Tag: Paul

The Persecutor Becomes The Proclaimer

The Persecutor Becomes The Proclaimer

Book of Acts Chapter 9

Who was the Apostle Paul?

Who was the apostle to the Gentiles?

We will begin to find out these things today.

God had begun His Church in Jerusalem. God had laid the foundation for world wide evangelism but the Church had remained in Jerusalem and grown at a fast pace.

God had told His Church these words:

Act 1:8  But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

The Church had grown in Jerusalem and Judaea. Philip had taken the “Gospel” to Samaria.

It was now time for the Church to grow “unto the uttermost part of the earth”.

God had already sent witnesses to the known world from those that were witnesses on the day of Pentecost:

Act 2:5  And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven.

But it was now time for “the Church to send” out the Missionaries, the Evangelist, and the Preachers.

Saul the “persecutor” became Paul the “proclaimer”!

God continues to work out “His plan” to bring the “Gospel” to the entire world!

It is only when we see life as God sees it that we can get an accurate picture of life, of living, and of eternity!

Lets begin:

*****Act 9:1  And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
Act 9:2  And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

Saul of Tarsus was a very zealous man who actually thought he was doing God a service by trying to put a stop to Christianity.

The Apostle Paul later gave this testimony of himself:

Act 26:9  I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.
Act 26:10  Which thing I also did in Jerusalem: and many of the saints did I shut up in prison, having received authority from the chief priests; and when they were put to death, I gave my voice against them.

The Apostle Paul later wrote to Timothy:

1Ti 1:12  And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry;
1Ti 1:13  Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, [because I did it ignorantly in unbelief].

Saul had set at the feet of Gamaliel a great teacher:

Act 22:3  I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.

But even the great Gamaliel did not know God spiritually and could not teach this to Saul.

These old teachers taught that the Messiah could only come when everyone completely obeyed the Law as given by Moses and added to by the Pharisees.

The Messiah could never have come under these conditions because it was impossible for anyone to keep all 613 of those laws.

Saul was spiritually blind:

2Co 3:13  And not as Moses, which put a vail over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished:
2Co 3:14  But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. 

The Nation of Israel is still in this state of spiritual blindness until this day!

They still stumble over the Cross as even Saul did at this time:

1Co 1:23  But we preach Christ crucified, [unto the Jews a stumblingblock], and unto the Greeks foolishness;
1Co 1:24  But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

The persecution of the Church at Jerusalem had driven the Church underground and many had been scattered. The religious leaders in Jerusalem were enthused as they thought Christianity was coming to an end in Jerusalem but Saul wanted to go beyond the borders of Jerusalem and even Judaea.

Like many of today, Saul hated Jesus Christ!

Even in foreign lands the High Priests and the Sanhedrin Court were still recognized as the spiritual rulers and certain things of Judaism were allowed by Rome when it came to religious practices of the nations under Roman rule.

Damascus is one of the world’s oldest cities and was first mentioned in the Bible in the time of Abraham:

Gen 14:15  And he divided himself against them, he and his servants, by night, and smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah, which is on the left hand of Damascus.

There are many suffering in Damascus today as it is the capitol of Syria and war is consuming Syria at this time.

But in Saul’s day many Jews lived in Syria.

*****Act 9:3  And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

Saul (Paul) never forgot these things that happened to him this day on the road to Damascus.

In chapter 26 Paul says that it was midday or noon time.

In chapter 22 Paul says it was about noon time.

So when the Sun was at it’s highest in the sky and at it’s brightest, a light even brighter than the Sun shined round about Paul.

The Apostle Peter uses this instance in one of His epistles:

2Pe 1:19  We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, [and the day star arise in your hearts]:

Jesus uses these things in the Book of Revelation:

Rev 22:16  I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and [the bright and morning star].

Jesus Christ is the true Light that comes into this spiritually dark world.

John the Baptist said of Jesus:

Joh 1:8  He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of “that Light”. {Referring to the Lamb of God}

Jesus said of Himself:

Joh 8:12  Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: [he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the “light of life”].

Here again we can see that only Christ Jesus is the “Light of Life”!

