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All things to all men. . . December 8, 2008

Posted by Nate in Christianity.

I was thinking about the idea of “being all things to all men,” when I realized something. Never in Scripture is it found that Saul changed his name to Paul when he was converted. In fact, in Acts 13 (when he’s first referred to as Paul), the passage says, “Saul, who was also called Paul. . .”

As I did more research (said research was done a couple years ago, but it was only recently that I saw the application), I discovered that Saul most likely carried both names throughout his life. Saul was a Jew. The name “Saul” is a strong Jewish name. It was kind of like “Alistair” or “William” in English. I think Saul carried that name because of where he was in his life. He was a student of Hebrew law and on the verge of becoming a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a “Pharisee of the Pharisees” and blameless in the eyes of the law.

Interestingly enough, he continues to use the name “Saul” even after his conversion. I’m betting this is because his ministry was to the Jews for a while. In Acts 11, Saul and Barnabas taught the Jewish Christian church in Antioch. He carried that name because of who he was among and who his ministry was directed to.

But in Acts 13, when the Jews rejected his message, Saul began to close his ministry to the Jews and focus nearly entirely on his ministry to the Gentiles. “Paul” was a common Roman name. He used this name to connect with the people he was ministering to.

So what am I trying to get at? Well, I suppose the application is that God is trying to tell us to be and do whatever it takes to spread the gospel. When among differing groups of people, are we “changing our names”? After all, we were born humans. We have that much in common with people. Paul maintained his identity as a Christ-follower, but his identity as a Roman or Jew was ever-shifting back and forth.

So, in my life? Among the poets, I’m a writer. Among the athletes, I’m a sports fan. Among the broken and fallen, I am broken and fallen. To share the gospel, I need to be able to say the two most powerful words in our language: “me too.”



1. Clark Bunch - December 8, 2008

I get your application about becoming all things to all people. I was just looking up the Saul/Paul thing to see if the scriptures bear out what you’re saying. It is true the Saul was “also called Paul,” and Acts continues to use both names for the rest of the book. The name Paul appears many more times than does Saul. Here’s what I noticed. The book of Acts, written by Luke, is the only New Testament book to call him Saul. I and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thesolonians and Philamon are all written by the Apostle Paul, and he identifies himself as Paul. I don’t know if that means anything or not, I just thought I’d share what I learned.

2. Nate - December 8, 2008

Interesting, huh. Note that all those letters were written to Gentile churches. I could be mistaken, but I think Acts is the only book that clearly documents his interaction with the Jews.

3. Nate - December 8, 2008

Also note that Paul is recognized as the frontman for the early Church’s missions to the Gentiles. So I’m pretty sure God wanted us to remember him as a missionary to the Gentiles, hence the constant usage of his Roman name.

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