Saul of Tarsus despised Christians; so much so that he terrorized the New Testament church. When the first recorded Christian martyrdom took place at the stoning of Stephen; Saul was there giving “hearty approval.” After that he became somewhat of a Christian bounty hunter, chasing believers from city to city so that he might persecute them. The Bible says, “Now Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked for letters from him to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, both men and women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NASB)
While on his way to Damascus to persecute Christians, Saul was confronted by the risen Christ and was converted by an act of God's sovereign grace. Being physically blinded, Saul was told to go to a specific house in Damascus where a man named Ananias would pray for him and he would regain his sight. Saul's reputation was so violent, that even when the Lord appeared to Ananias in a vision about Saul's conversion, Ananias hesitated. In fact, years after Saul's conversion the early Christian church remained fearful and skeptical. His past persecutions and reputation died hard. But his conversion was genuine as the remainder of his life would show.
When Ananias came to pray for Saul he addressed him by calling him, “Brother Saul.” (Acts 9:17) While this may seem insignificant when you consider that “Brother” is a common title in Christian circles, the fact that this was Saul of Tarsus who was now a “brother” is astounding. Christianity's fiercest opponent was now “preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” (Galatians 1:23) By an act of sheer divine grace, “Terrorist Saul” had become “Brother Saul.” And the world would never be the same again.
Saul's conversion could be likened unto a fierce Muslim terrorist being saved and becoming an outspoken preacher of the gospel. “Brother Saul” could just as easily be “Brother Abdul” or “Brother Muhammad.” In fact, such things have happened in the past and continue to happen today; not just within Islam but within all religions. God's sovereign grace calls sinners of every stripe and creed out of spiritual darkness and into the kingdom of His beloved son (Colossians 1:13). You might be hesitant to accept this, given the past history of persecution that some Muslims have been a part of. But God is bigger than any man or any religion. As the classic hymn "Jesus Paid It All" states, He can “change the leper's spots and melt the heart of stone.” In all honesty, Saul's conversion is no more miraculous than your own. Though you might not have been a persecutor of the church, you were a spiritually dead sinner just the same (Ephesians 2:1). And unless God opened your eyes to the truth, they would have remained forever sealed shut.
As Christians we should praise God for “Brother Saul.” We should also praise God anytime a “Brother Abdul” or “Brother Muhammad” comes into being. When this world passes away, there will be gathered around the throne of the Lamb in Heaven, those from every “tongue, tribe, people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:9) Christians from every people group will be represented. Saul of Tarsus (better known as Paul the Apostle) will be there. Former Muslims will be there. Former Jews will be there. Former atheists will be there. All those who turned from sin in repentance and trusted in Jesus Christ as Lord will be there. It will be a worship service unlike any ever experienced on earth. It will be a sight to behold. Will you be there to see it?