Paul: The “Rock Star” of the New Testament

Paul before his conversion

The story of Paul is the classic “poacher turned gamekeeper” tale. In his early life, Paul was called Saul, or more completely, “Saul of Tarsus.” A Roman citizen of Jewish ancestry, he was raised and educated as a Pharisee, a member of the group which, together with the Sadducees, brought about the crucifixion of Jesus. He was a man of unusual ability, excelling among his peers, and his enthusiasm for Judaism and the Law lead him to actively persecute the followers of Jesus and the early church. He was present at the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, and was responsible for the imprisonment and beatings of many others.

Paul Sees the Post-resurrection Jesus

On a journey to Damascus to further persecute Christians, Paul had an encounter with Jesus which left him with temporary blindness and an unquestionable realization of the Truth in the Word of Jesus. The dramatic nature of Paul’s conversion to Christianity has resulted in a reference to “the Road to Damascus” becoming a popular metaphor for any sudden human transformation of ideas or ideals. Yet in his book, The Resurrection of the Son of God, Wright describes Paul as not “’changing religions’, but receiving, so he believed, a fuller revelation from the god he had always worshipped.”[1] The “revelation, not conversion” theme continues when, in his subsequent testimony, Paul told of his new found knowledge coming, not from “flesh and blood”, but by revelation from Jesus, “For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.”(Gal. 1:12) The fact that it was not just a change of heart, but a comprehensive understanding of the meaning of Christianity, that was imparted, appears to support this. Furthermore, in the first verses of 2 Corinthians, chapter 12, Paul talks, in an account thinly disguised as being in the third person, of an out-of-this-world experience in the “third heaven”.[2]

Paul After His Revelation

After being the worst enemy of the early church, Paul became its strongest and most skilled advocate. The “poacher” referred to above would have a complete and personal knowledge of the ways of the poacher, and this, when becoming a “gamekeeper”, would be of enormous value. In a similar way, Paul was able to use his old knowledge and scholarship to support his exceptional prowess in his new role. His new understanding could, conceivably, have answered many of the questions that had troubled him before, and he was now in a position to pass on these answers with a measure of authority.

Paul’s travels and writings were a major part of the growth of the early church, and his writings form the backbone of the New Testament. As a biblical author, Paul is credited with writing 13 (14, if Hebrews is included) of the 27 books in the New Testament, more than anyone else, although statistics indicate that Luke wrote more of the original Greek New Testament words than Paul did.[3]

What Does This Mean for Us?

Paul’s conversion was symbolic of the opportunity God offers to all of us. Paul was originally an enemy of God, but was ignorant of the Truth. (1 Tim. 1:13) When presented with the truth in Jesus, he immediately repented and became an obedient servant of God. Following this, the Lord guided him into a growing understanding of what it means to be a citizen of God’s Kingdom. In a similar way, we, as sinners in this world and ignorant of the Word of God, will at times be presented with the Truth and have opportunities to repent and become obedient to God. If we accept this opportunity and become a Christian, we will be welcomed, and our own, personal, journey of growth will begin.

[1] Nicholas T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, (Fortress Press, MN), 2003, (p. 376).

[2] Ibid., (p. 387).

[3] Felix Just, September 2, 2005,, accessed November 14, 2016.