Paul begins his defence before Agrippa against the accusations of the Jews and goes to where it all began (v.4). He establishes himself as a faithful and fervent member of the Jewish religion (v.5) and that he is, in fact, more similar to his accusers than they choose to remember (vv.6-8). He openly admits that he was wrong on certain points (v.9) and sets the scene for his personal encounter with the risen Jesus (vv.10-12). He then gives the fullest account of his conversion that we read in Scripture in vv.13-18.
In his account, Jesus identifies Himself fully with His church (vv.14-15). It is impossible to separate persecuting the people of God or the church of God with the personal persecution of the Son of God. Paul then heard something that must have had his head spinning:
“…get up and stand on your feet, for I have appeared to you for this reason, to designate you in advance as a servant and witness to the things you have seen and to the things in which I will appear to you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
(Acts 26.16-18, NET)
Travelling to persecute the church Paul is now told that he is going to be a servant and witness for Jesus and will be a herald of the Good News. He is given a task and a role that brings together five things, did you see?
“I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you to open their eyes so that they turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a share among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
Paul is, simply, going to tell the Gentiles (non-Jews) about the saving sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross and the forgiveness of sins that is available by faith. Paul’s world turned around 180° here and the catalyst was a personal encounter with Jesus.
We will never find ourselves in the same situation as Paul: travelling to Damascus to find and persecute Christians through the commission of the chief priests (v.12). Whilst that is true, Jesus is still in the habit of personally encountering people to turn their lives around 180°. The same God who encountered Paul on the road to persecution still intervenes in people’s lives to powerfully and irrefutably reveal Himself and turn lives around. Nobody is beyond this. Whether this needs to happen for you or for someone you know, nobody is beyond the powerful and irrefutable revelation of God in order to turn, forgive, and to sanctify.