When Did Paul First Meet Jesus?
The Pharisee Saul's conversion on the road to Damascus is one of the most well-known events of Bible History. Saul had been a deadly enemy of Christians, but the Christ Himself brought about his conversion, after which Saul became known as Paul - not only one of the greatest Christians that ever lived, but a man who was given to write, through his Epistles, much of the New Testament record.
"I am Jesus whom thou persecutest"
But when did Saul/Paul first meet Jesus? On the road to Damascus? Perhaps, but as a Jerusalem Pharisee, it would have been nearly impossible for Saul to not have encountered the Messiah during the time of His ministry - and it was the Pharisees who were the foremost members of the ruling council that had the Christ judicially assassinated. When Jesus said, on the road to Damascus, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest," it was after Christ's resurrection when no one could persecute Him; Jesus may have made the statement as a reminder of what Saul had done prior to and during Christ's killing. Saul very likely debated with Christ in Jerusalem (Christ's encounters with the Pharisees are described in detail - and the Pharisees were always humiliated by the Truth that Christ spoke), debates that Saul lost - hence his violent hatred for Christ and then Christians.
"9:1 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 9:2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
9:3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 9:4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
9:5 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.
9:6 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.
9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
9:8 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. 9:9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink." (Acts 9:1-8 KJV)
Paul was then introduced to the Church of God through Ananias The Disciple.
"9:10 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.
9:11 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,
9:12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
9:13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 9:14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
9:15 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: 9:16 For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
9:17 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 [see The Cure For The Carnal Mind and When Their Eyes Were Opened]. 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus." (Acts 9:9-19 KJV)
Understandably, the Christians were at first fearful of the man who had been such a lethal threat to them, but when they realized what had happened, they thanked The Lord and accepted Saul as a brother in Christ. Ironically, but predictably, the Christian-haters from whom Saul was delivered then sought to kill Saul.
"9:20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
9:21 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? 9:22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
9:23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
9:24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. 9:25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.
9:26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
9:28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. 9:29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
9:30 Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
9:31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied." (Acts 9:20-31 KJV)
Fact Finder: After his conversion, how did Paul become one of the greatest servants of Christ that ever lived?
See Paul's Ministry