Lessons From Saul's Conversion (Part 1)
Our daily lessons for this week will focus upon the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. It is interesting to note that we don't just have one or two inspired accounts of Saul's conversion, we have three! In the book of Acts, in three separate places (Acts 9, 22, and 26) we have a record of how Saul became a Christian. Of course, after his conversion he was much better known by the name Paul. I'll be using both names interchangeably in these lessons.

Without a doubt, Paul was one of the greatest Bible characters. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ. He went on several major missionary journeys that spanned many countries and regions. He was an inspired writer of at least thirteen New Testament books. He suffered greatly for his faith on numerous occasions. Truly, Paul was an outstanding Christian man, and we can learn a great deal from his conversion.

Saul was a very religious individual, even before his conversion to Christ, but that didn't mean God was pleased with his actions performed in the name of religion (cf. Phil. 3:4-6). Acts 22:3 gives us a glimpse into his background, where he stated - "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today." In Galatians 1:13,14, Paul shared even more detail on this point - "For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." Saul was so religious as a Jew that he worked hard to destroy Christianity. That's right, he tried to destroy the church that Jesus built! Why? Because he believed it was a false religion! At that time in his life, he didn't believe that Jesus was the Messiah. He thought Jesus was a fraud and that those who were practicing Christianity were living unfaithfully to the Mosaic law. Yes, Saul was zealous; he was very religious. However, his religious ideas motivated him to attempt to destroy the church. Obviously, merely being religious didn't make Saul right with God. God certainly wasn't pleased with Saul's destructive activities that were done in the name of religious zeal!

It is of interest to note that Saul's journey to Damascus that led to his conversion was prompted by his religion. We learn in Acts 22:4,5 - "I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished." Saul was so religious that he was willing to travel about to hunt down Christians, bind them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

As he said in Acts 26:9-12 - "Indeed, I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth. This I also did in Jerusalem, and many of the saints I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them. And I punished them often in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme and being exceedingly enraged against them, I persecuted them even to foreign cities. While thus occupied, as I journeyed to Damascus with authority and commission from the chief priests." Saul did his best to destroy Christians and their faith. If he could get them to blaspheme Jesus, then he was pleased. If he could vote against them and encourage their execution, then he was satisfied. Now remember, Saul did all of these things because of his beliefs as a Jew. He thought these Christians were corrupting God's true religion. He thought he was serving God by his zealous persecution of the church. However, God said that Saul was fighting against Him! Acts 9:5 records - "And Saul said [after falling to the ground on the road to Damascus], 'Who are You, Lord?' Then the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.'" Can you imagine what Saul would have felt like at that very moment? He had been working as hard as he could to terminate Christians and destroy the church, and now he's speaking with Jesus Himself in a heavenly vision! What a turn of events!

Saul's life should be a reminder of the fact that being religious doesn't necessarily mean that one is right religiously.