I recently wrote this about sharing the gospel:
…the packaging and delivery will vary depending on the needs and attributes of each audience. As the apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22b NIV
I never realized until TODAY that Paul’s name change may have something to do with his perspective on evangelism.
As I have been moving through Acts, I keep thinking, “When is Saul going to become Paul?” I figured it would happen right after his conversion, signifying a new life, a new identity.
But it didn’t change. I kept waiting.
While [the prophets and teachers in the Antioch church] were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2
What work were they set apart for?
Taking the gospel to the Gentiles.
Saul and Barnabas left Antioch for Cyprus, where “they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.” vs. 5b But then, a Gentile, the “proconsul, an intelligent man [named Sergius Paulus], sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God.” (vs. 7)
A sorcerer then tried to “turn the proconsul from the faith.” (vs. 8) (This passage reminds me of the scene in the Lord of the Rings when Grima Wormtongue takes control of King Theoden).
The passage continues, “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at” the sorcerer and rebuked him, consigning him to temporary blindness.
Finally, Paul has arrived!
And the Gentile proconsul comes to faith.
Then “Paul and his companions” travel on into Gentile territory – what is now southern Turkey.
The New Geneva and ESV Study Bibles* suggest that the Apostle to the Gentiles changed from his given Jewish name Saul to his Greek name Paul to mark his ministry to the Gentiles…
… and perhaps so that he could better relate to his new audience.
I never got that.
I never got that Paul’s change of name came with his change of mission. The new name served a new people, allowing Paul to be all things to all men that by all means he would save some.
And save some he did!
*The ESV Study Bible says Paul may also have taken on Paulus’ name, but I like the other story better.
Today’s Readings: 2 Chronicles 5:2-6:42, Psalm 79:12-13, Proverbs 20:13-14, Acts 13:1-25. See About for what I’m up to with these daily posts. Your daily blogger, Holiday Longing (Reproduce with permission only).