HIS SERVANTS' MINISTRY
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The Book of ACTS
THEME: Conversion of Saul of Tarsus (son of Shem)
This chapter tells about another remarkable conversion. The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch was in a chariot in the desert; the conversion of Saul of Tarsus was down in the dust. Saul was probably either walking or riding a small donkey when he went up to Damascus, when he found himself flat down in the dust.
The Book of Philippians gives the theological, psychological and philosophical aspects of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. The Book of Acts deal with the facts of what actually happened on the road to Damascus.
The Conversion Of Saul Of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-19)
Acts 9:1-2 And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. (KJV)
When the persecution broke out in Jerusalem, the church went underground. The stoning of Stephen started it, followed by much persecution. The apostles stayed in Jerusalem, but many of the disciples were scattered. As we saw, Philip went to Samaria and then to the Mediterranean coast. The Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem were happy when they had run the "Christian" believers out of Jerusalem. They were willing to let it stay at that point. But NOT Saul of Tarsus! He hated the believers in Christ and threatened to kill them. He hated Christ Jesus! I don't think that the Lord Jesus ever had a greater enemy than Saul of Tarsus. He went to the high priest and told them that he heard a group of them had run off to Damascus, and he was going to go after them. Saul wanted warrants for their arrest. The truth was that he intended to go after them no matter where they went. His ultimate goal was to exterminate the Christians.
Acts 9:3-4 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: 4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (KJV)
Saul's passion may have subsided to some degree, in the journey of about 140 miles, from Jerusalem to Damascus . . . but this we do not know for certain. If this incident happened at noon, the sun would have been shining with its full strength . . . but that light from Heaven that day was FAR above the brightness of the sun.
We are now introduced to the history of Saul's conversion, but we must carefully consider the entire process, both with reference to the specific changes effected, and the influences which produced them. In order that we may have the event fully before us, we will go to Passages in Acts chapters 22 and 26, for they furnish additional facts.
And he fell upon the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? . . . Saul not only heard Jesus' Voice, BUT . . . while his eyes could still see into the midst of the glory, he definitely saw Who it was that spoke to him.
Paul will recount this incident two more times in the Book of Acts. Paul never gets tired of telling about his conversion. We find him going over it again in his Epistle to the Philippians where he gets right down to the heart of the matter and tells what really happened to him. Here we are simply given the facts. He will go over them again when he gives his testimony before king Agrippa . . . which is a masterpiece.
Acts 9:5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (KJV)
It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks . . . this seems to reveal that Saul's conscience had not been completely at rest during his persecutions, but like an unruly ox, Saul had been kicking against the pricks (a goad, a sharp point to urge sluggish oxen), which urges him to go a different way. Although Saul had acted ignorantly and in unbelief, it was with so many misgivings, that he forever afterward regarded himself as the chief of sinners (1 Tim.1:15), his having been the chief of persecutors.
Consider the ignorance of Saul. He was probably the most brilliant man of his day. He was probably a graduate of the University of Tarsus, the greatest Greek university of that day, and he was a student in the school of Gamaliel, the great Hebrew scholar of that day (Acts 5:34; 22:3). He was trained in every detail of the Jewish religion. But he did NOT know the Lord Jesus Christ. "Who art thou, Lord?" My friend, to know Jesus is life. Saul did not know Him!
Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (KJV)
Saul is down in the dust on that road to Damascus. What a remarkable conversion. Saul immediately reveals his conversion. This man who hated the Lord Jesus, who did everything he could against Him, now calls Him "Lord" (1 Cor.12:3) and then he asks what the Lord wants him to do. Saul is ready and willing to do whatever the Lord wants him to do. Saul has had a complete turn-around! He is completely changed. "Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them" (Mat.7:20). We can be absolutely certain what has happened to this man is sincere!
Acts 9:7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. (KJV)
Later on (Acts 22:9) it says that they didn't hear. Is this a conflict? No, I don't think so. They heard a voice but could not understand what was said. It did not make any sense to them. They did not see anyone. There was no one for them to see. They were speechless with amazement. We shall see this miraculous event in more detail in Acts 22 and Acts 26.
Acts 9:8-9 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. 9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink. (KJV)
Saul was blinded by the extreme light that he had seen from Heaven. He had to have been puzzled as much as any man has ever been. Some people jump up and down when they are converted. Some shout for joy. Not Saul of Tarsus. There never was a man as confused as he was.
