Saul’s Conversion


     If anybody was in rebellion against Jesus, it was Saul.  Acts 9:1 describes him as “breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord”.  As he was traveling to Damascus, Jesus appeared to him and said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”  If anybody was NOT worthy to receive a manifestation of Jesus it was Saul.  If anybody was NOT worthy to be converted it was Saul.  He admitted that when he wrote:  “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,” (1 Timothy 1:15)

     His conversion stands in striking contrast to the teachings of Mormonism.  “You become converted as a result of your righteous efforts to follow the Savior.” (True to the Faith, p. 41)  Saul was doing the direct opposite of trying to follow the Savior.

     I have had some Mormons try to explain away Saul’s conversion as an exception to the rule because he became an apostle.  But that wasn’t Saul’s testimony.  After describing his conversion, he calls it not an exception, but a pattern.  “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 Timothy 1:16)

     I, for one, treasure the story of Saul’s conversion.  I treasure it because it gives ALL the credit to Jesus and his mercy.  I treasure it because it highlights the wonderful biblical teaching that when I was dead in sins God made me spiritually alive in Christ.  I treasure it because it is another example of how my living eternally with Heavenly Father is all about what he does for me, not what I do.  To God be the glory.

31 Responses to “Saul’s Conversion”

  1. 1 Geoff456
    March 14, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    For starters, JESUS(and his life and example) was the pattern, not plucking someone out of sin.
    Second: LDS believe in fore-ordination. This is a great example of it.

    Third: Where did it mention that while Saul was a sinner he had the COMPANIONSHIP of the Holy Ghost?


  2. 2 markcares
    March 14, 2009 at 3:28 pm

    Please reread 1 timothy 3:15-16. Christ’s mercy to Paul was the pattern.

  3. March 14, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Mark, I don’t get what 1 Tim 3:15-16 has to do with this. Certainly, it doesn’t seem connected with your point. Maybe you cited the wrong verse?

    Either way, Saul wasn’t converted when Jesus appeared before him. The process occurred afterward. Same as it did with Alma the younger in the Book of Mormon.

    Jesus doesn’t run out to the prodigal son and pluck him out of the pigsty. He runs to meet him when THE SON returns. It was the SON who returned to the father in that parable, not the father who ran out looking for the son. Something is required from us for grace to work. Without it, it is of no effect.

    The very idea that Christ would deny people the opportunity to repent and return to him, and would go around UNILATERALLY correcting our lives without any desire or choice on our parts is, to put it bluntly, reprehensible and ugly.

    Furthermore, Saul isn’t the only conversion model in the New Testament. Yes, I know that Evangelicals tend to elevate Paul above everything else in the Bible, but there is more in there than just him you know.

  4. 4 markcares
    March 14, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Thanks for the catch. I meant 1 Timothy 1:16. i edited the post.

  5. 5 geoff456
    March 14, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    I still don’t see your point.

    Christ set the pattern of “long-suffering” to all those that believe in Him.

    I believe Christ had that character trait long before Saul. I believe He showed it to others, long before Saul.

    I have another question, off topic. Why would Christ ask us to “keep His commandments” if He knew we WOULD keep His commandments just because we love Him?


  6. 6 markcares
    March 15, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I don’t see the Lord waiting for Saul to return to him. I see him taking the initiative by appearing to him even though he was persectuing him. “Saul, Saul, why persectest thou me?” (Acts 9:4. And on what basis do you say Saul wasn’t converted at that time? That is what Mormonism teaches. “Following his conversion, Paul was taken into Damascus where Ananias, who was probably the presiding officer of the local church, helped to heal him of his blindness.” (Life and Times. . .p.270)

  7. March 15, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Was he converted in the moment Jesus unilaterally reached out to him? Or afterwards on the road while pondering on it?

    Our Bible doesn’t say.

    The Lord Jesus’ appearance to Saul was an invitation and a warning. It was not a unilateral changing of Saul’s heart. Something was required from Saul as well.

  8. March 15, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Either way, the point Geoff and I are making remains –

    There are other conversion models in the Bible. You can’t just pick and choose your favorite and then distort it into whole message.

  9. March 16, 2009 at 12:57 pm

    I once again agree with Seth (and Geoff).

