6. Church Begins – Paul is sent
Acts 9:10-31 “Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias!”
He said, “Behold, it’s me, Lord.”
9:11 The Lord said to him, “Arise, and go to the street which is called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judah for one named Saul, a man of Tarsus. For behold, he is praying, 9:12 and in a vision he has seen a man named Ananias coming in, and laying his hands on him, that he might receive his sight.”
9:13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he did to your saints at Jerusalem. 9:14 Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”
9:15 But the Lord said to him, “Go your way, for he is my chosen vessel to bear my name before the nations and kings, and the children of Israel. 9:16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
9:17 Ananias departed, and entered into the house. Laying his hands on him, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord, who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me, that you may receive your sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 9:18 Immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he received his sight. He arose and was baptized. 9:19 He took food and was strengthened. Saul stayed several days with the disciples who were at Damascus. 9:20 Immediately in the synagogues he proclaimed the Christ, that he is the Son of God. 9:21 All who heard him were amazed, and said, “Isn’t this he who in Jerusalem made havoc of those who called on this name? And he had come here intending to bring them bound before the chief priests!”
9:22 But Saul increased more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived at Damascus, proving that this is the Christ. 9:23 When many days were fulfilled, the Jews conspired together to kill him, 9:24 but their plot became known to Saul. They watched the gates both day and night that they might kill him, 9:25 but his disciples took him by night, and let him down through the wall, lowering him in a basket. 9:26 When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join himself to the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.9:27 But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared to them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. 9:28 He was with them entering into Jerusalem, 9:29 preaching boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus. He spoke and disputed against the Hellenists, but they were seeking to kill him. 9:30 When the brothers knew it, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him off to Tarsus. 9:31 So the assemblies throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace, and were built up. They were multiplied, walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”
From the conversion of Paul, we go to the consequences of his conversion. The first consequence we maybe aware of is that he changed his name: changed from Saul of Tarsus to Paul of Tarsus – we read that in Acts 13! Paul’s conversion was a total transformation. His attitudes, character & relationships with God, fellow believers and the unbelieving world were utterly transformed. A changed life is the uultimate proof, that conversion is real and the Holy Spirit is working. Now that through Jesus and his cross, Paul had been put right with God, Paul, as with all believers, enjoyed direct access to the Father, as the Spirit witnessed with his spirit that he was the Father’s child (Romans 8:16). Perhaps his prayers were for forgiveness of sins of self-righteousness & cruel persecution of Jesus & the church. And no doubt they contained worship. The mouth that breathed murderous threats against Jesus like a roaring lion, was now breathing prayers & praises to God like bleating lamb. Paul’s life was changed from self-righteousness to righteousness through Jesus. The evidence of this was a change in the way he lived his life.
Ananias went to meet Paul, after having been sent by God. No doubt, he had heard of Paul and his persecuting the Church. At the beginning he was hesitant to do this, but in the end he went to Straight Street as told and ministered to Paul. Upon laying hands upon him and identifying with him(v17), calling him brother, and ministering the love of Jesus to this his former enemy, the Holy Spirit entered Paul (v17), and Paul could see again (v18). Paul then ate some food, and spent time with the Damascene disciples. It is amazing really that Paul was accepted. The Jews were confused and astonished by him. For wasn’t this the man who was going to kill followers of Jesus. What has happened so dramatically that he has joined them? Whenever he preached to the Jews, they were confused. Paul however did not settle down in Damascus, and according to Galatians 1:17-18 spent 3 years in Arabia. Some people seem to think, that he spent the time with Jesus, to learn from him by revelation his distinctive truths, just as the disciples had spent about 3 years with him while Jesus was on earth. Paul then returned to Damascus and while there, the Jews leaders plotted to kill him. So he escaped with the help of the other believers to Jerusalem.
Jesus had appointed Paul to be 3 things. A servant of God; a witness for God to the world, and also an apostle engaged in pioneer work to the Gentiles (26:16ff). Jesus confirmed this to Ananias that Paul was a ‘chosen instrument’, and Ananias passed this onto Paul (v15).
There were also four things about this witness that Paul would do, that can help us as we live to witness for Jesus Christ.
- His witness was centred on Christ. (v20, 22). His arguments focused on Jesus, and spoke boldly about Him.
- His witness was powered by the Holy Spirit (17,22)
- His witness was courageous in Damascus (v27), the synagogues (2,20) and in Jerusalem (28) where the Sanhedrin met. He also debated with the Hellenists (v29)
- His witness was costly. His life was threatened (v23-24, 29). And we learn even more things from the rest of this book of Acts, and in his letters. His parents possibly disinherited him, was persecuted consistently by fierce opponents & imprisoned, shipwrecked in Cyprus.
Paul and Barnabas
Paul’s experience in Damascus repeated itself in Jerusalem. When he tried to join the Apostles and community of Christian believers, since he knew he was one of them, they were afraid and doubted he really was a believer. But this time Barnabas came to the rescue and testified to the others about him and his changed life. The only apostles Paul met were Peter & James (Gal 1: 18-20), and told them how he had seen Jesus, the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had fearlessly preached the name of Jesus. Because of this testimony, he was accepted by them into the community of believers. And in yet another of Luke’s summaries, we see the church has now five characteristics –
- peace (free from outside interference)
- strength (confirming its position)
- encouragement (comforted by the Holy Spirit)
- growth (multiplying numerically)
- godliness (living in the fear of the Lord.
This was noticed by the Apostle Peter when he wrote in 2 Peter 3v15-16 “Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
We have much to be thankful to God for the life of Paul and the witness he was for Jesus Christ at the beginnings of the Church. Most of the book of Acts follows him, on what we call the three missionary journeys and the events that unfold as the Church grows and spreads to the glory of its head, the Lord Jesus Christ.
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