The Transformation of Saul of Tarsus; to the Apostle Paul

Saul was born in the Greek city of Tarsus, a prosperous and renowned center of education and philosophy in the region of Cilicia in Southern Asia Minor.  Saul’s family lived in the two worlds of Greek and Jewish culture.  His parents gave him a Hebrew name of Saul; some say in honor of King Saul who had also came from the tribe of Benjamin just as Saul had.

Paul had been raised in a strict Jewish home that led him to devote his life to the defense of what is often referred to as the Mosaic Law.  On a side note,  the Mosaic Law is the document that Yahwey gave to the children who came out of Egypt (Hebrews and sojourners) through Moses while Moses was on Mt Sinai. It was to govern the life of the folks who came out of Egypt thereby becoming a priest nation that served The God of Israel.  The law contained requirements, blessings, and cursings, along with narrative (Exodus 19-20.1). The law is that which points out Yahwey’s will for
Israel- ergo all peoples who come into repentance for transgression or are ‘called out’.

The law is good. It is a wonderful heritage that guided, protected, and taught the Hebrew nation and their sojourners. The law gave them and still gives us today the potential to live better than the peoples and cultures around them and now us as well.  These people were chosen to teach Yahwey’s law to all nations.

Saul was not only a Jew, but was also a Pharisee. His Pharisaic roots led him to study with one of the leading teachers of the time, Gamaliel the elder, known in tradition as the grandson of the great Hillel, the leading Jewish teacher of the first century BC.

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus...

the Conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus as painted by Michelangelo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although Saul was the leading persecutor of believers in the faith of Yahushua during the first part of his adult life, something happened to him that transformed his thinking and his belief while on the road to Damascus.  We can read about what transpired on this road in the holy scriptures both in Acts chapter nine and twenty two.

Both of these accounts are written by Luke whom is the author of the book of Act’s.  In the twenty second chapter, Luke has recorded Paul’s personal testimony.  Luke has captured not only Paul’s testimony in his writings, but the testimonies of many folks such as Mary the mother of Yahushua.

Luke writes the testimony about what happened to Saul in the year about 35, some five years after Yahushua was crucified.  As per the account of Saul, he himself said that he rounded up men and women right and left and had them thrown in prison. He told Luke that he could ask the Chief Priest or anyone in the High Council to verify this; that they all knew him well.  Saul goes on to tell that he went off to his brothers in Damascus, armed with official documents authorizing him to hunt down the followers of Yahushua there, arrest them, and bring them back to Jerusalem for sentencing.

We read that Paul was headed on the road to Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light. He fell to the ground, dazed.  He heard a voice saying: ‘Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?’ Saul asked, “‘who are you, Master?’ The voice answered him saying, “‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, the One you’re persecuting. Saul said that his companions saw the light, but they didn’t hear the conversation.  Then he said, “What do I do now, Master?”

It is written that Yahushua spoke to Saul a peculiar thing – ‘it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.’ What did Yahushua mean by this statement?  “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks” was a Greek proverb, but it was also familiar to the Jews and anyone who made a living in agriculture.

An ox goad was a stick with a pointed piece of iron on its tip used to prod the oxen when plowing. The farmer would prick the animal to steer it in the right direction. Sometimes the animal would rebel by kicking out at the prick, and this would result in the prick being driven even further into its flesh. In essence, the more an ox rebelled, the more it suffered. Thus, Yahushua’s words to Saul on the road to Damascus: “It is hard for you to kick against the pricks.”

After Paul was blinded on the road to Damascus, he was told to arise, and go into the city, and that it would be told to him what he must do. Because Paul was blind, he was accompanied by certain men who brought him into Damascus. During this three day journey he was without sight and didn’t eat or drink. Paul was being taken to meet a fella by the name of Ananias.

English: Ananias restoring the sight of Saint Paul

English: Ananias restoring the sight of Saint Paul (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Living in Damascus, was a certain disciple named Ananias whose name means ‘Yahwey has been gracious’.  Ananias was a devout man with a sterling reputation in observing the law and was respected by the Jewish people which lived there in Damascus.

