Acts 9:10-22 (web)
The Lord said to him in a vision, "Ananias!" He said, "Behold, it's me, Lord."
9:11 The Lord said to him, "Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight,
and inquire in the house of Judas for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus.
For behold, he is praying,
9:12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in,
and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight."
9:13 But Ananias answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man,
how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem.
9:14 Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name."
9:15 But the Lord said to him, "Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name
before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel.
9:16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name's sake."
9:17 Ananias departed, and entered into the house.
Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus.
Paul an Apostle - Why?
In view of the fact that Paul gained the position of Apostle not through faith nor any virtue of his own tells us that such a role is not born of reward but of responsibility. We saw in the case of Judas that such a role of responsibility incurs greater judgment in the end. But that possessing such a role does not guarantee that one will be saved. Paul was to be the replacement of Judas. A persecutor replaced a betrayer. Yet as an apostle Paul was to turn out much different than Judas. People are often too proud and presumptuous of their own opinions as to how they think things will turn out in the end. I wonder if God throws in surprises in life like these just to frustrate such people.
Paul was the least likely candidate to be an apostle to the Gentiles. He had not believed in Jesus during his earthly ministry despite the miracles and not only disbelieved Christians like Stephen who presented the gospel to him, but even persecuted them to the death. Furthermore he was of the religious elite of whom Jesus denounced for their hypocrisy. He certainly was not empathic towards Gentiles but was no doubt more xenophobic than the other apostles, being particularly zealous for the Law of Moses. We would think he would have turned out to be the most legalistic of the apostles. But he turned out quite differently. Paul's conversion and resultant ministry is another miraculous evidence affirming the gospel. For there is no other reasonable explanation for the transformation of this man.
It is insightful to consider also Paul's view on his being chosen:
"I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of Godís grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all Godís people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery" Eph 3:7-9His emphasis is on God's grace, not simply with respect to the forgiveness of his sins, but rather God's grace to transform him into the man he was. The gospel involves not just the forgiveness of our sins, but also the transformation of us as individuals to live a lifestyle consistent with that of a child of God. But the following verse is somewhat confusing.
"I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." ITim 1:12,13When was Paul considered "faithful"? Was it when he condoned the stoning of Stephen? Was it when he was on the road to Damascus on his way to persecute Christians? Before his commission there is no evidence of his faithfulness. And was it due to this supposed virtue of faithfulness that he was commissioned? What it could mean is that God foresaw that he would be faithful in the ministry and based on such foreknowledge chose him. After all doesn't Peter speak of the elect "chosen according to the foreknowledge of God" 1Peter 1:2.
Then he seemingly excuses himself saying that it was because of his ignorance and unbelief that he was shown mercy. But then again aren't all sins committed with an element of ignorance and unbelief? Apparently not to the same degree. For some sins are done knowingly and willfully and there are those done blindly. This is not to excuse those done blindly. Yes, they are also subject to judgment, but to a lesser degree.
"If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God." Heb 10:26,27 And "If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning." 2Peter 2:20Such would be the case if after the Damascus experience Paul rejected the faith. And let this be a warning to Christians who "trampled the Son of God under foot" leaving the faith. God will have less mercy upon such people than upon the ignorant. The more you know, the more you will be held responsible for.
God choses the Humiliated
But why would God chose an elite Pharisee, an arrogant and violent man? It seems to me such a man would be despised by the Christians. After all, he was a Pharisee. Such a word was and is not particularly honorable in the Christian community. After he became a Christian he faced a great deal of hostility both from the Jews and even from Christians who were suspicious of him. He was to be more humiliated than the other apostles. For they could speak freely in Jerusalem and they enjoyed popularity among the Christians there. But if Paul preached there he would be threatened with death. He was sent to the Gentiles, which to the other Apostles is like garbage duty. It was too humilating for them to preach to such dogs. They wouldn't even eat with the Gentiles. But Paul would become as if one of them. Though facing so much humiliation in his ministry, it could be argued today that he became the most important man in history second to Jesus. His writings have been the most read of all time. And like Jesus he became another example of God exalting the humble. So if you want to be greatly used by God, be prepared to face humiliation.