By Nick Batzig
I like to remind the members of our church that three of the foremost authors of Scripture were murders: Moses, David, and Paul. This is important. The grace of God can only be understood adequately against the background of our own unworthiness. Of these three men, the grace of God is most fully displayed in the conversion and calling of the one who would come to be known as “the Apostle Paul.”
While Saul of Tarsus was on his way to arrest Christians in Damascus, Jesus arrested him and brought him to his knees. There is something wonderful about the way God’s sovereign grace is displayed here. Saul did nothing to contribute to his own redemption. He was not seeking after Jesus; rather, he was seeking to destroy the work of Jesus (Acts 9:5).
The conversion of Saul is a beautiful picture of the interruption of grace. Jesus interrupted Saul’s ambitions and plans. Jesus invaded Saul’s life in order to remake him.
Blinded and brought to his knees, Saul cried out, “Who are you Lord?” (v. 5) and “What would you have me do” (v. 6)? These are the two questions that all men must ask. The answers to these two questions are the ground upon which the Christian life is built. Saul learned the answers to those questions on that particular day on the Damascus Road. When Jesus reveals Himself to us, we also learn the answers to those questions in our spiritual experience.
We can, however, see another aspect of grace in Saul’s Damascus Road experience.
There was converting grace on the Damascus Road, but there was also calling grace. The day of Saul’s redemption was the day of his being called by Christ into gospel ministry. What more grand display of God’s grace than that He should take the chief persecutor of the Church and make him into the chief laborer in the Church for the salvation of the nations.
Having sent Saul to be baptized by a believer named Ananias, Jesus revealed His plan for Saul. He explained to Ananias that this one who had persecuted the church was, “a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (v. 15). How amazing that God’s converting grace is followed by His calling grace. Not only does God redeem the worst of sinners, His grace can make them instantly useful in His kingdom.
This usefulness would not come without suffering. We know how much the great Apostle Paul did ultimately suffer for the name of Christ (v. 16); but, we also see how he endured that suffering with joy and purpose.
Many years after his conversion and calling, the Apostle Paul would reflect on his former life and see in it the purposes of God for the salvation of others. When writing to his young protégée, Timothy, Paul wrote: “for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:16).
When Jesus met Saul of Tarsus on the Damascus road, He made him the great example of the precious biblical truth, “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20).
This is the same grace we, too, rely upon.
Written By Nick Batzig