A Strategic Act of an Apostle
by Dr. Craig von Buseck
Luke, the writer of Acts, shows us an amazing transformation in the life of Saul of Tarsus. This metamorphosis takes place in one single chapter – Acts 13 – though the preparation for it happened over many years.
Verse 2: While they 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.”
Verse 9: But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him…
Verse 43: And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas…
In ancient times, the most prominent person was named first in all literature. The chapter begins with the introduction of Barnabas and Saul. By the end of the chapter, not only was Paul named first, but also his name had changed.
We see in Scripture that God changed Abram’s name to Abraham (Genesis 17:5) and Jacob’s name to Israel (Genesis 35:10). But nowhere do we see an explicit statement that God changed Saul’s name to Paul.
So why was his name changed at the same time that he emerged as the preeminent apostle to the Gentiles?
I believe that Saul himself changed his name from the Jewish name “Saul” to the Gentile name “Paul.”
The reason was two-fold:
- For the purpose of building a bridge of communication and trust with the people God had assigned to him to reach, the Gentiles.
- Saul so identified with his calling that he went so far as to change his name.
Writing to the church in Corinth, Paul makes the famous declaration: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). In this significant step of changing his name from Jewish to Gentile, he is signaling his commitment to his calling – but also to those he is called to reach.
As you ponder this significant act of an apostle, I encourage you to prayerfully consider your calling and what you have done – or are willing to do – to “become all things to all…” that you might save some.
Dr. Craig von Buseck is manager of digital content for Inspiration.org. His most recent book is I Am Cyrus: Harry S. Truman and the Rebirth of Israel from Iron Stream Media. To order, visit IAmCyrusBook.com. Learn more at vonbuseck.com and inspiration.org.