Saul "could not see for the glory of that light" (Ac 22:11). He had probably closed his eyes to protect them from the glare; but when he opened them again, he could NOT see. This does not say that he was blind, for this was NOT punishment.
And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink . . . he took no food during that time. What three days those must have been! Christ Jesus had been revealed not only to Saul's eyes but to his SOUL (Gal.1:15-16). The conviction came to him that the system of legal righteousness in which he had rested and prided himself was false and fatal. What a spiritual exercise he had during those three days of total darkness, fasting, and solitude! Saul had had profound insight into the Old Testament, but now he had this beautiful ideal of the lowliness of the Christian character set before him. There was now a burning zeal within him to spend all his future life for Christ. What an awesome change!
Acts 9:10-12 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. 11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, 12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. (KJV)
A certain disciple . . . a Christian. Many say that he was one of the 70 disciples (Luke 10:1,17). But nothing is certain of him except what is stated here. He had most certainly had heard of Saul, but was personally a stranger to him. In Acts 22:12, it is said that Ananias was "a devout man according to the law, having a good report of all the Jews which dwelt there."
The Lord Jesus alone is mentioned in this transaction. Since Jesus had began the work of converting Saul, it is clear that it is Jesus here as well.
In a vision . . . maybe a dream. The main thing is, Jesus revealed His will to Ananias. The word vision is often used in speaking of the communications made to the prophets, and commonly means that future events were made to pass in review before the mind, as we look upon a landscape (Isa.1:1, Gen.15:1; Num.12:6, Eze. 11:24, Dan.2:19, 7:2, 8:1-2,26, 10:7, Acts 10:3, 11:5, 16:9; Mat.17:9).
Into the street which is called Straight . . . this street today extends from the eastern to the western gate, about three miles, crossing the whole city and suburbs in a direct line. Near the eastern gate is a house, said to be that of Judah, in which Paul lodged. There is in it a very small closet, where tradition reports that the apostle passed three days without food, until Ananias restored him to sight. Tradition also says that he had here the vision recorded in 2 Cor.12:2. Also in this street is a fountain supposedly the same fountain that produced water for the baptism of Paul.
Of Tarsus . . . this city was the capital of Cilicia, a province of Asia Minor. It was on the banks of the river Cydnus. It was known for the culture of Greek philosophy and literature, so that at one time in its schools, and in the number of its learned men, it was the rival of Athens and Alexandria. In allusion to this, perhaps, Paul says that he was "born in Tarsus, a citizen of no mean city," (Acts 21:39). In reward for its exertions and sacrifices during the civil wars of Rome, Tarsus was made a free city by Augustus (Acts 22:28, Acts 22:25, Acts 21:39, Acts 16:37).
Behold, he prayeth . . . this tells us how Saul passed those three days mentioned in Acts 9:9. It is very clear from what follows, that Ananias considered Saul as a very dangerous enemy to Christianity. The words by Jesus, behold he prayeth, is made to silence the fears of Ananias, and to indicate the drastic change in the feelings and views of Saul. Before he was a persistent persecutor; now he is giving himself to prayer. That Saul did not pray before, is not implied by this; for he fully acquainted with the customs of the Jews (Phil.3:4-6). But his former prayers were NOT the prayers of a saint. They were then the prayers of a Pharisee (Luke 18:10), but now they were the prayers of a broken-hearted sinner. Then he prayed depending on his own righteousness, but now he depended on the mercy of God in the Messiah. May we all learn from this.
- #1. One indication of conversion is deep heart-felt prayer.
- #2. True conviction for sin sends us to God in prayer. The convicted sinner feels his danger, and his need of forgiveness. He is now conscious that he has NO righteousness in himself, and now seeks the righteousness of Another, Jesus, and depends on the mercy of God.
Saul was convinced the same way that the eunuch and the 3000 on Pentecost had been, by the Word of the Lord miraculously attested. BUT . . . Saul's case differs greatly from both of those conversions! Why? How? It was the Lord Jesus Himself (God) that was Saul's preacher, instead of a Spirit filled man of God.
Saul is now a believer, and he is an extremely repentant believer. God knows of our wanderings, and knows where we live, and has complete knowledge of us, especially in our sorrows, which was Saul's case.
