Saul’s Story

Posted: September 30, 2018 in Acts, Uncategorized

Acts 9:1-19, “Saul’s Story”

Everyone loves a good origin story. One of the reasons superhero movies are so popular today is because people want to see how ordinary people become extraordinary. What made Bruce Wayne turn into Batman, or Steve Rogers into Captain America? People want to see how it all began.

Everyday people have origin stories as well: things that happened in the past that made us who we are today. For Christians, we call them our testimonies. What happened in your past that caused you to come to faith in Christ? What was it that caused you to go from spiritual death to spiritual life in Jesus? (Something far more extraordinary than any comic book superhero tale!)

For the man we know today as the apostle Paul, his testimony is recorded at least three times in Scripture, the first in Acts 9. This was the moment that changed Saul’s life, and truly the history of the world.

Remember that the church in Jerusalem was under attack. Although the Sanhedrin had opposed the twelve apostles, they left the other Christians alone (for the most part). All of that changed with Stephen, one of the seven original deacons chosen by the church to help distribute benevolence to the believing widows. Along with his servant’s heart, Stephen was an evangelist, and he took his evangelism to the Greek-speaking synagogue where he was soon arrested and made to stand trial before the Sanhedrin. Those he proved his case from the Scriptures, showing that the Jews had always rejected the prophets and messengers of God, the people came against him and stoned him to death. It was at his execution (lynching) that Luke gave his readers a side note: that “the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul,” (Acts 7:58). Saul held their jackets while the mob viciously beat Stephen to death with the rocks. Saul was a relatively young Pharisee at the time, and he fully consented to the killing of Stephen.

At that, Luke took a bit of an aside to follow the ministry of Philip, another one of the deacons. Philp was the first to take the gospel to Samaria, and the first to knowingly preach the gospel to an ethnic Gentile. Philip had a fantastic ministry, but his is not the focus of the book of Acts. That honor belongs to Paul, or how he was originally known: Saul.

What happened to Saul, to change him from an enemy of the church, to its greatest missionary and theologian? Saul met Jesus, and that encounter changed his life forever. It can change yours, too.

Acts 9:1–19

  • Saul and Jesus (1-9)

1 Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

  1. Luke paints the picture of Saul seething. The last time we saw Saul, he was holding the coats of the mob at a public lynching, and apparently his adrenaline never came down. He’s described as having an active rage, like the snorting of a warhorse. He had an unbridled hatred for Christians, desiring every man and woman with a love of Jesus to be killed in a similar manner as Stephen. He was so angry, in fact, that he went to the high priest to request international authority for purposes of extradition. Damascus is 135 miles northeast of Jerusalem, far outside of any legal authority in Judea. Saul counted on the courtesy of others within the Roman empire to acknowledge the authority of the Jerusalem priests regarding Jewish matters and “heresies.” It took much hubris to request that kind of power, but such was Saul’s hatred of Christians. He wanted to see the whole movement wiped out, literally exterminated, if need be.
  2. Such a harsh description…and yet so true! Remember that Luke was Paul’s friend, being one of his frequent travelling companions. Yet Luke doesn’t hold back from describing his friend’s former sinfulness for what it was. For that matter, neither did Paul! Even toward the end of his life, he still considered himself the chief of sinners (1 Tim 1:15). He never forgot how he persecuted the church of God (1 Cor 15:9). He never called it less than what it was, never watering down the vileness of his past sin. It’s not that Paul never knew that he was forgiven; it’s that he never lost sight of the grandness of grace. After all, Paul was forgiven of all of that: hatred, persecution, murder – the pursuit of both men and women unto death. To whitewash his past as being less than what it was only diluted the work of Jesus for him. Paul never lost sight of who he had been, because he didn’t want to lose sight of who Jesus is.
    1. That being said, all of this was who Paul was; it wasn’t who he remained. Why? Jesus! Jesus transformed Saul/Paul from the inside out. Paul knew from firsthand experience what he wrote to the Corinthians: 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Jesus made Saul into a new creation; Jesus does that with us, too! What were you in the past? Never forget it, but never forget that you’re not it any longer. If you are a born-again Christian, you are a new creation! (If you’re not one, you can become one today!)
  3. Before we leave this verse, it’s interesting that this is the first time that Christianity has been labeled in the book of Acts. The apostles were known as followers and disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, but they were primarily thought of as a sect within Judaism (Pharisaic Judaism, at that). By this point, Saul was asking for people who belonged to “The Way,” or “The Road/Path.” Whether Saul wanted to admit it at the time, or not, it was a fitting name for the budding church! Throughout the OT, the people of God were exhorted to walk in the ways of the Lord, and parents were supposed to teach their children the ways of God. Psalm 119:1 speaks of the blessedness of those who “are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the LORD,” and Psalm 1:6 says “the LORD knows the way of the righteous.” Jesus Himself used the same imagery: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me,” (Jn 14:6). There is but one way, and Jesus is it! (Do you follow the Way?)
  4. So Saul is still seething murder, so zealous to persecute Christians to death that he’s willing to make a 6-day journey by foot to the large Jewish population in Damascus to search out followers of “The Way” in the city. Day 1 probably went by quickly, as do all road-trip beginnings, but things were tiring as the days went by. By day 5 or 6, Saul and his companions were getting closer, the anticipation was rising, but the excitement would come far sooner than they expected…

