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  • Writer's pictureArnie Ken Palyola

Essay: The Holy Spirit and the apostle Paul

Updated: May 19, 2022

God has worked amazingly in my life, and in seeking to be in conformance to God’s plan for my life, I believe I have seen the power of the Spirit, and in effect making me a witness and testimony to a life changed and blessed by God. As I began my Bible study, Paul’s conversion and ministry came to light as a striking example of how God through the Spirit transforms and empowers individuals for a purpose designed to serve God.

1.) Saul the persecutor to Paul the Apostle

There was no greater enemy than Saul to the early followers of Jesus Christ and the apostles, Paul (Saul) is identified as being present at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7:54-60. Chapter 8 begins with the sentence: “and Saul approved of their killing him” (Acts 8:1a, NIV). It is very likely that Paul heard Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:2-53) and Stephen’s conviction of them in saying “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (v. 7:51, NIV). Acts 8:1b-3 cites more detail to the enemy the early church had in Paul (Saul), “Saul began to destroy the church” (v.8:3), and in Acts 9, Paul (Saul) “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (v.9:1, NIV) he asks the high priest for letters for his mission to arrest the disciples he might find in Damascus (v.9:2). What happens next is only detailed in Acts although in his ministry, Paul will reference the event in his epistles and most likely contributed to his ministry to others. Acts 9:3 tells how on his journey and just short of arriving in Damascus, “light from Heaven flashed around him,” (I like to think of this as literal “lightning” striking him to the ground,) and Paul hears a loud voice calling his name and asking him “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting me?” (v. 9:4). The rest of this part of Paul’s story in Acts finds him blind and then healed by the Spirit in Ananias who says to Paul “the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (v.9:5-17, NIV). Just moments before, Jesus had appeared to Ananias and ordered him to heal Paul in the Spirit for his purpose: “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15-16, NIV).

2.) Saul the Pharisee to Paul the Christian

Jesus informs Ananias that Paul is to be his chosen instrument, that he would proclaim his name to Jew and Gentile. I have cited Wolfhart Pannenberg in his pointing out to Paul’s training in the traditions of Jewish theology,1 by having received the Holy Spirit, Paul would become a prodigious author and orator for the early church. Pannenberg writes that of the “efficacy of the Divine Spirit as the origin of all life: these special, unusual capacities and attainments, which demand a particular degree of vital energy, a special infusion of the creative spirit of God.”2 He adds that “they are to be found among heroes and prophets…in all these cases men have to do with a particular operation of the same power which is the origin of life.”3 Paul as the theologian of the Jewish tradition, that is the Old Testament, has been transformed by the Spirit of God into the most qualified theologian for writing the epistles that become the books of the New Testament. Pannenberg adds that “it is not by chance that for Paul it was the Spirit through whom Jesus was raised.”4 Of Jesus, Paul writes in Romans; “who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 1:4, NIV), and “because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death” (v. 8:2, NIV) and “if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (v. 8:11, NIV).



3. Pauline Theology in sum.

These are important theological concepts for the believer in Jesus Christ, that because of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit is also present for humanity, “that is why all theological statements about the Spirit in (Paul’s epistles) are related to Christ and take a Christological form.”5 What one teaches about the Holy Spirit is essentially spoken in reference to the risen Christ, It is Jesus who has stated in Gospel of John, for example: “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (14:26, NIV). The Person of the Holy Spirit acts in and through the individual who believes in Christ in a two-fold transformation, in that there is a serenity in their present life and hope for the future life in Christ.


1. Pannenburg, 1972, pgs. 102

2. Ibid., pg. 134

3. Ibid., pg. 134

4.Ibid., pg. 137

5. Ibid., pg. 138

Bibliography:

Pannenburg, Wolfhart. The Apostles' Creed: In the Light of Today's Questions. Translated by Margaret Kohl, 10th ed., The Westminster Press, 1972.

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