Last Sunday I had the opportunity to preach. The text I used was Acts 9:1-6 and the title I gave my sermon was “The Most Unlikely Convert.” The text is the conversion story of Saul. I talked about how unlikely it was that Saul became a Christian. I looked a bit at Saul from Acts 7 and 8, and also the accounts of his conversion in Acts 22 and 26. The account in Acts 9 is in Luke’s words, while in the latter accounts Luke presents Saul’s conversion in Saul’s words.
Saul calls himself the “foremost” of sinners. And the evidence presented in the Bible demonstrates that by any objective measure he was a pretty bad man. (In God’s eyes there is no gradation of sin. All sin is offensive to God. That is a topic for separate post.)
When we read the passage in Acts we see something pretty interesting. Verses 5 and 6 read:
“And he [Saul] said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Right there, in between the end of verse 5 and the beginning of verse 6, everything changes. Saul has been taken from being a persecutor of the church to being someone who receives instructions from Jesus. In the subsequent verses, and throughout the New Testament, we see that Saul has become someone who loves and serves Jesus with all of his heart. He has crossed over from unbelief to belief, and he never goes back.
The other thing besides the simple fact of Saul’s conversion is that Saul was converted without any action on his own part. Jesus never asks Saul what he would prefer. Saul doesn't ask for faith in Jesus. Jesus just inserts Himself into Saul’s life, and Saul’s life is never the same.
In my sermon I talked some about the implications of Saul’s conversion for us today.
But the next day there was the bombing at the Boston Marathon.
The bombing was a heinous act. People were killed. People were injured physically. People were injured emotionally and psychologically. In our nation many emotions have been expressed, including outrage, sorrow, fear and calls for justice. Law enforcement agencies are working to solve this crime and bring the person/persons responsible to justice. There have been calls to pray for those affected by the bombing.
Amidst all that I have heard about the bombing over the past two days I have also saw a friend post this comment on Facebook:
“So, who is praying for the miserable bombers? May God redeem them and cheat the devil of their souls as He comforts their victims.”
I believe that this is a crime that will be solved, in terms of finding those guilty and holding them accountable. But I am also joining in the prayer of my friend, and praying for the salvation of those who committed the crime, for no sinner is beyond the ability of God to convert to faith.
Not the thief on the cross. Not Saul. Not even me.
As Saul’s story reminds us, conversion from unbelief to belief is not based on merit but on God’s gracious work. Every conversion story is the salvation of an unlikely convert. And all who are saved are saved by God, through an act of His gracious, merciful love, to His eternal glory. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.