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Must I Tithe 10% of My Net or Gross Income?

The Marks of a Changed Person {Acts 9:1–31}

This article is part of our weekly series, “The Book of Acts and the Church Today.” You can see all articles in the series here. 

Imagine standing before a window near the top of a skyscraper. From this vantage point, you can comprehend the layout of the streets and neighborhoods below. You see the big picture. But in the window, you can also see your reflection.

Acts 9:1–31 is like that. How do we get from Saul “breathing threats and murder against the disciples” to the church having peace, being edified, and experiencing comfort? (Acts 9:1, 31). How did the murderer become the missionary? These verses are a window into God’s missionary movement. And, as a mirror, they help us examine our experience with God.

The Window: Saul Becomes a Christian

Saul was an unlikely convert. After authorizing Stephen’s death, he continued ravaging the church. Luke makes him sound crazy: “Still breathing threats and murder,” Saul sought approval for harassing believers in Damascus (Acts 9:1–2).

But on the way, Saul met God. Jesus stopped Saul with a blinding light and a heavenly voice—the very voice he was trying to silence. His confrontation with Jesus literally blinded him. Meanwhile, the Lord was preparing a disciple named Ananias to help Saul start his new spiritual life. Ananias hesitated; he knew Saul’s reputation. But God assured him that Saul was becoming new. So after three days, Ananias prayed for Saul to receive the Holy Spirit and regain his sight. He was baptized and enjoyed fellowship with the disciples in Damascus.

“Immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues” (Acts 9:20). Saul’s message was a compelling defense of the very “crime” for which Christ was crucified—claiming to be God’s Son (John 19:7). His listeners were shocked to hear this message coming from this man. Some people were also angry and wanted to kill Saul. So, the disciples helped him escape through an opening in the city wall. The people Saul came to hunt—who likely had personal ties to his victims—showed God’s kindness by saving his life.

From Damascus, Saul returned to Jerusalem. Imagine his fears: “How can I go back? The Jews will hate me for becoming a Christian; the Christians will hate me for having persecuted them.” As expected, the believers feared a trap. But Barnabas, the “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36) took the risk to speak well of Saul even when he was unpopular. So the church accepted him. But when the Jerusalem Jews tried to kill him after only fifteen days in the city (Gal. 1:18), the church sent him to his hometown of Tarsus (Acts 22:17–21).

Saul’s conversion is huge. God claimed his instrument to carry his name before Jews, gentiles, and kings. And God eliminated the church’s fiercest enemy. Luke’s report indicates a time of peace, growth, godly living, and spiritual comfort (Acts 9:31). God is building his church!

The Mirror: Saul Is a Pattern for All Christians

Many believers experience grace gradually like Timothy, not dramatically like Saul. But several essential marks evident in Saul’s conversion can serve as a mirror for self-examination even today.

Sovereignty

Saul was no seeker; God radically changed his course. God had always been in control of this “chosen instrument” (Acts 9:15); he was set apart before birth (Gal. 1:15) to be awakened at just the right time. Through the cross, God sovereignly pacifies enemies (Rom. 5:10). All God’s children can say, “’Tis not that I did choose thee, for, Lord, that could not be; this heart would still refuse thee, hadst thou not chosen me.”[1]

Sinfulness

God made Saul know that he was a sinner; in his misguided zeal he was actually persecuting God’s Son (Acts 9:4). God struck Saul blind to illustrate that he was a sinful man who had seen a holy God. Saul needed to learn that he had done “much evil” (Acts 9:13), that he had sins to be washed away (Acts 22:16). Converting people cry out, today too, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13).

Sight

After vicious resistance, it suddenly became obvious to Saul that “Jesus was the Christ” (Acts 9:22). He had finally “seen the Lord” (Acts 9:27)! The scales that fell from Saul’s eyes illustrate what happens when the Spirit shines in our hearts to “give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Because of God’s amazing grace, believers who once were blind now see Jesus as Savior.

Service

“Immediately” after becoming a Christian Saul “proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues” (Acts 9:20). Barnabas could convince the Jerusalem believers of Saul’s change based on the hard evidence of Christian service (Acts 9:27). When you understand that you are not your own but belong to Christ, and that your chief end is to glorify and enjoy God, you will be whole-heartedly committed to serving him.

Suffering

Throughout Saul’s life, his suffering served as a sign of grace; he bore in his body the marks of Christ (Acts 9:16; Gal. 6:17). All godly people suffer (2 Tim. 3:12). Outside of heaven, holiness always comes with a cost. But the cost of suffering did not hinder Saul because he knew the spiritual math: the suffering of believers will be more than paid back by eternal glory (Rom. 8:18).

Saul’s conversion proves that God is doing a great work. Test yourself. And prove by faith and repentance that God is at work also in you.

[1]. Josiah Conder, Trinity Psalter Hymnal, 428.

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William Boekestein

William Boekestein is the pastor of Immanuel Fellowship Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He has written several books and numerous articles. He and his wife, Amy, have four children.