CASE-03 - Saul of Tarsus
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CASES OF CONVERSION
To one of the greatest enemies of Christianity the Lord and Savior Jesus
Christ said, “Saul Saul why are you persecuting me?” Saul responded by
saying, “Who are you Lord?” “I'm Jesus whom you are persecuting It's hard
for you to kick against the goads.” And with the right heart and intent Saul
said, “Lord what would you have me to do?” Acts 9:4-6.
We welcome you today to our study of cases of conversion in the
New Testament. We’re thinking about one of the most serious of all
subjects: What must a person do to be saved?
We encourage you to tune in and open your hearts and minds with
us, as we study this wonderful subject from the word of God together.
When you think about the example of Saul, as an example of how to
be saved, there are so many things that make Saul a practical lesson for us
to learn. First and foremost, Saul stands out as a wonderful example of
salvation, because like all of us Saul had a sinful past he had to deal with.
I've had sin to deal with. You’ve had sin to deal with. Anyone who's of an
accountable age has had to deal with sin. The Bible says, “All have sinned
and fallen short of the glory of God.” No doubt Saul serves as an example
of that. Do you remember the words of 1 Timothy chapter 1 verse 15? The
Scripture says, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance that
Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief.”
Like men and women today, Paul had to deal with the sting and the
overwhelming effects of sin. In fact, Paul had lived a pretty ugly past as it
related to sin. 1 Timothy 1:13 Paul said, “I was formerly a blasphemer, an
insolent man, and injurious to the cause of Christ.” You can think in the
New Testament about what Paul did that would make him feel this way. For
example, In Acts 7 Saul is holding the coats of those who stoned Stephen
to death. He's an accessory to their murder. We open up to Acts 8, and the
Bible says that Saul is wreaking havoc on the church, dragging men and
women to prison. In Acts 9 he has official letters from the synagogue, from
the high priest, that if he finds any who are of the way, he can bind them
and takes them to Jerusalem. And likely some of those would even lose
their life for the cause of Christ.
As we think today about Saul of Tarsus, who eventually becomes the
great apostle Paul, let's realize we can relate to Saul, because like Saul, all
of us have felt the sting and the weight of sin. “The wages of sin is death,”
Romans 6:23. “My sins are gone over my head,” the psalmist said, “like a
heavy burden, they're too heavy for me to bear,” Psalm 37 and Psalm 38.
When we think about sin we can relate to Paul, because Paul had done a
lot of horrible things in his life.
And friend, listen carefully, sometimes I hear people say ‘I'm too bad
for God to save. I've done too many things that are wrong. I've lived a
reprobate life, and there's no way God could save me.’ If God can save
Saul, I promise you God can save you. Each of us need to realize and take
comfort in the fact that yes, regardless of what we've done, we can be
Now Jesus spoke to Paul, “Go into the city and I'll tell you what you
must do.” But you know, as we think about what Saul had to do to be
saved, he first and foremost had to be confronted by Christ. He had to hear
the voice of Christ literally. Christ spoke to him, “Saul Saul why are you
persecuting me? ‘Who are you Lord?’ I'm Jesus.” For men and women to
be saved, they've got to turn their ear and their attention to the voice of
God and the voice of Christ. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing
and hearing by the word of God.” Today if you will hear His voice the
psalmist said, “Do not harden your hearts,” Psalm 95:6. The Scripture says
in Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it's impossible to please God, for he that
comes to Him must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those
who diligently seek Him.” And so, just as Jesus or just as Saul, turned his
attention to the voice of Jesus and the word of God, for men and women to
be saved, we've got to do the same thing.
On matters of salvation, where do I need to look? The Bible! This
book has the way of salvation, the gospel is God's power to save, Romans
1:16. I don't need books of men. I don't need opinions of men. I don't need
commentaries or catechisms or all these doctrines written by men. The
Bible alone is able to save us. That that's why God wrote the Bible. Do you
remember John 20:30-31? The Scripture says this, “Truly many other signs
Jesus did in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this
book,” but listen to this, “these are written that you may believe that Jesus
is the Christ the son of God and that believing you may have life in His
name.” So, to be saved I've got to give attention to the word of God. It's the
only way, the only book that can save me.
