In His Own Words

Paul had many occasions to “bear [Christ's] name before the Gentiles and kings…”, two of them recorded by Luke later in the Book of Acts. Paul also makes many references to this occasion in his letters to the churches, but does not repeat the details of the scene on the road to Damascus. To get a fully detailed picture of what happened on the road to Damascus that day, we need to incorporate Acts 22:6-16 and Acts 26:12-18 into our observations. Each passage adds small details, and, interestingly, each passage includes a detailed account of a two-person conversation.  Acts 9 records the conversation between the Lord and Ananias, Acts 22 records the conversation between Ananias and Saul, and Acts 26 records the conversation between Saul and the Lord.  These three conversations are like windows that let us see into this story from every angle.

Before looking at these passages in detail, it’s profitable to understand their historical context. Paul’s first, second and third missionary journeys had been completed, the third ending with Paul going to Jerusalem with a contribution for the poor, and because he desired to be present in Jerusalem for Pentecost. On arrival, Paul visited the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (James and the elders) who convinced him to take a Jewish vow in the Temple to quell rumors that he was teaching the Gentiles to “forsake Moses” and their Jewish religious customs. On the last day of his vow, he was discovered by some Jews from Asia (remember how they had persecuted him wherever he went during his missionary journeys), who incited the throngs in the Temple grounds to riot and who falsely accused him of bringing Gentiles into the Temple. The riot was broken up by Roman soldiers, who rescued Paul from the midst, and he was given opportunity to address the mob. Luke records Paul’s speech to them in Acts 22:1-21, the first of our reference passages. Paul was imprisoned, moved to Caesarea for his own safety, and then appeared before a number of Roman-appointed governors over a period of more than two years. In his own defense, Paul appealed to Caesar (a privilege of Roman citizens), and plans were made to send him to Rome as a prisoner awaiting trial. During this time, Paul appeared before King Agrippa, who happened to be visiting the Roman governor Festus, had heard of Paul, and asked to hear his testimony out of curiosity. Luke records Paul’s testimony before Festus and Agrippa in Acts 26:2-23, our second reference passage.

Presented below is a table that compares the three passages.  Where a verse in the reference passage (columns 2 and 3) merely repeats what the original passage states, you’ll see “(same)”.  If the column is blank, it means the passage doesn’t include the information.  I encourage you to verify the observations in all three columns, and especially to notice how much more detailed our understanding is because of the additional passages.

A Harmony of Saul’s Conversion Descriptions

Acts 9:2-19 Acts 22:5-16 Acts 26:12-18
Letters to take prisoners (same) authority and commission
Approaching Damascus about noon about midday
Light from Heaven all saw light brighter than the sun
Saul fell to the ground (same) Saul’s companions also fell to the ground
All heard a voice, companions speechless only Saul understood voice spoke in Hebrew
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (same) “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
Who are you, Lord? (same) (same)
“I am Jesus, who you are persecuting.” (same) (same)
“What shall I do, Lord?” (same) (same)
Rise, enter the city (same) stand on your feet
You’ll be told what to do You’ll be told all that has been appointed for you to do “for this purpose I have appeared to you”
    Things he has already seen
    Things which Christ will appear to him to tell him
    Delivered from the Jews and the Gentiles
    Sent to the Jews and the Gentiles
    to open their eyes
    turn them from darkness to light
    turn them from Satan’s kingdom to God’s kingdom
    receive forgiveness and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith
Saul blinded because of the brightness of the light  
Saul led into Damascus (same)  
Blind, fasting for three days, praying    
Ananias instructed by the Lord    
Saul sees a vision of Ananias coming & laying on hands    
Ananias argues (knows about letters)    
Chosen instrument to the Gentiles, kings, and Israel    
Saul’s sufferings to be revealed to him    
Ananias obeys Ananias devout and well spoken of comes to Saul  
Ananias lays hands on Saul Ananias stands near Saul (laying on of hands not mentioned)  
“Lord Jesus, who appeared to you, sent me so that”    
“…you may regain your sight” “Brother Saul, receive your sight”  
“… and be filled with the Holy Spirit”    
Saul’s blindness healed Saul looks up at Ananias  
  Appointed to know God’s will, see the Righteous One, hear Him speak  
  Saul will be a witness to all men  
Saul baptized “Arise, be baptized, wash away your sins, call on Jesus’ name”  
Saul eats and is strengthened    
  Saul returns to Jerusalem, is warned in a vision (22:17-21)  
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