Called or Converted?

A lot has been written over the past few decades about the nature of Paul’s Damascus road event. Was Paul called or converted? I guess how you answer that really depends on how you see the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. If you see a lot of continuity – you might say that he was “called” to fulfill Judaism’s original mandate of being a nation which exists for the nations of the world. if you don’t see a lot of continuity – you could say he was converted away from Pharasaism towards Christianity. Regardless of what you believe – it is without a doubt that Paul experienced something that radically changed him – his understanding of himself – his understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth is – and his understanding of who these Christ followers were. So what really caused this change?

Michael Bird answers that question is marvelous fashion…

But what caused Paul to reconfigure his biography, reverse his allegiances and pursue the proclamation of the good news in the face of deadly opposition? The answer is that a ferocious force had seized and turned him inside out, upside down, and spun him round half a dozen times. This encounter with the risen Jesus had an enormous impact on his continuing religious experience of God, on his missionary drive, and upon his theological reflection about God, Israel, Torah, and salvation. That grace event killed Saul the Pharisee and birthed Paul the apostle. (IP, 37)

I absolutely love the imagery Bird uses here…

A ferocious force had seized him and turned him inside out, upside down, and spun him round half a dozen times.

What was this ferocious force? It was an encounter with the risen Jesus. Isn’t that the pattern of all of our salvation? We encounter the risen Jesus in a new way – and life is never the same.

May we all continue to experience Christ in that way daily!


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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