But friend, like Saul, let's realize to be saved we've got to believe in
Jesus. It’s not enough just to hear the word of God; I've got to commit to
the fact that Jesus is Lord and Christ. He's the Savior of the world. Did Saul
do that? You bet he did! Can you imagine walking down the road to
Damascus; there he hears that voice, “‘Why are you persecuting me?’
‘Who are you Lord?’ ‘I'm Jesus’ ‘Lord what would you have me to do?’“ To
be saved, just like Saul, you've got a recognize Jesus is your Lord. You've
got to recognize He's the Savior. He is the Christ. He's the only one who
can bring salvation to you by His death, burial, and resurrection. You know,
when we talk about believing, we sure want to emphasize just as the
Scripture does that to be saved you've got to believe in Jesus as the only
way of salvation.
Another account of salvation in the book of Acts is found in Acts 8.
We've got Philip teaching the Ethiopian eunuch, and they're traveling down
the road. He's been teaching about Christ, and in the distant, he's heard
about Christ, how to be saved, how to get into Christ, and he says, “Look
here's water what doth hinder me?” And you remember Peter's answer, a
Philip's answer? “If you believe with all your heart you may,” Acts 8:37.
John 8:24 Jesus said, “Unless,” here is the condition, “Unless you believe
that I'm He you'll surely die in your sins.”
Now friend, I also want to mention to you today that the Bible
teaches, while belief is essential, salvation doesn't stop at belief is not the
only thing you've got a do to be saved. Some people say, ‘well all you got a
do to be saved is believe.’ Not what the Scripture says. In fact, I want to
direct your attention to a passage in the book of James. Would you look in
James 2 with me? I want you to notice what the Scripture says about the
idea of ‘faith only’ in James chapter 2:24. The word of God records in
James 2:24, “You see then that a man is justified by works and not by faith
alone.” What does God say about faith alone? You know I hear it a lot. I
hear people say, ‘you want to be saved all you got to do is believe in Jesus
just trust Jesus and you'll be saved.’ Wait a minute now! The only time the
Bible says ‘faith alone,’ God says we see that a man is not justified by faith
alone. There something we must do to obey the gospel and the Scripture
clearly teaches what that is.
Now relating directly to Saul of Tarsus and his account of salvation,
sometimes along with the ideas of ‘faith only’ I hear people talk about
saying the sinner’s prayer. For example, people saying you need to say the
sinners prayer, meaning that you need to say, ‘Lord Jesus I recognize you
as Savior I put my trust in you for salvation I ask you now to come into my
heart and save me and then they usually end that in Jesus name.’ Is that
really what the Bible teaches about salvation? I remember specifically, I
was preaching at a gospel meeting in a place one time, and I'd I taught
from the Scripture that you don't find the sinners' prayer anywhere in the
Bible. I said you can look from Genesis 1:1 to the very last word verse in
Revelation 22, and nowhere in the pages of Bible do you find the sinner’s
prayer. After the meeting was over a lady made a beeline right to me. She
said, ‘Preacher,’ she said, ‘I heard what you said about the sinners' prayer.’
I said, ‘Well that’s good. I hope you'll check it in the Bible.’ And she said, ‘I
going to go home and asked my pastor.’ I said, ‘Well you do that you go
home and ask him, and whatever verses he gives you, I want you to bring
those back tomorrow night and let's talk about them.’ And so the next night
comes and as soon as she gets there she makes a beeline right for me.
She says, ‘Preacher,’ she said, ‘I asked my pastor.’ And she used those
words loosely, as you understand. She said, ‘I asked my pastor about the
sinners' prayer, and he said you was right. And I told him he was a liar.’
