, and consented to his death. (Acts 8:1.) Up to the time of his conversion, he was "breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord." (Acts 9:1.) He says of himself "though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief." (1 Tim. 1:13.) Can you think of a more typical person than was Saul of Tarsus? Typical, that is, of people today. He was religious, honest, devout, not bothered by his conscience, and sincere about his belief, BUT HE WAS IN SPITE OF ALL THIS, A SINNER. He was not in the favor of God. However, Saul had many Things In His Favor:

1. He was willing to be taught. A teacher once said, "The best student is the one who knows nothing." By this he meant that a good student is willing to learn. Saul never came to the point where he was so prejudiced that he was not willing to be taught. When one "knows it all" it is hard indeed to teach him. But when the Lord appeared to him he quickly asked the question, "What shall I do Lord?" (Acts 22:10.) If people would only have that attitude today. If all would only have the disposition that the prophet admonished the young Samuel to say, "Speak, Jehovah; for thy servant heareth." Until we have this attitude, we can never expect to be pleasing to God.

2. Saul was willing to accept truth when he found it. When he realized he was doing that which was contrary to the will of God, he gladly accepted the new truth that he had discovered. His close friends, family and foes did not keep him from accepting the Christ. He did not argue that his former religion was sufficient for him if it was for his fathers. His pride was not so great that he would not admit that he was wrong. "I did it ignorantly in unbelief," he said later. He was not ashamed to admit his ignorance of the gospel of Christ. When he found that he was wrong, he immediately changed to uphold and support that which he knew to be truth.

3. He was willing to humble himself and ask for forgiveness. "And he was three days without sight, and did neither eat nor drink." (Acts 9:9.) His action clearly shows his penitence. Often the pride of a person causes them not to repent of their sinful ways, but not so with Saul.

4. He wanted the truth at all cost. He left friends, former religion, and all else behind in order to have the truth. Christ said, "The truth shall make you free." (John 8:32.) If we are not willing to cast aside all error, and wrong doing, then the Lord does not want us as his disciples.

With the foregoing facts in mind, it is easy to see in its true light the conversion of Saul. He was going to Damascus to persecute the church when a great light shined round about him. (Acts 9.) The brightness of the light was above the brightness of the noon sun, and he fell to the ground blind. He heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul why persecutest thou me?" to which he replied, "Who art thou Lord?" This clearly shows his faith. Jesus said "Except ye believe that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." (John 8:24.) There can be no doubt about Saul's faith, since he saw him here on the road to Damascus. There are many faiths, but an obedient faith is necessary to the salvation from sins. (Gal. 5:6.) Abraham's faith justified WHEN HE OFFERED ISAAC. (Heb. 11:7.) Noah's faith justified WHEN HE PREPARED THE ARK. (Heb. 11:7.) God's law has always been faith and obedience. When our faith is strong enough to lead one to OBEY, then it is a saving faith.

But as we have already noted, Saul's faith led him to REPENT, as his action so clearly shows. He sat blind, praying for three days and nights earnestly desiring to know the will of the Lord. His later life plainly shows his penitent spirit. Jesus said, "Except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish." (Luke 13:3.) Peter commanded the Pentecostians to "Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ ...." (Acts 2:38.) None have ever had the forgiveness of sins who would not repent of their sins. But Saul was taken by Ananias and was baptized. (Acts 9:18.) This is an act of faith. Remember Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." (Mark 16:16.) In all of the conversions of the book of Acts, you will not find one instance where the person was not baptized. Salvation of sins comes after baptism, not before. Peter said, "Repent ye and be baptized every one of you .... for the remission of sins." (Acts 2:38.) Thus Saul of Tarsus, the devout, honest, sincere and conscientious man upon finding himself at variance with God's will was willing to change; willing to obey the gospel. He was led by his faith in Christ to repent of sins and be baptized unto the remission of sins. This is the will of Christ. This is the plan of salvation for all. If you have not done this, then you have not done the will of God.