The Apostle of Union and Love (Part One)



Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. 

Jesus, I belong to you.

I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.

Jesus, we belong to you. 

Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen. 

Acts 9:1–9

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.


How does a first-century enemy of Jesus and a murderer of his followers become one of the world’s greatest writers on union with Christ and the topic of love?

We first meet Saul in Acts 7:57 as he presides over the martyrdom of Stephen. Then, in Acts 9, we meet Saul again traveling on the road to Damascus to arrest followers of Jesus (he is called Paul in Acts 13:9). 

Paul is a leader mid-mission, mid-purpose, mid-stride. He believes he is in the center of his calling, raised up for such a time as this. And there, in the middle of the road, he is halted, arrested, and pulled out of the game. A bright light flashes around him. He is blinded and knocked off of his horse. He is in the dust—in the presence of Jesus.

That is when Jesus reveals his intimate union with the body of Christ. Paul has been persecuting Christians. Jesus asks, “Why do you persecute me?” Paul wasn’t persecuting Jesus; he was persecuting believers, right? When Paul asks who is the one who is speaking to him, this one who identifies with the believing church, Jesus answers, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” Jesus identifies with his people; his church is in him, and he is in his church.

Given the incredible and prolific writings on love that flow from Paul after this encounter, I would propose we consider this possibility: Paul was not knocked off of his horse by some generic version of divine power—he was knocked off his horse by love.

Three insights in Paul’s conversion story will help us as we learn how we grow in deeper union, deeper intimacy, with Jesus.

The first insight is this: Sometimes we have to lose our sight to gain a vision (v. 9). 

Paul trusted in his capacities and his skills as a believer in, and teacher about, God. But sometimes we’re blinded by our abilities, passions, talents, learning, or experience. We are blind to an even more beautiful vision of who God truly is. When a cataclysm occurs in our lives, one that makes us wonder if we ever knew God at all, we can be given new sight! We are given the opportunity to gain a fresh vision of God—and the eyes of our humbled hearts are opened to perceive him in a new way (Eph. 1:18–21).

The second insight is this: Sometimes we have to lose our time to gain eternity (v. 9; Gal. 1:11-24). 

After Paul’s encounter and some initial ministry, according to Galatians 1, it seems he disappears from the scene for three years to learn the gospel—by revelation—from Jesus. In seasons of transformation, God puts us on his timetable, and he is in no hurry. We begin to measure in long-time, trust-time, wait-time, and growth-time. Sometimes we have to lose time, by our perception, to gain eternity in our hearts (Ecc. 3:11).

The third insight is this: Sometimes we have to lose our job to gain a mission—or rather, for a mission to gain us

Sometimes we have to lose what we thought we were engaged by God to do, in order to be enlisted in a fresh mission with God. Paul thought he knew who he was, what he was about, what he was for. He thought he understood so much about the nature of God and his purposes. And in a flash, a moment in time, his job, his task, his business card, his metrics for success and achievement and value, were removed from him. Jesus, and his mission to love the world to himself, became the new mission of the apostle Paul.

Paul’s business card was rewritten in the middle of that road: Beloved Son was all that was left written on it. And from that sense of union with the Lord who loved him enough to stop him, free him, and change him, from that abounding sense of beginning “to know this love” (Eph. 3:19) that God had for him (1 John 4:16), Paul was set on a new course that has reached us today. 

God turns our greatest losses into our greatest gains (Phil. 3:7–8). Paul, now “in Christ,” was loved to life by Jesus himself.


Lord Jesus, I am in you and you are in me. I thank you that my perceived losses of sight, time, and mission can lead me to a greater knowledge of you and your love for me. Use each one of my difficult seasons to bring me the gain of knowing you (Phil. 3:7–8). In Christ Jesus, I pray, amen.


Have you experienced, in some season of your life, a loss? Perhaps you felt you lost your spiritual sight, an opportunity, or sense of purpose? What would happen if you began to see each loss as a doorway that leads to the gain of knowing Jesus more fully?

For the Awakening,
Dan Wilt 

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WHAT IS THIS? Wake-Up Call is a daily encouragement to shake off the slumber of our busy lives and turn our eyes toward Jesus. Each morning our community gathers around a Scripture, a reflection, a prayer, and a few short questions, inviting us to reorient our lives around the love of Jesus that transforms our hearts, homes, churches, and cities.

Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. Saul had great Bible knowledge, but that knowledge didn’t bring Him into a relationship with Christ. All he had been taught didn’t open His heart to Jesus. He knew what Christians believed about Jesus, yet he wanted to throw them in jail for it.

    Then one day on a road trip Saul’s theology was tripped up by the presence of the risen Jesus. From down on the ground, He asked: “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus replied: “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

    When Saul opened his eyes, he realized that he was physically blind. As he got up to go into the city, he was beginning to see the presence of Jesus as he caught inner glimpses of spiritual realities that can’t be taught.

    Here’s what Paul wants us to know about His conversion: “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (See Galatians 1:11-12.)

    Religious information is learned by study. Relationship with Jesus is acquired thru direct personal revelation from God. Christianity isn’t produced by church attendance, but by acquiring an acute awareness of the actual and ongoing presence of Jesus. The more closely you associate with and surrender to the risen Jesus, the more you acclimate to His presence and acquire His character.

    True faith in Christ is acquired by direct personal revelation from God and an intimate relationship of continual submission to the presence and Lordship of the living Jesus. Christianity’s not a religious curriculum learned thru lecture but a relationship with Jesus acquired thru ongoing surrender.

    The purpose of human life is not mere existence. The purpose is to acquire an eternal relationship with God by ever aligning your consciousness and lifestyle with the risen Jesus and allowing Him to grow the fruit of His Spirit in your innermost being.

    Jesus couldn’t be contained and controlled by routine religion in the first century and He can’t be today either! Let’s continually look beyond our religious routine and ever surrender to the living, resurrected Jesus!

    Here’s the bottom line: Faith in Christ isn’t something that can be taught. It’s acquired by being caught thru direct, supernatural revelation from God.

    You can go to church,
    Study the Bible,
    And even sing in the choir,
    Yet still not acquire
    Christ’s spiritual fire
    Burning within you.
    Let Jesus ignite you
    With His heart fire!

  2. Jesus’s call to discipleship requires that we be willing to deny ourselves, pick up up our crosses daily, and follow him. The denying of oneself often involves coming to the end of oneself’s ability to handle an impossible situation or being knocked off balance by having your belief’s challenged. I can personally attest to the spiritual crisis that can result from that. Fortunately for me, it resulted in a stronger faith by going deeper into the study of Scriptures to not only affirming what I believe, but now secure in knowing why, based on Biblical authority.

  3. I enjoyed reading the personal comments from all who posted.
    I am in a new season. Transitioning by the Lord Jesus Christ. His revealations are blessings all for His honor, glory, and Kingdom purposes.
    As I listened to this podcast, the Apostle of Union and Love, the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the inspired written words from Paul’s letter to Corinth. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 Especially verse 12. ” Now we see but a poor reflection as in the mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. ”
    The love of God surpasses the Father, Lord Jesus Christ, and Holy Spirit surpasses knowledge. Ephesians 3:14-21

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