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The apostle Paul had a revelation rather than a regeneration on the road to Damascus

paulus2”I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven” (Acts 26:19)

We can read about Paul’s meeting with Jesus Christ in Acts. 9 in the Bible.

Paul was a zealous man, and he even threatened to kill the disciples of Jesus because they were Christians. He was on his way to Damascus where he would be getting the proper documentation for bringing Christian men and women bound to Jerusalem and bring them before the chief priests. Paul did not realize that he was not serving a good cause, and by his actions he was actually persecuting the son of God and God in flesh – Jesus Christ. Paul was certainly not a lazy man when it came to religion and if he could be converted to the right side, he would be a very good choice to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. Paul had inflicted much grief and pain in innocent people, and for the rest of his life he would be getting several doses of his own medicine.

However, Paul was not chosen to believe, and not chosen for salvation. He was chosen to receive a special revelation from Jesus, with the aim that he would be converted and thus become a useful missionary for the gospel. Jesus likely knew the likely outcome through such a revelation, since he knew Paul’s heart. It is true that not all people get this type of revelation from Jesus, but it is also true that all people on earth in fact have different kind of backgrounds, living environments, chances to hear the gospel, etc. God is fair and we will be judged based on our conscience and abilities (Romans 2:7-15).

Paul saw a light from heaven and spoke to Lord Jesus. Paul was blind for three days and was also praying to God during this time. Ananias was instructed by Jesus to lay his hands on Paul to induce the miracle to give Paul his sight back. He did so, and told Paul that Jesus had sent himthat you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v.17). This is therefore an example of a person who is able to seek and pray to God before he receives the Holy spirit, Cornelius in Acts 10 is another example. It is also an example of a person who was not among the initial disciples, and yet had the gift of healing and inducing the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands. The spiritual gifts are still applicable today. As soon as Paul received his sight and the Holy Spirit, he rose up to be baptized. 

Acts. 9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” NKJV

It does not say above that Paul was chosen for salvation, but again he was chosen to receive a revelation. He responded well to it as expected (that was the aim of the revelation after all) and was therefore correctly described as a chosen vessel of Jesus. This does not mean that Paul did not have a will of his own, or that he had no choice in the matter.

Calvinists often say that we are chosen for salvation (or damnation) from the foundation of the world, but if that is true one must wonder if Paul was chosen yet again on the road to Damascus? Was he not chosen the first time from the foundation of the world? If someone also suggests that Paul was chosen for salvation from his mother’s womb (see verse below), then it would make Paul chosen for salvation no less than three times! Besides, if Paul was chosen for salvation once or twice before Acts 9, his divine revelation would be irrelevant anyway, since he would be chosen for salvation with or without it. 

Clearly no one is chosen to believe or not believe, because if this had been the case then it would naturally be God’s fault if someone does not believe. We can read in Acts 17 that we are even created to seek and find God, and that he is not far away from any of us. Also, keep in mind the parable of the wedding party of the King’s son in Matt. 22. Those who were called ”chosen” were those who had chosen to go to the party, and they were not even on the initial guest list.

Paul had an option to obey or disobey Jesus’ calling. Fortunately he obeyed and was a useful chosen vessel.

So then, King Agrippa, I WAS NOT DISOBEDIENT to the vision from heaven (Acts 26:19)

God separates us all from our mother’s wombs, and again, we are all created to seek him and find him. We can be saved through God’s grace if we respond well to his calling. The reason for the revelation at Damascus, was to shake Paul up so that he would hopefully get converted and be a good preacher of the gospel. It worked out well, just like Jesus had anticipated.

Galatians 1:15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, 16 to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (NKJV)

Paul was not the chief of sinners and holy, righteous and BLAMELESS at the same time

Paul said: 

Romans 7:14 But I am carnal, sold under sin

Romans 8:6 For to be carnally minded is DEATH 

Hmm, was Paul BOTH carnal and not carnal at the same time, or is he saying the he is carnal and therefore spiritually dead OR is he saying that he was FORMERLY carnal and sold under sin? I’d say the latter.  Paul also said:

 I Cor. 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and SIN NOT 

Romans 6:16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

Paul is saying that if you obey sin it leads to DEATH (and naturally spiritual death since all people will die physically whether they sin or not). If Paul was the chief of sinners while writing Romans, it must mean he obeyed SIN and served two masters! The Bible is clear about that  sinning and serving two masters will send a person to hell. So Paul wasn’t saved while writing Romans? How can a person be the chief of sinners and BLAMELESS (which Paul says he is) at the same time? To me that is a Bible contradiction. Paul identified himself as a sinner but the context reveals he was talking about his life BEFORE he came to salvation.