The person Ananias knew of by the name of Saul had a bad reputation and was known in the Jewish communities as someone who had been relentless in persecution of the faithful.  Nevertheless, Yahwey insisted that He had chosen Saul to carry out His divine plan to bring in the Gentiles into the family of Elohim.

Ananias was unwilling at first and told Master Yahwey that he had heard by many that Saul had done evil to the saints at Jerusalem.  However,  Yahwey consoled Ananias by telling him to “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings” and the children of Israel”, and that Yahwey would show Saul great things that he must suffer for His names sake.

When Saul arrived at the house of Judas on the street called Straight, Ananias was waiting for him there.  Ananias placed his hands on Saul and said, “Brother the Master has sent me, Yahushua the One Who set you on your way while you were coming, so that you would regain your sight and you would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Immediately, there fell away from his eyes something that looked like scales and Saul regained sight.  He then got up and was baptized, ate some food and regained his strength and began his life’s work of preaching to the Gentiles under what we are led to believe was his roman name, Paul. I personally believe that He was called Shaul among his peers.

Paul stayed with these folks for a few days and began preaching about Yahushua in the synagogues and His ministry of repentance .  People couldn’t believe the change that had come over Paul. Meanwhile the Jewish leaders began plotting against Paul just as they had Yahushua. However, Paul never lost sight of who he was, “a descendant of Abraham,” even though all the while knowing that Abraham was not an Israelite.

Abraham was the first Hebrew mentioned in the Bible.  He was a Gentile before his call to leave his country Chaldea in the city of Ur.  Abraham was a Hebrew, but he was not an Israelite, nor a Jew.

Abraham was a Syrian by birth and is referred to as such in the Bible.  Even Jacob, his grandson, is still referred to as a Syrian in Deuteronomy 26:5. The word Hebrew is first mentioned in Genesis 14:13, where Abraham is called Abram the Hebrew.  This word comes from the Hebrew root word “Abar” and means simply “to cross over”.  Abraham crossed over into the Promised Land and became the first Hebrew.  Since Abraham was a Hebrew, his descendants were also called Hebrews.  Strictly speaking all of Abraham’s descendants are Hebrews. Eber is in the line of Abram, about six generations prior to Abram.

Paul recognized how short-sighted the people of Judah had become, because Yahwey’s true people are anyone who truly obeys Him – just as Abraham the Gentile did.

Few details are known of what Paul had done after his conversion on the road to Damascus during those first ten to twelve years.  It was doubtless a time of much activity and possibly a lot of reflecting that Elohim had not simply called Paul out of religiosity but had also called him to share all that he had known and learned and teach it to the Gentiles because of the revelation that Elohim had given him regarding the inclusion of the Gentiles.

Even though Paul was a Jew and knew the Torah back and forth, right and left, inside and outside; he had  to take all of that and somehow present it to the Gentiles.  Paul would have to include all of this in light of the first coming of Yahushua that the message was still repentance and remission of sin.

Paul would have to teach the Gentiles that both they and the Jews are all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction in the same path of peace and love, inwardly and outwardly, and that Yahushua had come to save them from their transgression against the law of sin and the law of death, thereby reconciling them back to Yahwey.

Painting by Rembrandt of Paul, one of the most...

Painting by Rembrandt of Paul, one of the most notable of early Christian missionaries, who called himself the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” Paul, a Hellenistic Jew, was very influential on the shift of Christianity to Gentile dominated movement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What did it mean to trust that the One who had been crucified was indeed, Yahwey’s Messiah?  What did it mean that the message was for both the Gentiles and the Jews? Paul’s understanding of the law, some tradition, Israel’s history and Yahwey’s grace and love had to be completely rethought and then somehow all weaved together in one message as to what Paul often referred to as ‘My Gospel’, meaning this was the gospel that he was given to preach.