Acts 9:13-16 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: 14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name. 15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake. (KJV)
The Lord gives two reasons for calling Saul. He was God's chosen vessel for two things:
- #1. He was to bear the Name of Jesus. Notice that Saul is not called a witness as were the disciples. Although Paul may have seen Jesus at His crucifixion, he had NOT walked with Him when Jesus was on Earth. Saul really knew absolutely nothing about Jesus until that day on the road to Damascus. And, now he is to bear that Name. That my friend, is the same Name we are to bear today, the Name of Jesus. ]
- #2. Saul is to bear that name before three different groups: Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. Gentiles are first on the list. Paul will become the great apostle to the Gentiles. Then to kings . . . he will appear before kings, probably including Nero himself, and then to the nation Israel. When Paul goes into a city, he will always begin in the Jewish synagogue. The synagogue will be his launch pad, from where he will move into the community, into the life of the city; and from there he will reach the Gentiles. But he will go to the Jews first.
The Lord Jesus said He will show Saul what great things he must suffer for His Name's sake. Saul (Paul) is chosen to suffer for Christ Jesus. In my opinion, there has never been anyone else who has suffered for the Lord Jesus as did Paul the apostle. Not one of us would dare say, "I'm suffering more than anyone else. Why does God let this happen to me?" We may be suffering or we may think we are suffering more than we are. BUT, none of us suffer as Paul the apostle suffered for the Lord (2 Cor.11:22-33).
Now as we look back on this remarkable conversion, we must remember that a conversion requires the Holy Spirit using the Word of God through a man of God. Does this prove true in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus?
The Lord Jesus appeared to Saul personally! He was called by Jesus personally! Before the Lord Jesus left His disciples, He told them that He was going away but that He would not leave them comfortless (John 14:18). He promised them that He would send His Holy Spirit, and this is what the Spirit would do: "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:14-15). I truly do think that when our resurrected Lord appeared to Saul personally, the Spirit of God opened his eyes spiritually and closed them physically . . . so that he might SEE the Lord Jesus. The Holy Spirit was definitely at work.
How about the Word of God? Was that also used in the conversion of Paul? YES! Saul of Tarsus was a Pharisee. He knew much about the Word of God. In fact, if there ever has been anyone saturated with the Word of God, it was Saul of Tarsus. When reading his letters, his work, it is very clear that he really did know the Old Testament. Both the Holy Spirit and the Word of God were operating in Saul's conversion.
How can we say that God used a man of God as the human instrument to reach Saul? Although a man of God was not present at the time, I think the man whom the Lord used to reach Saul was none other than Stephen. These two young men, Saul and Stephen, met only once, and that was when Saul stood with those who killed him. Stephen had looked up into the heavens and said, "I see heaven open and Jesus standing there!" (Acts 7:56). Saul looked up into the heavens, but he couldn't see anything! But, I think Saul then looked into the face of Stephen, and he KNEW that Stephen was actually seeing something. I believe that Saul actually hoped that the heavens would open and that he, too, could have a vision of God. And he did . . . on the Damascus road. It was Jesus Christ who was revealed to him.
I believe that God uses a human instrument in the conversion of every individual . . . even though that individual may not be present at the moment of the conversion. That is the reason WHY you and I should cast our influence for the Lord Jesus Christ at all times.
Dr. C. I. Scofield is the man who edited the Scofield Bible. Before his conversion he was an outstanding international lawyer, but he had a big problem of drinking. He had a godly mother who never stopped praying for him. She died before Dr. Scofield was converted. On one occasion Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer was praying with Dr. Scofield. He heard Dr. Scofield say, "Lord, if my mother doesn't know that I have been converted, would You please tell her?" God uses a human instrument in the conversion of every person although that person may not be present at the moment of conversion. I don't think a person can be converted without human involvement. We all can be instruments. That doesn't mean you have to get a person to his knees; it just means that you get the good news of Jesus Christ to him/her. There will not be a real conversion without a man of God using the Word of God, directed by the Spirit of God.
Going back to Saul of Tarsus, where we left him in Damascus, he is still sitting, all alone, in solitary blindness, praying. Brilliant young man that he is, he is completely bewildered since his conversion. So the Holy Spirit appeared to Ananias and sent him over to help Saul.