3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

  1. Imagine it: you’re walking along, preparing yourself for what lay ahead in Damascus. You’re thinking about the contacts you’ll need to make with the local rabbis, the meetings you’ll need to have with the governors or city officials, the more mundane things like food & lodging. That’s when all of a sudden, you’re hit with a supernatural powerhouse! In that moment, Saul saw a light, and he heard a voice. Elsewhere, the light was described as being “brighter than the sun” (Acts 26:13), no doubt calling to mind the brightness of the glory of God seen by Ezekiel and others. Later, Paul wrote to Timothy saying that God dwells in “unapproachable light,” (1 Tim 6:16) – something that Paul witnessed firsthand! Although the devil can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:4), this was no imitation of God. It was so bright and so pure, there was no doubt it was the real thing.
  2. At the same time, Saul also heard a voice. The voice from the light called him by name, and called him twice. Interestingly, there are only a handful of times this takes place in Scripture, within the context of a supernatural revelation of God. Each of these times is either prefacing a huge step of faith, or a person’s first encounter with the Lord. For Abraham and Jacob (Gen 22:11, 46:2), God called their names twice when they had an immediate need to trust the Lord. For Moses and Samuel (Exo 3:4, 1 Sam 3:10), it was not only a step of faith for the men, but their first encounter with Almighty God. Likewise for Saul. The Lord’s repetition of Saul’s name underscores the solemnity and importance of the call, and Saul no doubt thought he was having his own “Moses moment.”
  3. If this alone hadn’t been enough to overwhelm Saul, it was what the voice said that made Saul’s heart drop to the pit of his stomach: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” To this point in Saul’s life, he had been persecuting Christians (followers of The Way), and he did it willingly and gladly. All of a sudden, Saul was confronted with the reality that his acts affected far more than men and women…they had an impact on God Himself. That’s when Saul asked his question…

