Saul of Tarsus was a feared pharisee who hunted down the followers of Jesus in the months following the crucifixion. Saul was a notorious and effective prosecutor, if not executioner of Christians. So much so that Saul was believed to be involved in the first recorded Christian execution and martyrdom of Stephen, who was stoned to death.
The Bible alludes to the fact that Saul was there during the stoning of Stephen. In the Book of Acts 7: 58 it states, “and they cast him (Stephen) out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of the young man named Saul.”
So what does Saul have to do with the indisputable proof of the resurrection of Jesus Christ? In my opinion, EVERYTHING.
Saul, who would become known as Paul one of the greatest Apostles for Christ, had everything going for him as a rising star with growing power as a feared Jewish pharisee. So why would he do the unthinkable and convert to a renegade Jewish cult, the very group he built his reputation persecuting?
It begins with his journey to Damascus to hunt down Christians to prosecute. However, something happened on the road to Damascus that not only changed his life, but changed the course of Christianity, if not civilization itself.
Here’s what the Bible lays out for us:
Days later Saul would regain his sight and be baptized, going on to be one of the greatest disciples of Christ in the history of Christianity.
Skeptics downplay the conversion of Paul by saying he must have landed on a rock when he fell off his horse, which caused his temporary blindness. If that’s close to even being true, it doesn’t explain how Saul dropped everything to follow our Savior.
Think about it, Paul had everything to lose and nothing to gain by accepting a fictional Savior figure. I believe Paul did witness the Resurrected Jesus. Who other than God can turn Christianity’s then greatest enemy into one of the New Testament’s greatest evangelists for Christ Jesus. It’s inexplicable, if not miraculous.
As far as I’m concerned, the Conversion of the Apostle Paul is irrefutable evidence that Jesus lived, died and resurrected giving humankind hope for redemption and eternal life.
On a side note: I want to be Heaven to see the expression on Stephen’s face when he looks around and eventually spots Paul. What will be going through his mind at that moment? My guess is that Stephen would rejoice knowing his death may have planted the seeds for Paul’s conversation.
This is where the beauty of God really shines through the darkest moments of life and how His Spirit works in us and through us. As Stephen was dying from the blows from the stones, he saw Jesus in the sky:
The mob covered their ears believing Stephen was blasphemous. It’s hard to ignore the fact the Saul was exposed to this scene and even hearing Stephen in his last breaths calling out to God to forgive his executioners, which Saul was one of them.
Acts 7:60: “Then he (Stephen) knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when had said this, he fell asleep.”
Every Christian owes a great debt of gratitude to Stephen whose death may changed the course of human history. If it weren’t for Paul’s conversion, we would be missing at least 8 books, maybe as much as 14 if we count Hebrews, in the New Testament.
For me, I find inspiration from Paul’s conversion that Jesus not only exists, but is active in our lives through the Holy Spirit. Every time we fall off our horse of faith, God is there to help us get back on through His Grace, Forgiveness and Love.
Praise God. Amen.