The Conversion of Saul

Part 3

October 3, 2021


Before you begin, ask yourself a very important question: Do you believe that Jesus Christ died on The Cross for all of your sins? If you answered yes, you will need to be sure that you are filled with The Holy Spirit. How do you do this? You name your sins to God The Father in His Son’s Name. This is called Rebound. As a Christian, you must rebound any time you sin. This is taught in 1 JOH 1:9: If we confess [name] our sins [directly to God], He [God] is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins andto cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Now, if you have never believed that Jesus Christ died on The Cross for all of your sins, all you have to do is say to yourself that you believe in Him and you are saved! The Bible verse which teaches us this is ACTS 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”


As we learned last week, Paul’s conversion was quite dramatic. As a result of it, he not only stopped persecuting Christians, but also changed the focus of his entire life to reflect the teachings of Jesus Christ. And soon after his conversion, Paul made a career out of sharing God’s Word with as many people as he could.


Now, although Paul was called to be an apostle by God, his acceptance into the apostolic community came through the sponsorship of a man named Barnabas. This is taught in ACTS 9:26-30 New International Reader’s Version: When Saul came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the believers. But they were all afraid of him. They didn’t believe he was really one of Jesus’ followers. But Barnabas took him to the apostles. He told them about Saul’s journey. He said that Saul had seen the Lord. He told how the Lord had spoken to Saul. Barnabas also said that Saul had preached without fear in Jesus’ name in Damascus. So Saul stayed with the believers. He moved about freely in Jerusalem. He spoke boldly in the Lord’s name. He talked and argued with the Greek Jews. But they tried to kill him. The other believers heard about this. They took Saul down to Caesarea. From there they sent him off to Tarsus. Barnabas’s mentoring relationship with Paul was a significant factor in Paul’s development into an influential leader in the early Christian church.


Paul’s first missionary journey is written about in ACTS 13 and 14. Paul and Barnabas set sail, with John as their helper, from about 46 to 48 A.D. Their first stop was Cyprus. ACTS 13 tells us that they made it to Salamis in Cyprus, and proclaimed The Word of God in the Jewish Synagogues there.


As the three men traveled around the entire island, they came to Paphos where they ran into a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus. He was an attendant to the proconsul. (A proconsul is a former Roman consul who served as the governor of a province.)


Paul and Barnabas were actually summoned by the proconsul because he wanted to hear more about Jesus. When they arrived, the false prophet sought to turn the proconsul away from the truth, but The Holy Spirit came upon Paul who then rebuked the man and made him blind. Look at how The Message Bible tells the story in ACTS 13:6-11: They traveled the length of the island, and at Paphos came upon a Jewish wizard who had worked himself into the confidence of the governor, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man not easily taken in by charlatans. The wizard’s name was Bar-Jesus. He was as crooked as a corkscrew. The governor invited Barnabas and Saul in, wanting to hear God’s Word firsthand from them. But Dr. Know-It-All (that’s the wizard’s name in plain English) stirred up a ruckus, trying to divert the governor from becoming a believer. But Saul (or Paul), full of the Holy Spirit and looking him straight in the eye, said, “You bag of wind, you parody of a devil—why, you stay up nights inventing schemes to cheat people out of God. But now you’ve come up against God himself, and your game is up. You’re about to go blind—no sunlight for you for a good long stretch.” He was plunged immediately into a shadowy mist and stumbled around, begging people to take his hand and show him the way. It was because of this that the proconsul saw The Power of God and was converted.


After Paul and Barnabas left Cyprus, they made their way to Perga in Pamphylia where John left them to go back to Jerusalem. Paul and Barnabas went from there to Pisidian Antioch. In Pisidian Antioch, they went to the synagogue and began preaching; many received them and what they taught and urged them to keep on teaching, even following them in order to learn more. But they were removed from the city after the Jews became jealous and stirred up the God-fearing women and leading men of the city and persecution broke out against Paul and Barnabas.


Then they traveled to Iconium and taught in the Jewish Synagogue where a great number of Jews and Gentiles converted to the faith. But again, other Jews stirred up trouble for the two missionaries, so they left a short time after arriving because of a plot against their lives.