5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. …

  1. Right of the bat, there’s a bit of an issue: Did Saul acknowledge Jesus as God, or did he call Him “Sir”? Scholars disagree, as the word could be used both ways. Theoretically, an argument could be made for “Sir/Master,” but it seems far more likely Saul used the term for “Lord” as a knowing reference to God. First, there was the supernatural phenomena of the light as the glory of God. Second, the question that was asked Him was “Why are you persecuting Me?” and Saul knew that he was persecuting Christians. If Jesus appeared to him with the glory of God, then it must mean that Jesus is God, and Saul was quickly coming to grips with that fact.
  2. That begs the question: If Saul knew this was God, why did he ask? Easy: he was confused! To this point, Saul was convinced he was serving the Lord in zealous fervor, keeping the faith and the law of Moses. He was a guardian of Judaism, keeping out the supposed-heretics, hoping to keep others from following in their footsteps. Now all of a sudden, he hears that he’s on the wrong side. He wasn’t persecuting heretics; he was persecuting God.
    1. At some point, all of us were on the wrong side, but for some, you were more zealous about it than others. You actively hated Jesus and tried your best to belittle Christians. (Praise God that the grace of Jesus saved even you!) For some of you, perhaps you’re still on the wrong side. You don’t have to be. You’ve been confronted with the truth of Jesus, and no doubt the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart right now. This is the moment you need to ask “Who are You, Lord?” and surrender your life to Jesus!
  3. Jesus didn’t mince words on this topic at all. Saul had not only been persecuting Jesus’ followers; Saul had been persecuting HIM. There is a mystical unity of Jesus with His church. Paul later understood this well, using the analogy of a body. We are the body of Christ, though we are members individually (1 Cor 12:27) – Christ is the head of the church, just as a picture of marriage (Eph 5:23). Even Jesus made the point, using the picture of Him as the vine & the church as the branches (Jn 15:5), and praying for the church’s unity, and His own unity with the church along with the Father: “I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one,” (Jn 17:23). The point? Jesus is joined to His church – what affects us, affects Him. When a Christian is persecuted, Christ Himself is persecuted.
    1. Consider what that means for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. They do not go through their suffering alone…Jesus is with them! When Muslim or Hindu extremists haul Christians into the streets for public beatings and stonings, they do the same thing to the Son of God. It is like the account of the judgment of the sheep and the goats, when something is/isn’t done to the “least of these My brethren,” it is done unto Jesus (Mt 25:40). Jesus is with every individual persecuted for His name’s sake, and Jesus will judge every individual persecutor who has acted in hatred.
    2. That’s not only for those halfway around the world; it applies to us as well. Jesus is one with us, His church. There is no suffering we endure that Jesus does not know, and there is no sacrifice we make of which He is not aware. And for those who hate the church, there is no act of persecution (verbal or physical) that can be taken against a Christian that isn’t taken also against Christ. Those who hate Christians today will be held accountable for that on the Day of Judgment…of that, we can be sure. (But even that can be forgiven! Saul was forgiven…you can be, too!)

[It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him,] “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

  1. From the middle of verse 5 to the middle of verse 6, there is little to no manuscript support in the Greek. The only reason it appears in the King James (and thus the NKJV) is because Erasmsus back-translated this into Greek (for the Textus Receptus) from the Latin Vulgate. (Why Jerome included it in the Vulgate is a whole other question…most likely due to the influence of the Church Fathers.) There’s no doubt these things were said by Jesus and Saul, because Paul said as much when he later recounted his testimony for others (Acts 22:10, 26:14); Luke simply did not originally include it in Acts 9. Most likely, a well-meaning scribe inserted the phrases in an attempt to harmonize the passages.
    1. BTW – The only reason we can be so certain about this is because there are well over 5000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, and well over 22,000 total hand-written manuscripts of the New Testament. We can have supreme confidence in the integrity of our Bible – there is more textual support for it than every other book of antiquity put together!
  2. No doubt Jesus said more to Saul than what is listed in any of these accounts (and Jesus would say much more to Saul in the future). What is included at this point is Jesus’ clear, yet ambiguous directions to Saul. “Arise and go into the city” – that much is clear. “…And you will be told what you must do” – that much is not. Like Abram of old, Saul has been confronted by the God he only thought he knew, and now he’s told to take a step of faith. He doesn’t know what – he barely knows where – the one thing he does know is that his whole world just changed. His original journey to Damascus had been done out of an ignorant zeal unto God – now the Son of God had a mission for him, and he didn’t yet have a clue what it may be. Even so, when God calls, you follow. So he did.

