Scripture Reading: Acts 21:37-22:39
“As I was on the way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.'” (Acts 22:6-8)
After being delivered from the angry Jewish mob by the Roman soldiers (21:35,36), Paul asked permission to address the crowd. The authorities agreed and Paul proceeded to tell the story of his conversion. This is the second time in the book of Acts that we find Paul’s testimony of salvation. The other account is found in Acts 9.
Paul’s conversion was dramatic and unusual. I know of very few people who have had a similar Damascus Road experience. Most of us were brought up in Christian homes and have known Jesus most of our lives as Timothy did (II Timothy 1:5).
Paul was very different from Timothy. Paul was a religious zealot who persecuted the early believers: “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women” (22:4). But one day Jesus came to Paul in a most unusual and dramatic way: “…a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?'” (22:6b-7). Paul was converted that day on the road to Damascus.
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “This is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in Him for eternal life” (I Timothy 15:16).
When Paul claimed to be the foremost of all sinners, he really believed it; it was not hyperbole. He came to grip with the terrible nature of his sin and owned it. But then he gave it to Jesus, who paid the price Paul owed to God (see: II Corinthians 5:21). Paul never forgot how terrible his sin was, but He knew that He was loved and accepted by God because of the work of Jesus on his behalf. This is the essence of the gospel — we are far more sinful than we think we are; but we are more loved and accepted by God than we ever hoped we could be through the work of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners like Paul, you and me.
Lord Jesus, I confess that my sins are far greater than I imagine they are. I have disappointed and grieved You so many times. Yet I know that Your love for me never ceases. You forgive time and time again. Thank You for Your amazing grace that saved a wretch like me! Thank You that You came into the world to save sinners.
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