Let’s look at the two other explanations for Paul’s conversion. Yesterday we dismissed the first two.
3. Was Paul deceived by others? Lyttleton is right when he dismisses this possibility on two counts. The first is that it is impossible to think of the disciples even thinking of trying to deceive this arch enemy of the faith, whom they feared. Second, even if they had conceived the idea, it would still have been impossible for them to have done so. “Could they produce a light in the air, which at midday was brighter than that of the sun? Could they make Saul hear words from out of that light, which were not heard by the rest of the company (Acts 22:9)? Could they make him blind for three days after that vision, and then make scales fall from his eyes and restore him to sight by a word? Beyond dispute, no fraud could do these things; but much less still could the fraud of others produce those miracles subsequent to his conversion, in which he was not passive, but active, which he did himself, and appeals to his epistles as proofs of his divine mission.”4
4. Did Paul genuinely see Jesus and convert? The inevitable conclusion is that wishful thinking or deceit or the desire to deceive others did not lead Paul to believe on Jesus of Nazareth and become a Christian. He was converted by the appearance of Jesus alone— Jesus, who stopped him in his tracks, subdued his spirit, and sent him out as a missionary to the detested Gentiles.
Today we live in an irrational age. It is an age in which people float from idea to idea and from “faith” to “faith” without feeling any need to investigate the facts for anything or to satisfy themselves that what they think they believe does indeed rest on evidences. Christianity is a hard faith, one that calls for sound thought and asks us to build on sound convictions. It stands against the prevailing winds of our secular culture. It does not appeal to many today. But perhaps you are one—one of the few—who is dissatisfied with drifting from opinion to opinion, and perhaps you are wondering if somewhere there is something solid upon which a thinking man or woman can build a strong life. If you are one of these scarce people, I point you to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is an event so fantastic, so improbable that it should be rejected by any thinking person—unless it is true. But if it is true, it should stand up to investigation, and the truth of it should change your life utterly and for the good, as it has changed the lives of other people. Perhaps now you are still an unbeliever. But perhaps by next Easter—and I hope much sooner than that— you will have been met by Jesus, have believed on him, and have said as the angels did, “He is risen, just as he said” (Matt. 28:6).
4 Lyttleton, op. cit., p. 487.