Before Paul met Christ, he had it all wrong. Not just a little wrong–he missed God’s purpose and plan altogether.
It doesn’t make sense that he was so far off the mark. He was a Pharisee, born of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was faultless as to legalistic righteousness. He was zealous for Judaism. He was tabbed as a rising star among his peers, a leader among leaders. With this pedigree, God’s purposes should have been clear to him. However, he was so far afield, he considered the murder of Stephen a godly act.
His thinking did not line up at all with God’s perspective. He knew the Old Testament Scriptures but missed the Author of those Scriptures. He embraced the law but was totally at odds with its intended purpose.
Paul heard the message, but he didn’t combine it with faith. He was too busy building a name for himself. He was too preoccupied with being the best Pharisee he could be. He was too focused on fulfilling the law and carrying out the Jewish way of life. Like the other Pharisees, Paul was diligently studying the Scriptures because he thought in them he would possess eternal life (John 5:39).
Paul needed his mind changed. He needed to repent. Repentance is an aspect of faith. To repent is to change one’s mind.
While traveling on the road to Damascus, a blinding light stopped him dead in his tracks. He heard a voice from heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
Paul responded, “Who are you, Lord?”
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.”
For Paul, this was a moment of clarity. The plan of God and the will of God was now fully in Jesus. Jesus was both Lord and God. He turned Paul from unbelief to belief. Paul experienced a complete 180-degree turn.