I have been reading through Acts over the last couple of weeks and was recently reading about the conversion of Saul in Acts chapter 9. If you want to check out the story scroll to the bottom of this post.
The story of Saul’s conversion got me to thinking about how the churches I have been apart of in the past talk about conversion. We used phrases like,
“accepting Jesus into our heart’
“asking Jesus into our heart”
“saying the sinners prayer”
I could go on and on, but my point is this. We don’t see any of those kinds of things here in Saul’s story. Saul is going about his daily business of persecuting Christians and in so doing persecuting Jesus himself according to the text, and has a unique encounter with Jesus. Jesus asks him a question about persecution and then sends him on to Damascus blinded where he meets Ananias. Ananias prays and something like scales fall from Saul’s eyes. He rises, is baptized and then eats.
There is no mention of Saul accepting Jesus into his heart. Saul does not say the sinners prayer. As far as I can tell, Saul had a transformational encounter with Jesus and from then on he lived differently. As I think about it, the same is true with the disciples. We don’t see the typical churchy language at their conversions either. There was a call to follow Jesus and they did.
With this in mind, I have these questions that I am currently wrestling through. Does the way we talk about conversion in the church today match the experiences of conversion in the early church? Should it match? Have we added some things that shouldn’t be there? Are we not talking about things that should be?
1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him.4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized;
19 and taking food, he was strengthened