Friend, that's a person that's been teaching for probably multiplied
years to all whole lot of people that to be saved, all you got to do is say the
sinner’s prayer. If there was ever a person who said a whole lot of sinners'
prayers, I'll guarantee it was Saul of Tarsus. Look in your Bible in Acts 9. I
want you to notice what the Scripture says in verses 11 and 12. Acts
chapter 9:11-12. “So the Lord said to him, ‘Arise,’ this is Ananias, ‘Arise go
to the street called Straight inquire the house of Judas for one called Saul
of Tarsus,’ ” watch this now, “for behold he is praying.’ ” When we think
about Saul of Tarsus, and in what he did from the time the Lord confronted
him, until his sins are washed away in the waters of baptism, Acts 22:16,
and was Saul praying at that time? Oh there's no doubt. Saul realized he
was a sinner. He realized he was in need of salvation. He was praying, but
was he saved at the point of prayer? Ananias still had to go to him, still had
to tell them what to do to have a sins washed away. Thus, as we've said it
in the Scripture, the Bible does not teach the sinners' prayer. You don't find
it anywhere in Scripture, like you hear people saying today. That's not a
part of God's plan of salvation.
Now let me also give you some examples, just by way of reference,
to show that to be saved it's not enough just to believe or say the sinners'
prayer. In fact, there are people who did believe and were still lost. Let me
give you one clear example. Matthew 10:32-33 Jesus said, “If you confess
me before men I'll also confess you before my father who is in heaven, but
if you deny me before men I'll also deny you before my father who is in
heaven.” So if I confess Christ, He'll confess me. If I deny Christ, he'll deny
me. Now think about these words, John 8:30 from the teaching of Jesus,
the Bible says, “Many believed in him but because of the Pharisees they
would not confess him lest they be put out of the synagogue.” What about
these people? John 12:42, what about those people who believed in Christ
but wouldn't confess him? If belief alone is true, at the point of their belief
they should have been saved. Yet, Jesus has already said, ‘You won't
confess me, you won't be saved.’ Because of the Pharisees, they wouldn't
confess him. Could they be saved? Is belief alone enough there to save
them? No, just recognizing Jesus is the son of God, the Scriptures do not
teach that's all you got to do to be saved, and we learn that from the
account of Saul of Tarsus.
Well what else did Saul have to do? There's no doubt it was obvious
that Saul had to be penitent and had to repent of the things he had done.
Acts 9:6, “Lord what would you have me to do?” At that point, Paul realizes
what I'm doing's not right. I need to make changes. What are those
changes? Acts 9:11, Saul is praying about God's will to be done, no doubt
and for changes to occur in his life. Saul is ready to repent. You can look at
his life and see that he does just that. For a person to be saved they must
change their way of thinking and change their way of acting. What if Saul of
Tarsus heard the voice of Jesus realized, it was truth and believed in
Christ, and then went right out and started doing the things he'd been
doing? Would that be pleasing to God? Of course not! Did Paul have to
stop persecuting Christians, and turn to Christ and start serving him?
Absolutely! Friend, that's what repentance is. The Bible teaches one must
repent to be saved. Acts 2:38 the Scripture says, “Repent and be baptized
for the remission of sins.” Is repentance essential for the remission of sins?
Absolutely it is. Acts 3:19 Peter preached, “Repent and turn again that your
sins may be blotted out.” And of course the example of Jesus. Luke 13,
certain people come to Jesus and really and kind of looks like they want to
elevate themselves. They want to look down other people. And so they say
to Jesus, ‘What about these 18 people who are walking on the road and at
out of nowhere a tower falls on them?’ In essence, they're saying wasn't
that God's vengeance on them? ‘What about these people who had their
blood mingled with their sacrifice? Wasn't that your divine wrath coming out
on those people?’ You know what Jesus said in verse 3 and verse 5?
Jesus completely ignores those people. He says this, “Unless you repent,
you will all likewise perish.”
