Notes on the conversion of Paul

Notes on St. Paul’s Conversion

“But Saul , still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” Acts 9:1-2

Let’s review a little of what we have learned of Saul and the beginning of the persecution of Christians. Saul, a Pharisee and therefore, a man of learning, was zealous for the purity of his faith. He participates in the stoning of Stephen by “holding the coats” of those who were throwing the stones which took Stephen’s life. Believers began to leave Jerusalem, as Saul continued the persecution, arresting men and women whom he believe practiced the faith known as “the Way”. No doubt children were also caught in his net, as what would happen to a child if his/her parents were arrested.

Damascus, where many Christians had fled, was about 90 miles from Jerusalem. A man on horseback could make the journey in about a week.

Notes from the Navarre:

  1. As in every conversion, it makes the convert see God, himself and others in a new way
  2. There would have been no Hellenist Christians left in Jerusalem; they had fled the city, some going as far afield as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch. Many had sought refuge in Damascus, and Saul must have realized that their evangelizing zeal would win many converts among faithful Jews in that city.
  3. Saul genuinely wanted to serve God, which explains his readiness to respond to grace
  4. He saw the Messiah, as did most Jews of his time, as a political liberator, a warrior-king, a half-heavenly, half-earthly figure such as described in the apocryphal Book of Enoch, 46:”It is impossible to imagine how even his glance terrifies his enemies. Wherever he turns, everything trembles, wherever his voice reaches everything is overwhelmed and those who hear it as dissolved as wax in fire.” A hero of this type does not fall into the hands of his enemies, much less let them crucify him. For Saul, Jesus death on the cross was clear 
  5. Saul surrenders unconditionally and places himself at the Lord’s service. He does not bemoan his past life; he is ready to start anew. No longer is the cross a scandal; it has become for him a sign of salvation, the power of God, a throne of victory.
  6. From this moment onwards, the moment of his calling, he realizes that Jesus is the risen Messiah, in whom the prophecies find fulfilment; he believes in the divinity of Christ; he sees how different his idea of the Messiah was from the glorified, pre-existing and eternal Son of God
  7. Paul realizes that he has been chosen by God, called by God, and he immediately places himself at his services
  8. The calling of Saul was exceptional as regards the manner in which God called him; but the effect it had on him was the same as what happens when God gives a specific calling to the apostolate to certain individual Christians, inviting them to follow him more closely
  9. In spite of the exceptional manner in which God called St. Paul, he desired him to mature in the normal way – to be instructed by others and learn God’s will through them.

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I wanted to share with all of you some of the commentary from the Navarre Bible about St. Paul and his conversion experience.

  1. As in every conversion, it makes the convert see God, himself and others in a new way
  2. Saul genuinely wanted to serve God, which explains his readiness to respond to grace
  3. Saul surrenders unconditionally and places himself at the Lord’s service. He does not bemoan his past life; he is ready to start anew. No longer is the cross a scandal; it has become for him a sign of salvation, the power of God, a throne of victory.
  4. From this moment onwards, the moment of his calling, he realizes that Jesus is the risen Messiah, in whom the prophecies find fulfilment; he believes in the divinity of Christ; he sees how different his idea of the Messiah was from the glorified, pre-existing and eternal Son of God
  5. Paul realizes that he has been chosen by God, called by God, and he immediately places himself at his services

What about myself? Have I been converted to the Way? Or am I like Saul, the fire breathing dragon, destroying everything in its path?

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