It is traditionally taught that Paul was converted on the road to Damascus. He was definitely blinded by the light, blown off his horse and heard Jesus speak directly to him. But conversion, or saved had not yet happened.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2. And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, (who were of the way), whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
Those who were saved, converted Christians, were then called “The Way.” Paul vehemnetly opposed those men and women and obtained permission to round them up, imprison them, which sometimes resulted in their death.
3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus ( a major city in now what is known as Syria) and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? 5. And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. 6. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
This experience was enough to have a major impact on anyone with profound results. Paul was “astonished” and willing to listen. Because he called him Lord was a start but he was confused, not saved.
7. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
They “heard” but not to the point of understanding the words according to the Greek. This will be confirmed later.
8. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.
How humbling to this man who brought great fear and evil upon God’s chosen believers. How symbolic to have been blind and helpless. Still applies today to those that oppose the true God so vehemntly and want to destroy “the way.”
9. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. 10. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. 13. Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
14. And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
Ananias knew of Paul’s reputation and questioned the Lord (revelation from God via Jesus Christ). The Lord didn’t reprove his questioning but further clarifies his reason by foreshadowing the raising up of a great leader with a definite purpose.
15. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16. For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
Ananias then understood and obeyed and found as God had told him confirming the revelation and the events that were to come.
17. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. 18. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
One traditional teaching states that Paul is already converted when Ananias arrives because he greets Saul as “brother” as if he were a brother in Christ. It’s simply a salutation, probably among fellow Jews, and nothing more. Then Ananias tells Paul his reason for coming which matches Paul’s vision and experience. This is truly supernatural and a wonderful way God uses to heal and convert people to salvation through His son, Jesus Christ. Having heard this Paul was healed and baptized (born again; saved). Water is not mentioned and is added by man.* This man-made traditional teaching that water baptism follows conversion ( and mandatory in some circles) causes confusion to those taught wrongly about the new birth. All “baptizing; baptism; without the word water or inference of water is spiritual and done by God. What can man possibly add to God’s spiritual baptism of salvation through holy spirit by adding water? It is the spirit that makes for eternal life, the flesh profits nothing ( JN 7: 63). Religious ritual has no bearing on one’s salvation. Jesus taught that water would be replaced with holy spirit concerning the coming power from on high and on the Day of Pentecost when it was originally received.
For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with (in) holy spirit not many days hence.
Ananias appears to add to what God commanded by saying “ and be filled with holy spirit”. (No article the and smaller case h and s in original Greek text indicating (“gift of holy spirit” not The Giver Holy Spirit ). Either Ananias received further revelation at the time or we were not told all that God commanded him earlier. Lets piece the entire event together by adding Paul’s version he told later in
Acts 22: 9-16.
9. And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.
Here is what is mistranslated as indicated they did hear in Acts 9. It merely means they did not hear to the point of understanding. Either the language, Hebrew, was not understood, or just the voice without distinguishing the words.
10. And I said, What shall I do, Lord? And the Lord said unto me, Arise, and go into Damascus; and there it shall be told thee of all things which are appointed for thee to do. 11. And when I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of them that were with me, I came into Damascus. 12. And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there, 13. Came unto me, and stood, and said unto me, Brother Saul, receive thy sight.
Next is where Paul expands upon what was revealed in Acts 9.
And the same hour I looked up upon him. 14. And he said, The God of our fathers (Jehovah) hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, (Jesus) and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth. 15. For thou shalt be his witness unto all men of what thou hast seen and heard. 16. And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
How great and marvelous this added word complements and pieces together the actual event to reveal the truth of God’s word pertaining to Pauls salvation. Let’s put both accounts together. Ananias greets Paul with a brotherly salutation, and Paul knows he’s a devout man according to law and jewish report which Paul honors and lowers his resistance to receiving what he has to say. Ananias now puts his hands on Paul (ministering to him by revelation) and commands him to be healed by receiving his sight. This indicates forgiveness of sins and he is worthy of God’s grace. Then Paul indicates time took place where he gazed upon Ananias. Then he is told of his magnificent calling of God and how “the God of his fathers” especially wanted Paul to see and hear from His Son, Jesus Christ himself. This is a special anointing giving Paul the same privilege the original 12 Apostles had as having seen Christ in his resurrected form which was essential for being a chosen Apostle. He mentions having seen him as “one being born out of due time” in I Corinthians 15 among the other witnesses of the resurrection. He now knows Jesus is the true Messiah of God. Because of this, Ananias now exclaims “What are you waiting for? Arise, be born again, saved, by calling upon the name of the Lord. ( Romans 10:13). Paul did as Ananias instructed. How do we know? For he was filled with holy spirit. The word filled is pletho. Filled to overflowing. Same as the word having received (lambano) is manifesting holy spirit after having received ( dechomai) holy spirit when born again.
How did Paul and Ananias know he was baptized, saved, born again? Because he was filled to overflowing, outpouring the holy spirit into manifestation by speaking in tongues. The same way the Apostles knew they had received (dechomai:fully), then received (lambano:into manifestation) on the Day of Pentecost. Paul declares he spoke in tongues in I Corinthians 14. No believer of the way would’ve been convinced or persuaded by any other way that the persecutor Paul, had actually converted and been saved. Especially water baptism. The same as the Christian Jews were convinced that the gentiles were actually born again. They evidenced it by speaking in tongues . (Acts 10)
How wonderful God enlightens us to his word and confirms the truth by checks and balances. Revealing and confirming by adding to time, place, and what in various other scriptures. This is a principle that works throughout the entire Bible separating man’s tradition from God’s holy word. Religion vs Truth is always the challenge.
* Whenever water is mentioned or inferred in Acts it’s water baptism. Whenever it’s not mentioned in the verse it’s spiritual. No water baptism was ever carried out by an Apostle. In Acts 8 the eunich requested water. Philip, being an evangelist, obliged. In Acts 19, Apollos, an evangelist, mighty in the scriptures (old testamnt) was only familiar with John’s baptism, water. He was later corrected properly of the baptism (new birth) of the holy spirit and it’s manifestation of speaking in tongues. ( as those at Ephesus evidenced when having heard by Paul). Evangelists are typically zealous for salvation but unlearned in the accuracy of the word. In Acts 10, Peter’s enthusiasm requsted water after they were born again and spoke in tongues but later corrrected his thoughts and remembered the word of the Lord that water was replaced by the spirit when giving an account in Acts 11.