What Is the Significance of Paul on Damascus Road?

Paul recognized Jesus as Lord, admitted his own wrongdoing, surrendered his life to Jesus, and made plans to obey. Genuine change comes from an individual experience with Jesus Christ and prompts another life in relationship with him.

Sun beamed forest road

This is the story of Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus.

Saul represents the world. Saul was so passionate about his Jewish convictions that he started a mistreatment crusade against any individual who had faith in Jesus. For what reason would the Jews need to oppress Christians to the extent that Saul was sent to Damascus?

There are a few prospects: to hold onto the Christians who had escaped, to contain and forestall the spread of Christianity to other significant urban communities, to hold the Christians back from inciting any issues in Rome, to propel Saul’s vocation and fabricate his standing as a genuine Pharisee — who was enthusiastic for the law, and to bind together the groups of Judaism by giving them a shared adversary.

But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison (Acts 8:3).

As Paul headed out to Damascus, seeking after Christians, he was stopped by the risen Christ and witnessed the reality of the gospel. Occasionally God breaks into an individual’s life in a fantastic way, and now and then transformation is a calm encounter.

We are to be careful with individuals who demand that someone should have a specific kind of conversion. The correct method to come to faith in Jesus is the way God brings that individual.

What Happened on the Damascus Road?

A sinner is recognized. “And suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven.” Light always covers darkness. In a dark room, the lights are turned on, we turn our heads toward the bright light, but we shield our eyes. The light was so bright that Saul fell to his knees. “And he fell to the earth” (Acts 9:4).

A sinner recognizes the sovereignty of God. “And he said, Who art thou, Lord”? A sinner submits and surrenders unto God’s will. “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do”? A sinner is told specifically what to do. “Arise, and go into the city” (Acts 9:4-6).

Paul alludes to this experience as the beginning of his new life in Christ (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Galatians 1:15-16). At the focal point of this awesome experience was Jesus Christ. Paul did not have a dream nor see a vision; he saw the risen Christ himself (Galatians 9:17).

Paul recognized Jesus as Lord, admitted his own wrongdoing, surrendered his life to Jesus, and made plans to obey. Genuine change comes from an individual experience with Jesus Christ and prompts another life in relationship with him.

Paul believed that he was persecuting blasphemers, yet he was oppressing Christ himself. Any individual who persecutes Christians today is likewise liable of mistreating Jesus (Matthew 25:40,45), on the grounds that believers of today are part of the body of Christ here on earth.

The men around Saul heard a voice but saw no man. Saul gets up but he cannot see.

I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves (Daniel 10:7).

For three days Saul is without sight, and he fasts. Jonah spent three days in the belly of great fish. Jesus was in the tomb for three days. The number three represents divine completeness.

Ananias was called by God and told to go get Saul. Here we have the Lord sending a servant. God told Ananias that Saul was praying. Now we have a servant seeking God.

Ananias represents a doubting Christian. Many give some type of excuse as to why God’s plan won’t work. Ananias automatically brings up a negative. “Not him, Lord, that is inconceivable. He would never turn into a Christian.”

This was the embodiment of Ananias’ reaction when God advised him of Paul’s change. All things considered, Paul had sought after believers to their demise. Notwithstanding these reasonable sentiments, Ananias submitted to God and ministered to Paul.

We should not restrict God. He can do anything. We must comply, following God’s direction even to troublesome individuals and places.

And that is just what I did in Jerusalem. On the authority of the chief priests I put many of the Lord’s people in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them (Acts 26:10).

Why Was Paul Chosen?

The Lord tells Ananias to go and tells him why. Paul is a chosen vessel. He received the call of duty. Ananias submits to God’s will. Faith in Christ brings incredible blessings yet regularly extraordinary sufferings as well.

Paul would suffer over his faith (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). God calls us to responsibility, not relief. He vows to be with us through misery and difficulty, not to save us from them.

But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being (Galatians 1:15-16).

I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power (Ephesians 3:7).

In 2 Corinthians 11:23-27, it tells of the sufferings Paul received.

Ananias discovered Paul, as he had been told, and welcomed him as “Brother Saul.” Ananias dreaded this gathering since Paul had come to Damascus to abuse the believers and take them in chains back to Jerusalem.

Yet, in submission to the Holy Spirit, he welcomed Paul affectionately. It is not easy to show love to other people, particularly when we fear them or are uncertain of or doubt their motives. We should follow Jesus’ command (John 13:34), and Ananias’ model, by showing love and acknowledgment to different believers.

All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them (Acts 2:4).

A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him (Acts 22:12-13).

What Does This Mean?

Even though there is no notice of a unique filling of the Holy Spirit for Paul, his changed life and ensuing achievements bear as a solid witness of the Holy Spirit’s power and presence in his life.

Obviously, the Holy Spirit filled Paul when he regained his sight and was baptized. We see that Paul’s physical and spiritual needs are met. The men then had fellowship.

God’s Word pricks a sinner’s heart. Christians need prodding occasionally to do what they're told to do. God had to do something drastic to get man’s attention. Spend time alone and in prayer — seeking God’s will. God answers in his time, not ours.

For further reading:

Did Paul Know That His Letters Would be Scripture?

Why Are There So Many Name Changes in the Bible?

How Is Paul’s Life a Story of Redemption?

Should Every Christian Strive to be Like the Apostles?

What Does it Mean That Today Is the Day of Salvation?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/aniszewski


Chris SwansonChris Swanson answered the call into the ministry over 20 years ago. He has served as a Sunday School teacher, a youth director along with his wife, a music director, an associate pastor, and an interim pastor. Chris is a retired Navy Chief Hospital Corpsman with over 30 years of combined active and reserve service. During his service, he received numerous awards and citations. Chris holds a Doctor of Ministry, an M.B.A., and a B.S. in health administration. Chris and his wife Vicki of 24 years reside in Madison, Alabama. If you are interested in having Chris deliver God's Word at your place of worship, you can reach him here.