    But as an ironic twist, there is a very similar conversion story given in the Book of Mormon of Alma the younger in Alma 36

  10. March 16, 2009 at 2:08 pm

    Nice post Mark; the point that stands out to me is the “longsuffering” of Christ towards someone who, we can safely say, was NOT giving 100% to GOD, or doing his best (unless you mean doing your best to destroy the work and mission of GOD). And in that respect, he (Paul) does represent all of us, because we all have played the “opposer” to God’s plans. God’s ridiculously generous initiative here, and throughout the NT just doesn’t sit well with the LDS plan of total 100% repentance FIRST, then GRACE. OR 100% effort or obedience FIRST, then GRACE. If any of my LDS friends get tired (as I know I would) of trying to fulfill this, I know where REST can be found.

    Praise GOD for HIS blood, HIS mercy, His longsuffering

  11. March 16, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    According to the third article of faith of the LDS church, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel. Repentance is the second.

  12. March 16, 2009 at 3:58 pm

    Well, I’d say you guys need to make up your mind, or maybe get a clearer understanding of what FAITH is all about. ON PAPER, your articles look good, but then are contradicted by the plethora of comments that have 100% effort, total obedience, etc, FIRST, and then God’s work. You need to make up your collective minds how this works, just quoting your articles is not that convincing. To me.

    Blessings on all who accep GOD on HIS terms.

  13. 13 GB
    March 16, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    “If anybody was in rebellion against Jesus, it was Saul.”

    It is true that Saul was fighting against the Church, but was he in “rebellion”?

    Acts 26:5 Which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

    Philippians 3:5 . . . an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

    Since Saul had never recognized, nor had previously sworn allegiance to, or recognized Jesus in any way as authoritative, could he be in a state of rebellion?

    Paul was sincerely opposing what he thought was the real rebellion.

    Who knows what affect Stephen’s Spirit filled witness had up Saul, or Stephen’s willingness to die for his witness?

    Jerusalem to Damascus is several days journey. Saul had many hours to ponder and dare we say pray while on the road. And what of the prayers of the righteous Saints, who he was persecuting? James 5:16 . . . The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

    Did Saul question his actions? It is one thing to commit the rebels to prison, but to death? What of the command “thou shalt not kill”?

    To claim that nothing had been done to prepare Saul for receiving a spiritual manifestation is taking liberties with the situation.

    Why don’t we add a little context to the “True to the Faith” quote, shall we?

    “To be carnally minded is death,” declared the Apostle
    Paul, “but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans
    8:6; see also 2 Nephi 9:39). In our fallen state, we often struggle
    with temptation, and we sometimes give in to “the will of
    the flesh and the evil which is therein” (2 Nephi 2:29; see also
    “Fall,” pages 56–59 in this book). To be able to receive the
    blessing of eternal life, we need to be “spiritually minded”
    and conquer our unrighteous desires. We need to change.
    More accurately, we need to be changed, or converted, through
    the power of the Savior’s Atonement and through the power
    of the Holy Ghost. This process is called conversion.
    Conversion includes a change in behavior, but it goes
    beyond behavior; it is a change in our very nature. It is such
    a significant change that the Lord and His prophets refer to it
    as a rebirth, a change of heart, and a baptism of fire. The Lord
    “Marvel not that all mankind, yea, men and women, all
    nations, kindreds, tongues and people, must be born again;
    yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state,
    to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming
    his sons and daughters;
    “And thus they become new creatures; and unless they
    do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God”
    (Mosiah 27:25–26).
    The Process of Conversion
    Conversion is a process, not an event. You become converted
    as a result of your righteous efforts to follow the
    Savior. These efforts include exercising faith in Jesus Christ,
    repenting of sin, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy
    Ghost, and enduring to the end in faith.
    Although conversion is miraculous and life changing, it
    is a quiet miracle. Angelic visitations and other spectacular
    occurrences do not bring conversion. Even Alma, who saw
    an angel, became converted only after he “fasted and prayed
    many days” for a witness of the truth (Alma 5:46). And Paul,
    who saw the resurrected Savior, taught that “no man can say
    that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” (1 Corinthians

  14. 14 GB
    March 16, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    A personal visitation from the Lord is the exception, longsuffering is the rule.

