Moments 'Til Midnight Blog Series: Part 4
Wandering Well…One Journey, Two Names
Honestly, is it ‘Saul’ or ‘Paul’? For most of my life, I thought “Saul” was simply his name prior to his conversion and the name “Paul” symbolized that he was, in fact, a new creation after his life-changing encounter with Jesus. This makes sense at first glance—new life equals new name. Saul was the sinner, and Paul was the apostle. The problem is that the correlation is not entirely accurate or true.5 He was actually a man with two names, which was common in that time period for someone with Hebrew heritage.
Without going on too much of a tangent here, the name Saul reflects his Hebrew heritage, while Paul is his Greek name. Since Saul/Paul would be ministering primarily in Greco- Roman territories where his Roman citizenship would come in handy, beginning in Acts 13:13 he is henceforth referred to as Paul.
You may ask, “What’s the purpose in mentioning this little biblical tidbit that might only seem useful in a Bible trivia game of some sort?” Well, in Acts 13, Saul, who is also called Paul (v. 9), along with Barnabas, are beginning the first of three epic missionary journeys. In other words, Paul is his name as he begins what would end up being ten thousand miles of journeys expanding the movement of Christianity. The first time he is simply referred to in this way, Luke writes, “Paul and his companions set sail from Paphos (Acts 13:13).” From this point forward, Paul’s name is intrinsically bound to the advancement of the church.
Saul was a man of overwhelming potential. Paul was a man who was practically fulfilling and living out his purpose—taking the Gospel to the Gentile world. Paul was inevitably the name more suited for the pilgrimage God had in store.
I love the image that accompanies the first stand-alone “Paul” reference. Paul is in a boat with the wind in his sails, the sea breeze in his face, a handful of redeemed renegades at his side, and a glorious journey ahead.
This name shift teaches us that a pilgrim’s purpose isn’t discovered in the doing but rather in an inability to remain unresponsive to our new being. We get to wander through this world with our eyes wide open because we were once blind and now we see. Pilgrims cannot be stagnant in their life because it is contrary to their identity. We are not on a journey to accomplish something in an effort to please God enough that He may let us into the heaven country. No! We are on a pilgrimage because we have been made pilgrims. We were given sight, so we can’t help but discover creation with our own eyes. We were given life, so breathing is a natural part of being alive. We walk and run and play because our muscles would atrophy if we didn’t. We laugh because there is real, lasting joy in our formerly lifeless hearts. And we journey onward because the longing for eternity that exists within the depths of our souls is as real as the ground beneath our feet.
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This blog post is an excerpt from the book Moments 'Til Midnight and been used with permission from author and company.