April 2019   
Upcoming Events
Bible Search
Acts #30 (chapter 9:1-9)
The Book of Acts
The Amazing Conversion of Saul
Acts 9:1–9
I would say outside the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, one of the most significant events in the New Testament is the conversion of Saul.
As Paul the Apostle, he is the author of 13 of the New Testament books, the dominant character for most of the book of Acts, and the greatest missionary the world has ever known.
So when we open out Bibles to Acts 9 and read about his salvation, we come to one of the great days in the history of the world.  So significant is the story of his conversion that it is told 3 times in the book of Acts.  We find it here in Acts 9 as it happened, then two more times in chapters 22 and 26 as Paul tells the story himself. 
We first met Paul back in chapter 7 at the stoning of Stephen when those who were stoning him, in a sign of his authority and consent, laid their robes at his feet.  Then after great persecution breaks out against the church, Saul is the main player in that assault that causes the church to scatter. 
In fact, Luke describes him as a wild boar hog rampaging through a garden, or an army devastating a city as he makes havoc of the church.  And as  Stephen is preaching down in Samaria, Saul is pursuing Christians down  toward Damascus.  And that's where we pick up the story in chapter 9.
Chapter 9:1-9
By the way, the word “breathing” here references not breathing out, but breathing in.  In other words,  He lived to arrest and kill Christians.  This is his very life.  He draws his meaning in life from killing Christians.  And eradication was his objective, and this led to a trip to Damascus, a journey which changed the world. 
Why Damascus?  It is estimated that at the time of Saul's trip, there were as many as 150,000 people there living there, and a large percentage of the population was Jewish.  It is estimated by historians that there were tens of thousands of Jews there.  In fact, in 66 A.D., 20,000 Jews were massacred there. 
And Saul gets word there were Christians in Damascus.  They are identified in verse 2 as those who belonged to "men and women who belonged to the Way. ”
That was an early term to describe Christianity that most likely began as a sarcastic designation for Christians, much like the term "Christian" itself.  Jesus claimed to be the Way.  The early church preached Him as "the Way" and they became known as people of the Way. And they are the target in Damascus of Saul's attack. 
And as Saul and his cohorts are making their way to Damascus, this light from heaven flashes around him and he comes face to face with the resurrected Lord Jesus and when it's all said and done, the terrorist Saul is converted to the Apostle Paul.
Let me point our three or four characteristics of this encounter.  It begins with
1. The Contact
verse 3
Again we see, just as with the Ethiopian, how salvation happens.  God is always the initiator.  I promise you if God had not intervened, the farthest thing from Saul's mind is professing his faith in Jesus Christ.
And occasionally that intervention will happen in big, miraculous ways, as we see here in Saul's case.  But most often, it happens in smaller and more normal ways.  Mostly, God speaks in a still small voice and through Scripture or circumstances. But in the case of Saul, He called with a blazing, overwhelming appearance. 
Now a lot more happened than what we read in verse 3 and when we get to chapters 22 and 26 we will hear Paul himself explain that.  So without going into all the details, Saul is suddenly surrounded by an intense light that is brighter than the sun. And he has this personal encounter with Jesus Christ that allows him to see the Lord Himself. 
That was his testimony in First Corinthians 15:8 where he talks about the appearances of Christ and  says, “And least of all, He appeared to me.” He saw the glorified Christ. 
I find it very interesting that while Saul sttod watching and consenting to the death of Stephen, Stephen looked up and saw the Lord, and prayed, "Father, don't lay this sin to their charge."
And now, the heavens are opened once more allowing Saul to see the same Lord and answer Stephen's prayer by saving Saul.
So that’s the contact.  Saul was going one way with no idea of turning to go the other way, and God makes contact and reverses his direction.
Next we see
2.  The Conviction
verse 4
For salvation to occur, the contact must be followed by conviction of sin. And it is that conviction that motivates the sinner to repent. 
All of a sudden, Saul is laying at the feet of Jesus and he doesn't know what hit him!  And suddenly, this arrogant terrorist who is out to destroy the church finds himself in the right position to be saved.
And suddenly, the Lord is speaking his name.  He says, "Saul, Saul."  Now normally, in at least in Luke’s writings, the repetition of a name like this seems to imply a rebuke or a warning:  “Martha, Martha.”  “Jerusalem, Jerusalem.”  “Simon, Simon.”  Here it is, “Saul, Saul.” 
“Why are you persecuting Me? Why are you doing what you are doing?  For what reason are you doing this?”
This is an interesting statement.  After all, as far as Saul is concerned, Jesus hasn't been anywhere around.
Even if Saul acknowledged the life of Jesus, he was dead and at the best he was in heaven and I would think in Saul's estimation, since he died as a criminal, he was in hell. 
But He's not in hell; He's not even dead.  He's alive and powerful and talking and he claims to have been persecuted by Saul. 
And in that one question, the Lord states a very important reality and that is He is inseparably linked to His people and to persecute them is a personal attack on Him.
