Grace Notes

Acts Chapter 9

Introduction: 

The mind of Saul must have been in turmoil as he traveled six days–150 miles north from Jerusalem to Damascus where a strong community of disciples of Jesus was growing. 

His teacher, the wise Gamaliel,  had spoken calming words in the Sanhedrin and softened their attitudes toward stamping out these followers of Jesus of Nazareth–but he was on the hunt. He was personally committed to seeing Israel return to meticulous observance and obedience to the Law. 

Luke records Saul’s attitude as murderous; he was snorting like a warhorse preparing for battle. 

While Saul felt in charge of the hunt–storming singlemindely toward Damascus to take prisoners, the Sovereign Lord of the universe was on a hunt of his own! 

He was hunting this brilliant man Saul who was raised as a Hebraic Jew in the Greek intellectual culture of Tarsus.  He spoke fluent Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic.  He studied the law with Gamaliel, the greatest Hebrew scholar of his time. 

He was uniquely suited and prepared to bridge the gulf between Hebrew and Greek, between Jew and Gentile, between Jew and Jesus followers.  He was uniquely suited to understand how Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s redemptive work through His people Israel– except that at this moment he was blind with hatred toward Jesus and his followers.

Except at the moment he was callous, and hate filled and self righteous and assured that he was serving God by squashing this little cultic group.

With the stage ready, the Lord displayed His sovereign rule over the hearts of men–He displayed the truth that He can reach anyone no matter how hardened in the heart. He appeared to Saul in a stunning show of light, sound and power.  He was thrown to the ground and heard a voice ask, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?”

  • Saul heard the voice of God–and God called Himself Jesus! (vs. 5)
  • he heard authority, judgment, grace, and urgency as he listened to the voice.
  • In the Acts 26 account Jesus states that Saul has been doing the hard work of “kicking at the goads”. 
    • A goad is a stick used to make an ox keep moving.
    • oxen often got irritated at the stick and kicked up their heels in a futile effort to dislodge the stick and to stop the poking.
    • Jesus was suggesting that Saul was making the same futile attempt of trying to stop the work of the Spirit of God .
    • It is possible that Saul had been fighting against convicition from the Spirit since he had witnessed the peace filled death of Stephen.
    • The more the ox resists the goad–the deeper the wound.
    • In mercy Jesus came and the capturer was captured!

Something to Marvel at:

God  is completely able to make this conversion even more instantaneous than it was, yet He planned an experience that gave Saul time to be still and know that God was the God Man Jesus and time for Jesus followers to get used to the idea that Saul was now one of their own!

Truth to Know: Conversion is a work initiated by God–it is the work of divine sovereign grace that turns our blindness to Jesus into sight that sees Him as Lord and Savior.

Q: What was Saul converted from?

  • a murderous spirit
  • from being an enemy of God who thought he was a friend
  • from blindness to the truth of Christ
  • from self centeredness to Christ centeredness
  • from opposing the name of Jesus
  • from confidence in his flesh and intellect
  • from legalistic righteousness
  • from seeing the danger to God’s cause outside of himself
  • from misdirected zealousness and passion
  • from full of pride to full of humility

Personal Application:

  1. Real Life begins with a divine and personal encounter with Jesus.
  2. The Lord prepares us for that encounter with a variety of goads – questions that cannot be silenced.
  3. With great grace He loves us to the end of our arrogance and rebellion.  He loves us out of hard heartedness toward Him and into soft responsiveness.
  4. He reveals that our encounter has a purpose that includes others who are blind.
  5. He uses others to confirm our encounter who will become a joyous community of people who encourage our faith journey.

Our conversion is not a declaration of independence but of interdependence! We search for Christ only after His prior advance.

(Lloyd Ogilvie, Acts, Word Publishers, 168)

(vs. 10-19)  Ananias the Servant Who Welcomes Saul to the “The Way” 

  • Saul was blind, helpless, abstaining from nourishment in order to feed on God and His purpose in the recent encounter.
  • Ananias was called to be the one who went to welcome Saul into fellowship with the disciples.
  • God shared with him His plan for Saul in order to allay the fear that welled up in Ananias’ heart.  (God gives us enough guidance to get us going!)
  • Ananias in beautiful tenderness to the blind man entered the home and placed his hands on Saul.
  • At that moment something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes–a picture of what had happened in his heart.
  • Saul’s blindness to Christ had fallen away–the eyes of his heart had been opened.
  • He heard the welcoming words of a brother in Christ and took the sign of identification in baptism and the sign of oneness in a fellowship meal.

 (vs. 20-31)  Good News Travels Fast!

  • Note how Luke empahsizes the impact of Saul’s transformation–“At once he began to preach…that Jesus is the Son of God.”
  • The term “Son of God” was bold usage of the Hebrew term for the Messiah as the true representative  of God’s people.
  • From the start, Saul received the same hostile treatment from his people that he had just recently dished out. 
  • He became so threatened that he had to escape in a basket through the wall in Damascus.
  • Most scholars believe that Saul fled from Damascus into the desert of Arabia and so there is a space of three years between verse 22 and 23.
  • It was in the wilderness that he was alone and reflecting on the Scriptures and grace in light of Christ.
  • The believers in Jerusalem were suspicious and not welcoming of this former persecutor.
  • What did he think when after a miraculous conversion, and 3 years of contemplative preparation he was met with deep rejection from his new family?
  • God had Barnabas ready to smooth Saul’s way into the company of believers in the Jerusalem fellowship–his ministry of encouragement and care is beautiful!

Key Thought:  If we are unforgiving of people “with a past,” we prove that we have not understood or appreciated the core of our gospel.   Our unforgiveness speaks that we believe that we are more deserving of grace than others. Since grace is a gift to the underserving, we might as well spit on the gift as twist it with such unbelief.

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