Saul was a Roman citizen who was born in Tarsus. He was a Pharisee who was an expert in Jewish Law, and he hated Christians. He dragged Christian men and women out of their houses and threw them into jail. He even stood by and watched as an angry mob stoned the disciple Stephen to death.
But Saul was not satisfied with arresting Christians in Jerusalem only. He asked the high priest to send him to the city of Damascus so that he could hunt down Christians there. As Saul got near the city, a bright light suddenly flashed all around him, and he fell to the ground. He heard a voice say: ‘Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ Saul asked: ‘Who are you?’ The answer: ‘I am Jesus. Go into Damascus, and you will learn what you must do.’ In an instant, Saul had become blind, and he had to be led by the hand into the city.
In Damascus, there was a faithful Christian named Ananias. Jesus told him in a vision: ‘Go to the house of Judas on the street called Straight, and look for Saul.’ Ananias said: ‘Lord, I know all about that man! He is throwing your disciples into prison!’ But Jesus said: ‘Go to him. I have chosen Saul to preach the good news to many nations.’
So Ananias found Saul and told him: ‘Saul, brother, Jesus has sent me to open your eyes.’ Instantly, Saul could see again. He learned about Jesus and became his follower. Now baptized as a Christian, Saul began to preach in the synagogues, along with his fellow Christians. Can you imagine how shocked the Jews were to see Saul teaching people about Jesus? They said: ‘Isn’t this the same man who used to hunt down Jesus’ disciples?’
For three years, Saul preached to the people living in Damascus. The Jews hated Saul and made plans to kill him. But the brothers learned about the plot and helped him to escape. They put him in a basket and lowered him down through a hole in the city wall.
When Saul went to Jerusalem, he tried to join the brothers there. But they were afraid of him. Then a kind disciple named Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles and convinced them that Saul had truly changed. Saul began to preach the good news zealously with the congregation in Jerusalem. Later, he became known as Paul.
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these, I am foremost.”—1 Timothy 1:15