Next they went to Lystra where the Galatian church was planted. While they were there, they got mistaken for gods after Paul healed a crippled man. The citizens erupted, claiming that Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes!! YIKES!!!! This greatly distressed both of them, so they went out into the masses to set the record straight and to tell them The Gospel message. But as they were doing this, the crowds were won over by Jews trying to cause trouble for Paul and Barnabas. As a result, Paul was stoned, almost to death. Now that’s quite a turnaround in a man’s life! One day you’re persecuting Christians and just a short time later, you’re nearly stoned to death in order to share God’s Message! The very next day he and Barnabas went to Derbe.


After a time of preaching in Derbe, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Attalia, then they returned to the church in Antioch from where they first set sail and spent some time there before heading out on a second missionary journey.


When Paul and Barnabas got to Antioch, they called the church together and reported everything God had done through them and how He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles, too. And they stayed there with the believers for a long time.


During his missionary journeys, Paul wrote multiple letters that became known as The Epistles and which make up a large part of The New Testament. During Paul’s first missionary journey, he wrote a letter to the church in Galatia. This was his first epistle and is known as The Book of Galatians. He wrote it to encourage the Galatians and bring Truth to them because they were being choked out by a false understanding of The Gospel that taught that you needed Christ plus the Law to be saved. Look at what Paul wrote about this in GAL 2:16 (New International Reader’s Version): Here is what we know. No one is made right with God by obeying the law. It is by believing in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus. This is so we can be made right with God by believing in Christ. We are not made right by obeying the law. That’s because no one can be made right with God by obeying the law.


While Paul was in Antioch, men were coming and preaching that the Gentiles must be circumcised so he was appointed to go to Jerusalem with other church leaders to address this issue. After this was settled, Paul proposed a second missionary journey to Barnabas, to go visit and strengthen the believers and churches they had planted during their first missionary journey. This, however, didn’t go as planned. Barnabas and Paul had a very sharp disagreement about whether to bring John, who had deserted them during the first journey, and in the end, they went their own separate ways––Barnabas bringing John along, and Paul bringing Silas.


Paul’s second missionary journey lasted from 49 to 52 A.D. and is recorded in ACTS 16-18. Paul and Silas first went to Derbe and Lystra where they met Timothy, who they decided to bring with them as they continued their journey. The three men traveled through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and eventually on to Troas where Paul had a vision in the night calling him and his companions to travel to Damascus and preach the Gospel there.


In Paul’s vision, a man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!” So they decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling them to preach the Good News there.


During their time in Damascus, Paul once again faced much opposition but in spite of this, they planted the churches in Philippi and Thessalonica. Once they reached Macedonia, they met a woman named Lydia in Philippi who converted to the faith. During their stay with her in Philippi, they went out and were followed by a young girl who was demon-possessed. After some time with this girl shouting and causing trouble, Paul finally cast the demon out of her, which then caused the crowds to stir up against them. This led to their imprisonment. In the night, however, an angel of The Lord came and set them free, and as a result, the jailer became a believer!


They went on to travel through Brea, Athens, Corinth, and Ephesus, then to Jerusalem and finally back to Antioch for a short time. During these journeys, Paul went to the synagogues in every city and reasoned with the Jews.


All along the way, Paul understood the culture he was stepping into and thus entered in with a strategy, conscious of the culture’s traditions. This is what made him so successful. Paul reasoned with the Greek philosophers, speaking to them in the way that they were familiar with. This led to the conversion of many of them. When you sit back and think about all the traveling and preaching Paul did, it’s truly amazing!


Paul eventually made his way back to Antioch. The Book of Acts tells us that he spent some time there before setting out for his third journey. While he was traveling from country to country on his second missionary journey, Paul wrote 1st and 2nd Thessalonians. He wrote these letters to the church of Thessalonica because he had to leave them in the midst of persecution and was not there to walk through it with them. The first letter was written to urge them on through the persecution, and the second letter was written to address fears of having already missed the Second Coming of Christ.

{to be continued}


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