1 Tim. 1:12 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;13 Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.14 And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.15 This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.16 Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. (1 Tim. 1:12-16).

When Paul wrote ”I was before a blasphemer and a persecutor” it shows he is writing about the time when he was unsaved in his past. He also said ”I acted ignorantly in unbelief”. Paul is not speaking of the normal Christian life and when comparing with context it’s apparent that Paul didn’t keep on doing those sinful things, as he frequently taught against.

Just a few verses later Paul warned Timoty to have a GOOD CONSCIENCE. He said 18This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare;19 Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck”. If Paul was the chief of sinners also as a born again christian, then how could he possibly have a good conscience, and how could he possibly expect Timothy to have a good conscience if he fails himself? Can someone be a chief of sinners with a good conscience before God?

Acts 23:1 And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.

Acts. 24:16 And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.

Rom. 9:1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost

2 Cor. 1:12 For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

2 Tim. 1:3 I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers with pure conscience, that without ceasing I have remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day

Hebr. 13:18 Pray for us: for we trust we have a good conscience, in all things willing to live honestly

Would Paul exhort others to stop sinning when he himself was carnal and sold under sin? Paul says sin dwells in him (Romans 7:17, 20) and he says he is a wretched man (Romans 7:24). Can a person have sin dwelling in him at the same time as he is free of sin? Wouldn’t this be a clear contradiction? Did the chief of sinners write the major part of the NT and ask his readers to stop sinning and to not be hypocrites at the same time as HE was the biggest hypocrite? Paul’s desire is to find someone who can free him from his sins which lead to death (Rom 7:24), and he makes it clear in Rom. 8:2 that the fight he had in the flesh belonged to his former life.  Right after he describes his bondage to sin and the law before he was saved, he says, ”There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” He also said ”IF YE LIVE AFTER THE FLESH YE SHALL DIE”. Based on Paul’s own words a person who sins is SPIRITUALLY DEAD, so clearly Paul could not have been the chief of sinners when saying this.

He is speaking in the present tense, but at which present time? Paul is using a mechanism of literature called, Past Perfect with Present Perfect tense. It is when you speak of past events as if it were present tense. There is a transition by first speaking of the past, transferring in present perfect tense, then shifting it back to the actual present.

Rom 6:1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

Rom 6:12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.15 What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid.16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

Rom 8:1There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.—:That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.—12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Paul says that we are either slaves to sin OR slaves to righteousness.  If Paul was a slave to sin (chief of sinners) then he would be spiritually DEAD by his own admission. We can’t serve two masters. So again, Paul was not describing himself from a christian perspective in Romans. 7. Paul’s behavior agreed with what he taught all the churches:

Eph. 5:3 But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints;Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.Be not ye therefore partakers with them.For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light:(For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord.11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Col. 3: 5Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds

1 Thess. 4:For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his holy Spirit.

1 Cor. 4:17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

Phil. 4:9Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, DO: and the God of peace shall be with you.

1 Thess. 2:10 Ye are witnesses, and God also, how holily and justly and unblameably we behaved ourselves among you that believe:11 As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children,12 That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory

1 Cor 9:27 But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.

2 Cor 10:5Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;

Hebr.12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us–Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

So in conclusion, either Paul was exactly so holy, blameless, righteous and pure as he claimed to be or he was the biggest hypocrite in the Bible, and maybe in history. Make your choice but you can’t have it both ways.

Paul was also not chosen to believe, and no one is forced to believe and obey God. Paul however did believe and obey God:

So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven (Acts 26:19)

Neither can we take Phil. 3:12-13 as support for that Paul couldn’t stop sinning. Also v. 10 must be taken into account.

Phil. 3:10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before—20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Clearly the above concerns another type of perfection than the moral perfection since it talks about the resurrection when we will get new bodies and become perfect individuals in a physical sense. As long as we live on earth we will have to cope with our fragile bodies which sometimes give us pain. That’s another matter than being able to live obedient to God. Naturally Paul believed it was achievable to reach a moral perfection while on earth, before we die physically. He even speaks about ”as many as are perfect” just a couple of verses later:

15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

Not even Jesus was ”perfected” before his resurrection:

Luk 13:32 And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures to day and to morrow, and the third day I shall be perfected