Saul’s name did not change to Paul when he was saved. (That was about 14 years ago.)
Saul’s name changed to Paul when he served.
Name changes are not unusual in God’s Word. Abram to Abraham. Sarai to Sarah. Jacob to Israel. Simon to Peter. In Revelation 2:17 God’s Word declares He will give a new name to each one of us who overcomes, and that new name, “no one knows except him who receives it.”
Names are important to God. After making Adam, God allowed Adam the privilege to name all the animals – in part to demonstrate man’s dominion – and in part to demonstrate to Adam he lacked a companion as the animals had, creating in him a desire for a help-meet met in the creation of Eve.
When Gabriel came to announce the imminent Holy Spirit-conception of the Christ-child to Mary, he informed her His name was to be called ‘Jesus.’ This was both specific and intentional, as it meant ‘Yahweh is Salvation.’ His name was Who He was.
For Paul, it was much the same, only in the opposite sort of direction. ‘Saul,’ his former name, was a name of greatness, the name of the first king of Israel. ‘Paul,’ on the other hand, means, ‘little one,’ or ‘small.’
Jesus had taught greatness was to be found in serving. If Saul – the great man – was to be made ‘small’ in serving and humility, then his ‘smallness’ would become greater than anything we may have previously imagined his ‘greatness’ to be. Paul’s life was to become a living sacrifice, poured out for all. He was being transformed from a man of great pride and ability, capable and worthy of much bragging and honors, into a man of lowliness and demonstrable servitude.
In large measure, it is because of Saul’s transformation to ‘Paul’ we are seated here today, preparing to embark on a study of the man’s life and ministry. From this point in the Book of Acts, Paul becomes the focus, not because of his magnitude – but because of his servitude.
We might say Paul is a tremendous example none of us could ever hope to live up to. But each of us can serve – and that was Paul’s example.