Open Your Bible
Acts 9:1-30, Acts 13:1-12, 2 Corinthians 11:18-31, 2 Timothy 4:6-8
Have you ever been to a gym with a coaching program that promises personal transformation? I’ve known people who have signed up for those, and it often works. Over the course of six weeks, their bodies went from looking like they had never set foot in a gym to approaching model-worthy. Unfortunately, most of the time, the results didn’t last. Because the thing with transformation is that it requires you to stay committed far beyond the accountability that a six-week program offers.
Unlike a fitness routine, Paul’s inner transformation was lasting. It was so quick it’s almost unbelievable. If we didn’t have his full ministry story, thanks to the New Testament, we might be more skeptical. Who is this guy who suddenly decided he was on the same team as Christ’s followers? One day he’s breathing threats and murder and the next he’s proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues (Acts 9:1, 20). What made the difference?
Christ made the difference. His calling on Paul’s life is what changed him, as God commissioned him to be a “chosen instrument” and take His name to “Gentiles, kings, and Israelites” (Acts 9:15), when Paul encountered a light from heaven. Once he’d encountered the true, living Christ, Paul never went back to his old ways of living.
Understandably, Paul received distrust from those who only knew him as a murderer, and so he had to rest in the knowledge that God knew his heart and its transformation. That’s what mattered most. God was his defender and advocate and, as we see from Barnabus’s response, He sent people from Paul’s community to advocate for him too (Acts 9:27). No matter how unbelievable it looked, the apostle’s transformation was real.
We are human beings who will inevitably fall short. There is grace for that. When it’s merely our own resolve that gets us into the gym or prompts us to give up something, the results may or may not be what we’d hope for. But when it’s God who calls us into something, there is a much better success rate. When it comes to that kind of supernatural spiritual transformation, He alone completes the work and deserves all the glory (2Corinthians 11:30–31).