Paul’s Conversion

My apologies for the long absence from posting. As I mentioned briefly last week, I was gone on vacation after Christmas and last week I was busy with sermon preparation and so admittedly my lectionary reflections were lacking. But I’m back on the horse today.

Today’s lectionary reading is found in Acts 22:2-16. In this interesting passage we see Paul discuss two different aspects of his life. First he talks about his upbringing, and we catch a glimpse of his childhood. Then he switches gears and gives us his personal account of his conversion on the Damascus road.

This story is part of a larger discourse in which Paul is defending himself after being arrested. The larger story gives us more insight into Paul’s background. He’s born a Roman citizen, as well as a Jew. He’s highly educated. He is zealous for God. He had formerly persecuted Christians. All of this we know. It raises the question as to if he’s trying to appeal to the Jewish crowd at this point. He’s been arrested, but before that happened he’d been seized by the Jews in Jerusalem. He’d been beaten before being arrested, and the Jews want him killed. In this first section (verses 3-5), Paul seems to be laying out his Jewish credentials. If we were to stop at this point, it would almost seem as if he’s saying “I’m one of you now leave me alone.”

However, Paul doesn’t stop there. After establishing who he is, listing his zealous background, Paul then launches into the story of his conversion (verses 6-15). Its a well known story. Paul is traveling to Damascus when he is blinded in an encounter with Jesus himself. Jesus announces himself to Paul and asks why Paul is persecuting those that follow him. After three days of blindness, God send Ananias to Paul. Now Ananias certainly seems to be a believer in Christ, but interestingly enough, we don’t know that for sure. We hear that he’s a devout man according to the Law and that the Jews in the area speak highly of him (verse 12). This raises the question as to if Ananias was a believer, or if God chose an unbelieving Jewish man to go to Paul. Regardless of just who Ananias is, we know that God has given him the correct message. “You have been chosen to know his will, to see the Righteous One and hear his own voice.” That has already happened at this point, but then he goes on to deliver the rest of the message. “You will be his witness to all the world.” Its interesting to note that this seems to be the first point (for Paul) that he is directed to go into the whole world, but as we know that was certainly the mission that he took on.

Finally, Paul ends this portion of his discourse with a bit of an alter call. “Get up, be baptized and have your sins washes away calling on His name.” Paul seems like a bit of a baptist here, but its not unexpected. His mission was to proclaim Christ and to let those that heard his words know that they could have the free gift of Christ as well.

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