Acts 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. (KJV)
Entered into the house . . . the house of Judas, with whom Saul was staying (Acts 9:11. Ananias put his hands on Saul (Acts 6:6). No matter what may be said of "hands" elsewhere . . . the curing of Saul's blindness was done by this act on that day.
Brother Saul . . . Saul has become Ananias's spiritual brother, by professing the same faith, and was heir of the same Promise with him.
Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way . . . Ananias mentions what had happened to Paul on the road, so that Saul might be assured that Ananias was sent from God . . . because NO one else could have told him what had happened.
In laying hands on Saul to restore his eyesight, Ananias imitated the example of Jesus, who wrought similar miracles (Luke 7:21).
What a change! He is still Saul of Tarsus, but now he is Brother Saul. He is not the enemy. He is a brother. Any person who loves the Lord Jesus Christ is a brother to any other believer. sad to say, I must add that brothers don't always act like brothers.
Saul is to receive his physical sight. Also, he is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. He is to be filled with the Holy Spirit for service. This is the experience which reveals itself in the life of the believer. He was baptized with the Holy Spirit on the Damascus road. In other words, he was saved on the Damascus road. But it was not until Ananias came to him that he was filled with the Holy Spirit. He is going to become a witness for the Lord Jesus. He received his physical sight and his spiritual sight.
Acts 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. (KJV)
There fell from his eyes as it had been scales . . . Saul had been so overwhelmed with the brightness of the light from Heaven, that we may have had suffered considerable injury.
To a sinner mourning over his guilt, seeking pardon, and knowing that the Lord alone could forgive sins, the command to be immersed and wash away his sins could convey just one thing, that, upon the washing of water over the body in immersion, the Lord would remove his sins by forgiving them. It is a common belief that Saul's sins had been really forgiven before his immersion, and Ananias required him only to symbolically wash them away. Saul arose, and was baptized. For the full account, given by Paul himself, see: Acts 22:13-16.
Saul is baptized with water as a sign and seal of his conversion. The water had nothing to do with his salvation. He had been baptized by the Holy Spirit . . . that is, he had been saved on the Damascus road. When Ananias had laid his hands on him, he regained his sight and he had been filled with the Holy Spirit for service. Now he is baptized with water.
I often wonder if this incident may have caused Paul's "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor.12:7; Gal.4:15; 6:11). Nothing states for certain that Paul's "thorn in the flesh" was some sort of eye trouble, but according to those Passages, it could have been. If it was, it could have been caused by the event on the Damascus road.
Acts 9:19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. (KJV)
Then when Saul took food and drink, he regained his strength. And like the eunuch (Acts 8:39), after he came up out of the water, I am sure that he rejoiced.
These individual cases of conversion are of great value when we study the plan of salvation, because they present more in detail the entire process. We now have two cases, and will have a third in the 10th chapter.
Saul Begins To Witness At Damascus (Acts 9:20-25)
Acts 9:20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. (KJV)
Straightway . . . what does this mean? It means: at once, immediately, promptly, without delay. This word is in the Bible 42 times, 39 of those in the New Testament. WHY did Saul begin to witness right away? Because he is filled with the Holy Spirit. He began to preach Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God.
My friend, you must know WHO Christ is, before you can believe WHAT He did, and WHY. He died to pay the penalty for your sins, and mine! He loves us! It is because He is the Son of God that He could die for your sins. I could never die for your sins and you could not die for mine. No human being can die a redemptive death for another human being. Only Christ Jesus could do this, because He is the Son of God. So Saul began to preach that Christ is the Son of God. That is the first thing you must know. We must believe Jesus IS God's own Son and that Jesus really IS God! I have had preachers write me, who do NOT believe this! See an article in this web site: "Is Jesus Really God?" I offered to send this one a copy of our booklet: "Is Jesus God?" He refused. So I put the booklet on our web site.
Acts 9:21-22 But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? 22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. (KJV)
I can really believe that they all were amazed! This same Saul had been terrorizing anyone who named the Name of Christ . . . NOW, he was ever so boldly standing up and preaching Christ. What a turn-around!
Saul was number one in several departments. He was number one in suffering (2 Cor.11:22-27); he was number one as a missionary. I think Saul was brilliant, and well able to confound those who attempted to tackle him intellectually. The "very Christ" means the very Messiah. Saul confounded the Jews by his preaching.
