First Baptist Church Laredo
Wednesday Night Bible Study - Acts 9:1-31
- Some have said that the conversion of Saul is one of the most important and crucial events in the history of the church. Saul, who will become known as Paul, will be the main subject of the rest of the book of Acts. He will become known as the apostle to the Gentiles. The book of Acts gives an account of Saul’s conversion three times.1. Saul’s Damascus Road experience (Acts 9:1-9)A. Saul was vehemently persecuting the early church. (Acts 9:1-2)1 Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.If you remember, back in chapter five, Gamaliel had voiced caution in dealing harshly with this new religious following. Saul was not listening to that advise and wanted to destroy this up and coming sect. Saul realized Stephen’s logic was correct. The old way and the new way were incompatible. One would win over the other. Saul wanted to ensure the old way was the winner. Saul later would admit his zealousness for the old way.6 regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.14 I advanced in Judaism beyond many contemporaries among my people, because I was extremely zealous for the traditions of my ancestors.This new way was a threat to the old way and had to be stopped at all costs.B. Saul wanted permission from the high priest to bring in followers of “The Way” for trial. (Acts 9:1-2)1 Now Saul was still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord. He went to the high priest 2 and requested letters from him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women who belonged to the Way, he might bring them as prisoners to Jerusalem.Saul was willing to do whatever necessary to stamp out this new way. These first followers of Jesus were known as “Followers of the Way”. This is how these early believers referred to themselves. It would be later, they would become known as “Christians”, which originally was a term of scorn.C. As Saul approached Damascus, he had a divine encounter. (Acts 9:3-9)3 As he traveled and was nearing Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. 4 Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul said. “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the sound but seeing no one. 8 Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing. So they took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. 9 He was unable to see for three days and did not eat or drink.As Saul neared Damascus, he heard a voice and saw a bright light. We learned from other accounts of this event in Acts that this encounter happened around noon. The light was so bright is drowned out the mid-day sun.i. The voice inquired as to why Saul was doing what he was doing.The double use of Saul’s name reminds us of encounters other people had in the Old Testament with God.ii. Saul did not know with confidence who was speaking to him.The would “Lord” is a term which can mean “Lord” or “sir”. He recognized the entity was superior to him, but he needed clarification as to who he was talking to.iii. The voice identified himself as the risen Jesus Christ.This is profound. Saul thought he was persecuting the people who were following Jesus, but by striking the people of God, he was striking Jesus himself. Jesus was feeling the pain of the persecution of his followers. Jesus of Nazareth was alive and his followers were right in their claims. All of this would have become clear in an instant to Saul. He had just been confronted with the risen Jesus.It would have been as if a light switch was suddenly turned on in Saul’s head. This is why we term sudden conversions or decisions a “Damascus Road experience”. These events are rare, but are a total conversion and change of one’s entire direction in life. It is a 180 degree turn. Saul was blind to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, but now he understands. The evidence is overwhelming. He has no choice but to accept a new way of thinking.Saul’s conversion is not a typical biblical conversion. It has many unique features. Jesus, post-resurrection, appeared to Saul. It was sudden with no previous evidence of moving toward Christianity. The last thing Saul wanted was to become one of the people he was persecuting.Typically, conversion comes as a result of the divine initiative. God draws people to himself. People have a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. There is a surrender to the Lordship of Jesus. People who truly experience salvation are radically changed.iv. This is the last post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ.Saul would refer to his conversion as “one born at the wrong time”.8 Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.Saul did not have the benefit of being with Jesus for three and half years. He was the last of his kind so to speak. The appearance of Jesus to Saul was not a vision. It was more than a vision. He had seen the risen Jesus and had been commissioned directly by Jesus. This qualifies him as an apostle of Jesus Christ.v. Saul is given instructions.He is told to go to Damascus where he would receive further instructions. The men with Saul heard the sound, but did not hear the voice. They saw the light, but not the risen Jesus. Saul was physically blinded by the experience, but the men with him took him to Damascus where he fasted for three days.2. Ananias ministered to Saul and Saul was baptized. (Acts 9:10-19a)A. Ananias recieved a vision from God about what he was to do. (Acts 9:10-16)10 There was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias, and the Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” “Here I am, Lord,” he replied. 