Saint Paul’s transformation and life mission were profoundly shaped by a singular, pivotal encounter—his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus. This moment of revelation made him realize that his fervent dedication and dynamic energy had been misdirected, akin to a boxer punching aimlessly. Despite possibly never having seen Jesus, who was just a few years his senior, Paul had developed an intense animosity toward everything Jesus embodied, leading him to persecute the early Church fervently, as described in Acts 8:3b.
However, this intense encounter led to a radical internal shift. Paul felt as if he was overtaken, his entire being and purpose now aligned singularly towards serving Christ, engaging in the ministry of reconciliation, and aiding others in discovering the singular Savior.
The crux of his theological understanding was encapsulated in the profound revelation, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5b). This statement illuminated for Paul how Jesus was intimately connected with the people he had been persecuting, representing the mysterious culmination of everything Paul had been zealously, albeit blindly, pursuing.
From that moment forward, Paul dedicated himself to the mission of “present[ing] everyone perfect in Christ. For this I labor and struggle, in accord with the exercise of his power working within me” (Colossians 1:28b-29), ensuring that the gospel was not just preached but also experienced powerfully and persuasively, as echoed in 1 Thessalonians 1:5a.
Paul’s life henceforth was an unwavering declaration and embodiment of the message of the cross: through baptism, Christians symbolically die to sin and are interred with Christ. They renounce everything sinful and unredeemed in the world, transitioning into a new creation, already partaking in Christ’s triumph and destined to rise from death just as he did. Through the resurrected Christ, God bestows the Spirit upon them, rejuvenating them entirely.
Therefore, Paul’s profound message to humanity was clear: Salvation is entirely an act of God, not something one can achieve. It’s a gift of complete, freely given, personal, and loving dedication to Christ, a commitment that naturally leads to greater deeds than any law could ever stipulate or foresee.
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