Scriptures

Acts 9

Introduction

“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.” Acts 9:1-2

In the previous chapter, we saw how Philip baptised the Ethiopian eunuch and then was taken away in the Spirit. But while all this was going on, we need to remember there was a great persecuting taking place in the background, led by a man named Saul as we read in Acts 8:1-3.

Saul was the one who went out of his way to get the Christians. He thought that God would be happy when all of the Christians were dead.

Luke tells us that Saul was so determined to do what he thought was religiously right, not only did he persecute the church in Jerusalem, but even went to foreign cities to carry out his vicious persecution. And make no doubt about it, Saul was very vicious when it came to persecuting the Lord’s church.

Damascus is the oldest inhabitancy in the world, it was the ancient capital of Syria. It was 130 miles northeast of Jerusalem and it had a large Jewish population, around 40,000 people. It also had 30-40 synagogues, a synagogue is a Jewish meeting place, a temple was the centre of worship.

We know the Lord’s church has many names in the Bible. The church is called ‘the church of God,’ 1 Corinthians 1:2. The church is also called ‘the church of Christ,’ Romans 16:16. And here were introduced to another name for the Lord’s church.

Saul was authorized to seek out a group of people who followed ‘the Way’. Those who followed ‘the Way’ were Christians like you and I who followed Jesus Christ during Luke’s day.

The Lord has always had a Way or a pattern for His children to follow. Malachi tells us about priests who had turned from ‘the way,’ Malachi 2:7-8.

Jesus Himself declared that, I am the way, John 14:6-7, and all the way through the Book of Acts we see people who are followers of ‘the Way’, Acts 9:1-2 / Acts 18:25 / Acts 18:26 / Acts 19:9 / Acts 19:23 / Acts 24:22.

Those people are the very people whom Saul would go searching for and when he found either men or women who followed that belief, he was authorized to take them in bonds to Jerusalem.

It was Saul who ravaged the church, it was Saul who killed many in the church, Acts 22:4, and it was Saul who travelled all over the world to persecute Christians, Acts 26:10-11.

His visit to Damascus was going to be his last one for persecution terms but Luke tells us that Saul’s mission of persecution was interrupted by a great light coming down from heaven and shining around him.

Saul’s Conversion

“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.” Acts 9:3-9

There are three accounts of Saul’s conversion. Here we read of the historic account, later, he speaks to a large crowd in Jerusalem and told them about his conversion, Acts 22:3-16, and finally he told King Agrippa about his conversion for his own defence, Acts 26:9-18.

Can you imagine being there on that road? Your merrily plodding along the road, having a discussion about what you are going to do with these people who follow ‘the Way’, just building up your righteous bank account, climbing up the religious ladder with all your good deeds and then suddenly not only does a bright light appear but a voice is heard too.

No wonder Luke tells us Saul fell to the ground as the voice asked, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ Saul asked who it was that was speaking and again the voice replied according to Acts 26:14, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

Let’s just stop and think about this for a moment, here is man who gave the approval of Stephen’s death, here is man who viciously went about killing and imprisoning the followers of Jesus.

And now Jesus says to this same man, ‘Saul when you are doing all these things and persecuting my people, you are actually persecuting Me’. He says, ‘Saul, it’s hard for you to kick against the goads’.

Just like some in Peter’s audience in Acts 2 panicked and asked, ‘what must we do?’ after they realized what they had done in killing the messiah. Saul trembled and asked what he must do.

God is not only a giver of good things, but He also wants something in return, He wants obedience to His Word. God doesn’t make disciples for the sake of it, He makes disciples to serve and do His will. The Lord said Saul, ‘this is what I want you do to, I want you to arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do’.

Saul’s travelling companions seem to have heard a sound but were unable to understand the words spoken according to Acts 22:9. And although according Acts 26:14, they all had fallen to the ground, they ‘stood’, in a state of speechlessness.

And so when Saul got up, he was blind, so his friends had to lead him by the hand into the city and for three days, he prayed and fasted, unwilling, or unable, to take food because of the tremendous shock he had received on the Damascus road.

When Saul of Tarsus had an encounter with the risen Lord, he knew from that moment on that Jesus Christ is precious. We’ve all been persecutors of ‘the Way’ without realising it, Paul says we have all been on that road because we were alienated and enemies of God but now just like Paul we have become His servants, Colossians 1:21-23.

Paul thought he was on the road to Damascus but God changed that plan and put him on the road to salvation.

“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord,” he answered. The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” Acts 9:10-16

Notice what Luke records here, he says that ‘a certain disciple’, not an apostle or preacher, a disciple of Christ saw a vision from the Lord.

This must have been a bit of a shock for Ananias to hear the Lord tell him to go to Straight Street and ask for Saul of Tarsus. Straight Street means longest street.