    2 Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

  15. March 16, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Seth R,

    Paul does not see his conversion the way you do. Paul not only references his conversion in 1 Timothy 1:13 and 16 but we also see Paul explain his conversion in relation to the Gospel of free grace in Galatians 1:11-17. Paul uses his conversion experience as a tool to proclaim the Gospel to King Agrippa in Acts 26:12-18. In Acts 26 we that Paul conversion and his appointment as “servant and witness” of our Lord Jesus Christ occurred at the same time.

  16. 16 ladonnamorrell
    March 16, 2009 at 10:43 pm


    The Lord works in His own way. I don’t think it is one bit of a contradiction to say that the Lord requires 100% of our commitment. He doesn’t necessarily need it all “up front”. He knows our heart, he cheers us on, helps us on the way, throws in some grace and mercy along the way and at the final accounting judges our efforts. WE KNOW that we can NEVER do it on our own. WE know that our efforts can NEVER be enough. We depend on the Lord…He has promised us EVERYTHING HE HAS…..HE ONLY ASKS EVERYTHING WE HAVE IN RETURN.

    Now, is that so hard to understand??

    Why would anyone think that the Lord would “want” us when we do nothing?


  17. March 16, 2009 at 11:43 pm

    GB wrote: It is true that Saul was fighting against the Church, but was he in “rebellion”?

    Were the Pharisees of Matthew 23 in rebellion?


  18. 18 germit
    March 17, 2009 at 1:28 am

    ladonnamorrell: great to hear from you ; I’m not sure what you mean by “not needing it all up front” this doesn’t seem to be what Oaks was talking about, but maybe I misunderstood him.

    Let me be clear about one thing on this topic: Jesus Christ is certainly WORTHY of our 100% obedience, HE both deserves it and wants it. That’s beyond dispute, I’d just say that it seems HE is willing to ‘work with us” or maybe “work ON us” till the day this happens. We get grace and mercy when we deserve far worse. That’s my point.

    Often , you seem to describe things in a zero/sum way: as in the ev’s believing that they must do NOTHING in relationship to the LORD. I’m not sure I’ve ever met someone who believes that, tho I’m sure they are out there.

    Peace and light be on you and your house during these tough (economically speaking) times

  19. 19 ADB
    March 17, 2009 at 1:25 pm


    “To claim that nothing had been done to prepare Saul for receiving a spiritual manifestation is taking liberties with the situation.”

    Really? So to take the Bible simply by what it says and NOT to import endless hypothetical scenarios surrounding the conversion of Paul is “taking liberties?” I think we have a different approach to the interpretation of Scripture. I prefer to take Scripture at what it says as opposed to what it “could be” saying, or what I “think” it should be saying. To do it any other way does not allow Scripture to speak for itself.

    How do the LDS reconcile this absurd notion that one has to do something to be converted with passages that speak of us being dead in sin? How can a dead person do anything that would merit God to give us a dose of his grace and “help us out?” I’ve never known a dead person to be able to do anything but be dead. Can someone explain Colossians 2:13 for me? “When you were DEAD IN YOUR SINS and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins.” Do the LDS treat that passage like the message found in a fortune cookie that you have to tack something onto the end of it to make it make sense? Would you need to manipulate the meaning of this passage by adding at the end, ” … after we started to show a little obedience?”

  20. 20 ADB
    March 17, 2009 at 1:27 pm


    I think in your last question you’ve finally discovered what grace is!!! That’s just it–the Lord shouldn’t “want us,” but he does in spite of us. That’s grace. Praise the Lord that he’s led you to understand it!!!

  21. March 17, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    ADB and LadonnaM

    Why would anyone think that the Lord would “want” us when we do nothing?

    and behold the scandolous, ridiculously generous nature of GRACE..

    this makes no sense to the natural man, there is no “quid pro quo ” here…

    Well said ADB


  22. 22 GB
    March 17, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    ADB: I think we have a different approach to the interpretation of Scripture.

    GB: Most likely. But having said that doesn’t make your interpretation correct and mine incorrect.

    ADB: I prefer to take Scripture at what it says . . .

    GB: LOL!!! As I said, “To claim that nothing had been done to prepare Saul for receiving a spiritual manifestation is taking liberties with the situation.”

    Did not Saul spend years studying the scriptures? (You know, the Pharisee thing).

    Was Saul not obedient to the truth that he did have? (You know, the ‘touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless’ thing and ‘the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ’ thing).

