So What?

“Well,” you may say, “so what?  This man Paul got hit by some kind of lightning bolt, and thought he had a mission.  So what?”

Well, the proof of the pudding, as always, is in the eating.  Paul was born some time in a 20 year period around  the birth of Christ.  His Damascus Road experience can be pinpointed between 31 and 36AD, so he was approaching middle age when his real career began.  He was executed by Emperor Nero in Rome around 65 AD, by which time he was at least in his late 60s.  For over thirty years, then, he traveled the Mediterranean, by boat and on foot, preaching the Gospel and setting up and supporting groups of believers which were called ‘churches’, but because of the dangers of the times they were really house groups.

He was the subject of enmity from the Jewish priests and their followers, from expatriate Jews, from followers of pagan religions, from the Roman authorities, and from people in his churches who tried to steal his standing with those he had converted.

Many of the passages in his letters that seem strange to us on first reading become clear when we appreciate that not only was he dealing with the specific qualities of the locality (eg  troublesome Corinth – a wealthy, bustling, cosmopolitan city where surplus meat from pagan sacrifices could end up for sale in the market), but also with countless disagreements between individual followers, and serious attacks on his own integrity.

Here is his account of some of the trials that befell him during those years:

“Five times at the hands of the Jews I received forty lashes less one: (40 lashes was a death penalty) three times I was beaten with rods: I was stoned once, shipwrecked three times; I passed a day and a night on the sea. I traveled continually, endangered by floods, robbers, my own people, the Gentiles; imperiled in the city, in the desert, at sea, by false brothers; enduring labor, hardship, many sleepless nights; in hunger and thirst and frequent fastings; in cold and nakedness.”
2 Corinthinns 11: 24-27

He was also imprisoned three times, and traveled in chains from Jerusalem to Rome.

So – from being the Persecutor, he became the Persecuted.  From being the highly educated fount of knowledge, he became the troublemaker.  From being securely established in his understanding of ‘the Law’, he entered the swirling waters of dispute and backbiting to convert and then nurture souls in a brand new concept of faith.

How many people would gladly make that change, take on that role, pursue it so long, and suffer that fate without some very strong conviction?


Have YOU had a Damascus Road Experience?

If we only realize it, God has a purpose for every one of us in this life, no less today than 20 centuries ago. Because He created us to have free will, we have the option to choose to embrace that purpose through Christ, or continue on the path of sin and death.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”   Saint Paul, Ephesians 2 : 10it was the story of his life.

With his cultured background and religious fervor, Saul was the ideal choice to carry the Gospel to the civilizations of the Mediterranean. He was fluent in three languages, highly educated, accustomed to dealing with people in positions of power, and strong in his faith.   That is why he was totally engaged in the persecution and destruction of all of Christ’s followers.

These qualities of tenacity and determination made Saul a difficult prospect for conversion – a man who required a real mind-blowing experience to get his attention and make him rethink his priorities. His experience on the road to Damascus was certainly that:

As he neared Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.  He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.   “Now get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you must do.

And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

There WILL be a “Damascus Road” for you. Don’t expect yours to be as dramatic as St Paul’s, or yours and mine to be similar – God tailors each one to suit us individually.

You will have to make a choice that will impact your life totally for good or for bad. Don’t underestimate what hangs on your choice.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Saint Paul, Romans 6 : 23

This quote is not just a formula of words.  People need to understand that the choices they make now will impact on them for all eternity.  God is working on this planet, behind the scenes but with great power, and He asks us join Him in running His business.

Story of St Paul’s conversion told in Acts 9 :1 -31