Titus Coan was a pioneering missionary to Hawaii. Once he learned the language, he tried to visit each of the 16,000 people on Hilo Island, and he took notes on the spiritual condition of those he met. Preaching up to 30 evangelistic sermons per week, he led many revivals. By 1837, his church was the largest single congregation in the world. By the time he died in 1882, 70 percent of the island’s population had turned to Christ.
Titus Coan had the same missionary spirit as the apostle Paul. But Saul, later Paul, wasn’t always that way. As a legalist and Pharisee, he put his trust in his own righteousness for salvation (Phil. 3:4–11). He was a zealous persecutor of followers of Christ, whom he saw as heretics, and had taken part in the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7).
In today’s reading, he was on his way to Damascus to round up more victims when he was confronted by the risen Christ. In this, His last post-Resurrection appearance (1 Cor. 15:3–10), Jesus appeared specifically to Saul. The others traveling with him could see a light and hear a noise, but these phenomena were not understandable to them. Christ asked Saul, “Why do you persecute me?” and identified Himself, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (vv. 4–5). To abuse believers, who are Christ’s body, is to abuse Christ Himself. Jesus then told Saul, who had been blinded by the great light, to go into Damascus and await instructions.
Saul’s call to ministry was a stunning, overwhelming, debilitating experience. For three days he meditated, fasted, and prayed. God gave him an additional vision of Ananias coming to heal him, which was fulfilled. Saul then believed in the name of Jesus, was baptized, and was known thereafter as Paul.
Apply the Word
The passion of Paul’s heart was to spread the gospel around the world. He prayed fervently for God to send him to unreached people groups, who had not yet heard the message (Rom. 15:20). Two millennia later, there are still unreached people groups. Many mission agencies are working to bring them the gospel. How might God use you in this endeavor?