Proof of the Resurrection: Paul
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle in Scripture. Not only the truthfulness of the Bible generally is at stake but specifically the veracity of Christianity. As author Lee Strobel says, the resurrection not only proves Christianity but disproves all other contenders and pretenders to the faith which was once delivered for all (Jude 3). It is Paul who says “…if Christ has not been raised…you faith is in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:14). One of the fine proofs for the resurrection is Paul himself. His stunning about-face is without parallel in the Bible. His conversion would be like Pharaoh suddenly bowing to Jehovah and then escorting the children of Israel into the Promised Land and fighting their battles for them. The conversion of Saul/Paul is one of many events that prove the truthfulness of the resurrection story.
Born in the Roman provincial city of Tarsus, Saul was a free-born Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29) who was also fully Jewish. His pedigree among the ancient people was beyond question which makes his conversion to Christianity even more surprising. He was taught by the famed Jewish teacher, Gamaliel and was raised in strict adherence to the law as a Pharisee (Acts 21:39; Acts 22:3; Acts 23:6). Although from the tribe of Benjamin and thus not eligible for the priesthood, Saul was a rising star within the leadership of first century Judaism.
Saul was almost certainly not a member of the Sanhedrin himself, for surely he would have made the claim, but was still respected among its 71 members. The Sanhedrin was largely composed of Pharisees, Saul’s own religious sect, and he was useful for the work of the governing body. In Acts 7:58, Saul is present and approving when Stephen is stoned to death following his hearing before the Sanhedrin. In Acts 8:3 Saul is described by Luke as “ravaging” the church. The result of Saul’s work, and others like him, was so horrific as to cause a mass exodus of Christians from Jerusalem (Acts 8:4). Inasmuch as Saul was raised in Jerusalem and was so prominent among the Sanhedrin members, it is likely that was knowledgeable of Jesus and possible that he was a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus. The persecutor-turned-preacher describes himself as giving approval to death sentences against Christians and lashing out at them in “raging fury” (Acts 26:11). Saul was the foremost enemy of the church.
While traveling to Damascus, under orders from the Chief Priests, everything changed for Paul. Jesus himself spoke to Paul and ordered him to go into the city and await instructions (Acts 9:6). Blinded as a result of this encounter, Saul entered the city, was taught by Ananias and was baptized into Christ. What changed? Why the sudden turnaround? There is only one explanation. Paul saw the risen Christ. He knew that Jesus was dead. He knew he was buried. He knew the stories of his resurrection but now he knew through his own senses. He saw Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8).
Like his fellow apostles, Paul would become a martyr for the faith. His death is not recorded in Scripture although the events leading to it are. Writers outside the Scripture confirm that he died as a martyr. Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Tertullian, Dionysius of Corinth and Origen all record his death. So the question to the skeptic is simple: Why would Paul suddenly change and die for something untrue? What can account for his sudden and inexplicable change? It was the reality of the resurrection of Jesus.
Paul’s conversion is but one piece of a collection of evidence arguing for the resurrection of Jesus. Be encouraged and strengthened knowing that your faith is not in vain.