Paul's Conversion of the Way to Damacus

The Road to Damacus: A Revelation

“Imagine someone who passionately hates something – an idea, a cause, a group of people. They spend all their energy trying to destroy it. But then, suddenly, they completely change their mind. They completely flip and now dedicate their life to supporting that very thing. This is the story of Paul the Apostle, a man who went from being one of Christianity’s fiercest enemies to its greatest champion.”

He was not a follower of Jesus during Jesus’s lifetime, he was not one of the 12 chosen by Jesus, nor was he an original witness to the resurrection.  The story of Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus is one of the most dramatic and pivotal moments in early Christian history. It marks the moment when Saul of Tarsus, a zealous persecutor of Christians, encountered the risen Christ and underwent a profound transformation that would shape the course of his life and the spread of Christianity.

The Experience as Related in the New Testament's Acts of the Apostles

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As related   in the book of Acts 22:6-16, and Acts 26:12-18 of the New Testament, the Jewish Pharisee Saul of Tarsus, known for his fervent persecution of Christians, set out for Damascus with authority from the high priest to arrest followers of Jesus. However, his journey took an unexpected turn when a blinding light from heaven suddenly surrounded him, and he heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Trembling and astonished, Saul asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9: 1-5).

Blinded by the light, Saul was led into Damascus, where he remained for three days, neither eating nor drinking. During this time, he experienced a profound inner transformation as he grappled with the implications of his encounter with Christ. Meanwhile, the Lord appeared to Ananias, a disciple in Damascus, instructing him to go to Saul and restore his sight (Acts 9: 10-16).

Ananias hesitated, knowing of Saul’s reputation as a persecutor of Christians. However, the Lord assured him that Saul was chosen to carry Christ’s name before Gentiles, kings, and the people of Israel. Reluctantly, Ananias obeyed the Lord’s command and found Saul, laying his hands on him and restoring his sight. At that moment, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17-18).

The Apostles' Initial Skepticism Over His Conversion

Since he was a former persecutor of Christians – having watched the cloaks of the mob stoning Stephen (Acts 7:58), many apostles were naturally suspicious of his sudden conversion.  Paul also claimed to have received his apostleship directly from Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12), unlike the association of the other Apostles who knew Christ as a man.

Consequently, they likely questioned his motives and sincerity.  In the Book of Acts, we see hesitation among the disciples in Jerusalem to accept Paul immediately after his conversion. It took the intervention of Barnabas, a respected leader in the early Christian community, to vouch for Paul and facilitate his acceptance (Acts 9:26-28).