It must have been even more of a shock when the Lord said Saul was praying and had seen, in a vision, a man named Ananias coming and putting his hand on him so that he might receive his sight.

Ananias was scared and hesitated to do what the Lord asked him to do but I think that’s understandable. Ananias knew all about the persecution in Jerusalem and the letters Saul carried from the chief priests which gave him authority to bind any Christians he found in Damascus.

Note that this is the first time the term ‘saint’ is used which means Holy.

The Lord was aware of Ananias’ fear as He is aware of our fear and He told him, that Saul was specially chosen to take his Name to the Gentiles, kings and the Jews. And so, if we have ever wondered why we were chosen to be a Christian, here is one reason why, to take the Name of Jesus to others.

Salvation is not only ours to keep, but it’s ours to share, Matthew 28:19-20 / 1 Peter 3:15. And so just like He tells us to go and do His will, He tells Ananias to go and do His will.

“Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here-has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.”. Acts 9:17-19

It’s interesting that Ananias calls Saul ‘Brother’, perhaps because they were both from fleshly Israel, or in anticipation of Saul’s impending baptism which would result in his being one of God’s children in Christ.

We don’t really know but we do know that Saul’s sight was miraculously restored through the laying on of Ananias’ hands and, according to Acts 2:38, Saul received the gift of the Holy Spirit after he was baptized.

How could Ananias miraculously heal Saul’s eyes, if he wasn’t an apostle? It’s possible that an apostle laid their hands of him to impart him with the gift of healing, because there was certainly Christians in Damascus and so, it’s possible an apostle laid their hands on him there, Acts 9:1-2.

The truth is, we simply don’t know because the text doesn’t tell us, but whatever conclusion we come to, it must be consistent with every other example we find within the Scriptures, that is, the apostles laid their hands of people to receive the miraculous gifts. We can’t take an obscure example like this and make a whole new doctrine out of it.

Some people are just physically blind which is bad enough but most people in the world suffer from another kind of blindness, spiritual blindness, 2 Corinthians 4:4. Saul saw the light in more ways than one and it changed the direction of his life forever.

And let me tell you what happens when the blind are healed spiritually, they see things for what they really are. And when they see things for what they really are their immediate response will be the same as the Jews in Acts 2:38-41, the Samarians in Acts 8:5-12, the Eunuch in Acts 8:26-40 and Saul of Tarsus here ‘he got up and was baptized’.

Here is a man who once a persecutor of the Way of Christ but is now a follower of the Way of Christ.

When someone is baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of their sins, not only does it wash their sin away, not only do they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, Acts 2:38, but it changes their whole life around to the point that some of their closest friends may not even recognize them.

And that’s exactly what happened when Saul of Tarsus met Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, it didn’t change his appearance but it certainly changed his attitude towards his God and others.

Saul In Damascus And Jerusalem

“And after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?” Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. After many days had gone by, the Jews conspired to kill him, but Saul learned of their plan. Day and night they kept close watch on the city gates in order to kill him. But his followers took him by night and lowered him in a basket through an opening in the wall”. Acts 9:19-25

Luke tells us that Saul the persecutor has now become Saul the preacher. And so immediately after being baptised, he broke his fast by partaking of some food, and Saul began to be with the disciples. And notice what he did right after becoming a Christian.

Luke says, Saul ‘at once’ or ‘immediately’ began preaching in Damascus, then went to Arabia and returned to preach in Damascus again.

In other words, the minute we become a Christian is the minute our light should begin to shine for Christ. The minute we become a Christian is the very minute we become a preacher for Christ.

I’m not talking about becoming a preacher in terms of standing behind a pulpit, I am talking about every single Christian should be able to at least tell anyone they meet about how and why they became a Christian.

Luke tells us that those who heard the former persecutor preach marvelled at his preaching. And as Saul grew in strength, he successfully answered the challenge of the Jews and was able to prove Jesus is God’s anointed and Son.

And like we have seen time and time again throughout the Book of Acts, when people preach the truth, it’s going to upset other people. Luke says that no-one was able to disprove Saul’s arguments, and so the Jews plotted to kill him.

And so Saul learned of the plot and the brethren delivered him in a basket through the wall and outside the city.

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles”. Acts 9:26-27

We can completely understand why the disciples were afraid of Saul, after all it was only a few days ago that this same guy was going around persecuting the followers of ‘the Way’ himself.

The disciples didn’t believe that Saul was now a Christian possibly because they thought he was going undercover to trap more Christians. But they should never underestimate the power of God to change people’s lives.

One of the reasons God chose Saul of Tarsus to become a Christian was to give hope to those very people that we think will never become a Christian, 1 Timothy 1:15-16. If God can change the life of Saul the persecutor around, then surely He can change the life of anybody around.

