An Easily Overlooked Aspect of Paul's Conversion Accounts

July 20, 2011

Scripture provides information about Paul’s conversion in five passages (Acts 9, 22, 26; Gal. 1; 1 Tim. 1). Christ’s judging for God is an easily overlooked aspect of his conversion.

Paul was traveling to Damascus to persecute believers when Christ appeared to him to judge him by confronting him with his sin and by blinding him (9:3-9).[1] Statements in parallel accounts by Ananias (22:14) and Paul (Gal. 1:16) show God’s ultimate agency and Christ’s intermediate agency (cf. 9:17, 26:16) in His appearing to Paul. Through His judging Paul, Christ provided salvation for him.[2]Hence, the conversion accounts of Paul evidence the soteriological importance of Christ’s work as the God-appointed Judge.

 


[1] Jesus as the Son of Man judged Paul by showing him that he had been persecuting Jesus Himself and by blinding him (9:4-5; cf. Ezek. 22:2). “The risen Lord’s encounter with Paul on the Damascus Road, places under judgment his life of persecuting believers out of zeal for God. Luke highlights the overpowering nature of the divine encounter by noting that in the brightness of the midday sun a divine light flashed around Paul. Blinding at noontime and being cast to the ground picture the spiritual judgment under which Paul found himself (Is 25:12; 26:5; 29:4).” William J. Larkin Jr., Acts in The IVP New Testament Commentary, ed. Grant R. Osborne (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), 319. Christ’s restoring Paul’s sight through Ananias also testified to His judicial agency (John 9:39; cf. Isa. 35:4-5).

[2] James M. Hamilton Jr. argues, “The glory of God in salvation through judgment . . . is the center of the theology of the book of Acts.” “The Center of Biblical Theology in Acts: Deliverance and Damnation Display the Divine,” Themelios 33 (2008): 36.

 

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