Acts 9: 1-9

Written by kathleen on May 03, 2015 in - No Comments

Acts 9:1-9

Two Questions

Last person in the world to get saved

Seeing people 10 years later that haven’t changed

Some have changed radically and are now saved radically like Paul

Radical conversion are the results of a radical person Paul’s conversion was radical

John Newton = amazing grace

Remember what Jesus said about the Laodicean church being hot or cold — it’s all about Real commitment! — Can people see it – no question about Paul

Ask people back then who would be to far from salvation –

Do you know someone you think is so far gone to be saved? If you do don’t give up on that person!

In the outline our Lord Jesus gave of the progress of the gospel throughout the time of this age, he said it would move in three stages: First to Jerusalem, then to Judea and all Samaria, and then to the uttermost parts of the earth

Here in Acts 9, we are viewing that second stage wherein the gospel is going out to Judea and all Samaria.

During that period of time the gospel was being systematically preached throughout every village of Samaria and Judea by outstanding leaders such as Philip and the apostles Peter and John along with other Christians.

But the Lord was also doing something else. He was preparing the instrument by which the gospel would move into the third stage, the stage in which today we are still involved, that of going to the uttermost parts of the earth. Jesus has been referred to as The Hound of Heaven, because of His ability to pursue a person like a relentless hound that follows every step. It is a characteristic of God

Maybe you have experienced something like that as well.                                                         

This morning we will be looking at #1 Saul’s participation in the persecution of the people following Jesus #2 God’s plan to reach Saul  #3 Two very important questions  concerning all of us!

Here in the opening of this chapter we find Saul pursuing and being pursued as he comes to a radical conversion and begins a relationship with Jesus Christ!

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.

Saul had been present at Stephen’s assignation as an up and coming religious leader bent on eliminating the followers of what they called  a cult named “The Way”. Receiving permission from the Jewish Religious leadership he is on his way to a life changing experience.

Saul known as “Saul of Tarsus” was from Tarsus a city of Cilicia which is where 2 countries met now known as Asia minor/Syria it was located on the coast. Very famous for black wool used for tents, and a sea port (Saul was a tent maker)

Tarsus was known for higher education; at the time there were three great schools Athens, Alexandria, and Tarsus. Saul was educated and trained by Gamaliel, the “teacher’s teacher” of that day, Saul knew the Scriptures well and was respected in the community. He was a member of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court). He could speak multiple languages, quote many Greek, roman, Jewish philosophers and he was a Roman citizen by birth and understood much of Roman law (appealed to Caesar)

His self declaration Phil 3:4-8 yet if anyone ever had reason to hope that he could save himself, it would be I. If others could be saved by what they are, certainly I could! 5 For I went through the Jewish initiation ceremony when I was eight days old, having been born into a pure-blooded Jewish home that was a branch of the old original Benjamin family.

So I was a real Jew if there ever was one! What’s more, I was a member of the Pharisees who demand the strictest obedience to every Jewish law and custom. 6 And sincere? Yes, so much so that I greatly persecuted the Church; and I tried to obey every Jewish rule and regulation right down to the very last point.

7 But all these things that I once thought very worthwhile-now I’ve thrown them all away so that I can put my trust and hope in Christ alone. TLB.

There are three things of interest to note here in verse 1: First, Saul was breathing threats and murder. In the King James Version it says he was “breathing out threats and slaughter.” The literal Greek says he was “breathing in threats and murder,” other words this was the very air which he breathed. He lived in this mind set.

He was dedicated to eliminating what he regarded as the cult of the Nazarene. He was practicing a lifestyle of hate, violence and murder against it. Later in his appearance before King Agrippa, he tells the king what he had done at this time.

The high priest mentioned here is Caiaphas; And now with paper’s of authority in hand Saul becomes relentless, traveling throughout Judea, Samaria, and northern Israel—even across the border into Damascus, one hundred forty miles from Jerusalem—to hunt believers down and bring back people of “the way”.

Second: these early Christians were called “those belonging to the Way.” Names like this are usually given by opponents or enemies. A group may form and call themselves by a certain name, but the name that usually sticks is the one that others call them.

The name “The Way” indicates what others saw in these early Christians. They saw that they were different in that they had a different way of life. To use the phrase that is popular today yet is very descriptive of this word, they had a lifestyle about them that was different. They were a people that operated on a different basis concerning life situations; and that’s what impressed the world.

These Christians were characterized, not by self-centeredness, and   by the philosophy of “me first, much as the world is today, but they were characterized by love, acceptance, and understanding

Today concerning these characteristics many “Christians” forget  Eph 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  And so they become judgmental, abusive, and hateful; Just as Saul was doing thinking he was helping and pleasing God!

It was said about the early Christians, “How these Christians love one another.” That is what impressed the world of the first century. They called them “those belonging to the Way” meaning the way of love. There was something about them that reminded them of Jesus, who was himself “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

The third significant thing in these 2 verses is the plan of God to reach this man; Saul of Tarsus, to change the direction of his life.