Repentance is not just crying a bunch of tears. It's not just being
sorry. ‘Godly sorrow produces repentance,’ 2 Corinthians 7:10. You can
feel bad about sin. You can even be brought to the point of tears. You can
feel sorrow over that, but if one doesn't change he hasn't repented. For
Godly sorrow produces repentance. What does it produce? A changed way
of life. That's what repentance is all about. I change my way of thinking,
and I change my way of acting and amend that to God's way of thinking
and God's way of acting. Paul had to repent of those things he had done
wrong. Was it necessary for Saul of Tarsus to confess Christ? You bet it
was! Do you remember again Acts 9:5-6? “Saul Saul why are you
persecuting me?” “Who are you Lord?” “I am Jesus whom you're
persecuting it's hard for you to kick against the goads.” And then Saul says,
once he realizes who it is, “Lord what would you have me to do?” to be
right with you, in essence. Saul had to confess Jesus as the Lord, as the
Christ, as the master and Savior of his life. And as we've already
suggested throughout the Scriptures you find that. Romans 10:10 the
Scripture says, “With the heart, the mind, one believes unto righteousness
and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Must I confess with
my mouth Jesus is the son of God? Absolutely! Jesus said, “If you won't
confess me before men, neither will I confession you before my father who
is in heaven,” Matthew 10:32-33. Like the Ethiopian eunuch who boldly
proclaimed, ‘I believe Jesus is the Christ the son of the living God,’ so men
and women today must realize Jesus is God's son the Savior of the world.
Did Saul's conversion end there? No, remember Saul at this point
has heard the word of God. At this point Saul believed Jesus is the Christ
now. He's been converted on the road to Damascus to who Christ is. He's
willing to repent and make changes in his life. He's acknowledged the
Lordship of Jesus, and confessed him. Are his sins washed away at this
point? Not according to the Scripture. Now remind you of the question,
remind you of the question, Acts 9:6 Saul said, “Lord what would you have
me to do?” And here's Jesus' response, ‘You go into the street called
straight, go to the house of Simon the Tanner and stay there and I’ll and it
will be told you what you must do.’ The Lord said to him, ‘I'm going to tell
you what I want you to do.’ When do we find God telling Saul of Tarsus
what he wanted him to do to be right with him? In Acts 22:16. God sends
His servant Ananias directly to Saul with a message. Let's look at that
message. Would you look in Acts 22:16 with me? Saul recounts his
conversion and here's what Ananias and God said to Saul, Ananias comes
and says, ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash
away your sins calling on the name the Lord.’ ‘Lord what you want me to
do? You go to this house. I'm going to tell you what you must do. Arise and
be baptized, wash away your sins calling on the name the Lord.’
Friend, I want you to listen very carefully, as we think about this very
important subject there's a host of ideas out there that are flat-out wrong.
They're going to lead people to condemnation on the Day of Judgment as it
relates to salvation. But what I want to focus on today is, does the Bible,
and that's all we're worried about, does the Bible teach one must be
baptized to have his sins washed away? “Arise and be baptized, wash
away your sins.” Now listen carefully, is it sin that separates a man from
God? Isaiah answers that question for us. God says through Isaiah in
Isaiah 59:1-2, “The Lord's ears are not heavy that it cannot hear His arms
not shortened that it cannot save, but your sins and your iniquities have
separated you from your God.” It is the case that sin separates a man from
Now if that's true, and it is, then friend if I can know the moment in
time, the moment in conversion, when sins are removed, I can know
exactly when a person is saved. When is that? “Arise and be baptized,”
listen now, “wash away your sins calling on the name of the Lord.” The
Bible doesn't teach baptism is just something good to do. The Bible doesn't
teach it's an outward expression of inward grace, as some will say.
The Scriptures teach a person, listen carefully now, the Scriptures
teach a person cannot be saved before he's baptized. Are we saying you
earn your salvation? Of course not! No different than hearing the word, no
different than believing in Jesus, no different than repenting of sin, it is a
condition I must meet. But the Scripture says it is a condition essential to
salvation. I'm not saved until my sins are washed away. When are my sins
washed away? At the point of baptism. Now this is not the only time the
Bible teaches this.
As we thought about cases of conversion in our last lesson, we
looked at Acts 2. We thought about on the day of Pentecost, that for the
very first time the gospel is preached. What were these men and women
told to do? ‘Repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins,’ Acts
2:38. Listen to the harmony, ‘Arise and be baptized have your sins washed
away repent and be baptized for the remission of your sins.’ Mark 16:16
Jesus said, “He that believes and is baptized will be saved.” Not believe
alone, not be baptized alone, ‘he that believes and is baptized will be
saved,’ Mark 16:16.
