It’s funny sometimes how it’s possible for people to have entirely different impressions of the same person.
This morning we celebrate the life of St. Paul, especially to celebrate his dramatic conversion to Jesus Christ. St. Paul has been called many things by many people. Some say that he was a homophobe – one who hates and fears homosexuals; others today say that he himself was a homosexual. Some modern scholars say that he was a misogynist – one who hates women. Other scholars have judged him to be judgmental, hateful, self-righteous, a prude, and a puritan.
But this man, St. Paul, who by some has been ranked the 6th most important man who ever lived, was God’s chosen instrument to do more to spread the good news of Jesus Christ than anyone who has ever lived or ever will.
This morning we celebrate the grace of God, in which we might even say that we have all been converted by St. Paul. For by his life and doctrine, God used him to do more than any other man to convert the world.
This morning, we are challenged to follow the example of St. Paul in 3 things: in his conversion, in his teaching, and in his sacrificial life.
We are to follow St. Paul in his conversion. You might remember the story. Saul of Tarsus was on the road to Damascus to rustle up a few more Christians he could herd into prison. A funny thing happened on the road to Damascus: Jesus (who is always gentle and would never raise His voice or use force) smacked him down!
It is one of the most dramatic conversions in history and certainly the most famous one.
But how can we follow St. Paul in this? He’s a tough act to follow, as they say. If you’re like me, you may not have had a dramatic conversion to Christ. I used to lament this fact. I used to think that I wasn’t quite as good as the other people in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship who often had conversion stories. And then it dawned on me: I had the best conversion story of all. Best for me, though not best for those who hear the story. Wanna hear it?
Here it is. I grew up in a Christian home and don’t remember a day when I didn’t believe in Jesus Christ.
That’s it. Not very glamorous is it? It won’t sell well. But I wouldn’t trade it for all of
the former murder/pimp/drug user/dealer stories in the world. My story displays God’s grace and glory as much or not more: to think that He’s had me from the beginning of my life and has never let go!
The point at which St. Paul’s story and mine are the same is that conversion is the work of God, and not of men. It’s no credit to Paul that God knocked him down or that God sovereignly reached down and changed the course of Paul’s life and human history. In your life, conversion is also the work of God.
As with Paul, you should seek to respond to God’s work in your life. St. Paul, when he was Saul, was a fire-breathing dragon of Satan, and yet God converted him. If you respond to God in faith, He will convert, though in a unique way.
We’re to follow St. Paul in his teaching. Paul was not only the greatest missionary but also the most important theologian. Of 27 New Testament books, 13 – almost half – of them were written by St. Paul. It’s St. Paul who taught us about justification by faith alone; it’s St. Paul who taught us about the atoning work of Christ on the cross; and it’s St. Paul who has taught us most about the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.No wonder in the Collect for Day we pray that “having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught.”
When you are converted by Jesus Christ, you won’t be made a super apostle by God. But you can share in the teaching of St. Paul. You can believe the same things that God Himself revealed supernaturally to St. Paul especially. And you can share the teaching of Jesus Christ through Paul with others.
We should also follow St. Paul in his sacrificial life. To become a Christian and apostle, Paul gave up his friends. He gave up a respected position as a Pharisee among Pharisees. He was a rising star in 1st century Judaism. But he was willing to give everything up for the sake of Jesus Christ (consider the sufferings of St. Paul as he recounts them in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).
God may not ask you to be shipwrecked or imprisoned or beaten or whipped like St. Paul.
But He does ask you to give up your life to him.
How should we respond to the example of St. Paul?
While you glory in and admire His conversion, you should respond to the work of conversion God is doing in your life. Pray for the Holy Spirit to begin and continue His work of conversion in your heart.
As you hear the teaching of St. Paul preached and taught, you should seek to study the things for which Paul was willing to die. Diligently search the Scriptures and the teachings of the Church that you might love your God all the more.
When you hear about Paul’s life of sacrifice, you should vow to follow his godly example, as he himself commands us to do. Offer yourself to God this day.
God did a mighty work in the life of St. Paul. He converted one of the hardest cases of all time. And from the conversion of St. Paul came the teaching of St. Paul.
And whether you know it or not, in some way, shape, or form, God probably used the teaching of St. Paul in your conversion. And from your conversion ought to come the teaching of Paul – the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, that everyone around you may be converted to God.
This morning, we honor the memory St. Paul. Let’s honor him in our lives and, more importantly, honor God in our lives, by following St. Paul in his conversion, his teaching, and his life of sacrifice.
Prayer: O God, who, by the preaching of thine apostle Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
1. What is your conversion story? How does it displays God’s grace and love in your life?
2. Share your conversion story with someone today or the next opportunity you have.
Resolution: I resolve to find one part of St. Paul’s life that inspires me and allow God to use it to provoke me to do His will in one way today.