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138: The Death of Saul and the Resurrection of Paul [Saul’s Conversion]

May 15, 2009

Text: Acts 9:1-31

Outline:

  1. The Lord’s Light – Shown                  Acts 9:1-9
  2. Saul’s Sight – Restored                       Acts 9:10-25
  3. The Church’s Fright – Subsided     Acts 9:26-31

Context/Discussion/Comments:

Saul, the chief persecutor of the Christians, is on his way to Damascus to find Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for persecution. He has the approval of the High Priest. Many of the disciples have skipped town and Saul, being zealous, is out to find as many as possible in order to eliminate Christians. Just outside of Damascus Saul is met with a bright light and a voice asking why he is so intent on persecuting the Lord. Saul asks who is talking to him and learns it is Jesus. He is instructed to enter Damascus and wait there for further instructions. Those who were with Saul heard the sound but they didn’t see anyone. Saul is blinded by the light and must be led into Damascus by those accompanying him. So we see firsthand the boldness of Saul to persecute believers and his spiritual and physical blindness. We also become aware of the Lord’s voice, revealing Himself to Saul and asking him to stop persecuting Jesus.

Saul waits for three days before Ananias shows up after being called by the Lord in a vision to meet with Saul and restore his sight. Saul has spent those three days in prayer awaiting Ananias to come. Ananias is naturally hesitant because of Saul’s reputation. But he obeys and trusts the Lord who knows all things. Saul, who was once bold in persecution, is now bold in prayer. Ananias lends his hands in service to the Lord, removing Saul’s blindness, baptizing him, and telling him he is to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Saul is filled with the Holy Spirit and after resting and eating to restore his strength, begins immediately to preach in the synagogue telling all and proving to all from the Scripture that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Messiah, the one who can forgive sins and grant eternal life. His preaching was so effective the Christians in Damascus had to rescue him from the Jews by helping him to escape at night. So we see the boldness of Ananias and the voice of Ananias used by the Lord to encourage Saul in his walk of faith. Saul turns from being bold in persecuting the gospel to being bold in preaching the gospel.

The Church hears of the miraculous conversion of Saul but they are very hesitant to believe it is real. They think it may be just another trick to find and persecute the Christians. In an act of boldness, Barnabus becomes a voice of mediation, extending the hand of fellowship to Saul, and introducing him to the Apostles in Jerusalem. Saul preaches in Jerusalem and again is driven out to Caesarea where he boards a boat for Tarsus, his home town.

The Church was blessed with a time of peace where it was strengthened and encouraged by the Holy Spirit such that it continued to grow in numbers, worshipping and fearing the Lord.

For chronology purposes, it is important that we also read Paul’s letter to the Galatians 1:17-24. Other things are happening that are not clear in this Acts account, particularly related to when Paul was rescued by the Damascus Christians to prevent his being killed.

The historical sequence can be represented as follows:

  1. Saul’s conversion Acts 9:1-19
  2. Saul preaches in Damascus Acts 9:19-22
  3. Saul resides in Arabia for three years Gal. 1:16-17
  4. Saul returns to Damascus Acts 9:23-25
  5. Saul travels to Jerusalem Acts 9:26-29; Gal. 1:18-24
  6. Saul returns to Tarsus [6-7 years per secular history] Acts 9:30

It is unclear whether Saul’s life was rescued right after his conversion or after his time alone in the desert with the Lord. Just looking at the Scripture, I would prefer to say he was rescued right after his conversion. But from a practical sense, Paul’s boldness and authority in preaching would more naturally occur after his desert experience. Either could be correct.

Lessons/Applications:

  1. Accepting God’s Call means accepting God’s Work.
  2. No one can turn down God’s Call and live. We are either “for Christ” or “against Christ”.
  3. Count it a privilege to use your hands in the service of the Lord. Use your hands to remove spiritual blindness and to extend the hand of fellowship to all those who belong to Him regardless of their past. Be hospitable instead of a handicap to new believers.
  4. Boldly tell others how Christ called you from darkness into light.

Saul did what he didn’t anticipate doing…….

Because Christ intervened in the life of a non-believer.

Ananias did what he didn’t anticipate doing……

Because Christ intervened in the life of a believer.

We too may be called to do what we don’t anticipate doing……

Because Christ intervened in our life.

May we always be Obedient to His Call and Praise Him!

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