The events that happened on the road to  Damascus relate not only to the Apostle Paul, whose dramatic conversion occurred  there, but they also provide a clear picture of the conversion of all people.  While some have an extraordinarily dramatic conversion known as a “Damascus Road  experience,” the conversion of all believers follows a similar pattern of Paul’s  experience on the road to Damascus, described in Paul’s own words in Acts 9:1-9, Acts  22:6-11, Acts  26:9-20.

Putting the three accounts together, the details of this  amazing experience come together. Paul, whose name at that time was Saul, was on  his way to Damascus with a letter from the high priest of the Temple in  Jerusalem giving him authority to arrest any who belonged to “the Way,” meaning  those who followed Christ. So intent was he on “opposing the name of Jesus of  Nazareth” (Acts 26:9)  that in “raging fury,” he breathed “threats and murder against the disciples of  the Lord.” Here was a man who truly hated Christ and all who were associated  with Him.

Suddenly a bright light shone on Saul, causing his entire  party to fall to the ground. Then Jesus spoke to Saul, asking him “why are you  persecuting me?” in a voice understood only by him. Saul recognized that this  was a deity of some sort because he called Him “Lord” and asked who He was. When  Jesus identified Himself as the very One Saul had been persecuting, one can only  imagine the terror that filled Saul’s heart. Saul was speechless, no doubt  thinking to himself, “I’m a dead man.” The Acts 22 version of the story  indicates that Saul’s response was to ask what Jesus wanted him to do. The Acts  9 and Acts 22 retellings of the story have Saul saying Jesus told him to rise  and go to Damascus where he would be told what to do.

In the Acts 26  story, which is longer and more detail filled, Saul describes Jesus’ commission  of him as His messenger to the Gentiles (which must have amazed Saul, the  ultimate Gentile-hating Pharisee), to turn many from darkness to the light and  from the power of Satan to God. His message of forgiveness of sins and “a place  among those who are sanctified by faith” must have also astonished Saul because  the Jews were convinced they alone had the place of honor in God’s eyes.

There is no discrepancy or contradiction among these three accounts. Even  though Saul received his commission from Jesus on the road, he still had to go  into Damascus and be told what to do—meet with Ananias who laid hands on him,  receive the Holy Spirit, be baptized, and be received by the disciples there (Acts 9:15-16, 19, 22:12-16).  At Damascus, he also went for three days without eating or drinking, and then  received his sight which had been taken from him on the road.

The phrase  “Damascus Road experience” is used to describe a conversion which is dramatic  and startling. Many people receive Christ in a life-changing instantaneous  experience, although many others describe their conversion as more of a gradual  understanding of the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. But both types of  experiences have several things in common. First, salvation is of the Lord, by  His will and according to His plan and purpose (Acts 22:14).  As He does one way or another to each of us, Jesus made it clear to Saul that he  had gone his own way for long enough. Now he was to become an instrument in the  hands of the Master to do His will as He had foreordained it.

Secondly,  the response of both Saul and all those who are redeemd by Christ is the same:  “What do you want me to do?” Like Saul, we do not bargain, negotiate, question,  or come halfway. The response of the redeemed is obedience. When God truly  touches our hearts, our only response can be, “Lord, may your will be done and  may you use me to do it.” Such was the experience of Saul on the Damascus  Road.

Saul’s dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus was the  beginning of an incredible journey. And while not all conversions are as  startling as Saul’s, each of us is commissioned by Jesus to live in obedience to  Him (John 14:15),  love one another in His name (1 John  2:23), “know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of  sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10), and  tell the world of the wonderful riches in Christ.