As soon as Saul obeyed the Gospel (Go ye therefore Mat.28:19-20) and obtained pardon, he devoted all his energies to building up exactly what he had been trying to tear down and destroy. He preached that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God! All this had been brought about by the event on the road to Damascus, and from now on, it would be his constant theme. Whatever opponents he encountered, were “confounded” by the proofs he presented.
In addition to proofs employed by the other apostles and teachers, Saul stood up in the synagogues as a new and independent witness of the resurrection, and glorification of Jesus. He had seen Jesus alive, arrayed in divine glory (Mat.17:1-2). He had spoken with Jesus Face to face. If any one doubted the truth of his statements in reference to the vision, his traveling companions, who saw the same light, and heard the same voice, could testify for him. And, if any one still in doubt, the actual blindness which remained after the vision had passed, and was witnessed by both believers and unbelievers, proved, indisputably, that it was a reality. NO illusion, NO deception could have produced that effect. No wonder that he confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus.
Was Saul a deceiver? His whole career says NO! All the motives, which can prompt men to deception, stood against the course he was pursuing. His reputation among men, his hopes of wealth and power, his love of friendship, and his personal safety, all demanded that he should stick to his former 'religious' position. But when he met Jesus that day on that dusty road, he sacrificed them all, to go on Jesus' side!
Saul was neither deceived nor a deceiver! His vision was a reality, and he knew without a doubt, that Jesus is the Christ.
Acts 9:23-25 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: 24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. 25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket. (KJV)
Saul now sees enacted in Damascus, scenes similar to those in which HE had played a part in Jerusalem . . . BUT, his position is reversed. He begins to experience the ill-treatment which HE had so horribly heaped upon others. 2 Cor.11:32-33 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: 33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands. (KJV) . . . Paul tells of this incident.
It was three years from the time of his conversion that Saul made this escape from Damascus. The whole time had not been spent in that city. He had made a preaching tour into Arabia, and returned to Damascus. This we learn from his own pen: “I conferred not with flesh and blood, neither went I up to Jerusalem to them who were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again into Damascus. Then, after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter.” (Gal.1:17-18).
We must never let anything get in the way of presenting Christ. We must never let our person get in the way of the Person of Christ. We should present Christ in such a way that the Holy Spirit can take the things of Christ and help us to present Christ!
Saul In Jerusalem (Acts 9:26-31)
Acts 9:26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. (KJV)
The disciples were afraid of Saul. They just did NOT believe that he was sincere. They were experiencing persecution, and they probably had heard of Simon the sorcerer and the tactics he used in Samaria.
Saul had not yet seen any of those who were apostles since he left Jerusalem to go on his murderous mission to Damascus. He now goes in that direction, bound and determined to see Peter. We cannot possibly know the emotions of this now devout apostle, as the walls of Jerusalem and the towering height of the temple come into view. Consider what he felt as he came to the gate of the city, passing the spot where Stephen was stoned, and where HE had stood, “consenting to his death” (Acts 8:1). He was about to meet again, on the streets, and in the synagogues, his old allies whom he had deserted, and the disciples whom he had persecuted. His emotions had to be in a tremendous uproar. We know the reception that awaited him was both friends and enemies.
Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. (KJV)
Barnabas brought Saul to the apostles, that being Peter and James; for others of the apostles he saw none (Gal. 1:19). It seems that Saul went to Jerusalem this time just to see Peter, with whom he stayed 15 days (Gal.1:18). That the apostles and Church at Jerusalem had not heard of Saul's conversion, which had taken place three years before, is not easy to understand. The following considerations may help;
- #1. News did not travel fast back then, with few open roads, and no regular posts, except those between military stations.
- #2. There were many Jews in Damascus, and some Christians, but the city as a whole was heathen, and under a heathen king, so the Jews at Jerusalem would know little.
- #3. The Christians were at that time greatly persecuted by the Jews, so the few that lived in Damascus would have little connection, if any, with their brethren at Jerusalem.
- #4. It might be possible that the Jews in Jerusalem, might have heard of it, but kept Saul's conversion as quiet as possible, that Christians would not gain credit by it.
- #5. They may have heard of his conversion; but either did not fully believe what they had heard, or were not satisfied that this person who now presented himself was the man.
- #6. It is not likely that all the Christians at Jerusalem had been personally acquainted with Saul.
