In 1985, Steve looked like a failure. He was a college dropout and had been fired from a good job. Nothing he tried seemed successful—the government rejected his job application, no one wanted to hire him, and people thought the products he tried to sell were too expensive. Twenty years later, Steve—Steve Jobs—was recognized as one of the most influential people in the world in the fields of computing, design, marketing, movies, and music.
Paul was an incredibly unlikely choice to become one of the most influential Christians in the world—the man who would write letters that comprised almost half of the New Testament and who planted churches across the Roman Empire. Paul was a Pharisee (Acts 26:5; Phil. 3:5)! He was full of zeal—against the followers of Jesus! Our text today describes him as “breathing out murderous threats” against believers (v. 1). In the previous chapter, he was present when Stephen was martyred, and he approved (8:1).
On the road to Damascus, Jesus asked Paul a question that transformed his life: “Saul, why do you persecute me?” (v. 4). Paul entered Damascus intent on having believers in Jesus arrested; he ended up preaching in the synagogues “that Jesus is the Son of God” (v. 20). He thought he would stamp out a heretical sect who opposed the law of God; he ended up being filled with the Spirit of God (v. 17). He thought he was protecting the religion of the Jewish people; instead he was called to proclaim the gospel to the Gentiles, including their leaders.
It’s also worth noting the obedience of Ananias in this passage. He had every reason to fear Paul (vv. 13–14). But he obeyed God’s command to go to him and serve as the instrument of God’s healing.