The Conversion of Saul to Paul

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Saint Paul’s entire life can be explained in terms of one experience—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. In an instant, he saw that all the zeal of his dynamic personality was being wasted, and his life changed at that very moment. Perhaps he had never seen Jesus, who was only a few years older. But he had acquired a zealot’s hatred of all Jesus stood for, as he began to harass the Church: “…entering house after house and dragging out men and women, he handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3b). Now he himself was “entered” possessed, all his energy harnessed to one goal—being a slave of Christ in the ministry of reconciliation, an instrument to help others experience the one Savior.

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He is an example that anyone, even the most hardened unbeliever or the vilest heretic, can be created anew by our loving Savior.

Paul was schooled as a Pharisee, he was a tent maker by trade, but was most noted for his hatred of Christians. His actions could be easily justifiable because being an ardent Jew, he believed that the teachings of Jesus violated Mosaic Law and zealously harassed, and even jailed, anyone who followed those teachings.

Impact of his conversion

Saul’s sudden change confused those around him, because he was known as one who hated Christians, who went about seeking them out to eliminate those individuals he genuinely considered as breaking Jewish law. Suddenly he was transformed from despising the followers of Jesus into fervently espousing the Gospel of that same Jesus. No one could have anticipated this conversion; it is one of the great miracles of mankind.

Like the most fervent convert, Paul simply couldn’t get enough of Christ. With faith and courage inflamed by the Holy Spirit, Paul would spend the rest of his life going from country to country and town to town proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah, organizing and encouraging Christians to be resolute followers of Jesus, and nonbelievers to open their hearts to Christ, repent and be baptized. He would become known as the Apostle of the Gentiles (non-Jews) and his travels, letters and teaching changed the world.

Often in trouble, Paul was confronted, jailed (though angels rescued him), physically abused and repeatedly endangered and harassed for preaching the message he previously attacked. Despite all the dangers he encountered, Paul never faltered or failed his God. In the end, he would be taken to Rome as a prisoner and be beheaded for his teachings.

Why Paul?

Why would Jesus select the likes of Paul? There were certainly other devoted followers of Jesus available in those early days of the Church — followers ready to give their lives to proclaim Jesus Christ as savior of the world. But Jesus picked and converted this Pharisee, known as Saul, saying, “This man is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before Gentiles, kings and Israelites” (Acts 9:15). God selected this man who had a strong hatred of all Jesus stands for, a man who went into the houses of Christians and “dragging out men and women” then “handed them over for imprisonment” (Acts 8:3). This man became God’s chosen instrument to spread the message of Jesus across the Middle East and parts of Europe. Certainly, our Lord’s ways are mysterious.

A light from the sky flashed around Saul, and he fell to the ground. He heard a voice crying out, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Saul seems to have thought that an individual he had arrested, or was about to arrest, was accosting him, confronting him. But it was someone else altogether – “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”

This revelation was a shock to Saul. Jesus? The one whom the adherents of The Way cling to as their Messiah? The one whom the Romans executed in shame and ignominy? How could Saul be persecuting him if he was dead? Furthermore, how could he be addressing Saul?

Jesus told Saul to go into the city, and get instructions there. When he rose to go, and opened his eyes, he could see nothing. He was led into the city by the men he was traveling with, and remained unable to see for three days. A man in the city named Ananias, a disciple of the Lord, was told by the Lord to go and find Saul.

What a dramatic change! What a profound course correction! This man who had once facilitated, expedited, and perpetrated the persecution of the followers of Jesus, was now His instrument.

The conversion of St. Paul is important to us for two reasons. Firstly, this is the man who would become known as the Apostle to the Gentiles, the man who would do more than perhaps anyone else to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ far and wide, and to fight false teachings and other problems that would arise in the churches he established. St. Paul is largely responsible for the spreading of Christianity beyond Jewish circles.

Secondly, St. Paul helps to show us just what conversion means. Conversion does not simply mean changing religious adherence. Paul’s conversion didn’t only consist of his acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, but a change of heart. Paul had essentially made a career out of persecuting Christians for their faith. After his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul recognized the folly of his ways, and had a dramatic change of heart. This is in what conversion consists: a change of heart. Conversion is not turning away from sin, but turning to God.

We are all called to conversion.

Conversion is not meant only for non-Christians or non-Catholics; conversion is not something that is only meant for those who have led dramatically sinful lives; conversion is a re-orientation of our wills toward God’s, a change of heart wherein we seek what God wills, and strive to do what He is calling us to do.

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Conversion is not something that happens to us once. It is an ongoing change of heart, a perpetual reorientation of ourselves in order to align our wills with that of God. Our wills are not perfectly in line with God’s. This is something we must strive for, something that we must always be working together.

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The Conversion of Saul to Paul. (2018, December 11). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from
“The Conversion of Saul to Paul.” GradesFixer, 11 Dec. 2018,
The Conversion of Saul to Paul. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 28 Sept. 2023].
The Conversion of Saul to Paul [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2018 Dec 11 [cited 2023 Sept 28]. Available from:
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