Later on in his life, we will hear Paul, “I bear in my body the marks of Christ.  I am now receiving the blows that were meant for Him.”  He learned that every member of the body of Christ is a member of Christ, and if one believer is touched on earth, that touch is felt in heaven.  And Jesus wants Saul to know that when he persecuted His people, He was being persecuted.
And this question identifies the real issue of need in Saul's life.  "Why are you persecuting Me?"  That's the question lost people need to be asked:  "Why are you treating Jesus the way you’re treating Him?”
There are a lot of sins in the world, but the sin that is most important is the the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ.  The issue for conviction is not that we lie or steal or mistreat people or whatever  other immorality there might be in our life.  People die and go to hell because they reject Christ.
Paul said to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:22, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, he’s anathema, he’s cursed, damned."  This is always the issue.
The work of the Holy Spirit, John 16 reminds us, “Is to convict the world of sin because they do not believe on Me.”  That is the crime of all crimes.  That is the unpardonable sin, the unforgivable crime.  And Saul is laid in the dust through that indictment as this unbelievable conviction of his sin crushes his heart. 
So first there is contact, followed by conviction and the conviction leads to  
3.  The Conversion
verse 5
Now this is a very abbreviated account, but we have enough to know that something amazing has happened.  Suddenly, that man that was in charge at the death of Stephen is asking, "Who are You, Lord?“
He’s not yet even sure Who he’s looking at but he has enough sense to recognize the amazing power of Whomever it is and he acknowledges them as Lord. 
I would say that Jesus has his attention!  He is brought to humble submission and fear.  And then Jesus tells Him Who He is and how He has been the One persecuted by Saul.  "I am Jesus".  And with that one sentence, Saul is confronted with the truth about the Lord. 
I'm sure Saul knew very well the Christian gospel.  He was a highly educated theologian.  In fact, it was because of the heresy that he was killing these people.  He knew what they were saying.  He knew they were proclaiming this man as the Messiah, this man as the Son of God.  This man is God’s chosen sacrifice for sin.  This man rose from the dead.  This man has been anointed by God as the Righteous One.
And I’m convinced he remembered what Stephen said at the end of his sermon about how they had killed the "Righteous One."  And then when he died, he claimed to see "the Son of Man, standing at the right hand of the throne of God in heaven.”
He knew all of that, but up to this point, for him it’s heresy.  It’s blasphemy.  But suddenly, it all came clear.  Jesus' followers claimed He had risen from the dead, and now, there He is, talking to Saul.  And suddenly, this horrible, terrible, amazing truth captures his soul.  Jesus is alive and He is the Son of God and He is the Messiah.  And we really did kill Him and He really was watching when Stephen died and I really have been attacking His followers and Him.
And in that awful moment, Saul is consumed with His sin.  All the bloodshed that he was responsible for must have drowned him in sorrow.  And as he lays in the dirt at the feet of Jesus, he is shattered and broken. All his doubts were erased and he knew the truth.
Saul cried out, “Who are You, Lord?”, and Jesus answered by using His personal name, the name given to Him when He was born as a babe in this world because Jesus means “Jehovah saves.”
And with that, the battle was over.  It had been a very difficult battle for Saul.  He had been kicking against the goads.  A goad was any sharp, pointed instrument which was used to pierce or perforate.  They were used to stab an ox to keep him moving.  .
And what the Lord implies is that Saul had been inflicting pain on himself through his continued persecution of the church.  You can’t fight God, rebel against God, make war against God and not feel the pain. 
And with that, Saul is converted, and the proof of that conversion came very quickly. 
verse 6
What’s the first response of a true conversion?  Submission.  Saul recognizes he is no longer in charge.  He is no longer calling the shots or making the decisions. Instead, he confesses Jesus as Lord and asks for directions.
verses 7-8
We have contact, conviction, conversion and the inal component is
4. The Communion
verse 9
So what did he do for those three days?  I’ll tell you what he did:  he spent time with Jesus, his new Master.  Think about this:  the last thing he saw before he went blind was the blazing presence of the glory of Jesus.  That sight dominated his now sightless eyes.  His blindness was not the blindness of blackness, but the blindness of light.  Not the blindness of looking into the darkness of a pitch black night, but the blindness of looking into the brilliance of a blazing sun.
His mind is filled with what he has seen and experienced.  He must have felt great guilt. He knew nothing about his future.  He didn’t know who he was anymore.  He didn’t know what he was supposed to do.  This was total devastation of everything he was, and it was in those days that all that he had considered precious became rubbish.
He is now stunned and helpless and friendless.  After all, all of his friends and companions are now his enemies.  And he has nobody and nothing else but Jesus for three days. 
The conversion of Paul is a beautiful picture of salvation in all its beauty and glory.  It is sudden, it is explosive, it is a miracle in a moment initiated by God that brings conviction and conversion and when it's done its work, leaves us with nothing but Jesus, and Jesus is enough.
Well, that’s the beginning.  Much more to come about the story of Saul next time. 
Let's pray.
Post a Comment