Paul's Conversion (a 5-part study)

Saul of Tarsus (as the Apostle Paul was known before his conversion) seemed the most unlikely person to embrace the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet he did. And his conversion testifies that there is no one beyond the reach of God's love, mercy and grace. There are no 'hopeless cases'; there is no one God cannot save.

The persecution carried out by Saul was foretold by Jesus: "They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God. They will do such things because they have not known the Father or me." (John 16:1-2)

Through the ages, man has made the mistake of thinking that he can make himself right with God and Herculean efforts have been undertaken to achieve this. The "you can save yourself" religion flourished in the days of Jesus, with the Pharisees developing this to a fine art. Jesus often spoke out against this belief. In his parable about the Pharisee and the publican, he had a particular audience in mind: "To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable." (Luke 18:9)

As far back as Job, men have been asking, "How can a mortal man be righteous before God?" (Job 9:2) The Jews of Paul's day (including himself before his conversion) pondered the same question and produced their own solution: "Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God [they] sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for everyone who believes." (Romans 10:3-4)

When Paul wrote on the theme of God's amazing grace, he drew on his own life as a self righteous, legalistic sinner. He had believed he would be saved by his works, thereby setting his life on a collision course with God. However, once grace entered the equation, everything changed and he repeatedly exposed the futility of such thinking. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9) It is clear: we are saved not by our works, but by our faith, which comes to us by hearing the word of God. (Romans 10:17) Our response to Christ is faith, trust, belief. Faith and works are opposite, but faith and obedience are compatible.