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  • Writer's pictureKatie Rose

Was Paul saved on the Road to Damascus?

Christians often refer to Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, but was he really saved at that moment or was it a few days later? Let's look at the evidence from the book of Acts.

It is helpful that the book of Acts records the story of Paul's Damascus Road experience in 3 different places (Acts 9, 22 & 26). This gives us plenty of Scripture to work with to answer the question.

In Acts 9:1-19, Luke (the author of Acts) tells the story of how Paul (called Saul) was confronted by the voice of Jesus as he neared the end of his journey to Damascus. The experience left him blinded for 3 days. During those 3 days, Paul did not eat or drink, but he did pray. It wasn't until after this that Paul recovered his sight, was filled with the Spirit, and was baptized.

In Acts 22:4-16, Luke records Paul's own telling of the Damascus Road story. We get slightly different details in this account, including Paul asking Jesus what he should do next (Jesus subsequently told him and Paul obeyed). As in Acts 9, it was Ananias who, later, commanded Paul to "be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."

In Acts 26:12-18, Luke records another time that Paul told the story in his own words. Only this time, Paul seems to shorten the story quite a bit. There is no mention of Ananias. There is no mention of a 3 day gap. I think we can safely assume that this is an abbreviated account of what actually happened. It's the "to make a long story short" version, so to speak.

So... back to the question at hand. Was Paul saved on the Road to Damascus? Acts 26 makes it sound that way, perhaps, but that is only because Paul was giving a short-form version of his testimony. Acts 9 and 22 give us more details than Acts 26. They suggest that Paul didn't call on Jesus' name for salvation, get baptized, or become filled with the Spirit, until 3 days after that Damascus Road experience that left him blind.

That being said, Paul did obey the Lord's command given to him on the road to Damascus. And he did spend those 3 days in prayer. Maybe a 'point' worth making is that a 'point' of conversion isn't always altogether clear. A first step of obedience is part of the conversion process... so is heartfelt prayer... so is calling on Jesus name for forgiveness... so is being baptized... so is evidencing the filling of the Spirit, etc.

Many of us can name a time and a place where we 'were converted', but for others conversion is more readily identified as a series of events. Paul's story, I think, can resonate with all our stories.

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