November 21, 2015.
Note that I have decided to only do Acts 9 today, as chapters 10 and 11 shouldn’t be split up in my opinion. Thus, next week we will do Acts 10-12. Thank you for following along with me.
Daily Reading: Acts 9.
Background: Acts 7-8.
Concepts and Connections.
1. The conversion of Saul: In chapter nine we come to a somewhat pivotal moment in the book and the pivotal turning point in a man named Saul’s life. Before we look at his story, however, there is a common misconception that should be addressed, and that is that Saul’s name was changed to Paul after he converted to Christianity to designate a major change in his life. This is actually not the case, as Saul is still called Saul (even by the Holy Spirit, see Acts 13:2). Rather, it is more likely the case that either ‘Paul’ was a more Greek iteration of the Jewish name of ‘Saul’, as Paul’s ministry was primarily geared towards Greek speakers, or Paul was a surname/nickname given to him just as Simon was called Peter (see Matthew 4:18). Regardless of why this man is addressed by two different names in the scriptures, here we see what would be the most important event in this mans life.
Saul has been ravaging the church in the name of God, persecuting Christians in any way that he can. We find here here on the way to Damascus to find any who were belonging to the Way and bring them bound to Jerusalem, when he is stopped in his tracks by a blinding light from heaven and a voice of the Lord Jesus, whom he was persecuting. Jesus directly calls Saul out here for persecuting Him (note here the association between persecuting Christians and persecuting Christ). The men who were with Saul saw the light, but they could not understand the voice that was talking to Saul. Jesus tells Saul to go into the city and it will be told what he must do (note that this story is retold in Acts 22 and Acts 26, and the details can be filled in from each reiteration). He was left blind by the light and fasted and prayed for three days and three nights (Saul was a very religiously convicted person even before he met Jesus, see Acts 22-23:1, Romans 11:1-6, II Corinthians 11:22, and Philippians 3:1-6). As Saul was praying and fasting, the Lord appeared to a devout man named Ananias and told him to go meet Saul of Tarsus to give him back his sight and show him the way. Note that even though Jesus appeared to Saul in a vision, He did not tell him what he had to do, but rather sent someone to tell him the good news. It seems that it was always Jesus’ plan for us, His servants, to spread the gospel (see Matthew 28:18-20). Ananias was skeptical at first because he had heard everything that Saul had done to Christians, and he was afraid of Him. But the Lord had big plans for Saul, and Ananias went to Saul, laid his hands on him to give him back his sight and that he was to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Saul was told to arise and be baptized to wash away his sins (see Acts 22:16), which we see him immediately do here.
After Saul is converted, he remains with the Christians at Damascus for a while, immediately proclaiming Jesus in the synagogues as the Son of God. It is apparent by his drastic life change that something drastic must have happened to him, and the people are astonished for this very reason. After a while, the Jews plotted to kill Saul, but he found out about it and escaped through a opening in the wall (being lowered in a basket) by night and traveled to Jerusalem. Like Ananias, the Christians in Jerusalem were both skeptical and very afraid of Saul when he first arrived. But Barnabas, who we me in chapter 4 out of his generosity, stays true to the name given him earlier by the apostles (‘son of encouragement,’ see Acts 4:36) and takes Saul to vouch for him to the Christians in Jerusalem. What faith, trust and boldness in the Lord Barnabas displays here! Saul does the same thing in Jerusalem, proclaiming the name of Jesus boldly, and the Jews once again try to kill him here, and thus he was brought by the brethren down to Caesarea and then off to Tarsus for his own safety. The church was multiplied by the work of the Spirit.
2. The miracles of Peter: After Saul’s conversion, Luke records two miraculous healings done by Peter through the power of Christ. The first was a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. Note here the reason for the miracle here, as after Aeneas was healed, all the residents of Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord. The same is seen when Tabitha (Dorcus in Greek, meaning gazelle), is raised from the dead. When it became known throughout Joppa that Peter had brought her back to life through the power of Christ, many believed in the Lord. We should always remember that whatever we do, it should be done for the ultimate glorification of Jesus Christ.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Peter 4-5.
Be bold in the Lord.