7 And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.

  1. If Saul was confused, imagine the men who were around him! Apparently they saw a light, but no person; and they heard a sound, but no distinct words. There can be a bit of confusion when Acts 9:7 is compared with Paul’s later telling of the story in Acts 22:9: Acts 22:9, “And those who were with me indeed saw the light and were afraid, but they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me.” On the face of it, that appears to be a clear contradiction. Did they, or did they not, hear a voice? The Greek word is the same (φωνή) but the meaning can vary, depending on the context. It could refer to a general sound, a cry, or a specific voice. Context and grammatical construction makes the difference, as it does in this case. The witnesses with Saul heard something, but they couldn’t identify what they heard; Saul heard nothing less than the voice of God.
  2. This shouldn’t be surprising. After all, the natural man cannot understand spiritual things, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14). What Jesus spoke to Saul was for Saul, necessary to bring Saul to faith. The men who were with him were still (presumably) unconverted Jews, being part of the party sent out from Jerusalem. Of course, that begs the question: Why did Jesus go to such lengths to convert Saul, while leaving the others as they were? (1) The others did have a witness: Saul himself! They were fully aware something miraculous had happened, though they didn’t know how to interpret it. Yet Saul knew the truth, and he could tell them (and probably did). Perhaps they later came to faith, perhaps not – we simply don’t know, because it isn’t included for us in the Scripture. What is certain is that they did have an opportunity to hear of Jesus…that was something left clearly open to them, even if it was different from Saul’s personal experience. (2) What God chooses to do with someone is His prerogative. God is God; we’re not. He knows what is best, and what is for His glory. It’s a dangerous game to second-guess the Lord. We know He always does what is right & just (Gen 18:25) – we know that He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). We have to trust that God acts according to His character and His word, even when we don’t know all of His reasons for His actions.

8 Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

  1. What irony! Previously, Saul had been spiritually blind; now he was physically blind. In his zeal, he was blinded to the truth of Jesus; now he knew the truth, but in his humbled state he could no longer see. Originally, he had gone to Damascus to drag Christians away in chains; now he had to be personally led by the hand into the city. All of the hubris had disappeared; all that was left was humility and faith…exactly the way it ought to be! God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Saul had been proud, and Jesus resisted him on the road in a mighty way. Now he was humble and finally had faith in Jesus as God the Son risen from the dead.
  2. What did he do in that state? He fasted and prayed. The fasting is mentioned in verse 9; the praying was known by Jesus in verse 11. On one hand, it may be said, “Of course he prayed. What else was there for Saul to do?” On the other hand, it was the very best thing that could be done! Saul had just had a life-changing experience. Everything he thought he knew was turned upside-down. Think about it: Saul had been a Pharisee, studying under the tutelage of Gamaliel, one of the preeminent members of the Sanhedrin. Whatever Saul had believed about the Messiah prior to Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection, Saul had flatly rejected Jesus as the Messiah. His opposition to Jesus was so strong that he was willing to murder Jesus’ followers…all in the name of God! Thus, from Passover 33AD to this point (at least!), Saul had a false, blinded faith. Every prayer Saul thought he prayed to God, Saul was really praying in rebellion. Every act of devotion Saul thought he brought to the Lord in worship, he did so outside of faith, even though he believed it was in faith. He had carried on in a lie, ever believing it to be the truth. For those three days without sight, food, or water, Saul likely reviewed every prayer he had prayed, thought through the Scriptures he had memorized, poured over every doctrine he held, all thinking how it should have pointed him to Jesus & mourning over his willful blindness. Fasting and prayer was exactly the right thing to do!
    1. Just because someone believes something sincerely doesn’t mean that what they believe is right. Saul sincerely believed Christianity was a heresy; he was sincerely wrong…and it grieved him to learn it. It’s no different with anyone else. Muslims have a sincere devotion to Allah and Mohammed, and they believe a lie. Likewise with Hindus, Buddhists, and every other religion in the world apart from Biblical Christianity. Likewise with belief systems that claim they are not religious, like atheism. They may truly hold to their beliefs and presuppositions with all their might, but that doesn’t make those beliefs true. Only Biblical Christianity has been proven true, because Jesus historically rose from the dead. That puts the lie to atheism, agnosticism, Islam, and yes, even Judaism…just as it does with any system that denies Jesus as God.
    2. That doesn’t mean that people in those other religions are without hope. They may be spiritually blinded, but their blindness can be removed. Again, if Saul can be converted, anyone can be converted!
  • Ananias and Jesus (10-19)

10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”