*****Act 9:4  And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Suddenly Saul found himself on the ground. “Every knee will bow to Our Lord”. A personal meeting with Jesus Christ will humble us all.

Everyone with Saul fell to the earth but only Paul could understand the words that were spoken:

Act 26:14  And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

With the emphasis on the Hebrew language it may have been that these others with Saul may not have known the Hebrew language as Aramaic, Greek and Latin were the dominant languages of that day.

BUT, When God repeats a name such as in these verses it always means that a message of special importance will follow!

He did this with Abraham (Gen 2:11).

He did this with Moses. (Exo 3:4)

He did this with Samuel. (1 Sam 3:10)

He did this with Absalom. (2 Sam 18:33)

He did this with Peter. (Luke 22:31)

He even did this with the city of Jerusalem. (Mat 23:37)

Paul knew he had to respond, because there is no place to hide when Christ Jesus shows Himself!

*****Act 9:5  And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

It is easy to see that Our Lord described Paul as a stubborn animal. We are all stubborn when we reject the truth of the “Gospel”!

These pricks were pointed objects that were placed in the harnesses of animals that hurt them when they rebelled against that harness.

Jesus was telling Paul, “what injury or what physical harm have I caused you?”

This tells us that the the Lord through the Holy Spirit had already been working on Saul.

Not many of us come to know the Lord on our first calling. Thank God He is the God of the second chance!

Saul had seen many of his friends and his own family come to know Jesus before him:

Paul later wrote:

Rom 16:7  Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, “who also were in Christ before me”.

And above all Jesus makes it “very plain” that when His Church, The Body Of Christ, suffers then He also suffers along with them.

Our Lord will always identify Himself with His believers!

*****Act 9:6  And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

No doubt Paul came under conviction and this conviction woke him up to great guilt for what he was doing to the followers of Jesus.

Now, Saul had actually seen the risen Christ and instantly, he became a believer!

1Co 15:8  And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

When any of us reach this point our next question should be the same as Paul:

“Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”

Isaiah put it this way:

Isa 6:8  Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? [Then said I, Here am I; send me].

The Apostle Paul would have a similar response as Isaiah!

*****Act 9:7  And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
Act 9:8  And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

Saul was not traveling alone this day on the Damascus road. These other men had seen a great light but they had not understood the Words of Jesus.

Act 22:9  And they that were with me saw indeed the light, and were afraid; but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.

Those men that were with Paul could not get words to come out of their mouths, they were speechless. What they had witnessed, they were in amazement of! They were bewildered by what they were witnessing!

Saul learned that Jesus was indeed alive.

Saul learned that he had to repent, something that was almost impossible for a Pharisee to do.

Saul learned that he was in danger of God’s Judgment!

Saul learned that he was a lost sinner in need of Salvation.

Saul learned that all of a sudden his personal values were meaningless.

Because, Saul had now been arrested by Jesus Christ:

Php 3:12  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for [which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus].

Saul had to loose his religion, before he could accept his unrighteousness before the Lord Jesus Christ!

No other Christian up till this time, had, had this kind of conversion experience but at the end of the Church Age most all the nation of Israel will have a similar experience as this one of Saul:

Zec 12:10  And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: [and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced], and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
Zec 12:11  In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.

This experience had left Saul temporarily blind and he was led by the hand on to Damascus!

God had to thoroughly humbled Saul and he would never be the same!

And at this same time ,God was preparing a Christian man named Ananias.

*****Act 9:17  And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Ananias despite everything he had heard about Saul, believed what the Holy Spirit had laid on his heart. He went to Saul and graciously accepted Saul as a brother in Christ.

Despite his great education at the feet of Gamaliel, Saul was just now only a “babe in Christ”.

Saul was converted to Paul on the Damascus road and was baptized by the Holy Spirit at that time because this is what the Bible teaches and what Paul would later teach. There was at this time a need of the “filling” of the Holy Spirit which took place immediately when Paul received “his sight”.

Remember the Jews “require a sign”.

Paul received his “physical” sight at the same time he received his “Spiritual” sight submitting himself fully to the Lord.

