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Presentation 19. Introduction The transformation of Saul is for many people one of the most intriguing stories in the book of Acts. A violent persecutor.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 19. Introduction The transformation of Saul is for many people one of the most intriguing stories in the book of Acts. A violent persecutor."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presentation 19


3 Introduction The transformation of Saul is for many people one of the most intriguing stories in the book of Acts. A violent persecutor of the church is transformed into a mighty apostle. The change in the direction of this man's life is due to the supernatural intervention of God. Saul experienced what the Bible describes as a ‘conversion’. The doctrine of conversion poses a number of questions. Do all conversions need to be as sudden as Paul’s? Do they necessarily need to follow the same dramatic pattern? Does everyone need to be converted? These questions are of fundamental importance and we must give our fullest attention to them. Presentation 19

4 Saul The Persecutor Saul is introduced as a man implacably opposed to the cause of Christ and his people. In v1 he is described as "breathing out murderous threats against the Christians". How do we account for this terrible antipathy? Remember, Saul had been exposed to the gospel through Stephen's teaching. He hadn't liked what he’d heard: it challenged the foundation of his own dearly cherished religious beliefs. He believed that by attempting to be very religious and very good, and by helping his neighbour he could earn the favour and acceptance of God. The gospel undermines the view that man can save himself! Presentation 19

5 Saul The Persecutor Add to that the fact that some of Saul’s relatives had become Christians [Rom. 16.7]. It is one thing to watch others committing themselves to beliefs that radically differ from our own, we dismiss them as cranks. But when we see the converting influence of God’s Spirit impacting upon the members of our family, winning their hearts and minds then that too can stir up furious opposition. Presentation 19

6 Saul The Persecutor Surely there is a further reason for the intensity of Saul's opposition. He had a deeply troubled conscience? Paul’s testimony in 26v14 provides us with the words spoken by the risen Jesus: "It is hard for you to kick against the goads." The goads of conscience were tormenting Saul. The convincing truth of Stephen's teaching, against which he had no argument, was doing its work. Was Saul suddenly afraid that the gospel was true? Was his mind secretly assenting to the irresistible logic of the gospel so that the powers of his mighty intellect were wrestling with his will? How terrifying. Frightened men lash out. Presentation 19

7 God's Intervention Was Paul’s persecution of the church an attempt to silence the accusing voice of conscience? It was obvious that a crisis would develop sooner or later. God was moving in on this man. At a time when Christians did all in their power to keep out of Saul’s way because they could not imagine that such a life could be transformed, God imagined such a reality. God is found at work in what many would describe as ‘a hopeless case’ for nothing could stand in the way of God’s irresistible, drawing and converting grace. Presentation 19

8 God's Intervention Notice that Paul's response to the words of the risen Jesus betray the poverty of his earlier religious life. He asks, "Who are you Lord?" What an admission for a man steeped in religion. He didn't know God! He had a knowledge of religion but no knowledge of God. He had a knowledge of the law but no knowledge of God. He had a knowledge of ritual but no knowledge of God. This sad picture repeats itself in our own day. People can be very religious and yet have no knowledge of God. God a name to them but not a person, whose voice they recognise. God is in the business of transforming such people. Presentation 19

9 Paul's Conversion Some say, “But I am not against Christ in the way that Saul was. Surely its only the worst of people who need to be converted?” Is that idea supported by scripture? Did Jesus teach that only the worst of men need to be converted? No he said, “Unless you are converted and become as little children you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Matt.18v3. Nor were the disciples exempt from the necessity of conversion. During the last supper Jesus said to Peter, “when you have been converted, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22.31 Peter’s sermon on the day of Pentecost, was not addressed to ‘the worst of men’ but to worshippers, to church people. “Repent and be converted so that your sins may be wiped out …Acts 3v19 Presentation 19

10 Paul's Conversion It is common for people who take religion seriously to feel that conversion is for the worst of men. The wife of Martin Lloyd Jones, a famous C20th preacher, describes her thinking before her own conversion: “I was for two years under Martin's ministry before I really understood what the gospel was. I used to listen to him on Sunday morning and feel, 'Well if this is Christianity I don't really know anything about it. On Sunday night I used to pray that somebody would be converted; I thought you had to be a drunkard or a prostitute to be converted. I remember how I used to rejoice to see drunkards become Christians and envy them with all my heart because there they were so full of joy and here I was in such a different condition." Presentation 19

11 Paul's Conversion What do we mean when we speak of conversion? Conversion involves a radical, internal change. It involves a heart-allegiance shift for God becomes first in our lives. It reflects a change of values - the spiritual and not the material become the focus of our concern. It causes a person to, ‘seek first for the kingdom of God’ Matt.6v33. We find these changes in Saul. He gives his allegiance to Jesus, v5. In v11 we are told that Saul is praying, not simply saying prayers, but communing with God. In v19 he seeks out the fellowship with other Christians. Presentation 19

12 Paul's Conversion In v20 he is sharing his faith with others. He was a changed man. By changing his name to Paul he was saying to all who had known him, ‘I am not the man I used to be’. I remember attending an eldership training meeting in Glasgow. An elder sitting beside me pointed to someone at the other end of the hall and asked, “What is he doing here? I used to work beside him, he has never had any time for God”. During a tea interval this man approached us and said, "You must be wondering why I'm here. I'm not the man I used to be. God has changed my life." He had been converted! Presentation 19

13 Paul's Conversion Is conversion always as sudden as it appears to be in Saul's case? But Saul's conversion was not as sudden as it might appear. As we have already seen God was already at work in Saul's mind heart and conscience long before his trip to Damascus. Secondly, God works in people’s lives in quite different ways. Those who cannot produce an experience as sudden as that of Saul are sometimes despised by those who can. My own minister, when asked when he was converted would say he did not know. Some people respond to Christ's claims after a long period of resistance – I think of one women who consciously resisted God's claim on her life for 12 years. But others have that resistance broken down almost immediately. Presentation 19

14 Paul's Conversion Does conversion need to be dramatic? Are we to fly out to Damascus in an attempt to be struck down by a blinding light? Of course not! People’s experience varies. For some it is emotionally traumatic for others a quiet submission and yielding of their hearts. Feelings are temporary things and vary from individual to individual. But it is the supernatural and often unfelt events that are permanent. It is for this reason that the criterion the N.T. employs for measuring conversion is neither the dramatic nor the emotional. Instead it asks, if evidence of God's grace can be found in a person's life? Is the fruit of God's Spirit is being produced in the garden of the person’s heart? Can one king be dethroned in your life and another crowned and there be no evidence of change in the rule of the kingdom? Presentation 19

15 Conclusion The burden of concern of the N.T is not with the suddenness of a man's conversion nor indeed with its manner but with its genuineness. It is not how it takes place but that fact that it has indeed taken place that is all important! God is concerned to know if our hearts have been so subdued by his grace. Have they? Has God begun to exercise his rule in our lives because we have stepped down from the throne? Can the tenor of our lives, like that of Paul's, be summed up in the phrase, “Lord, what would you have me to do?” Presentation 19

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