  1. Question #1: Who was Ananias? We don’t know. Acts 9, along with the other stories of Paul’s conversion, contain the only record of Ananias and his faith. He was a Christian in Damascus, and that’s all we know. Tradition holds that he later became the bishop of Damascus, but there’s no way to verify it, and certainly Scripture says nothing about it. As far as what we can truly know, Ananias had no official title/office, nor do we know of any other evangelistic or missionary ministry. He was “just another” obscure Christian, right? Wrong! There is no such thing as “just another” Christian! This seemingly “obscure” Christian had a profound impact upon the history of the church. Even if this one event was the only thing Ananias did for the Lord (which is doubtful), what he did impacts each and every Christian to this day.
  2. Question #2: What was Ananias doing in Damascus, as a Christian 135 miles away from Jerusalem? Either he had been present, or influenced by someone who had been in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, or he was there because of Saul’s persecutions and murderous threats. We cannot know, but if the latter was true, it certainly heightens the tension of what it was Jesus was about to call him to do. But that’s the most intriguing thing about Ananias of Damascus…
  3. Ananias was also called by the Lord Jesus. When we think about Saul’s conversion, we often remember the miraculous appearance on the road and the Lord’s words to Saul…we don’t often think of the Lord’s words to Ananias. There were two people who received supernatural revelation that day, neither who had any expectation of anything happening. 
  4. His response? Perfect…simple availability. He had no idea what the Lord Jesus was about to say to him, but he was ready to hear. 

11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. 12 And in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and putting his hand on him, so that he might receive his sight.”

  1. As opposed to Saul, Ananias received very specific instructions! Jesus even gave the home address of where Saul was staying. There wouldn’t be a question of whether or not Ananias knew what to do, or somehow “misinterpret” the command from Jesus – it was as clear as it could get.
    1. We sometimes make excuses for our hesitancy to obey, saying, “I just wasn’t sure – maybe I misunderstood.” We may not receive GPS directions from the Holy Spirit, but the commands we have in the Scripture are equally clear. We don’t need to question if God really wants us to forgive someone, share the gospel with a specific person, help out someone who is needy, or spend time with someone pouring into their lives in discipleship. (Just to name a few examples…) He’s already told us to do these things. We hesitate on the specifics (Here, Lord? With him/her? In this situation?), but let’s be honest with ourselves: we’re just looking for an excuse to be disobedient. What Jesus has said to do, we are to do…period.
  2. Apparently, Jesus was just as specific with Saul in Damascus as He was with Ananias. Although Saul hadn’t been told much while on the road, during those three days of prayer and fasting Jesus has revealed to him what was going to happen. Saul had the assurance that his blindness was temporary, and that the Lord Jesus was sending someone to him for prayer and help. What makes this especially interesting is that Ananias was already named to Saul. Jesus knew of Ananias’ faith & obedience even before Ananias did!

13 Then Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much harm he has done to Your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on Your name.”

  1. From a human perspective, this was an understandable reaction & reasonable objection. The hatred of Saul towards Christians was well known. Even in a city 135 miles away from Jerusalem, Saul’s reputation preceded him. And again, if Ananias had fled to Damascus as a result of the persecution in Jerusalem, Ananias’ question makes even more sense. He was available to do anything the Lord asked him to do, but he wanted to ensure he knew what the Lord was asking him: go to the very guy he wanted to hide from, pray for him to be fully restored to health, and then hope that Saul wouldn’t turn around to arrest him and/or kill him. Jesus was asking him to go to the foremost of all persecutors, and make himself fully available to be taken. Obviously this did not happen, nor was it the Lord’s intent, but it was a logical possibility.
  2. Question: Was this a lack of faith? Not necessarily. Ananias didn’t say “no”; he just voiced his concern. His willingness was already implied in his response to Jesus; his fear was simply voiced in honest confession. That’s not a lack of faith; that is faith! To know that whatever fears and concerns we have, we can take to the Lord, leave at His feet trusting that He will provide – there is wonderful assurance and trust in that. Sometimes we get the idea that born-again Christians should never experience fear, and that simply isn’t realistic. Of course we’ll have fears…we’re human! We shouldn’t be driven by our fears, nor live in them – so how do we deal with them? We turn them over to the Lord. Confess your fears to the Lord, and trust God to handle them. Philippians 4:6–7, “(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Ananias had a legitimate reason to be anxious, so he freely confessed his anxiety to the Lord. That’s how we handle ours, as well. Maybe it’s something about a health issue over which we have no control – maybe it’s more like Ananias, when we have a command we are hesitant to obey – whatever it is where we have fears, concerns, and anxieties, let it be made known to God in prayer. That isn’t weakness or lack of spirituality on the part of a Christian; this is how we’re supposed to walk as Christians.
  3. BTW – This is the 1st time in the New Testaments that born-again believers are referred to as “saints.” Saints are not certain men and women who have been appointed by the Catholic church, nor are they people who run around with halos floating over their heads. Saints are us. To be a “saint” is to be someone set apart by God for His own purpose, and that is the case with every single born-again believer. When you have faith in Jesus, you have been called by Him, saved by Him, and indwelled by God the Holy Spirit. You have been truly set-apart by & for the Holy God – you are a saint.

