“And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’” (Acts 9:5)
This was one intense encounter. So intense was the light that flashed from heaven that it blinded Paul for three days. Over time, being Christian in Jerusalem had increasingly become a dangerous proposition. Persecution had become more intense and the stoning of Stephen was the pivotal event that led many Christians to flee Jerusalem and scatter throughout the region. Paul was the one who approved Stephen’s execution. Even as Stephen was being buried Paul continued to ravage the church, searching house to house in order to imprison anyone who followed Christ. To understand Paul’s actions, we must understand his background. Paul’s father was Jewish and from a very early age Paul was exposed to the Old Testament law. Still in his teens, he began training under Gamaliel, a highly respected Jewish rabbi and member of the Sanhedrin, the ruling body in Jerusalem. In his day, Paul was one of the most educated men in Jewish theology. He was of the tribe of Benjamin, “a Hebrew of Hebrews”. He was advancing more rapidly than others in Judaism. Paul was on his way. There was no limit to what he might become in Judaism. But then he met Jesus.
“And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’” We know him as Paul, but when he first appears in Scripture (Acts 8) he is called by his Jewish name, Saul. It is not until midway through Acts in which he is referred to as Paul. After his rampage in Jerusalem, on approval from the high priest, Paul continued his search, his sights set on Damascus. He was headed there to do what he did best, arrest and persecute Christians. Paul considered this his duty, seeing his attempt to preserve the Mosaic Law as a great service to the Lord.
Though we may be very earnest in our beliefs and behaviors, often we act in ignorance in our attempts to follow what we believe to be God’s will. Paul was guilty of the same thing (1 Timothy 1:13). His problem wasn’t that he worshipped the wrong God; he just attempted to worship Him in the wrong way. He did so clothed in his own righteousness as opposed to the righteousness of Christ. Not only is that not true worship, it’s damning. Christ’s righteousness alone is what saves. And after Paul met Jesus that day on the Damascus Road, it was His righteousness that he wore. In an instant, he was transformed. Paul didn’t lose the passion and zeal that he always had; it was just redirected. Transformation happens when we really meet Jesus. We see Jesus Christ as Paul saw and preached Him to others. We see Him as our only need. Is that how you see Christ? Is He your only need? Is your passion for His glory? Paul’s was. On that day, on that road, Paul had a supernatural encounter with Jesus that changed his life forever. On that day, Paul met Jesus. Have you?
Father, Paul is a testimony to both your sovereignty and your grace. In your sovereignty, you set him apart for your purposes, and in your grace, you washed away his past. Thank you for doing the same for me. Just as Paul did, help me to live a worthy response to that grace and to be used for your glory. As always, thank you for Christ whose righteousness it is that I wear. It is only because of Him that I can call you Father.