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The Ultimate Conversion

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The conversion of Saul to Paul on the Road to Damascus

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Pre-Sermon
Welcome
Hello everyone,
I hope you are having a great day,
Humor Pill
Before we get started they say laughter is the best medicine, and the most affordable too!
So here is a humor pill for today.
A kindergarten teacher gave her class a “show and tell” assignment of bringing something to represent their religion.
The first child got in front of the class and said, “My name is Benjamin and I am Jewish and this is the Star of David.”
The second child got in front of her class and said, “My name is Mary, I am Catholic and this is the Crucifix.”
The third child got up in front of his class and said, “My name is Tommy and I am Baptist and this is a casserole.”
It seems like the Baptist always get stuck with the casserole don’t we? The folks in church liked that one Sunday morning.

The Ultimate Conversion

Today’s sermon is entitled- “The Ultimate Conversion”
Lets start off by looking at Acts 9:3-5
Acts 9:3–5 ESV
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

The Ultimate Conversion

I have always been fascinated by the Apostle Paul, one of the reasons for this being the Metamorphosis that occured at his conversion. Why do I use such a dramatic word like “Metamorphosis ” for Paul’s conversion? First let’s define it.

Definition of Metamorphosis:

a: change of physical form, structure, or substance especially by supernatural means

b: a striking alteration in appearance, character, or circumstances

Life Changer:
Supernatural event
Character
Circumstances
So Paul definitely qualifies since both his character and circumstances were altered due to this supernatural event that occurred on the road to Damascus.

Saul to Paul

Saul to Paul
To better understand the transformation of Saul to Paul we must first look at who he was before he’s conversion.

The Man Saul (before his conversion )

The Man Saul
When we look at Acts 9:1-2 we see glimpse of the man he was before his encounter with Jesus.
Acts 9:1–2 ESV
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 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.

A man on a mission

A man on a mission
Saul was a man who thought he was on a mission from God to eliminate all of the followers of Jesus, whom he consider to be traitors of the faith, trouble makers and blasphemers for saying that this carpenter from Nazareth who died a shameful death on a Roman cross was the Son of God.

Introduction to Saul

Introduction to Saul
Our introduction to Saul is at the execution of Steven after he preached in the Synagogue enraging all those who heard him.
Lest’s look at Acts 7:54-8:3
Acts 7:54–8:3 ESV
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Let’s look into Saul’s past

Saul's past
From these verses we can clearly see how committed Saul was to his task.
To understand how Saul became this persecutor of Christians let’s look deeper in his history, to better understand the man before his conversion.

Born in the city of Tarsus

Born in the City of Tarsus
Paul was born the City of Tarsus, it is believed to have been around the same time as Jesus birth , where he lived until the age of thirteen, before moving to Jerusalem to get his education . Tarsus is located in south-central Turkey, 12 miles inland from the Mediterranean. During the Roman Empire, Tarsus was the capital of the province of Cilicia.
An interesting fact, Tarsus was where the first meeting between Mark Antony and Cleopatra occurred. There have been several movies made about this , probably the most famous one was the 1963 film “Cleopatra” that stared Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, Roddy McDowall, and Martin Landau.
Now I didn’t see it when it first came out because I was too young but I did catch it later on TV. You can tell I’m an old movie buff. It’s a shame they can’t, or I should say won’t make any decent movies now a days that you can take your entire family to, unless it’s one of the animated movies and you have to be careful with those too.
Enough of that let’s get back to Saul, in Acts 21 & 22 Paul is in Jerusalem and after addressing the Jews in the Temple he is run out and is being beaten by a crowd of outraged Jews when the Roman Centenarians come along and break it up and take him away to the Barracks to charge him
Acts 21:37–39 ESV
37 As Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” And he said, “Do you know Greek? 38 Are you not the Egyptian, then, who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand men of the Assassins out into the wilderness?” 39 Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.”

Tarsus

Here Paul is appealing to the Centurion by speaking in Greek as a Roman Citizen, and by no obscure city, Paul was referring to fact that Tarsus was well known.
Tarsus was a free Roman city and a thriving merchant and trade center, it was also an intellectual city home to one of the three great Universities in the world at that time, the other two were in Athens Greece and Alexandra in Egypt.