To illustrate that baptism is essential to salvation; let me remind you
of this 2 Timothy 1:10 following teaches that salvation is in Christ. Imagine
this circle represents Christ and inside this circle where Christ is salvation.
And I'm outside the circle. How do I get into Christ? Galatians 3:27 tells us,
‘As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves
with Christ.’ Is it essential to be in Christ to be saved? Absolutely! How do
you get in Christ? You're baptized into the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Friend I don't know that we could say it with any more clarity than 1 Peter
3:21 says, “Baptism,” listen now “there is also an antitype which now saves
us, baptism, not the removal of the filth the flesh but the answer of a good
conscience toward up toward God.” King James Version says, “Baptism
does now also save us.” If the Bible says ‘baptism does now also save us’
in essence baptism saves us, why would anybody dare say baptism is not
essential to salvation? Again, are we saying that when I've been baptized I
can look up to heaven and say, ‘God I've done this work, you owe it to me.’
No, we're not saying it's something you earn. Luke 17:10 says, ‘when you
done all those things say I'm an unprofitable servant I've only done that
which is God's which is my duty to do. I've only done that which God
required of me.’ Have I earned it? No but is it necessary? Friend just
believing, did you know, believing is a work of God? John 6:29 Jesus said,
“This is the work of God that you believe on him whom I sent.” Some
people say you can't say baptism's essential, because then you are making
it a work and no work’s salvation. We're not saying it's a meritorious work,
by which you earn your salvation, but is in a conditional work. Is belief a
conditional work? God said it was. Is baptism a condition I must meet to be
saved? Absolutely! Can I earn salvation that way? No. By grace are you
saved through faith. What's faith? “It's an obedient, trust, and response to
the will of God,” Ephesians 2:8-9 says. Peter said, “The answer of a good
conscience toward God,” 1 Peter 3:21.
As we think today about cases of conversion in the New Testament,
we look to the book of Acts, because it's the book that tells one, what must
I do to be saved. Here’s what we challenge you today with, we challenge
each of ourselves with this, and each of us is responsible to look to the
word of God. 2 Corinthians 13:5 says, “Test yourself, and examine yourself
to see whether you're in the faith.”
Today we ask you to stop for just a moment, and I want you to think
about your own salvation experience, your own conversion, what did you
do to be saved? Or maybe somebody told you to say the sinners' prayer
and you'd be saved. Where is that at in the Bible? Maybe somebody told
you all you got to do is believe in Jesus to be saved. We've seen faith only
won't work. Maybe somebody told you something different whatever it was,
all I'm asking you today is this: I want you to think about your own
conversion experience and while you hold that up clear in your mind, all we
ask you to do is compare that with what we've seen in the word of God
Saul had to hear the message about Jesus. Have we listened to the
word of God and it alone? Saul had to believe Jesus was the Lord and the
Christ. Do we believe “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life no man
comes to the father except by Him,” John 14:6? Saul had to change his
way of life and not go back into his evil ways. Have we repented according
to Luke 13:3? Saul confessed Jesus as the Lord and Savior of his life.
Have we confessed Christ as Savior? Saul arose and was baptized and
had his sins washed away. Friend, have you done those things?
This is a matter of supreme importance. If you haven't obeyed God's
plan of salvation, we’re not asking you to do what we say, that's
inconsequential, and we’re asking you to do what the Bible says. And then
if you do that, you'll know God is pleased with you.
We hope you'll study with us again as we study more about the cases
of conversion in the New Testament.
Study Questions for: “Cases of Conversion: Lesson 3”
1. What are the wages of sin according to Romans 6:23?
2. According to Romans 10:17, how do we obtain Faith?
3. What is something we must do to please God according to Hebrews
4. According to John 20:30-31, why are the things Jesus did recorded for
5. What must we believe according to John 8:24?
6. What does the Bible say about “faith only” in James 2:24?
7. According to Matthew 10:32-33, what will happen if we deny Jesus
8. What must you do to be saved according to Mark 16:16?
9. How do we get into Christ according to Galatians 3:27?
10. What now saves us according to 1 Peter 3:21?