This message of the cross, which Paul once thought to be scandalously foolish, he now saw as the very embodiment of Elohim’s great wisdom and power.  It was during those first ten to twelve years that are not written of where Paul must have formulized his reflections and crystalized them into the powerful theological message that is apparent in the letters that Paul wrote.  For Paul, he had to also bring it all together in practical terms, the relevancy of the Gospel of repentance to the Gentiles as well as the Jews.  make no mistake about it,  when ever Paul entered a city the first place he went was to the local synagogue because he knew that his message of power was to the Jew first, and also to the Greek/Gentile.

This was the message that had become the thorniest theological dilemma for the early Christian communities and is still a dilemma for many today because they cannot believe that all believers in Messiah would learn to faithfully keep the law by the power of the Holy Spirit who would now imprint the law into their minds and their hearts.

Not only that, but the message of the Gospel was not just for the old generation of peoples but was now being offered to all, Jew and Gentile alike.

In Paul’s letter to the folks at Galatia, he wrote that the great message he delivered was not mere human optimism.  He didn’t receive it through the traditions, and it wasn’t taught to him in some school.  Paul told them that he got it straight from Yahwey, received the message directly from Yahushua Christ.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote; “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I AM THE APOSTLE OF THE GENTILES; I MAGNIFY MINE OFFICE.” But I certify you, brethren that the gospel which was preached of me is NOT AFTER MAN. FOR I NEITHER RECEIVED IT OF MAN, NEITHER WAS I TAUGHT IT, BUT BY THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST. ~ Romans 11:13

Again to the Romans, Paul also wrote:  ¶ And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another. Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost. ~ Chapter 15:14-16

To the folks at Ephesus, Paul wrote; “For this cause, I PAUL, THE PRISONER OF JESUS CHRIST FOR YOU GENTILES, If ye have heard of THE DISPENSATION OF THE GRACE OF GOD, WHICH IS GIVEN ME TO YOU-WARD: How that BY REVELATION HE MADE KNOWN UNTO ME THE MYSTERY.” ~ Ephesians 3:1-3

To the folks at Colossae Paul wrote;  “Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God; Even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:  Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” ~ Colossians 1:25-29

In the letter to Titus, Paul wrote: “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began; But hath in due times manifested His Word THROUGH PREACHING WHICH IS COMMITTED UNTO ME, according to the commandment of God our Savior.” ~ Titus 1:2-3

And finally to Timothy, Paul wrote:  “For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; Who gave Himself a ransom for all, TO BE TESTIFIED IN DUE TIME. WHEREUNTO I AM ORDAINED A PREACHER, AND AN APOSTLE (I SPEAK THE TRUTH IN CHRIST, AND LIE NOT); A TEACHER OF THE GENTILES IN FAITH AND VERITY.” ~ 1st Timothy 2:5-7

Paul’s claim as to the distinctive character of his ministry and message leave no doubt that he was sent to the Gentiles.  During a thirty to forty year period after Paul’s death, is a period of history about which little is known.  Some historians claim that Paul’s letters were collected as a small book.  Some also think that the slave by the name of Ones Imus mentioned in the letter to the slave owner Philemon may have been the first to gather them.  What we do know now is that they have been canonized into the book the we hold in our hands and treasure as much as we do our relationship with Elohim, the Creator of all creation who left this last will and testament so that we would all be made aware of the inheritance that our Father wants to bestow upon His children, both Jew and Gentile alike, the called out ones, ~ Israel.

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About eudoranachand

A Spirit filled disciple who continually seeks His kingdom and His righteousness.
This entry was posted in Apostleship, Blindness, Genealogy, Testimony and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Transformation of Saul of Tarsus; to the Apostle Paul

  1. Sally Motley says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Eudora. I almost feel like I am living back in Bible times, you make it so clear. God’s continued blessings.

  2. Pingback: Promises | Quality of Life Ministries

  3. Pingback: The Third Sunday of Easter: Year C | The Prayer Book Guide to Christian Education

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