Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
- Acts 9:1-9
I accepted Jesus as my Savior while lying flat of my back in bed, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep, until that moment. Yet, it was made real the next morning when I read the Scripture that I had read the night before, and the Holy Spirit ‘opened my eyes’ to new understanding – that and the feeling of Joy that night that remained the next morning. But I had been praying for over a year.
Most people speak of Saul accepting Jesus as His Savior when Jesus appeared before him on the road to Damascus, but Saul was blind for three days, fasting. Could it be that it took Saul some time to work out things in his mind? I think for some people, that little detail might matter. Let me explain.
I heard a pastor say something not too long ago about how some people in the church may have had a road to Damascus conversion, from murderer to apostle (but maybe not that drastic), but most of those people in the pews grew up in the church. These church-going people had never really questioned whether Jesus existed or not or whether Jesus died for our sins. They had simply accepted those things as facts. These people did not need a bright light and Jesus standing before them.
Maybe not those words, because as the argument was raised, my mind went into a rabbit hole. In my mind, and maybe only my mind, there was a disconnect.
Biblical scholars, some of them, claim the Galileans who followed Jesus to be uneducated. These scholars argue that the disciples could not write the Gospels, due to their lack of education. These scholars seem to ignore the fact that some disciples were educated and there is not proof that the others were not. Matthew, the tax collector was probably educated. John Mark, thought to have taken dictation from Simon Peter for his Gospel, must have been a scribe, some sort of education. Luke was a physician. And without knowing for sure, I could see the Apostle John being the bookkeeper for the fishing company partnership between the sons of Zebedee and Simon Peter. But these scholars also neglect that the disciples were taught by Jesus and who knows to what lengths that the Holy Spirit might lead a person.
But could we assume (a dangerous thing to do, but just for this argument) that the apostles had no formal religious training other than being with Jesus. No Sunday school. No seminary. Maybe not a lot of Bible reading before bed.
Now let us compare that to Saul. He had a lifetime, up to that road to Damascus, of studying the inspired word of God, what we call the Old Testament. He was extremely zealous to rid the world of this heresy called the Way, or what he thought, based on his education, was heresy.
I had Timothy’s “conversion” beaten into me growing up. According to one parent, my conversion must be like Timothy’s, having the Scripture read to me and then, I was saved by the hearing of the Word of God. But many scholars say that Eunice, Lois, and Timothy probably all became Christians during Paul’s first mission journey. They had read the Scriptures. They awaited the coming of a Messiah. And they saw Jesus as the culmination of the prophecies of Holy Scripture. Thus, Timothy had the same type of conversion as Saul (then called Paul), knowing Scriptures and then seeing only one answer – just not the bright light and the face-to-face with Jesus.
But now, who is closer to being the people in the church pews? Is it Saul who was well versed in Scripture? Or is it the disciples who some think were poorly educated? Or is it Timothy, someone who had the Word read to him and the “conversion” from Jew to Christian is not addressed in Scripture?
Those people in the pews, in my opinion, could be closer to Saul than the disciples or Timothy, at least many of them. I have read and heard pastors and theologians talk about the most dangerous condition is to be well-versed in the Scriptures, with a lot of intellectual knowledge, but have an empty heart. Nothing from that knowledge soaked into the spiritual realm. Could the pews be filled with those? And could those people with only head knowledge be stirred up into a frensy, just as Saul was to stamp out the heretics?
I am asking a lot of questions and not providing answers.
All I know is that for me, I had read the Bible from cover to cover at least 15 times (a couple just the NT), when at 17 years old I came face to face with a problem. I either accepted Jesus as my Savior, totally surrendering to Him, or I would roam the earth despondent and alone. I knew there was something missing. Are those who are lost in the pews just like that? I must believe some are.
How many in those church pews thought they had God in their pocket because they were “brought up right” yet they did not have God in their hearts? In a way, they had constructed a god of their own with their intellectual knowledge, something for Sundays, and something that would leave them alone the rest of the week. But I know if I had done that, I would have gone mad.
Do we all need a Damascus? I don’t know. I have known some powerful pastors who accepted Jesus when they were half the age that I was when I accepted Him, and they were powerful messengers to a fallen world. But even then, they recognized at eight-years-old (or around then) that they were sinners and they needed God. They surrendered instead of creating a god they could control.
I do not know the answers in this post, but if you feel something is not quite right, you may have an emptiness inside that only Jesus can fill.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.