Acts 9 is entitled “The Conversion of Saul” in my Bible. Conversion…converted…that’s an old-fashioned word we don’t hear very often, but it’s a very biblical term when describing what takes place when a person is rescued from the domain of darkness, and transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:13).
Saul’s conversion is atypical in a lot of ways; most of us weren’t on a mission to ravage homes and drag people out to face hungry lions in a sports arena, simply because their belief system conflicted with ours. We weren’t stopped in the middle of the road by a light so bright it blinded us; we didn’t hear God speak audibly – an actual, physical sound that others heard as well but could not understand because He was speaking directly to us. The circumstances may have been a bit different for us, but what happened to Saul must happen to all of us if we are to become part of the family of God. We must be converted.
Acts 3:19 – Therefore repent and return [be converted], so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.
Repent is the Greek word metanoeō, meaning to change one’s mind; to think differently or afterwards, i.e. reconsider (morally, feel compunction). The literal translation is “to perceive afterwards” (meta, “after,” implying “change,” noeo, “to perceive;” nous, “the mind, the seat of moral reflection”).
Converted is the Greek word epistrephō, meaning to turn, to cause to return, bring back; to turn oneself; to return, to come back. When used in the aorist tense, it indicates an immediate and decisive change, consequent upon a deliberate choice; conversion is a voluntary act in response to the presentation of truth.
Saul’s conversion vividly illustrates what salvation is all about. When Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus, it was not simply the glory of God that blinded Saul. I believe Jesus was making a point. Until we are confronted with the truth of who Jesus is (Jesus told Saul, I am Jesus whom you are persecuting) we are blind. Saul was blinded by his religious traditions, his family lineage, and his own self-righteousness (Philippians 4:3-6). Meeting Jesus exposed how blind he was, but that alone did not save him. Jesus sent him into the city to wait…to be alone in the darkness and ponder the course of his life. We’re not told what Saul thought about during those three days, but surely, he and Jesus had a lot of conversations about what he believed, what he had been taught, and where he was presently headed if he continued on the same path.
Saul was converted (experienced salvation) when he responded to the truth and repented. God sent Ananias to explain what had happened; He was calling Saul as a chosen instrument, to take the name of Jesus to the Gentile nations. This would be costly; Saul would suffer much for the sake of Jesus. At the moment of conversion, when Saul repented and surrendered to God, the Holy Spirit filled him, and immediately the scales fell from his eyes.
How do we know Saul repented? There was a direct, obvious, immediate change in his life. When the scales came off and he responded to the truth, he got up and was baptized (publicly proclaiming his faith in Jesus), and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ (Acts 9:20). Not incidentally, Saul changed his name after his conversion. “Saul” means “desired,” but “Paul” means “small, or little.” I think that tells us a lot about how he felt about his former life compared with his new life in Christ! Just like John the Baptist, Paul realized that He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
When God removed the blinders, everything Saul had learned from his life-long studies in the Old Testament scriptures suddenly came together; he recognized that it was always about Jesus. He was converted – he returned to the God who created him and was redeemed and restored, washed clean by the blood of Christ and made holy, just as God had originally designed him to be. He was rescued from Satan’s domain and transferred to the kingdom of Jesus.
What are the scales on your eyes that are preventing you from seeing Jesus?
Tradition? Things you were taught from childhood that are in opposition to biblical truth?
Your family lineage? Do you think you are “okay” because you’ve “always been a Christian” since your parents and grandparents raised you in church?
Your own self-righteousness? Do you believe that your good deeds will (hopefully) outweigh the bad things you’ve done and that God will give you a pass into His kingdom?
If our enemy has deceived you into believing any of those things, you are unfortunately as blind as Saul was as he sat in that room alone contemplating the Savior who had confronted him at the height of his religious fervor. Ask God to remove the scales so you can see and understand the truth. Repent of your sins, and turn away from them, turning to the living God, and be converted.