Roman Citizen by birth

Roman Citizen by birth
Paul was a Roman Citizen by Birth, we read this later on in Chapter 22.
After having addressed a different crowd of Jews outside the Temple Paul enrages them as well so the Roman Centurions take him away.
Acts 22:24–29 ESV
the tribune ordered him to be brought into the barracks, saying that he should be examined by flogging, to find out why they were shouting against him like this. But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?” When the centurion heard this, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? For this man is a Roman citizen.” So the tribune came and said to him, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him.

Jewish

Jewish
He was Raised in Jerusalem - Acts 22:1-3
Now we are going back peddle a little to the Start of Acts 22 where Paul is addressing the crowd that gathered out side Temple to see what the ruckus that was going on was all about, you could say these were the regular working folks.
Acts 22:1–3 ESV
“Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.” And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language, they became even more quiet. And he said: “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day.

Roman and Jew

Roman and Jew
Notice the change, earlier when he spoke to the Roman Centurion he spoke to him in Greek as a Roman citizen, now when addressing the Jews , he speaks to them in Hebrew as a fellow Jew.
Effortlessly Paul transitions from speaking from Greek as a Roman citizen to speaking Hebrew as a Jew.
This duality of language and culture is an important part of Paul’s future ministry, the ability reach out first to the Jew then the Gentile . Romans 1:16
Romans 1:16 ESV
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

A Member of the Sanhedrin

Member of the Sanhedrin
Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin, this is due to Acts 26:10
Acts 26:10 ESV
And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them.
Paul had to have been a member to cast a vote.

A Pharisee

A Pharisee
He was a member of the Pharisee Sect of Judaism
Paul wasn’t just a Pharisee, he said he was the Pharisee of Pharisees Gal 1:14
Galatians 1:14 ESV
14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

Refresher

Refresher
Just a little refresher here, the Sanhedrin was like a judicial branch, or governing body of Jewish Law, made up of the Sadducee’s and Pharisee's. The Pharisee’s where puritan Jews who strictly observed the Law’s of Moses, spiritualistic believing in Angels and an afterlife, and very Patriotic in their Loyalty to Israel . The Sadducee's on the other hand were more Hellenistic, willing to appease their Roman captors, were more materialistic, and did not believe in spirits or an afterlife.

A Rabbi

A Rabbi
From Acts 6:9 many scholars feel that Paul may have been a Rabbi
Acts 6:9 ESV
9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.
Paul would have been one of those members from Cilicia and Asia.
Being a Rabbi along with being a member of the Sanhedrin gives us a clue to Paul's age at the time of Steven’s stoning as well since for a man to hold both, or either of these positions he had to be at least 30 years old.

From a wealthy influential family

From a wealthy influential family
The Bible doesn’t tell us Paul's family, so here we have to play detective a little and find clues that can help us. Here are a couple of things that hint to this
Saul’s roman citizenship was by birth, even though he was Jewish. Many scholars believe this was due to the fact that either His father or possibly his Grandfather had been taken by the Romans into slavery when Cassius took Tarsus and were taken to Rome. His father’s or Grandfathers high social position and culture may have impressed their owners and were set free, this would according to the Roman law make them a full Roman Citizen with all the rights and privileges that came with it .
Acts 23:16 Paul’s Nephew, his Sisters son comes to him while he is imprisoned,to warn him of a plot to kill him. In order for his nephew to hear this he had to be in a high social position to be in the presence of those plotting to kill Paul. Paul’s nephew was most likely studying to become a Rabbi like his uncle Paul, and possibly he or his parents were close friends with a member of the Sanhedrin

Occupation - Tent-maker

Occupation Tent-maker
We know that Paul had an occupation, a tent-maker this is found in Acts 18:2-3
Acts 18:2–3 ESV
And he found a Jew named Aquila, a native of Pontus, recently come from Italy with his wife Priscilla, because Claudius had commanded all the Jews to leave Rome. And he went to see them, and because he was of the same trade he stayed with them and worked, for they were tentmakers by trade.
This is an occupation he learned in Tarsus, and did not in anyway mean he was poor, as all respectable Jews were taught that they had to have an occupation that they could earn a living at, no matter what their social status was.

