Tag Archive: “The Conversion of Saul”



“Paul, an apostle – sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the Dead.” -Galatians 1:1

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Among other things, the beauty of the Bible is explicitly manifest in God’s ability to speak through it. Many verse are not hindered by a singular interpretation, rather God can use any verse to address any number of things. One of the only things that is required is that it doesn’t contradict any other Scripture. If it does then this “veiled” wisdom cannot be from God (see my note concerning John 14:27, “On The Lord’s Peace and in Which You’ll Read a Few Notes Concerning Biblical Interpretation”).

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Here, Paul, as he does in later verses (see my note concerning Galatians 1:11-12, “On Paul’s Source and The Shifting of Name”), reveals His source of the Gospel, and He who sent Him to the Gentiles to preach the message of reconciliation. This message He did not get from any man, but rather through direct revelation from Jesus Christ. In fact, according to Galatians 1:18-19, Paul didn’t meet any of the apostles until three-years after his ministry had begun. By this verse, we also see that Paul didn’t regard Jesus Christ as a mere man. This is not only important in the context of Scripture, but also in response to the popular belief that Christ was a mere man, though possibly a prophet of some sort.

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"The Conversion of Saul," by Caravaggio. oil on canvas. c. 1600

Yet, Paul states, that he was neither sent by men (the apostles), or by a man (a mortal Jesus). Rather, his knowledge came from the Son of God, and the Father, who raised the Son to a life surpassing mortality, due to His obedience and righteousness. In addition, we who are in Christ, have our passport stamped so that when our mortal bodies pass away, we, in a likeness of Christ, will arise to life, worthy by grace and covered in the blood of the Lamb.

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“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” -1 John 1:7


“I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. 12I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” -Galatians 1:11-12

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Here Paul refutes a argument common in his day, and likewise currently, that the gospel was made up by man. Paul’s own evidence is that he did not study under any of the apostles, and in fact didn’t meet them until three years after his ministry had begun. As it states in Galatians Chapter 1, Verses 18-19:

“Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. 19I saw none of the other apostles only James, the Lord’s brother.”

Cephas, which means “rock,” in this case is actually Peter. Some dispute this, but when one considers that Christ gives Peter this name in the Gospel of John, and that Paul says, “I saw none of the other apostles,” it indicates to us that he did indeed see at least one of the apostles, Peter, and stayed with him 15 days.

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The main point of the passage, however, is that Paul, who himself used to be known as Saul, was preaching a gospel without former knowledge from any source apart from Christ Himself. It was from Christ that he received his new name and the message of reconciliation.

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"The Conversion of Saul," by Michelangelo. fresco, c. 1542-1545

Yet, why all these name changes? It’s not meant to confuse, rather provide clarity and symbolism. When we come to Christ in faith, we are told we become a “new creation,” and that the old has gone (See my note on 2 Corinthians 5:17, “On The Old Overtaken By What is New”). Thus, our worldly name, and those of many people in scripture, are changed to symbolize that they indeed are a new creation. Our names too will change, according to Revelation, when we are finally removed from this tent and live in our heavenly dwelling with the Lord. Revelation 2:17 states:

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known to only him who receives it.”

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The color white within scripture symbolizes, purity, righteousness, and refinement. We will be pure beings which will be represented by our new names. Furthermore, sometimes after we come to the Lord we can feel rather insignificant, that we are merely a small particular in an aggregate of believers and though we may have a relationship with the Lord, it’s nothing spectacular and may be commonplace in the vast sea of the faithful. Yet, this verse in Revelation is touching because it shows us that our individual relationship with the Lord is unique. In fact, the relationship you have, and will have, nobody else has. That’s how close of friends we are with Jesus Christ (See my note concerning John 15:15, “On Having a Friendship With The Lord”). This is an amazing thing to reflect upon and I encourage everyone to do so, and that in love, I pray your relationship with the Lord may grow deeper and infinitely more profound. Amen.

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"Christ Pantocrator," by Master of Cefalu. mosaic, greco-byzantine style. Location: Cefalu Cathedral, Sicily, Italy. c. 1150


“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” -2 Corinthians 12:7

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"The Conversion of Saul," by Gustave Dore. engraving, c. 1865

Let us not compare our Christian walk or spiritual gifts with anyone else in the Body of Christ. Romans 12:6-8 makes it abundantly clear that we differ in gifts and those godly manifestations expressed in the body. These are from God and are granted to us by His grace. This is important to realize, for even these blessed gifts by the Lord can be used by our sinful nature to feed our pride.

The enemy loves to turn our work for the Lord into something sinful. It’s not to say the work of the Lord in and of itself is sinful, of course not, but rather that we ourselves may sin in our efforts to be in complete obedience with our Lord. We may have the gift of prophecy and we may serve, teach, encourage, give, lead, or show mercy. Yet, a hidden danger might lie in wait, for instead of acknowledging the source, we may use these gifts to feed our pride. This verse suggests that Paul himself was tempted with this as he followed obediently to complete God’s great works.

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"Apostle Paul," by Rembrandt. oil on canvas, c. 1657

Yet, God in His wisdom knew that this would hinder the great work He was doing through and with Paul. This partnership would have been spoiled if the apostle would have become conceited. So, there was given to Paul a thorn in his flesh, “a messenger of Satan,” to torment him. What this “thorn” actually was has been debated for some time. These range from a physical malformation or defect of some sort, to a sin that tormented Paul. Regardless of what it was, we know that this “thorn” kept Paul grounded with the Lord, and he eventually found that “thorn” to be a blessing, for without it Christ’s power wouldn’t be able to “rest on him” to the degree it did.

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Outside Christ, who was perfect, even the most amazing men of God in the scriptures had grievous faults, which should give us some hope. It certainly does me. Moses for example was a murderer, had anger issues, was a stutterer, and was disobedient to the Lord. Though Moses was disciplined for this by not being able to enter the promised land, God used this faulty man to do an amazing work, as He can use us, as faulty as we are, to do great works as well.

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"Moses Striking The Egyptian (detail)," Amsterdam Hagadah, c. 1695

When we come to the Lord in faith, He is not beyond bringing hardship, weakness, persecutions, “thorns,” and difficulties in our lives so that we may not loose sight of Him. If we are too prideful in our walk with the Lord and in the gifts He bestows in us, we should not be too shocked when, in His sovereignty, brings about a hardship to “ground” us.

Although I don’t like speaking for God, I do feel comfortable saying that God doesn’t want to encourage sin in your life. So if you haven’t been granted gifts to a fullness yet, perhaps if they were given unto you, the glory would go to the self and not God.

Let us pray for the understanding at only comes from the Spirit, that we may be instructed on how to avoid becoming to proud in our obedience and the gifts God pours into us. Let us pray that we will give credit where it’s due, that is, to the source of the gifts we are presented and indeed all things. Let us forever strive not to pervert that which is Holy or shift the glory of God onto the self. May He be forever praised. Amen.

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