The Conversion of St. Paul and the Ministry of the Cross
One could hardly over-emphasize the significance of St. Paul’s conversion for the history of the Church on earth, and really for the history of the world. Indeed,
U. S. News & World Report, some years ago now, identified the conversion of St. Paul as the single most significant event in western history — and that was not even considering his theological contributions, but simply his impact on the life and culture of western society. Even more notably, there are no less than four complementary accounts of St. Paul’s conversion included in the Holy Scriptures, three within the Acts of the Apostles (a surprising repetition in a carefully selective record of Church history), and the fourth from St. Paul’s own hand in his Epistle to the Church at Galatia.
U.S. News & World Report recognized the significance of St. Paul’s conversion in the light of Christianity’s influence on the development of western culture in countless different ways; and that is worth noting, especially in view of the First Article and God’s good gifts of creation for this body and life on earth. But it is instructive to remember that the Lord called St. Paul to bear the Cross and to suffer for His Name’s sake (Acts 9:16). And whereas there were many whom the Lord converted by the preaching of St. Paul (1 Cor. 3:6-11; 4:15), it is likewise the case that St. Paul faced much rejection and persecution for his faithful ministry (2 Cor. 11:22-29). What is more, that blessed Apostle boasts, not in his “successes,” but in his weakness (2 Cor. 11:30), and above all “in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
For those who follow St. Paul in the Office of the Holy Ministry, it is essential that we not measure our “success” or “failure” according to the outward impact or accomplishments of our efforts. We are men under authority with a job to do, and it is required of us that we be found faithful in our calling and station, trusting the Lord to accomplish His purposes, according to His good and gracious will, by the ways and means of His Cross. Where we fall short or misstep in our own frailty and weakness, let us repent and do better, to be sure, but let us do so in the sure and certain confidence of our Lord’s mercy and forgiveness. And let us also take to heart that, in the preaching and teaching of His Word and the giving of His good Gifts according to His Word, our labors are not in vain but resound to the glory of His Name, irrespective of appearances.