David said, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn your statutes” (Ps 119:71). We can all learn when we are suffering afflictions. We learn who are friends are. We learn that the works of the flesh are not luring to us when we are in pain. We learn what is imperative in life. We learn that this life is not eternal. We learn that being right with God is the most important thing we can do to prepare ourselves for the life to come. The point is, when we are suffering for the cause of Christ, we are learning how to be better servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Even so, Paul learned a lot of things after he was afflicted with blindness.
First, Paul saw that he was a sinner (1 Tim. 1:15). One thing the Pharisee could never see was that he was a sinner (Lk 18:10-14). The Prodigal Son was very frank to admit, “I have sinned against Heaven” (Lk 15:18). Judas said, “I have sinned” (Matt. 27:4). Also Pharaoh said, “I have sinned” (Ex 9:27).
Second, Paul saw that his “father’s Religion” was wrong. Many people think their religion was good enough for their fathers and is therefore good enough for them. We do not measure other things by this standard. Paul could have reasoned that the religion of his fathers was older than that which began with Jesus, but Paul was not guided by human reasoning (Gal. 1:11-12).
Third, Paul saw that conscience was not a safe guide. Paul had always had a good conscience (Acts 23:1). One should always have a clear conscience, but conscience is not a safe guide. Conscience condemns, but good judgment restrains. I can think of no more lamentable condition than one having a seared conscience (1 Tim. 4:2). When Paul’s conscience was properly taught he obeyed the Truth.
Fourth, Paul saw that prayer did not save. I know of no teaching in the book of God where alien sinners are taught to pray for anything. All the needs of the alien sinner are supplied in the word of God. Sometimes sinners are told to pray for the love of God, but one receives the love of God without any condition on his part (Jn 3:17). Prayer is for the child of God. Solomon said, “He that turns his ear away from hearing the law, his prayer shall be an abomination” (Prov. 28:9). “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Pet 3:12). “Now we know that God hears not sinners: but if any man be a worshiper of God, and does his will, him he hears (Jn 9:31).
Fifth, Paul saw that it was no disgrace to change when wrong. Paul changed out of conviction. I have no doubt that many of us have changed over the years, and will continue to change when convinced we are wrong on any point. What is the motive of our change? Saul’s motive was not for wealth, nor popularity, but of conviction. This is honorable in anyone.
Sixth, Paul saw that baptism washed sins away. “Arise be baptized and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). Members of the Church of Christ have been accused of thinking that water washes sins away. Actually, the blood of Christ washes sins away by the means of baptism. We often sing, “What can wash away my sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus.” We must know how and when we reach the blood of Christ. Paul said, “We are baptized into his death” (Rom. 6:3-4). Christ shed his blood in his death (Jn 19:34). Therefore we reach the blood of Christ in baptism.