Becoming the Apostle Paul (2)
As we open this section, Saul is on his way to Damascus, “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord.” We are compelled to inquire into the sources of this terrible fury. Are they the straightforward causes of reaction against a heretical sect that is bringing dishonor to the Jewish religion and threatening the civil peace? Or, in addition to these, and deeper still, are they the outward manifestation of a dreadful inner conflict?
That conflict would be no other than the Holy Spirit working within Saul to bring him to faith in Jesus Christ. We’ve speculated about the parallel between the Centurion and Saul seeing how Christ and Stephen died, respectively. We can also be fairly sure that a man of Saul’s powerful will would not surrender his cherished beliefs easily to the claims of a new and seemingly absurd sect. And so, we would expect that, were there a struggle occurring within Saul for his very soul, it would erupt into view in powerful and striking ways. This is indeed what we see.
We must take note that this is one of those points in history where the issue of man’s will and God’s sovereignty meet at the sharpness of a razor’s edge. For was there ever a more willful man than Saul in the Bible’s record? And, was ever a man more transformed and yet somehow, mysteriously, preserved in all his essence than was this man Saul who became the Great Apostle, Paul? The Apostle himself thought long and deeply about this very issue. Although we will not hear all his words on the subject in this manuscript, we will meditate on the mystery.