In Acts 7:58 we are introduced to a leader named Saul. He was leading persecutions of the church (Acts 8:3) and was active in threatening believers (Acts 9:1). He had asked for and received written approval to arrest any who believed (Acts 9:2). Surprisingly, it is in the account of Saul’s pursuit of that task that we learn that Saul was a chosen vessel. In Acts 9:15 we read that “he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel” (NASB95). What a remarkable turn that someone who was so destructive could actually be transformed and used by God in such a powerful way! There is much for us to learn from Saul being a chosen vessel.
While Saul was traveling to Damascus to persecute believers there, Jesus Himself interacted with Saul, asking Saul why he was persecuting Jesus (Acts 9:4). Saul questioned who it was that was addressing him and who it was that Saul was actually persecuting. The answer was direct: “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:5). Saul listened and followed Jesus’ directions to enter the city, where he would be shown what to do (Acts 9:6). Saul then saw a vision of a man named Ananias come and restore Saul’s sight, which he had lost when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:12).
When the Lord instructed Ananias to meet Saul, Ananias was disturbed because he was aware of Saul’s hatred and persecution of Christians (Acts 9:13–14). God encouraged Ananias and explained to him that “this man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel” (Acts 9:15). Saul was a chosen vessel who would be a powerful testimony of Jesus before both Jews and Gentiles. Ananias went to meet Saul, and Saul became the man God had said he would be. Saul (also known as Paul) later testified before many, including kings, that Jesus was the Christ. This isn’t mere history; there is much we can learn from Saul being a chosen vessel.
Saul acknowledged how great a change there was in his life, as he refers to himself later as the foremost or chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). He recognized that God had shown him incredible mercy and grace and that, though at one time he was a child of God’s wrath (Ephesians 2:3), he had become God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus for doing good (Ephesians 2:10). In the same way as was true of Saul, we all begin as children of wrath, as enemies of God. But in His mercy and grace God brings us to Himself and offers us a new life. We are saved by grace through belief in Jesus (Ephesians 2:8), and then we also become God’s workmanship—new creations created for doing good (Ephesians 2:10).
Also, like Saul, we are chosen vessels of God. In Ephesians 1:4–5 we learn that we have been predestined to be His children, and in Ephesians 2:10 we read that He prepared good works beforehand that we should walk in them. It should be a great encouragement to us that God has chosen us, given us mercy and grace, and no matter how much we do not deserve His love, He has loved us and made us His workmanship designed to fulfill His purpose. Saul’s being a chosen vessel is not very different from how God works in our own lives.