The gospel until this time had gone out only within the area of Israel. But that was never God’s thought that it should be so limited. Now, in calling Saul who is to carry it further, God takes him out of the land of Israel to convert him because Saul was scheduled to be in God’s program as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. . In Acts 26:13 Paul says that this happened at mid-day, when the sun shines at its brightest; but this heavenly light was brighter than the sun could ever be.

Do you know people who seem absolutely hardened to the gospel? Maybe you work with one. Maybe you’re married to one. Know this The Lord has ways of breaking through to them and shining His light on them unexpectedly even as He did with Saul.  (You reflecting His light) 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul,  Saul, why are you persecuting Me? Saul thought that he was serving God by viciously attacking Christians, but now he discovers that he has been fighting against God.

This has been sadly true through history. Men who were convinced they were doing God a favor have done much of the worst persecution and torture ever practiced.

“Why are you persecuting Me?” This is as if to say, “Saul, stop and think about what you’re doing, for in persecuting those people, you’re persecuting Me.”

For those who are saved; we are the bride of Christ. He’s jealous for us and in love with us! So when we find fault with one another—He takes it personally, as any husband would. Next time you want to come down on one who is in love with Jesus Christ, be careful, for in attacking His bride, you are attacking Him!

5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.

Interesting that Saul put the proper title on the voice he heard. Imagine the surprise when he hears the name Jesus!(The same surprise people who reject Jesus will have on their day of judgment!)

A goad was a long, extremely sharp stick that was used with a jab behind the hind legs to get an ox going the way you wanted him to go when you were plowing.

Essentially, Saul is the ox; Jesus is the farmer; Saul is dumb and stubborn – yet valuable, and potentially extremely useful to the Master’s service.

Jesus is goading Saul into the right direction, and the goading causes Saul pain, but instead of submitting to Jesus, Saul is kicking against the goad – and only increasing his pain.

This process goes on many times with people who are being called by God to first believe in Him and then to the direction of following Him.

During this time those who are being goaded start to realize how things seem to be falling apart in and around “their world” and sometimes in ways that cause them pain.

6 So he, (Saul) 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.”

Saul responds with two of the most important questions anyone can (and must) ask. The first question is “Who are You, Lord?” The second question is “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

Saul’s question was personal. He asked the question with a “me”: “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

We often are quite interested or concerned in what God wants others to do. But the surrendered heart asks “Lord, what do You want me to do?” This is a question everybody must deal with.

People have their ideas about God; where he lives; what he likes and doesn’t like, but they don’t know him!

It will be a sad day that is described in Matt 7:21-23 “Not all who sound religious are really godly people. They may refer to me as ‘Lord,’ but still won’t get to heaven. For the decisive question is whether they obey my Father in heaven.  22 At the Judgment many will tell me, ‘Lord, Lord, we told others about you and used your name to cast out demons and to do many other great miracles.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘You have never been mine. Go away, for your deeds are evil.’ TLB

This should be an immediate request after salvation “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Yet many saved people never ask this question.

Most everyone has questions they would like to ask God. A Gallup Survey asked people to choose three questions they would most like to ask God. The top five responses: “Will there ever be lasting world peace?” “How can I be a better person?” “What does the future hold for my family and me?” “Will there ever be a cure for all diseases?” “Why is there suffering in the world?”

It is strange that people would want to ask God these questions when they are already answered in the Bible! But they really aren’t the most important questions for us to ask. Saul asked the right question saying “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then Jesus answers him only by telling what to do right at the moment.

This is often how God’s direction works in our lives. He directs us one step at a time instead of laying out the details of the big picture.

Is it too much to say that if we will not ask these two great questions and listen to God’s answers to these questions, then we are acting like a dumb ox?

Some may complain that God compares us to oxen, and indeed it is an unfair comparison!  After all, what ox has ever rebelled against God like we have? God almost owes an apology to oxen!

You’ll always know when a person is truly born-again, for when he’s or she has had an encounter with the Lord, they will invariably ask, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

A man in a restaurant, choking on a piece of food, grabbed his throat and fell to the floor. From a few tables over a doctor jumped up, ran over and quickly dislodged the food. The man asked. “Doctor, what do I owe you?” The doctor replied. “Whatever you thought it was worth when you were choking,”

So, too, what the Lord asks us to do is not a pressure on us, but a privilege for us when we realize the price He paid to save us when we were choking on sin and headed for eternal damnation.

The Lord always directs one step at a time. How often I want to see the big picture, but the Lord doesn’t work that way. If we learn to be obedient to what you know you should do, then as you do it, more will be revealed to you.

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

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.

It seems that Saul was so shaken by the experience that he was unable to eat or drink for three days. All Saul could do was simply sit in a blind silence thinking about all his previous ideas about who God was and what pleased God; and what he was to do next!

We have seen the results of:

#1 Saul’s participation in the persecution of the Church following Jesus

#2 God’s plan to reach Saul

#3 Two very important questions concerning all of us!

This morning let’s take time and consider these two questions for ourselves #1 Who are you Lord? And #2 What would you have me do?