What is the significance of Paul being the ‘chosen vessel’ in Acts 9:15?

From Saul the Jew to Paul the apostle

The conversion of Saul the violent murderous fanatic Jew who was possibly the most vicious opponent of Christ to Paul, one of His most faithful servants and the apostle to the Gentiles is proof that nobody is beyond hope and that Jesus can save to the uttermost.

‘But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:’ Acts 9:15

In this verse, we see Ananias being commanded by Jesus to go and lay hands on Saul and Ananias protests. It is then that the Lord tells him that Saul has been chosen by Him to be His witness. Note the order there, first to the gentiles then to others. This is confirmed in Acts 22:21. While Peter was chosen to preach to the Jews, Paul was chosen to preach to the Gentiles (that is those who are not Jews). It is very interesting that Jesus chose the previously devout Christ hating Jew to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. This demonstrates God’s sovereign will in that He will choose who He will for His purposes. And it is a great encouragement to us that God can use anyone.

The Damascus road

On the Damascus road, when Jesus asked Saul why he was persecuting Him (by persecuting His followers), Saul responds by asking who He is. Jesus tells Saul who He is and the other thing He says “it is hard to kick against the goads” tells us that Saul was actively resisting the Holy Spirit. How do we know this? Jesus was referring to the goad/prick, a sharp wooden spike that is used in the yoke placed on oxen. When the oxen refuses to follow the commands of the farmer and kicks, the goad drives deep into the flesh of the oxen. The more he kicks the more it hurts.

So Jesus was telling Saul not to resist God’s will for his life. Saul refused to submit to God’s will for his life, blinded by his religious fervor and instead killing Christians. Jesus not only stopped Saul from persecuting Christians but turned him into Paul, one of His greatest missionaries! As the Bible says, everyone who desires to live Godly in Christ will suffer for His name (2 Timothy 3:12). This is because the world hates God and anyone who is a child of God (John 15:18). It was due to Paul’s ministry, led by the Holy Spirit, that the gospel spread throughout the then-Roman empire and further afield. Most of the books in the New Testament are letters written by Paul to the various churches he planted.

The Chosen Vessel

The Greek word translated as ‘vessel’ in Acts 9:15 is skeuos. This is the same word also translated as vessel in 2 Corinthians 4:7 which reminds us that we are only vessels for God’s glory. By calling Paul a vessel, Jesus declared that it was not Paul’s abilities or status but God’s power that enabled him to do the works he did and to suffer for the sake of the gospel. We thus see that Paul was chosen by Jesus for a specific task – being God’s vessel for reaching the Gentiles. It is also interesting to note that 1 Thessalonians 4:4 shows that every believer is a vessel for God’s glory.