The story of Paul's meeting with the risen Jesus on the Damascus Road must be the most famous conversion story of all time. However we understand the event, it changed the world – and not just for Paul himself. It did, of course, change Paul's world. Some people have questioned whether it should be called a 'conversion', since in Paul's view it was not a case of changing his religion, but of finding the Messiah for whom he and other Jews had been waiting. However, if the word 'conversion' means turning from one way to another, that certainly happened to Paul. It was a dramatic change. In 2 Corinthians 5.17 Paul can use the phrase 'new creation' of the person who becomes a Christian. It was like that for him: the light that shone at creation shone into his heart, and brought new life (2 Corinthians 4.3). It also brought a whole new understanding of God and his purposes: when Paul says in Galatians 1.12 that he received his gospel 'by revelation from Jesus Christ', he is clearly referring to his conversion as the momentous occasion when he came to understand the good news.
It all happened when he was leading an anti-Christian campaign. There had been a campaign going on against the Christian movement for some time: the arrest and execution of Jesus in around AD 30 was the first main attempt to eliminate the troublesome movement, as the authorities saw it. But unfortunately for them this did not stop the Christian momentum for any length of time; indeed rather the opposite happened. The Christians claimed that Jesus had come to life again, and the authorities found themselves faced with a rapidly growing movement of people, who were not only propagating the ideas that had made Jesus so offensive but were also claiming that the authorities had disgracefully executed someone who had now been brought to life again by God and who was the Jewish Messiah.
There seem to have been sporadic attempts to stop the progress of the emerging Church, but things seem to have taken a more violent turn with Stephen, as we have seen. Whether this was because he