And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.
Jesus came to Paul to make him into something completely different from what he had been. Without Christ’s intervention, he would have continued on his way and perhaps never come to believe on Jesus. He would have continued persecuting Christians, a zealous Jew upholding what he thought was right and sacred.
But Jesus had a different purpose for Paul and his life. He wanted to make Paul into a minister and a witness, and Paul embraced that role as a servant of Christ. This high-ranking Pharisee would bow to a new Lord and move in a different direction from that day forth. He was to tell others what Jesus taught him. He was sent to the Gentiles to open their eyes and introduce them to the light, as he had seen the light himself. He was to help free them from the power of Satan and help them come to know Jesus so they could be saved and forgiven.
We all have a past. Even if we didn’t fall into some extreme sin or a sinful lifestyle, we have all rebelled and sinned and failed God at one point or another. The good news is that our past actions don’t disqualify us from pursuing God’s purpose for our lives. The good news is that who we were before knowing Christ does not mean we cannot be made new in Him and set on a different path. It may have seemed unlikely that Saul of Tarsus would become a minister to the Gentiles, but through the working of Jesus, that is exactly what happened.
It is Jesus who makes us into what He has planned for us to be. Sometimes it’s despite our past. Sometimes He uses things from our past to propel us forward into that calling He has for us. After all, He is a God who works all things together in a way we often can’t imagine ourselves. As Paul recounted this story of his conversion to the highest authorities in Rome, he could honestly say that God kept His word. Paul was used greatly because he was willing to divert from his own path and take the one God would have for him instead. Jesus had a mission for Paul, and He called him to it and prepared him for it. Jesus has a mission for each of us, uniquely suited to us despite where we’ve come from and what we’ve already done with our lives. And He will prepare us for it and be with us in it every step of the way.