More than any other character in Acts, Paul changes. Big time. He goes from cracking Christian skulls to leading people to Christ. It’s quite the turnaround. It’s also probably one of the most famous conversion stories of all time.
It goes like this: one fine day, Saul is on his way to round up some Christian troublemakers in Damascus when he’s blinded by a light on the road. He hears Jesus’s voice say: “Saul, why do you persecute me?” (9:4). Um, good question. This sets in motion Saul’s change of heart. He regains his sight, gets baptized, changes his name, and becomes one of Jesus’s main men. Complete 180.
He spent the next thirty years of his life traveling all around the eastern half of the Roman Empire spreading the good news about Jesus. The guy is a real frequent flyer (okay, more like frequent walker/sailor). Some of the more famous places he visits during Acts are: Antioch,Philippi, Galatia, Corinth, Thessalonica, Athens, and Ephesus. He event took the time to write some pretty well-received letters along the way.
What’s So Special About Paul?
Sure, Paul has a pretty cool conversion story, but what’s so great about him? Well, not that much… at first. Paul starts out working the discipleship circuit in Antioch when suddenly the Holy Spirit tells everyone, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (13:2). That sounds pretty pressing.
In fact, Paul is so amazing, that he has to stop the people of Lystra from worshiping him as a god (14:11). When’s the last time you had to do that?
But it’s not all globetrotting and miracles for Paul. Nope. There’s also lots of danger along the way. Even God says that Paul will have to “suffer for the sake of my name” (9:16). Gulp.
It doesn’t help that Paul is so polarizing. Some people love him and want to listen to him talk for hours. And some people want to rip him limb from limb. There’s no in-between when it comes to Paul. People plot to kill him (9:24) and try to stone him (14:19), and the guy is in and out of jail so much you’d think he was a really bad pickpocket in a Dickens novel or something.
For his part, Paul really embraces this suffering. He’s totally cool with the fact that he’s probably gonna become a martyr for Jesus. Paul’s suffering and devotion set the example for all believers. Christians should be willing to follow Jesus even if it means death. There is no halfway when it comes to the kingdom of God.
Paul, the man, the legend. One thing we see infused in every action and word that comes from Paul is that he desperately loves Jesus and will do anything so others, me and you, will know His love too! It’s with that heart and passion that Paul addresses his beloved partners in ministry in Philippi, our next destination in Ep. 4!