4. Gods Plan of Salvation as Exemplified in Acts 9
by Dave Brown
We left off in Article 3 with the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. Let's pick it up from there. After Acts 8 the primary player changes from Phillip to Saul of Tarsus, who later on became known by his Greek name, Paul (Luke first called Saul by this name in Acts 13:9, when Paul was on his first missionary journey).
Paul was not converted on the road to Damascus, as many people teach. Jesus just got his attention in that event; his actual conversion took place in Damascus itself. Let’s verify this by the text.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom you persecute: [it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?
6 And the Lord [said] unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”
From this point forward there was really not anything miraculous as far as Paul's receiving the truth and obeying it. The plan of salvation was taught to him by a man, as is true of all other conversions recorded in the New Testament.
It is true that God staged the event miraculously. Ananias saw a vision to lead him to Paul, which was necessary in order to bring the two of them together. Also, Paul was informed of this in a vision (9:12), and Paul did receive his sight back miraculously. But, as far as learning the plan of salvation itself, and Paul’s response to it, that is totally consistent with all other conversions. It was up to Paul to either obey of reject the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The interaction of the Jesus with Ananias is recorded in Acts 9:10-16, and we encourage you to read that.
The actual conversion is recorded quite simply in Acts 9:17-20: “And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as you came, hath sent me, that you might receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.”
Paul immediately started preaching – he did not need an ordination service or even any sanction from the apostles (see Galatians 1). It is the truth that saves, not being part of some organization. Those who are saved are added to the Lord's church (Acts 2:47; Romans 6), and they organize themselves scripturally into local churches. Paul was already an expert in the Old Testament scriptures (Acts 26:4-5), and once he saw how they all applied to Jesus, he was filled with the Holy Spirit and ready to teach that truth immediately.
Paul’s conversion is further elaborated by Paul himself in Acts 22 when he was giving one of his defenses.
Acts 22:12-16: “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt [there], came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, ‘Brother Saul, receive thy sight.’ And in that same hour I looked up upon him. And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee that thou should know his will, and see that Just One, and should hear the voice of his mouth. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.”
So, as far as the conditions of salvation are concerned, Paul’s conversion was no different from all of the others. While the evidence that got his attention was certainly different, the commands that he obeyed were the same. He heard the truth, believed what he heard, repented of his sins (as is clear from the complete turn-around in his religious practice), and he was baptized to "wash away" his sins, i.e., for the remission of his sins, consistently with what is commanded in Acts 2:38. His willingness to confess his belief in Jesus was also obvious by his immediately preaching to his fellow Jews.
The differences in this conversion seem somewhat motivated by God's special calling of Paul to be an apostle. While he was diametrically opposed to the gospel prior to his conversion, it seems quite clear that Paul was still motivated by his zeal for God, and did what he did with a clear conscience (Acts 23:1), even when persecuting the church.
In the next article (#5) we will take up the next detailed cases of conversion, that of the first gentiles to be converted, which is described in Acts 10 and 11. If you have any questions, please: Contact Us
Go on to Lesson 5