“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;” (Titus 1:1–3, ESV)
The story of the Apostle Paul caught my attention as I thought about Easter and the resurrection of Jesus this year. A friend of mine and I discussed the amazing story of Paul’s conversion. The fact that this very committed Jewish rabbi immediately and permanently turned to a “new” faith was astounding.
Paul was not only a rabbi who held to traditions of the law, but he was a persecutor of the Christ followers. He didn’t just hold to different tenets of faith, but he exercised holy fervor in trying to eradicate the new beliefs and tenets of Christianity. Paul did not want to believe in Jesus. He was not seeking to know the truth. He thought he already knew the truth. So what changed?
This man, Paul, was persecuting people for their faith in Jesus. Then something happened. Three days later, he “began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Paul’s friends, supporters and fellow persecutors turned against him and plotted to kill him. Paul had to depend on his new friends whom he had once tried to destroy to help him escape death. Why would he change his whole social circle in a matter of days?
Paul lived the rest of his life preaching about Jesus. He even died for his faith. During this time, he suffered for his beliefs. He knew when he switched sides that he would be persecuted. He knew because he had been one of the Jewish leaders who persecuted the Christians. He had been one of the Jewish leaders that had incited the Roman government against those that held to this “new” faith. He knew what kind of abuse he was in for when he changed sides, and yet he chose to follow Jesus and suffer for the cause. What was he thinking?
The only answer to all of these questions is that Paul learned the truth about Jesus. He found out the he had been wrong and that faith in Jesus was right. This studious and learned rabbi would not have gone through this dramatic and drastic change for something he did not believe was the truth. Paul learned the truth. The story of the resurrection was true. It really happened. Paul also realized that this truth made a difference for him, a personal and profound difference. He also knew that it made a difference for others, so he preached the truth.
Paul saw the resurrected Lord. He had an encounter with Jesus. This encountered happened after Jesus had been crucified and pronounced dead! He knew that Jesus had been buried. He had heard the rumors that Jesus was raised from death. He heard the stories that Jesus was alive and that the risen Lord had even met with His followers. But then Paul experienced it for himself. He changed when he truly, in space-time history, in a real place on the road to Damascus, encountered Jesus. He encountered the Truth. “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, ESV)