Sometimes we try too hard in looking for ways to share the Gospel with others. One way we could share the Gospel with others is simply by remembering how we heard about the good news first, but if we’re not comfortable sharing the Gospel that way, then try Saul’s approach as we find him doing next.

“He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord.” Acts 9:27-28

Paul said he received the message he preached by revelation, he received it directly from God and he was chosen before the creation of the world to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, Galatians 1:11 / Galatians 1:18.

Here, Saul basically shared his testimony. Simply by sharing our testimony about how our lives were so empty and meaningless until someone took the time to share with us how God can turn our lives around for the better.

And just like Saul’s preaching was in Damascus, the more we do it, the easier it gets and the easier it gets, the more confident we get. And it seems from the text that the bolder a person’s preaching becomes, the more people are going to get upset.

“He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus”. Acts 9:29-30

Just as Stephen had done in Acts 6:8-9, Saul debated with the Hellenists and just like Stephen, they attempted to kill him too. And so again, when the brethren discovered the plot, they sent Saul to Tarsus by way of Caesarea.

I want to make an important point here about Saul’s actions. Two times the Jews tried to kill Saul and two times he was basically taken away for his own safety.

We sometimes get into this mindset that Christians should always stand their ground and never run away from any situation. But there are times when your safety needs to come first, especially when God is not finished with you yet.

God is not finished with Saul, He has plans for him and when we find ourselves in a situation where our lives are at risk, just remember unless it’s God’s will, He’s not finished with us because He has plans for us.

While all this was going on and Saul left for Tarsus, and God as He always does, is working in the back ground.

“Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened; and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord”. Acts 9:31

Luke tells us that a period of peace was enjoyed by the church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria. He says the church was strengthened, and all the Christians walked in reverent respect for the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. And look what happened?

Luke says that all of this resulted in a further multiplication of the number of disciples. It’s always a time for rejoicing when someone becomes a Christian no matter where it happens, Luke 15:10.

At the same time as the Lord’s church is enjoying peace, Luke records two miracles of Peter, the first of which is recorded next.

Aeneas And Dorcas

“As Peter travelled about the country, he went to visit the saints in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas, a paralytic who had been bedridden for eight years. “Aeneas,” Peter said to him, “Jesus Christ heals you. Get up and take care of your mat.” Immediately Aeneas got up. All those who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord”. Acts 9:32-35

Here’s a man who has never been out of his bed for 8 years because he was a paralytic. And notice that Peter never took the credit for healing him. Peter told Aeneas that it was Jesus Christ who healed him.

Notice also, this miracle was very similar to one that Jesus performed at Jerusalem. John tells us that the paralytic who had been that way for 38 years was healed by Jesus, ‘at once’, John 5:8-9. Luke tells us that Aeneas was healed ‘immediately’.

There’s none of this, ‘you don’t have enough faith’ or ‘just wait a few weeks and you’ll be healed’. Aeneas was healed ‘immediately’ and news of that healing spread fast.

People in city of Lydda, as well as the surrounding coastal plain of Sharon, heard the news and they too turned to Jesus. And so Luke goes on to record Peter’s second miracle.

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them”. Acts 9:36-39

Luke tells us that a hardworking, Christian woman, named Tabitha, or Dorcas, who was constantly giving to others, became ill and died.

This is interesting because usually when someone died in Biblical times the bereaved would usually anoint the body for their burial, Mark 16:1. But here Luke tells us that the brethren simply washed her body and laid it in an upper room.

And the reason I find that interesting is because instead of getting her body ready for her burial, maybe they thought that Peter could actually bring her back to life.

And so they sent two men to Lydda to plead with Peter to come as soon as possible. And when Peter arrives the brethren take him to the upper room where her body lay and she was surrounded by weeping widows who showed him some of her beautiful works.

“Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive”. Acts 9:40-41

How many times have we seen the example of the apostles praying first before they do anything? Peter sent everyone to out of the room, knelt down and prayed.

I wonder if he remembers the time when Jesus raised Lazarus back to life? Because in much the same fashion as he had seen the Lord do, Peter called for Tabitha to ‘arise’.

And she opened her eyes, saw Peter and sat up and Peter extended his hand to her and helped her up while calling for the brethren to come. What an incredible event this must have been to have been there.

And I don’t know about you but I couldn’t keep an event like that to myself, I would have to tell others. And that’s exactly what Luke tells us happened next.

“This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.” Acts 9:42-43

Because God was working miracles through the apostle Peter, the miracles done what they were designed to do during those days. Many people believed God’s word as He spoke through Peter and they too became Christians.

And so Peter stayed for a time in Joppa at the house of Simon the tanner. A tanner was regarded as unclean to a Jew.

Go To Acts 10

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Acts 1:8

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