The Apostle Paul wasn’t always our beloved Apostle and servant of our Lord. At one time he was a fierce persecutor of the Church. But then something extraordinary happened. Here’s how Luke describes Paul’s conversion…
Acts 9:1-18 – Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord,” he answered.
11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”
13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”
15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized,
That very day, Paul’s purpose for existence was radically and utterly altered. His values, perspective, worldview, identity, meaning… all of it… was turned upside down (or better right-side up) on that trip down the Damascus
Here’s how Paul would later interpret the results of his conversion…
Philippians 3:4b-9 – If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
In light of those two texts… of that experience and that interpretation of it… Paul’s words to us in Romans 1:1, become all that much more powerful and helpful, don’t they?
In this one verse we learn about Paul’s Universal Purpose as well as his Unique Purpose. You see, we each have a Universal Purpose and a Unique Purpose.
1.) We all have a Universal Purpose
This purpose is God’s intention for us that is shared by all Christians.
Here are some examples:
Basically… this Universal Purpose for God’s people… is to become more like Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). This was the primary focus of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, that our church studied together about eight years ago.
Paul would point back to that day when God changed his life on the Damascus Road and say that it all started with God. Paul was no longer a Pharisee of Pharisees, no longer seeking to imprison Christians. He was now a SERVANT or SLAVE of Jesus Christ.
His ultimate purpose was now defined by his relationship with Jesus Christ… and ours should be too.
But there’s also a Unique Purpose. And we’ll take a look at that next time.
Grace and Truth,