15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

  1. Why should Ananias go to Saul? (1) Because Jesus commanded it. (2) Because Saul was chosen. Saul hadn’t known it when he set out from Jerusalem, nor could anyone else have guessed it at the time, but Jesus had chosen Saul for Himself. “Jesus chose Saul before Saul chose Jesus,” (AT Robertson). What grace! Out of all the people in the world, Jesus had chosen Saul to be a Christian. Saul! This one who breathed out threats and murder towards the saints – this religious zealot who persecuted whole families of Christians in the name of God…Jesus chose him to be saved. Jesus had known Saul from before the foundation of the world, loved him, and died for him…just like Jesus did with you. Think about it for a moment: you too, have been chosen by Christ. Out of all the people in the world, Jesus picked you to be saved…that’s how much He loves you!
    1. How do you know if you’ve been chosen? Simple: respond to the open invitation of the gospel! When you make the free choice to believe upon Jesus, you discover that He has already chosen you.
  2. Jesus chose Saul for some specific things. First, Saul was chosen as a witness. He was to be the apostle to the Gentiles, taking the gospel of Jesus to cities all over the Roman empire. He would truly witness of Jesus in front of kings – in chains, perhaps, but he would do it gladly. And Saul would even witness of Jesus to the Jews. He may have been the apostle to the Gentiles, but he routinely preached the gospel in the synagogues before he ever went to the city streets. Paul/Saul was a faithful witness of Jesus, preaching of Him at every opportunity.
  3. Second, Saul was chosen to suffer. If the first calling seems exciting, the second does not. It’s one thing to be called as a missionary and evangelist; it’s another to be called to suffer. Yet that was Paul’s future. The persecutor would become the persecuted. The one who caused other Christians to suffer would himself suffer for being a Christian. Was this poetic justice? From a certain perspective perhaps, but that’s the wrong way to think of it. Jesus wasn’t punishing Saul for his former crimes…all of that was taken care of at the cross. 100% of Saul’s sins were forgiven by Jesus because of the cross & resurrection, just like 100% of ours are as well. Saul wasn’t being punished; he was being prepared. Jesus simply showed him the truth of what was to come. As Paul wrote to Timothy: 2 Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” That wasn’t a threat from Jesus to Saul; it was simply a fact. Saul would face more persecution than most, simply because of his calling. But all Christians will face some kind of persecution at some point.
    1. That’s not something to fear, but it is something of which we ought to be aware. Even here in the United States, we will (at some point) face opposition to our faith. At least, we will if we “desire to live godly in Christ Jesus.” If our faith is known, it will be opposed. The question is whether or not we let our faith be known in the first place. Be bold! God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Tim 1:7).
  4. With Ananias’ concerns answered and with Jesus’ command to go, Ananias went…

17 And Ananias went his way and entered the house; and laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you came, has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

  1. Ultimately, Ananias was obedient. Apparently, Jesus shared more with Ananias than what Luke originally recorded, as Ananias knew the details of Saul’s conversion (the vision, the road, etc.). Ananias had also been given a specific task: not only to help Saul recover his sight, but to “be filled with the Holy Spirit.” At this point, Saul had been born of the Holy Spirit (having believed upon Jesus as the Lord), but had not yet been filled with the Spirit’s power. Just like Peter and John went to Samaria to personally attest of the Spirit’s work among the Samaritans, so was Ananias sent to witness of the Spirit’s work within Saul.
    1. BTW – It is good to lay hands upon one another and pray that we would be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is something we can pray for ourselves, but we have Biblical precedent to do with for one another.
  2. Notice the change in Ananias’ attitude toward Saul: “Brother Saul…” Any fear Ananias previously had toward Saul was gone. Why? Saul now had faith. Belief made Saul a brother! 

