The passage we’ll look at next week stretches from 9:1-31. Better call Saul.
Conversion happens when we personally encounter Jesus Christ.
vv.4-5 – 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied.
vv. 15-16 – 15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”
v. 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
Structure / Observations:[ut_togglegroup] [ut_toggle title=”Acts 9:1-9 – Saul experiences a revelation of Jesus Christ (cf. Gal 1:12).”] This has both a spiritual and physical effect on him. The change in Saul – from the opening description in vv. 1-2 to the concluding one in vv. 8-9 – is dramatic.
– Paul was so opposed to the movement of ‘The Way’ that he threatened to slaughter the Christians and in some cases actually did – both men and women
– Harkening back to Stephen’s speech, Saul is someone who now stands as representative of the attitude condemned by Stephen – his behaviour demonstrated that he was stiff-necked, resisting the Holy Spirit, and in no mood to consider the claims of Christ
– ‘Why do you persecute me’? – this question would challenge his whole belief system and pattern of life. So many of his later insights can be traced back to the Damascus-road event or the outworking of that event in his experience
– Perplexed by the identity of the one who confronted him and asked ‘who are you, Lord?’ The word Lord appears to be a recognition that he is dealing with a divine representative, though he is not sure who.
– So the ascended Christ identifies himself and repeats the charge of persecution with the declaration I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting
– Saul had been persecuting the Lord’s disciples. The risen Lord viewed the persecution of his disciples as an attack on himself, clearly identifying himself with the church.
– Those who are united to Christ by faith suffer as he did, and he identifies with them in their struggle
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”Acts 9:10-19a – Accepted into the fellowship of the persecuted church.”] The risen Lord Jesus encounters both Saul and Ananias, but in different ways, bringing them together and changing both of them in the process.
– Believers are given two more titles, ‘holy people’ and, those ‘who call on your name’
– Proclaim better translated as carry my name – Saul himself will now bear witness to what he has seen and heard of the risen Jesus and preach in his name
– Saul himself will have to suffer for the sake of that name. Such a calling implies a Christ-likeness in life and ministry.
– ’the great antagonist of the gospel will become its outstanding protagonist’
– the persecutor will become the persecuted and suffer like Jesus himself.
– Summary of Saul’s calling: He is chosen by the Lord, and sent as a witness to both Jews and Gentiles. His mission will encounter rejection and require suffering, but will bring light. He will preach repentance, and his witness to Jesus will be based on what he has seen and heard.
[/ut_toggle] [ut_toggle title=”Acts 9:19b-31 – Saul preaches in Damascus and Jerusalem.”] In Jerusalem, Saul assumes the role of Stephen in debating the Hellenistic Jews, who then plot to kill him. In Damascus & Jerusalem, the same pattern of preaching, plot, and escape is highlighted. This whole section shows how quickly the Lord’s words about Saul are fulfilled. The persecutor soon becomes the persecuted. Luke’s comment in v. 31 shows how the Holy Spirit is specifically the agent of growth in the early church, and the Spirit himself is at work in Paul’s particular ministry.
– Growing more and more powerful suggests empowerment by the Spirit. Indicated by the fact that Saul baffled the Jews by proving (in Scripture, no doubt) that Jesus is the Messiah
– The Holy Spirit’s primary work is bearing witness to Christ. So to bear witness to Christ implies the work of the Spirit in Saul
v. 31 – 31 Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.
– Another major time marker for Luke. Indicating the end of a large section of thought. Either from 8:1-9:31 with persecution in the church being the main theme, or even reaching as far back as 6:8 with the introduction of Stephen, again implying persecution as a major theme
1 Timothy 1:15-16 – Paul, reflecting on the purpose of his conversion:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.”
1. What kind of man was Saul before he encountered Jesus? What does that tell us about God?
2. What in Saul’s conversion was unique to him? What must be characteristic in very Christian’s experience?
3. Looking at Saul’s conversion, what resonates with you the most?
4. What changes became evident in Saul’s life?
5. Saul was accepted into the community of God’s people (cf. 9:17, 19, 26-27), hesitantly at first – but what does that tell us about the nature of the Church?
Read 1 Tim. 1:15-16 –
6. Do you ever fear that you might have sinned yourself out of God’s grace?
7. How does Saul’s story – and his personal reflections in 1 Tim – speak into that fear?