From Persecutor to Preacher

Written by Frank Jamerson.

In Acts 9:1, we read that Saul was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” but twenty verses later he was preaching in the synagogue that Christ is the Son of God (v. 20). What caused this drastic change in the life of Saul?

George Lyttleton (Jan. 17, 1709—Aug. 22, 1773), a skeptic in England decided to investigate the story of Saul’s conversion with the view of disproving it. He presented four possible explanations of the change in Saul from persecutor to preacher.

One possibility was that Saul was an imposter. Lyttleton raised the question of motive. Was Saul interested in gaining material wealth through this change? Nothing in his life indicates this, rather his life indicates the opposite (1 Cor. 4:11,12; 2 Cor. 12:14). He also discussed desire for reputation, power and gratification of some passion but concluded  none of these fit the life of Paul.

The second possibility was that he was an enthusiast. In other words, he imagined that he had seen the Lord. People do imagine things, but Saul had none of the characteristics of people who make such claims and the last person he would have expected to see was Jesus! If he imagined this experience, how do we explain those with him  seeing the light and hearing, but not understanding the voice and the blindness and restoration of sight?

The third possibility he examined was the Saul was deceived by believers. He concluded it would have been morally and physically impossible for them to have produced those events.

The fourth possible explanation for the change in Saul is that he saw and heard what he reported. If that is true, the only reasonable conclusion is the Jesus arose from the dead and that the gospel of Christ is true. Lyttleton became a believer!

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