Acts 9

Day 9, Acts 9

Saul was on his way to Damascus to hunt Christians. Can you imagine the excitement? I mean, think how excited and crazy people get when they are going to play a sport or watch one. Hunting gets your blood up. Its the fight or flight thing. So Saul had to be feeling good.

 

And then God….

Saul met God on the road to Damascus. How do I know? Because he fell down at the power of the entrance of God. A flash of light from heaven came, blinded him, and he fell to the ground.

When people are in God’s presence, they fall down.

Ezekiel 1:28

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.

Mark 3:11

Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.”

John 18:6

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

He probably had no idea what had happened, I mean a flash bomb so bright he was blinded basically went off from heaven. vBut he realized he was not the one with the power. So when the voice asked “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”, Saul asked, “Who are You, Lord?”

The response? “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”

Its interesting that the people with him heard the voice but saw no one. I wonder if they saw the light. Scripture does not tell us.

What happened then? Saul got up. Saul was led by the hand into Damascus. Like Christ was three days in the tomb, without seeing, without eating, without drinking (as is appropriate for a dead man), so was Saul.

Then the Lord spoke to a man in Damascus through a vision. He was very direct, and very exact as to where He wanted the man to go – including who to ask for. The Lord told the guy, Ananias, the Saul had seen he was going to come and lay hands on him to receive sight.

Apparently one can object during a vision. Ananias objected, making clear the danger Saul had presented for those who trusted in Christ – how he was supposed to come and arrest people (I’d imagine he didnt want to die). But the Lord was clear :“Go, for he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”

What was Ananias’ response?

So Ananias departed and entered the house, and after laying his hands on him said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road by which you were coming, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

My wife, Lori, pointed out to me that immediately after laying hands on Saul, Ananias addressed him as brother. This was before baptism. Scripture records no decision having been made for Christ by Saul, no sinners prayer was prayed, nothing happened other than Christ confronted Saul, blinded him, Saul fell  to the ground, and Christ told Saul what he would do, and then Saul was healed. Yet Ananias addressed him as brother Saul – a fellow believer in Christ. Saul had no part in his salvation, other than to be the recipient of it.

It was after he believed, after he was healed and could see that he was baptized, and it was after baptism that he ate (after three days without vision,  food or water). This tells us how important obedience through baptism in the Lord’s name was to Saul, personally.

I have heard much about how we should not take celebrities and have them teach or share the gospel or [fill in the blank] yet. But Saul was preaching that Jesus was the Lord within days of his conversion – and he kept getting stronger and confounding the Jews by proving Jesus was Lord.

Then when the Jews began to plot his murder, instead of confronting and defending himself – he ran away. This is not the behavior one would normally expect from hero of the faith. This is a man who loved God, loved others. He wanted to proclaim the Word of God. Yet he was lowered by his followers in a basket through a hole in the wall so he could be safe. He went back to Jerusalem.

The believers there didnt trust Saul – but God provided yet again. God provided a Barnabas, who spoke up for Saul, giving Saul’s testimony of what happened on the road to Damascus and while there. Then for a while, Saul was able to proclaim Christ to the Jews in Jerusalem. The Greek Jews wanted to kill him. So the believers sent him to Tarsus, where he was from – I suppose the thinking was he would likely be safe in his home town.

Saul must have been quite the persecutor, because after his conversion (when he quit ravaging the church), scripture tells us in verse 31, “the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase.”

What does it mean to “fear the Lord?” The Greek word is ‘phobos’. The NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon defines phobos as:

1.            fear, dread, terror

a.                  that which strikes terror

 

This is translated a few times as respect or awe or reverence. But mostly, its fear – as in BE AFRAID. The church FEARED God. They recognized God’s power. For this reason, the church continued to increase.

The church was built up. It continued to Increase.

How? People were sharing the truth about Jesus – they were sharing the Gospel.

John 3:3 reads,

“Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” There must be new life.

John 3:16-18 tells us,

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.18 He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

This tells us if we believe, we have eternal life, if we do not, we are judged.

God tells us in John 3:36,

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.

This tells us that if someone does not obey, they do not believe, and the wrath of God is still on those them. This tells us if you believe, you will obey. Do you obey? Is YOUR life one of obedience, showing you faith, or disobedience, showing a lack of faith?

The church FEARED God, and were comforted by the Holy Spirit.

Moving on….

Paul was not the only prominent person spoken of in this chapter. We see Peter was traveling, and he healed a paralytic, at which point many believed.

Peter also prayed for a woman, Tabitha (AKA Dorcas), and she returned from the dead. I doubt this is a common occurrence – even then. There seemed to have been lots of healing,but only a few recorded instances of dead people coming to live. Dead people dont seem to return too often, at least not after a few minutes. I mean, our dog died recently, but after a bit of mouth to mouth and a few compressions, she revived. This wasnt like that. This woman had been dead. The people had to send for Peter who was in another town. And they had already washed her and set her in a bedroom (for mourning, I suppose), before the sent for Peter in another town. When he arrived, the widows talked with him,showing her wares to him, before he sent them away and prayed and told her to get up. She did. I mean there was not any yelling or screaming on Peter’s part, no drama, just a quiet expectation of her obedience. And many people heard and believed.

I think many people come to Christ in a moment of crisis or healing. We seem to respond better then – perhaps because our mind is more inclined to believe during those periods in our lives when we need a miracle?

For me, the miracle is not a healed person or a resurrected person – but a forgiven person. It amazes me how we can take our salvation for granted. This is a God whom we should FEAR. Jesus said to be afraid of him who can DESTROY SOULS – he was not speaking of Satan, but of GOD.

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