PAUL’S CONVERSION – A PATTERN OF THE CONVERSION OF EVERY BELIEVER TO COME
When presented with the method of salvation of God’s people in the scriptures whether it be Lydia or Paul, the haters of Sovereign Grace and the Total Depravity of man always retort saying, “Oh but those were stray instances you are quoting. Yes the Lord may have opened Lydia’s heart (Acts 16:14) to believe, but the rest of us are required to open the door of our own hearts and accept Christ! Yes the Lord arrested the Christ hating Saul of Tarsus and made him a Christian almost against his will, but the rest of us are required to choose Christ by exercising our own free-will!”
Here’s what the Apostle himself says of the Lord’s dealings with him – “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. 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.” [1Tim 1:16,17]
Read that again in case you didn’t get it the first time! The salvation of Paul and the Lord’s ongoing dealings with him was not a stray or unique experience restricted to the Apostle, but A PATTERN of God’s dealings with every Tom, Dick and Harry and Jane, Jill and Mary who would hence forth believe and be saved!
While not every elect who are to be saved are Christ haters and a persecutor of Christian’s like the Apostle was, notwithstanding every single one of them comes into the world as an enemy of God hating the light and loving the darkness! The Apostle makes this plain when he reminds the Ephesian converts – “For if, WHEN WE WERE ENEMIES, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life!” [Rom 5:10]
You’ve got to put this in your pipe and smoke it whether you like it or nor that the conversion of Paul was no stray instance as some haters of Sovereign Grace propose . . . but a ‘PATTERN’ of the salvation of EVERY SINGLE BELIEVER TO COME – i.e. an enemy of Christ: arrested, made willing and irresistibly drawn by Sovereign Grace! Praise the LORD!
Here are some thoughts from the beloved Spurgeon on this –
“IT is a vulgar error that the conversion of the apostle Paul was an uncommon and exceptional event and that we cannot expect men to be saved now-a-days after the same fashion. It is said that the incident was an exception to all rules, a wonder altogether by itself. Now, my text is a FLAT CONTRADICTION to that notion, for it assures us that, instead of the apostle as a receiver of the long-suffering and mercy of God being at all an exception to the rule, he was a model convert, and is to be regarded AS A TYPE AND PATTERN OF GOD’S GRACE IN OTHER BELIEVERS.
The apostle’s language in the text, “for a pattern,” may mean that he was what printers call a first proof, an early impression from the engraving, a specimen of those to follow. He was the typical instance of divine long-suffering, the model after which others are fashioned. To use a metaphor from the artist’s studio, Paul was the ideal sketch of a convert, an outline of the work of Jesus on mankind, a picture of divine long-suffering. Just as artists make sketches in charcoal as the basis of their work—which outlines they paint out as the picture proceeds—so did the Lord, in the apostle’s case, make, as it were, a picture or outline sketch of His usual work of grace. That outline, in the case of each future believer, He works out with infinite variety of skill and produces the individual Christian, but the guiding lines are really there.
ALL CONVERSIONS are, in a high degree, similar to this pattern conversion. The transformation of persecuting Saul of Tarsus into the apostle Paul is a typical instance of the work of Grace in the heart.