Saul of Tarsus became Brother Saul!

*****Act 9:18  And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

It was only after these things that Saul was baptized. Again we see that “water baptism” had nothing to do with Saul’s salvation!

And, Like the other Apostles, Paul received his Apostleship from the Lord Himself and we can also see that there was no such thing as “apostolic succession” as taught by some other religions.

*****Act 9:19  And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

It had been 3 days since Saul had eaten or drank anything and he had also been blind for those same 3 days.

Saul got to know God’s disciples and how loving and forgiving they truly were!

Luke uses the phrase “certain days” in this verse. This word can mean “some days” with the disciples that were at Damascus.

What Paul tells us, explains this time period better:

Gal 1:15  But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
Gal 1:16  To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
Gal 1:17  Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; [but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus].
Gal 1:18  Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

This visit to Arabia is the place where the Lord Himself taught the Apostle Paul just as He had taught the other Apostles.

*****Act 9:20  And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

Paul never forgot this period in his life and repeated it over and over again in his epistles:

Gal 1:1  [Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ], and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

The Apostle Paul knew for sure that Jesus Christ was the Messiah sent of God and Paul was even more zealous to preach this truth than he had been in persecution of the Church!

We may not know exactly how long Paul was in Arabia but we do know that it was 3 years before Paul returned to Jerusalem.

*****Act 9:21  But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?

The reputation of Saul had proceeded him into Damascus but this city of Damascus saw a different Saul than they had been told.

The dramatic change in Saul’s life was a source of wonder to the Jews who had fled to Damascus partly because of him.

And, this was the place that God first sent Paul to begin his ministry.

*****Act 9:22  But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

Saul was a very intelligent man and highly educated and as a Pharisee he was well learned in the Old Testament scriptures. When the Lord opened his eyes to the truth in those scriptures Paul said that the Lord had revealed to him the mysteries of the Bible.

1Co 4:1  Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, [and stewards of the mysteries of God].

Paul also went on to say that as stewards, or overseers of God’s Word, (Preachers) then he needed to be found faithful.

1Co 4:2  Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

This is true for everyone called of God, especially God’s ministers, to be faithful in preaching the truth of the Word of God.

We know that there is a great falling away from the truth of God in our day. That’s why the Church needs to make a full return to the “Apostles Doctrine”.

Maybe the world would look upon Christianity again in wonder and amazement and not in anger.

The truth will still make us free today!

*****Act 9:23  And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:

Those many days probably refer to that period of time Paul spent in Arabia.

These same Jews had been anticipating Paul’s arrival in Damascus and they knew the purpose of his coming was to arrest the Christians who were seen as creating problems for Judaism.

But when Paul came into the synagogues with this message of Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the Son of God, this only made matters worse for them.

These Jews could no longer win by arguing God’s Word because the truth was easily seen in the scriptures once Jesus could be seen throughout them all.

The part of Saul’s reputation of being him being a zealot meant the only way to silence him would be his death.

*****Act 9:24  But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.

Damascus was a walled city like most the old cities of the Bible. So there were gates in and out of the city. Paul explains to us later that these Jews had enough pull in Damascus to get aid from the ruling Gentile authorities.

2Co 11:32  In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:

They knew if Paul was apprehended or even if he made it through those gaits they would kill him.

But God always makes a way for His disciples. God had already said why He had called Paul:

Act 9:15  But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
Act 9:16  For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

*****Act 9:25  Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

Just as we had studied on the city of Jericho, there were houses built on the city walls with windows that allowed them to look out upon the country side.

Paul said:

2Co 11:33  And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

God would not even allow the ruling government to detain His preacher man!

There have been many excavations in and around Damascus and one of those discoveries includes the remains of “the street called Straight”.

It is a truth that more than 84 facts of the Book of Acts have been verified archaeologically.

The writings of Luke and the acts of Paul are the truth of the Early Church and the Apostle Paul was truly the Apostle to the Gentiles as we will learn from most of the remaining Book of Acts.

There are also many other great things we have not covered in this chapter. Please take a look on your own time.

Questions?

Let’s Pray?