The Transforming Grace
It is true that There is a lot of confusion these days about what it really means to be born again. We all need to be clear about what constitutes true conversion. We need to know it for ourselves, so that we are sure about our own conversion.
We need to know it for when we talk with others about spiritual matters, since clearly not all who profess to be born again are truly saved.
Let’s begin by looking at the context of the verse we are dealing with before we answer the question.
When Alexander the great died he left some traces of the Greek culture all across the world which became very influential. Even in the roman occupation there was still Greek culture wrapping it. This culture was artistic while the Hebrew culture was stricter and legalistic. This was a conflict between these communities. The Pharisees were the representatives of the Hebrew culture (very strict) the Grecian were more cultural in arts and such things.
The Jews at this time were divided into these two cultures i.e Hellenistic and Hebrews, the seduces were the Hellenists and materialists while the Pharisees were of the Hebrew culture. This means to effectively reach the Jews one must have an understanding of both cultures. God in his grace chose Paul as an instrument. He was born in Tarsus which was one of the Hellenistic centers of that time. Until the age of 14, his parents were of the Hebrew culture but his childhood friends were all Hellenistic, so even when he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews (Philippians 3:5) he had Hellenistic culture in him that. Even as a Pharisee he still had this culture in him. What does this tell us? The message is simple and here it is that Humanly speaking, Saul was not a likely candidate for salvation. It would be comparable to hearing that Saddam Hussein had gotten converted and had become an evangelist to the Arabs! There was no human explanation for Saul’s conversion! But there is no human explanation for any true conversion, because salvation is from the Lord, not from man. God is able to do what we cannot imagine.
To show Saul’s heartless cruelty, Luke mentions that he was after both men and women. He didn’t care if he took fathers and mothers away from their children. He had such an intense hatred for Jesus Christ and His followers that he felt that any suffering he inflicted on them was right.
But here comes the good news of the great transforming grace: Everything about Saul’s conversion came from God. Saul was not searching for the Lord or for salvation. And that’s why it is written Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”