18 Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized.

  1. Immediate sight; immediate baptism. In his later letter to the Romans, Paul wrote how the nation of Israel was blinded to the gospel (Rom 11:7) – Paul knew what that was from personal experience! In his case, he was physically blinded by the Lord, but that physical blindness was removed at the prayer of Ananias. The only thing left to do at that point was to be baptized. Saul had believed upon Jesus, his faith had already been confessed (to Ananias by the Lord Jesus Himself), now that confession was made public by baptism. Saul was fully committed to following Jesus as Lord, and he was baptized gladly!
  2. Although Luke doesn’t describe anything else, no doubt Saul was also filled with the Holy Spirit, just as Ananias was commanded to do for him. Note: There is no mention of tongues being spoken by Saul. Later to the Corinthians, Paul wrote how he spoke in tongues more than any of them (1 Cor 14:18), but apparently, he did not do it at his initial filling of the Spirit. Despite the claims of some, tongues are not evidence of the baptism and filling of the Holy Spirit. The filling of the Spirit happens by faith alone; not because of a certain spiritual gift.

19 So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus.

  1. After his baptism, what happened? Like any good worship service, Ananias and Saul followed it up with a meal. No doubt Saul was hungry, and he took some time for recovery and reception by the local Christians. What did Saul do during those days? No doubt, he spend some time in heavy-duty discipleship. To the Corinthians, Paul wrote that the gospel he gave to them was the one he first “received,” (1 Cor 15:3-8). When would he have received it? As a new believer in Damascus with Ananias and the others. Although it’s difficult to think of Saul of Tarsus as a new believer in need of discipleship, he was. Everyone starts somewhere…even Saul.

Conclusion:

How amazing it is that Saul was saved! The hard-hearted Pharisee, zealous to destroy the church of Jesus Christ was himself confronted by Jesus Christ. In an instant, his life was forever changed. And so was ours! After all, without the apostle Paul, who would have taken the gospel to the rest of Rome? Who would have written over 1/3 of the New Testament? Think about some of the grandest statements of the Christian faith:

  • Romans 1:16, “(16) For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
  • Ephesians 2:8–9, “(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
  • Galatians 3:11–12, “(11) But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” (12) Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.””

And that is only a sampling! Without Paul, we would have none of it. Would Jesus have called someone? Of course…His will is going to be done, with or without our obedience. But what richness would have been lost without Paul! Jesus had a grand purpose in mind when He called Saul to faith, and when Jesus transformed Saul into a new creation, Jesus transformed His entire church along with him.

That’s Saul’s story; what’s yours? As a Christian, what was your origin with Christ? Consider your own testimony, thinking about what you were – the vileness, the rebellion, the sin, the apathy. (Or whatever your case may be.) Now think about what you are! You have been transformed by the grace and love and power of Jesus! Once you were also an enemy of Christ, but now you are His friend – a fellow child of God by the grace of God. And we as the church are richer for it! We need one another, for our God has a plan to use each of us for His glory.

Think about the two men in Acts 9. Jesus called Saul, saving him; Jesus called Ananias, using Ananias to minister to the guy who had originally come to Damascus to arrest him and see him killed. Both men were transformed that day by the love and authority of Jesus. Jesus had a plan for each of them, just as Jesus has a plan for you. 

Walk in it! Trust that our Lord Jesus has made you a new creation, and now walk as He has made you. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,” (Eph 4:1), all to the glory of God! May we hold nothing back, allowing no fear to keep us from obedience, giving ourselves fully over to Christ and His plans for us.

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