Good old Barnabas, whose very name means the "son of consolation and comfort"! He comes over and puts his arms around Saul. What a blessing he was to him! How we still need people who will put their arms around some new Christian and will help that new Christian along. Barnabas becomes the sponsor of Saul.
Acts 9:28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. (KJV)
And he was with them . . . meaning that he was accepted and recognized as a "Christian" and an "apostle." Saul remained at Jerusalem for just fifteen days (Gal.1:18).
Although the "brethren" at the urging of Barnabas, may have received him with some misgivings, Saul finally won their confidence.
Coming in and going out . . . Saul continued to associate with them. Saul is fully accepted into the assembly at Jerusalem and joins forces with the Jerusalem church.
Acts 9:29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. (KJV)
He spake boldly . . . Saul openly defended the doctrine that Jesus WAS the Messiah. In the name of the Lord Jesus . . . means by the authority of the Lord Jesus.
Against the Grecians . . . (Acts 6:1). Saul not only preached that Jesus was the Christ to the Jews who lived in Jerusalem, and spoke Hebrew, but also to those foreign Jews, who spoke Greek, who had come to Jerusalem. They would be just as opposed to the doctrine that Jesus was the Christ, as those who lived in Jerusalem.
They went about to slay him . . . They planned to put him to death as an apostate (Acts 9:23).
During Saul's three years' absence from Jerusalem, the persecution that Saul had been the leader of, had greatly declined. But now the Hellenists (Greek speaking Jews) were once more willing to debate the points at issue. But they found that their new opponent was just as unconquerable as Stephen.
Acts 9:31 Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied. (KJV)
Saul departed for Tarsus, his hometown. He probably went back home to tell his father and mother, brothers and sisters, and other relatives about Christ. Nothing is known about them. Paul never talked about his family, with one exception. In Romans 16 he does mention some who are related to him.
Then had the churches rest . . . meaning the persecutions against Christians stopped. Those persecutions had been set off by the opposition made to Stephen (Acts 11:19), then they had been greatly promoted by Saul (Acts 8:3) and had extended, most likely throughout the whole land of Palestine. The real reason for the ending of the persecution are not known. Probably they were the following:
- #1. Probably most of the Christians had been driven into other regions by these persecutions.
- #2. The one most active in the persecution, had been converted.
Thus ended the first general persecution against Christians, and thus effectually did God show that he had power to guard and protect his chosen people.
Were edified . . . the churches were built up, increased, and strengthened (Rom.14:19, 15:2).
And walking in the fear of the Lord . . . . meaning Christian conduct, or manner of life (Col.1:10, Luke 1:6; 1 Thes.4:1; 1 John 2:6). The idea here I think, is that of travelers who are going some place, and who walk in the right path. As Christians, we are travelers, going to another country, an heavenly country (Heb.11:16).
In the fear of the Lord . . . means fearing the Lord; reverencing Him, respecting Him, believing Him. This phrase is often used to mean piety (2 Chron.19:7, Job 28:28; Psalms 19:9; 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 13:13).
In the comfort of the Holy Ghost . . . in the comforts which the Holy Ghost produced (John 14:16-17; Rom. 5:1-6).
Were multiplied . . . increased. When we walk in the fear of the Lord, our comforts are greatly increased!
The church continued to grow. The Gospel went into Judea, Galilee, and Samaria. It will start to go to the ends of the earth very shortly.
Peter's Ministry In Lydda And Joppa (Acts 9:32-43)
Acts 9:32-35 And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. 33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. 34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately. 35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord. (KJV)
Because Peter was an apostle, chosen personally by the Lord Jesus, he had the sign gifts of an apostle.
Lydda was a town on the road from Jerusalem to Cæsarea Philippi. It was about fifteen miles east of Joppa, and belonged to the tribe of Ephraim.
Saul was sent “far hence to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21) by the Lord Jesus. But so far there is no account of the admission of uncircumcised Gentiles into the Church.
The long and continued painful disease makes an afflicted person well known to his neighbors, and they fix their attention on the disease, as one difficult or unable to cure. So when Aeneas was cured, like that of the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the temple (Acts 3:2), everyone in the community knew about it.
NO miracle was done by the power of Peter! It was a demonstration of divine power in Jesus the Christ, and Peter had clearly stated that. Jesus Christ maketh thee whole! These so-called healers today make me sick, and I KNOW they also make our Lord sick! ONLY God can heal!
Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did. (KJV)
Dorcus was a good, Godly woman! She had the gift of sewing. Is sewing a gift of the Holy Spirit? Yes! It was for Dorcus! Many people seek for some exciting, fleshly gift such as speaking in tongues or healing. These Gifts were for the early church! Period! IF "tongues" were for today, WHY can't the missionaries speak the languages where they are sent? Tongues is languages, NOT demonic jibberish! (Acts 2:6-11). The Gift of tongues is NOT for today! 1 Cor.13:8-10 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. (KJV) . . . "That which is perfect" is the New Testament!
Sewing was the gift of Dorcas. I doubt if she ever taught a Bible class, but she did many good and caring things things for those around her.
Acts 9:37 And it came to pass in those days, that she was sick, and died: whom when they had washed, they laid her in an upper chamber. (KJV)
She was sick, and died . . . even her holiness and the good she did could not prevent her from sickness and death. "Dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return" (Gen.3:19), must be fulfilled, even for saints; even for the powerful rich and the lowly poor on the street. 1 Tim.6:7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. (KJV) . . . no matter how rich a person is.
Whom when they had washed . . . having proof that she was dead, they prepared for her burial. In most nations of the world it was customary to wash their dead before they buried them, and this was how Christians prepared for burial in that day.
Acts 9:38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent unto him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. (KJV)
Sent unto him . . . they wanted Peter to come. Tabitha (Dorcus) died at Joppa, and Peter was at Lydda, about four leagues (league = about 3 miles) 12 miles away. Why did they send for Peter? Did they really think he could raise her from the dead? So far none of the apostles had raised anyone. They might have had hope since Peter cured Aeneas (Acts 9:34), he might cure Dorcas; for it is most likely that they had sent for Peter before Dorcus died.
Acts 9:39 Then Peter arose and went with them. When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber: and all the widows stood by him weeping, and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. (KJV)
And all the widows . . . these were those whom Dorcas had benefited by her kindness. They had lost a friend and supporter. It was natural that they should remember her loving kindness, and express their gratitude by showing the what she had done for them. These poor widows would not have had any clothes if it had not been for Dorcas. She had sewn their clothes for them. This was her ministry. Sewing was her gift of the Holy Spirit.
Acts 9:40-41 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed; and turning him to the body said, Tabitha, arise. And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up. 41 And he gave her his hand, and lifted her up, and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive. (KJV)
The Book of Acts is the history book of the church. This Passage is the TRUE and RIGHT way that the apostles exercised their sign Gift. These fakes today are ridiculous! They do NOT have the sign Gifts that the apostles have! And those frauds who claim that they are "apostles" make me sick. We have a prison ministry, and I receive thousands of letters, which I answer. One inmate sent some of our literature to a woman he knew. She wrote to me. She signed her letters "The apostle". There are NO apostles today, and certainly NO women apostles ever! An apostle is someone who was personally chosen by our precious Saviour and Lord! I tried to explain the difference between a disciple and an apostle to this woman, to no avail.
Simon Peter was an apostle and Saul (Paul) was an apostle. Peter was a minister to the Jews; although he was the one to open the door for the Gentiles. Saul became the apostle Paul, and he was the apostle to the Gentiles. The record states that each one raised a person from the dead (Paul, Acts 20:9-10). It may be possible that they raised others, but these are recorded to show that these men had sign gifts. They could perform miracles. They could heal the sick. They could raise the dead. These were the marks, the proofs of an apostle. They were apostolic gifts. Paul says that the apostles are the foundation of the church in the sense that the church is built on them. They are the ones who put down the New Testament on which the church is actually built.
Today we do not need sign gifts. The concern today is doctrine. THAT is what is important today! And TRUTH, not those "damnable heresies" (2 Pet.2:1) spouted by demonic false teachers! And certainly NOT that Word-Faith garbage being spread by SO many popular and well know so-called evangelists!
Why do people distort and twist the Truth in the Holy Word of God?
At the end of the era of New Testament writings, the apostle John wrote his epistles. Listen to his instructions for detecting deceivers: 2 John 1:9-11 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (KJV) . . . BEWARE of false teachers. They are NOT of God, they are of the devil and will take you straight to Hell along with them and the devil (Rev.20:10).
