Palimpsest: Paul

Acts 9:1-6

Generally, under Minnesota law, people can change their legal name through marriage, divorce/legal separation, or by filing a name change action in court. Changing a legal name through any of those processes requires that you do specific things. The process of filing a name change action involves filling out court forms, appearing before a judge, and it may also involve notifying third-parties.

For the rest of his life he never doubted that the Lord Jesus had made his last resurrection appearance to him, to Saul, “as to one born out of due time.” So the story was true. The man repented of his persecutions. Three days later he was baptized. To indicate the radical change within himself, he changed his name to Paul, and after a period of preparation and prayer, he, too, began to tell the story – in Greek, to the Greeks.– Walter Wangerin, The Book of God

The modern evangelical notion that conversion is an instantaneous, momentary phenomenon is not rooted in the thought of the Reformers nor, we might add, in the thought of Luke. Even Paul’s dramatic encounter upon the Damascus road (reported three times in Acts–with significant differences in each account), required interpretation, reflection, and the confirmation of the community. Presumably, we never become too old, too adept at living the Christian life to be exempt from the need for more conversion, additional turning. The Christian life is akin to the way in which Luke organizes the life of Paul– a series of journeys, pilgrimages, excursions out into some unexplored territory where all that is known is the faithfulness of God. Conversion is a process more than a moment. 
– William H. Willimon, Acts

I was breathing out murder,/I was seething with rage, 
I was plotting disaster,/For the ones in the Way 
I was stunned by the brightness /And by what I'd become 
I was cornered by greatness,/With nowhere to run 
But I saw your glory,/And it's brighter than the sun 
I encountered a man/Who had rose from the dead 
He left my religion/All tattered in shreds 
My world was destroyed/A new life had begun 
And I put my faith/In Christ Jesus the Son, 
Because I saw his glory/And it's brighter than the sun 
Seen your glory,/Seen your glory 
I waited to hear you /And the visions they came 
Of suffering glory/And preaching his name 
I will follow you Jesus/Till your will be done 
I will trust in your strength/Until my race is run 
Cause I see your glory/And its brighter than the sun
– Ali McLachlan, “Brighter Than the Sun”

  • Have you ever changed your name? Why? How? Did you feel changed?
  • There is no specific mention in the Bible of why Saul changed his name (if he did) to Paul. Why do you think Saul became Paul?
  • Have you ever known anyone to be changed as much as Saul was?
Artwork: by He Qi

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