  23. 23 ADB
    March 17, 2009 at 9:43 pm


    Help me understand the conclusion you’re drawing about Saul. The fact that he was blatantly sinning against God in unbelief in his persecution of Christianity is something that God would be willing to overlook simply because he was being obedient to whatever truth he did have???

    Does that mean that God is OK with anyone doing whatever, provided they’re being “obedient” to whatever truth they have?

    Also, if any LDS would like to comment on the Colossians 2:13 passage for me, I would appreciate it.

  24. 24 germit
    March 18, 2009 at 3:49 am

    GB: when Paul described himself to be “as to legalistic righteousness, faultless…” he is NOT bragging; he is not making a case for that kind of obedience, in fact he is making a case for how bankrupt and useless and worthless that kind of zeal and obedience is. So I’m confused (along with ADB) as to where you are going with this thot.

    Waiting for some clarity, holding to some charity
    GERMIT the Rapper

  25. 25 GB
    March 18, 2009 at 2:54 pm


    Thank you for acknowledging that Saul was obedient to the truth that he had, and in this way he was doing everything he knew to be prepared for more truth and light.

    So thanks for the implicit acceptance of my point that according to the scriptures Saul had done SOMETHING to prepare for a spiritual manifestation.

    The Colossians to whom Paul was writing had heard and accepted the gospel message of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance from dead works and had received Baptism (see Col 2:12). Prior to this acceptance of the Gospel they were “dead in their sins”. With the acceptance of and obedience to the Gospel “hath he (Christ) quickened (them) together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;”, thus they were no longer “dead in their sins” but were alive in Christ.

  26. 26 ladonnamorrell
    March 18, 2009 at 4:28 pm

    I need to clarify something I wrote in post #16. When I said:
    “He doesn’t necessarily need it all “up front”. ” That little word “it” didn’t refer to the 100% committment, it referred to 100% perfection…as in being “perfect” before the Holy Ghost will be our companion. The Lord DOES require our 100% committment and our heart, might, mind and strength. then:

    “He knows our heart, he cheers us on, helps us on the way, throws in some grace and mercy along the way and at the final accounting judges our efforts.”

    We get many starts and stops, HE KNOWS we are human and yet He still loves us and helps us.

    Repentance is a PROCESS not a one time event.


  27. March 18, 2009 at 5:26 pm

    GB: maybe we’ve exhausted this line of conversation, but your quote made me laugh

    Thank you for acknowledging that Saul was obedient to the truth that he had, and in this way he was doing everything he knew to be prepared for more truth and light.

    well, LOL, I don’t think there was ANYTHING Saul/Paul could do to get ready for THAT light, except shield his eyes and try not to get trampled by his horse !! We will agree to disagree with how Paul was, or was not, cooperating with God prior to this little Middle Eastern Rodeo.

    Blessings , peace, and safe landings for our own ‘Damascus Road” experiences

    LodonnaM; you’ve explained your (LDS) position well…..it’s just not attractive to me: I need a GOD that will respond when I’m less than 100% giving to HIM (even though I should be ); this might sound like I’m bossing GOD around, but I maintain it’s GOD who made the rules, and they read more merciful than what you suggest.

  28. 28 ADB
    March 18, 2009 at 5:58 pm


    I think your take on Colossians gives too much credit where it isn’t due. Reread Col. 2:9-12. Who is the one doing all the work? Is it not Christ? Had the Colossians done anything to merit what they had received from Christ, would this not be the place to mention that? Yet there is no mention of their doing, only Christ’s. Notice all the passive action. “you have been given fullness in Christ,” “In him you were also circumcised … done by Christ.” God always acts first. Our actions simply follow.

    Know Jesus … no guilt.

  29. 29 ADB
    March 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Wow, I just wanted to apologize for being the one to stall this thread … I wonder if much of the talk of repentance from the “reconciliation” thread would not have been more fitting here.

    Or, I could just assume that we all agree with the last post, primarily the closing comment: “God always acts first. Our actions simply follow.” :)

  30. March 24, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    God always acts first. Our actions simply follow.” :)

    I’m good with that; IN HIM we live and move and have our being…… there is no out-giving our generous GOD

    I hope you didn’t find my objections to your posts nit-picky or just contentious; it’s good to be stretched, pushed, and encouraged towards a better understanding of the WORD.

    thanks for your posts

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