Toward the end of Paul's ministry the record clearly shows that Paul did NOT use the gift of healing. He left Trophimus at Miletum sick (2 Tim. 4:20). WHY didn't Paul heal his friend Trophimus? I think it was because Paul had come to the end of his ministry, and the sign gifts were beginning to disappear from the church.
When he went into a new territory with his message, what was his authority? He had none except sign gifts. BUT . . . after the New Testament was written form, the emphasis shifted from sign gifts to correct doctrine. Paul warns that if a man does not have correct doctrine -- even if he is an angel from heaven -- you should not receive him. (Gal. 1:8).
In the early days of the church, the apostles' sign gifts were extremely important. Notice the reaction of those who heard of Dorcas being restored to life.
Acts 9:42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord. (KJV)
The sign gifts of the apostles were used to confirm to the people the Gospel of grace. And many believed . . . a similar effect followed when Jesus raised up Lazarus. John 12:11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus. (KJV) . . . This was the first miracle of raising the dead that was performed by the apostles. The effect was, that many believed.
Acts 9:43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner. (KJV)
Peter tarried many days in Joppa . . . he took advantage of the good impression made on the people's minds by the miracle. He preached to them the great truths of Christianity, and established them in the faith.
Peter occupied his time, in the general evangelizing among the Jews, staying in one place. The restoration of Dorcas opened a wide field for usefulness in the surrounding community.
Simon was a tanner, who dealt in the hides, whether of clean or unclean animals . . . he was not in high standing with the Jews. Even in Joppa, the trade appears to have been thought unclean; therefore Simon the tanner had his house by the sea side (Acts 10:6,32). A tanner used acid to tan his animal hides, which made the place quite smelly!
The dates for the period after Paul's labors began are reasonably certain, and most critics pretty much agree. Those of the period from the Ascension to the time when Paul began his labors at Antioch are somewhat uncertain. Some say that the Ascension of Christ and the founding of the Church on Pentecost could be as early as a.d. 30. This gives a longer interval for the events recorded in the first eleven chapters of Acts. As modified the following are outlines to consider:
a.d. 30. The Resurrection, the Ascension, the Gospel first Preached on Pentecost, Holy Spirit Sent, the Church Founded, and the Events Embraced from Acts 1 to Acts 8.
a.d. 37. Conversion of Paul of Tarsus. Acts 9:1-19.
a.d. 38-40. Period of Paul's Retirement in Arabia.
a.d. 41-43. The Labors of Peter and the Conversion of the Gentiles Recorded in Chapter 9 to 11.
a.d. 44. Martyrdom of James, and Death of Herod. Acts 12.
a.d. 45-47. Paul's First Missionary Journey. Acts 13, 14.
a.d. 49 or 50. Council at Jerusalem. Acts 15.
a.d. 51-53. Paul on His Second Missionary Journey. Acts 15 to 18.
a.d. 54-56. Paul at Ephesus, nearly three Years. Acts 19.
a.d. 57. Paul a Second Time at Corinth.
a.d. 58. Paul Goes to Jerusalem, is seized, Imprisoned. Acts 20 to 23.
a.d. 59-60. Paul Imprisoned at Cæsarea. His Defense before Festus and Agrippa. Acts 23 to 26.
a.d. 61. Paul sent to Rome. Shipwrecked. Acts 27 to 28.
a.d. 62. Imprisoned at Rome. The End of Acts.
There is good reason to believe that Paul was acquitted and released in a.d. 63, preached in Spain, Greece and Asia, until a.d. 67 or 68, was again seized in Nicopolis in Epirus, taken to Rome a second time, and put to death in a.d. 68.
The Bible does not tell us how or when the apostle Paul died, and history does not provide us with any information. Christian tradition says that Paul was beheaded in Rome around the late 60s A.D., during the reign of Nero. No one knows for sure if that is true.
Book of Acts
Ch.1 . . Ch.2 . . Ch.3 . . Ch.4 . . Ch.5 . . Ch.6 . . Ch.7 . . Ch.8 . . Ch.9 . . Ch.10 . . Ch.11 . . Ch.12 . . Ch.13 . . Ch.14 . . Ch.15 . . Ch.16 . . Ch.17 . . Ch.18 . . Ch.19 . . Ch.20 . . Ch.21 . . Ch.22 . . Ch.23 . . Ch.24 . . Ch.25 . . Ch.26 . . Ch.27 . . Ch.28