Paul's Conversion

Paul’s Conversion
Now let us look at Paul's conversion, his life is about to change dramatically!

The Road to Damascus

The Road to Damascus
Lets go back to the road to Damascus to Acts 9:1–9
Acts 9:1–9 ESV
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. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
Before this Paul had never seen Jesus even though they were about the same age. You would have thought that at some point and time they would have run into each other. One the reasons that this chance encounter never took place is this, remember Jesus’ ministry was primarily in Galilee. The few times Jesus went to Jerusalem His visits were very brief and low key with exception of the last week. If Paul had ever seen Jesus before this encounter on the Road to Damascus surely he would have mentioned it, but he doesn’t.
So now Paul has just had a Supernatural Encounter of the Third Kind, witnessing the resurrected Lord Jesus in Full Blown Splendor. Now blinded and scared out of his mind Paul’s world has been turned upside down and he has to question everything that he once believed in, and come to the realization that Jesus Christ truly is the promised Messiah.
We get a hint as to how much the once Saul, about to be Paul’s life is about to be changed in Acts 9:15-16 when the Lord addresses Ananias to go to Paul.
Acts 9:15–16 ESV
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Yes Paul is going to suffer, but I would imagine that poor ole’ Ananias is suffering a little to given the task before him, having to go lay hands on Saul, the known infamous persecutor of Christians. But Ananias is faithful and proceeds with the task as we see in Acts 9: 17-19
Acts 9:17–19 ESV
So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; and taking food, he was strengthened. For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.

Out of the Gate Running

Out of the Gate Running
Paul doesn’t just sit around and ponder about what he has to do he gets to work right away
Acts 9:20–22 ESV
And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.” And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ.
Right away the threats to his life begin Acts 9:23
The threats begin
It didn’t take long for Paul to make enemies, and his life is threatened .
Acts 9:23 ESV
When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him,

What’s to Follow?

What’s to follow?
What are the consequences that follow Paul’s conversion?
1. Paul is disowned by His family
Paul’s family being Pharisees and strict observers of the Law would see Paul as a blasphemer, and a disappointment, cutting him off financially , and disowning owning Him. It is a good thing Paul had learned the skill of Tent-maker , to have that to fall back on. Evidently Paul must have been very important and close to his Nephew since he warned Paul of the attempt to assassinate him when he was imprisoned.
2. Paul becomes a Social Outcast among the Jews.
Saul the once much loved and highly respected and influential member of the upper echelon of Jewish Society in Jerusalem, member of the Sanhedrin, a Rabbi is now seen as a blasphemous traitor , and all those who once backed him and cheered him on, now want to see him flogged and put to death.
Saul now Paul has fallen from grace in the eyes of his family and friends, and lost all his worldly wealth. All he has now is the Lord, and from this point on for Paul the Lord is all he needs!
So when you think your having a hard time being a Christian and following Christ, or going out and sharing the eternal life saving message of the Gospel look at the life of Paul. Reflect on all he had, and all he lost to follow Jesus and proclaim Him to the world as the Savior of all man kind.
We may not have had a Supernatural Damascus road experience like Paul, be we have been saved by that same Amazing Grace through the Sacrifice of Jesus’ death on a cross, and his Resurrection , and have been Baptized by the same Holy Spirit, and adopted into the family of God our Father.
What About You?
If you have never accepted Jesus as your Savior, I ask you to consider it now. The saying is cliche, but it is true, we are not promised tomorrow, or even the next minute for that matter. This is one of those Life or Death, choices, not in the physical but spiritual sense, which makes it more serious, since the soul is eternal.
You may not be sure, and even question the existence of God, the Bible tells
Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV
But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Matthew 16:26 ESV
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
Do you have things in your life you regret? We all do!
Romans 3:23 ESV
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
There are consequences for our actions
Romans 6:23 ESV
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The death spoken of here is the eternal death of the soul, in Hell. You may say,”I don’t believe in Hell” ok, but are you 100% sure, what if you are wrong?
The GOOD NEWS, God’s offer of Salvation is free, He doesn’t want or need anything from you. God Loves you just as you are.
This isn’t about religion, this is about starting a relationship with God.
If you have questions please ask.
May the Peace of the Lord be with you , and God Bless You
Until next week
Rev. Sam
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