Conversion of St. Paul 2018

The Conversion of St. Paul
January 25, 2018
Acts 9:1-22

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In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Those must have been three long days in Damascus. Saul had seen the Face of Yahweh the Lord and lived, but the vision had left him blind. Worse, he had discovered that in going after those who confessed and worshipped Jesus of Nazareth as Yahweh made Flesh he was persecuting Yahweh Himself.

All he had been told was to keep on his course to Damascus. There he was to wait for the time when he would be told what to do. He stood in line with Cain, Pharaoh, and Jezebel. They did not come to good ends.

Three days to wait and think about those small sentences. “Who are you, Yahweh, that you say I am persecuting you?” Does Paul think it is someone in Damascus? Is he about top make a terrible mistake or has he offended some pious priest in Jerusalem, failed to carry out Divine orders? No. It is someone in Damascus, indeed it is everyone in Damascus who confesses and worship Jesus as Yahweh in the Flesh, risen from the dead. It is also Stephen and John the Baptism and the other early martyrs for whatever is done to the least of the Lord’s brothers is done to Him. But Jesus doesn’t list them. Saul asks, “Who are you, Yahweh?” and the Christ says: “I am Jesus.”

That is something to think about. The Messiah isn’t a King in the way of military conquerors. He isn’t a priest in the way of the way of the Hellenizing sycophants of Jerusalem or even in the way of pious priests. He is not in the house of Aaron. He isn’t a prophet either in the way of John the Baptist. He is a Man, like all of them, but He is more. He is Yahweh, long promised, come to save His people by taking their punishment and being their atonement. He is the ransom and the sacrifice. He is the incense and the priest. He is the salvation and the hope and the consolation of Israel that is offered even to Gentiles.

When Ananias finally arrives, Saul is ready. Ananias knows this. He calls him “brother.” Saul is healed of his blindness and is baptized where he is filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately he proclaims Jesus in the synagogues, in the places where Yahweh is worshiped. He tells them Jesus is the Son of God, God made flesh, the Messiah. This he proves by the Old Testament.

The Acts of the Apostles doesn’t record that last detail. It assumes it. It simply says that Paul proved to the Jews of Damascus that Jesus was the Christ. The only way to do that, to prove to the Jews or to prove to us today, is to do so from the Bible.

Paul had been well-trained in the details of the Law but without understanding. He was blind but did not know it. When the scales fall away and the Spirit fills him, he then sees what the Scriptures testify and he understands the story of salvation as it spelled out through Moses and the Prophets. He sees the whole history of the cosmos as leading to the Christ and being defined by the Christ and His grace.

Thus does Paul expand and explicate the Old Testament when he writes:

10 All who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. [1]

This is what was revealed to him and what the Spirit through him reveals to us. May God be praised.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ga 3:10–14.

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