Updated: December 30, 2019
In order for us to understand Saul’s conversion as best we can we need to understand Saul. He was born in Tarsus of Cilicia, which is modern day Turkey. He was a Roman citizen. He was a pure-blooded Jew. He was faithful to Jewish tradition. He grew up in Jerusalem. He was a Pharisee. He was also a member of the Sanhedrin council. During Stephen’s trial and conviction, he had a prominent role.
When persecution came to the Jerusalem Christians, they scattered and made converts in other cities. The Jews pursued their attacks against these Christians, as well. They sent Saul to Damascus to help stamp out the troublesome sect by arresting Christians and bringing them back to Jerusalem for trial.
Shortly before noon, on the last day of the journey, on the outskirts of Damascus, a voice and a bright light stopped Saul in his tracks. Blinded and bewildered, he fell to the ground, only to hear, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
In a flash, he realized that by persecuting Christ’s followers, he had been doing Satan’s work. He now saw the truthfulness of the Christians claims. He recalled Stephen’s words in all their clarity.
After the light faded, his companions led Saul, still unable to see, into Damascus. The Christians in the city were afraid this was all a ruse to learn where they were hiding. They refused to have anything to do with their persecutor. Saul spent the time piecing together the prophesies in the Old Testament referring to the Messiah and asking Jesus for forgiveness for his sins.
At last, an angel sent Ananias to welcome Paul into the Christian church.
“Many have an idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience, independent of His recognized followers on earth. Jesus is the friend of sinners, and His heart is touched with their woe. He has all power, both in heaven and on earth; but He respects the means that He has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men; He directs sinners to the church which He has made a channel of light to the world.
In the last days, some of the church’s greatest enemies will be converted and become its most staunch defenders.
Love Makes a Way, p. 292
What a humiliation it was to Paul to know that all the time he was using his powers against the truth, thinking he was doing God’s service, he was persecuting Christ. When the Saviour revealed Himself to Paul in the bright beams of His glory, he was filled with abhorrence for his work and for himself. The power of Christ’s glory might have destroyed him, but Paul was a prisoner of hope. He was made physically blind by the glory of the presence of Him whom he had blasphemed, but it was that he might have spiritual sight, that he might be awakened from the lethargy that had stupefied and deadened his perceptions. His conscience, aroused, now worked with self-accusing energy. The zeal of his work, his earnest resistance of the light shining upon him through God’s messengers, now brought condemnation upon his soul, and he was filled with bitter remorse. He no longer saw himself as righteous, but condemned by the law in thought, in spirit, and in deeds. He saw himself a sinner, utterly lost, without the Saviour he had been persecuting. In the days and nights of his blindness he had time for reflection, and he cast himself all helpless and hopeless upon Christ, the only one who could pardon him and clothe him with righteousness.
SDA Commentary vol. 6 pg. 25-26