11 “Get up and go to the street called Straight,” the Lord said to him, “to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, since he is praying there. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in and placing his hands on him so that he may regain his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard from many people about this man, how much harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has authority here from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for this man is my chosen instrument to take my name to Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”Ananias was a highly respected follower of Jesus living in Damascus. He recognized the voice of the Lord and like Isaiah, said, “Here I am, Lord.” indicating he was ready and willing to obey the voice of the Lord.He was to go to a street called “Straight”. This street still exists today. It is known as the “Long Bazaar.” It was a merchant district. Saul is described as a man from Tarsus.Ananias did protest a little. Saul had a reputation. Everyone knew what he was doing to the saints in Jerusalem and what he was planning to do in Damascus. Despite his initial objection, Ananias obeyed the voice of the Lord.Also, before we move from these verses, we should be reminded that following Jesus is a costly thing. Saul would suffer because of his decision to follow Jesus. Suffering for Jesus is a normal part of following Jesus.B. Ananias ministered to Saul. (Acts 9:17-19a)17 Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time.i. Ananias placed his hands on Saul.ii. Ananias addressed Saul as a “brother”.God had plans for Saul. He was God’s chosen instrument to take his name to the Gentiles, kings, and Israelites. He would suffer for God’s name.iii. Saul regained his sight and was filled with the Holy Spirit.iv. Saul was baptized.3. Saul begins proclaiming the gospel. (Acts 9:19b-25)A. Saul went to the synagogues and proclaimed Jesus as the Son of God. (Acts 9:19b-22)19 And after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul was with the disciples in Damascus for some time. 20 Immediately he began proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues: “He is the Son of God.” 21 All who heard him were astounded and said, “Isn’t this the man in Jerusalem who was causing havoc for those who called on this name and came here for the purpose of taking them as prisoners to the chief priests?” 22 But Saul grew stronger and kept confounding the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.Saul would have been schooled in the Old Testament. He would have been apt to use his knowledge of the Old Testament to make the case that Jesus is the Son of God. The people are baffled by this sudden change in Saul. They knew his reputation. What had made the change? Saul continued to develop his message completely confounding the Jews in Damascus.B. Saul escaped a conspiracy to kill him. (Acts 9:23-25)Almost on cue, opposition arose to Saul’s message. They couldn’t refute Saul’s message, so they decided to silence him. Saul, the persecutor, has become the persecuted.Saul’s followers caught wind of the plot and help him escape by lowering him down the city walls in a basket at night.4. Saul went to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:26-30)Paul was in Damascus for about three years according to Galatians chapter one.A. Saul was not immediately accepted in Jerusalem. (Acts 9:26)26 When he arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, since they did not believe he was a disciple.They were understandably afraid of Saul. His reputation of spreading terror was still present. Perhaps he was trying to get into their ranks in order to find out more about them and who their followers were. However, there was a man who was willing to take a chance on Saul.B. Barnabas steps up to vouch for Saul. (Acts 9:27)27 Barnabas, however, took him and brought him to the apostles and explained to them how Saul had seen the Lord on the road and that the Lord had talked to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus.Barnabas, the same Barnabas from chapter four, took a risk on Saul. He heard Saul’s testimony and took him to the apostles for an interview. According to Galatians 1:17-18, Saul met with Peter and James. Peter spent about 2 weeks with Saul.C. Saul, boldly, spread the gospel and met with more resistance. (Acts 9:28-30)28 Saul was coming and going with them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He conversed and debated with the Hellenistic Jews, but they tried to kill him. 30 When the brothers found out, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.He was speaking boldly and debating the Greek-speaking Jews. They couldn’t refute his claims, so they wanted to kill him. It is amazing how that works. People who can’t win the debate move to silence the voice by whatever means necessary. Saul left Jerusalem and went back to his home town in Tarsus, where he would spend several years.5. The Church continued to grow. (Acts 9:31)31 So the church throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.The church is still healthy and growing. The immediate threat of persecution is over and there is relative peace in the community.
1 Corinthians 15:8CSB
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