When Was Paul Saved?

The Internet Monk‘s Chaplain Mike writes about A Structured Gospel. Discussing Paul’s encounter with Jesus on the Damascus Road, he says:

Though this personal encounter with Jesus literally turned Paul around, it forms only the beginning of his conversion story. There is no word here about forgiveness. No good news was proclaimed. No “decision” was made. Paul did not pray a “sinner’s prayer,” confess his sins, or profess his faith. He did not simply pick up and go on his way rejoicing as a converted and transformed individual.

If I may put it this boldly, what happened on the road to Damascus was not enough to “save” Paul.

On the road, Jesus got Paul’s attention. Then, he sent him through what we might call a structured Gospel process.What happened next?

  • Jesus instructed Paul to go into the city where he would be told what to do. Notice, he did not just tell him to “ask the Savior into his heart” or “pray silently” — he commanded Paul to go somewhere where he would have to do something.
  • The stricken man had three days of preparation and silence in the city. He fasted. Presumably he prayed. He waited.
  • A Christian named Ananias came into the picture and did specific acts with regard to Paul: he laid his hands on him, he proclaimed good news of Christ and God’s calling on Paul’s life and prayed that he would receive the Spirit. Paul regained his sight.
  • Ananias instructed Paul to be baptized in order to “have his sins washed away” (a strong text on the sacramental nature of baptism) as he called on Jesus’ name in faith (Acts 22:16).
  • Paul stayed with the congregation in Damascus for a time and took opportunity to witness to who Jesus was and what he had done for him.

You see, Jesus did not just “save” Paul directly through a personal spiritual encounter, a “born again experience,” a private conversion. It was not Paul’s “Damascus Road” experience that did the trick. It was what happened there plus what happened when Paul went into Damascus. On the road, Jesus got Paul’s attention in a dramatic fashion, introduced himself to him, and then sent him to the Church. There, through such practices as fasting, solitude, prayer, the laying on of hands, baptism, and public witness, Paul became a thoroughly converted, changed man.

Related: My post on Damascus Road Conversions.