but saul, who was also called paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him and said, “you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? [acts 13:9-10]
why the name change?
it is a common misconception that ‘saul the persecutor’ became ‘paul the apostle’ at the moment of his vision of Jesus and acceptance of his calling.
but this didn’t really happen.
from the time since paul encountered Jesus directly back in chapter 9, he continues to be called saul up until this point in chapter 13. it turns out that many people at the time had multiple names, as they interacted in multiple cultures. accordingly, saul the jew, who also grew up in and around the roman/greek world, would also have also had the greek name of paul.
what stands out here, and why luke brings it up, is not that Jesus changed paul’s name after his conversion. the thing of note is that paul was now heading off to preach the gospel to gentiles, and by using his gentile/greek name he was emphasizing the ways in which he could relate to them and their culture. paul was striving to eliminate any obstacle to the gospel – not by denying who he was, but by using his greek name in greek culture and relating to people in any way he could.
paul looked intently
we see here that paul, even using his culturally normal name, did not in any way hold back from proclaiming the gospel in truth and power.
paul made clear that his mission was to call out sin and speak the truth of Christ. we see this in full effect here through his intense stare.
filled with the Holy Spirit, what an intensity must have existed in the eyes of this apostle!
as we seek to engage with those around us, let us be mindful of the balance we see in paul – establishing commonalities to communicate the gospel, without compromising for even a moment the truth and power that the gospel holds!
~ jason soroski