When it comes to making a 180 Degree turnaround in life, you would be hard pressed to think of one more remarkable than Paul’s.
Originally named Saul, he was born in Tarsus, the leading educational centre of its day. Tarsus was praised for its interest in education and philosophy and Saul would have been exposed to the most advanced learning of his era.
His ministry years reveal a good command of Greek, combined with excellent debating skills and his writings are peppered with quotes from secular poets and philosophers.
As a student of the Jewish Law, he studied under Gamaliel, the grandson of Hillel – these men are regarded as two of the greatest of all Jewish Rabbis. In time, Saul aligned himself with the Pharisees, who were absolutely devoted to the Law. This set him up for a collision course with the early Christians. Saul insisted a person could only be saved by the Law but for Christians, it was “Jesus only.” As a result, the historical record says Saul was “breathing threats and murder” against the church.
And then it happened.
On his way to Damascus to arrest and imprison Christians, he encountered the risen Jesus, and his life was dramatically changed! In that instant he went from violent persecutor of Christians to a passionate proclaimer that Jesus was alive and only He could rescue from sin.
People he hated – such as Peter and Barnabas – now became his greatest supporters and colleagues in ministry.
His life found new purpose. Once a racist despiser of the Gentiles, he became God’s number one choice to take the Good News to them.
Saul’s (now called Paul) conversion was such a dramatic turnaround that one historian described it as not only a turning point for Paul, but an “important epoch in the church and the history of mankind. (Paul’s) conversion secured the universal victory of Christianity.”
The only way such an incredible turnaround can be explained is by the words of Paul himself:
“Last of all, He (Jesus) appeared to me…”
To learn more of Paul’s inspiring story read: Acts 25:23 – 26:29.