Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Acts, Chapter 9

Without the ninth chapter of Acts we probably wouldn't have a New Testament. Why is that you ask? Well, it is because we are fully introduced to the character that is Paul, who is Saul at this point. Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus may be second only to the crucifixion in terms of importance to the New Testament. Without it, there would be 14 fewer books in the New Testament, which is more than half of the 27 total. As I have been saying all week, Paul was the greatest evangelist the world has ever known. The effect he has had on the world not only came through in the first century, but it has echoed throughout time since. He has literally influenced billions of people throughout the past 2,000 years, and all of this game from one of the church's most virulent haters.

1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" – Acts 9:1-4

Why would God chose to do this? Couldn't he have found someone who was more willing from the group of people that were already following Christ? Sure, God could have done it that way, but as He often does, He chose someone to make a point. The point in choosing Paul was to show his grace. Much as I used the extreme example of Hitler and how it was possible for even him to gain salvation a few weeks back to make a point, God chose Paul to show that anyone can be used to further His kingdom. At the time there was no one more against the church than Paul, yet Christ accomplished two things with his conversion. First he eliminated the church's greatest enemy of the time, and second he created the greatest champion for the Gentiles.

15But the Lord said to Ananias, "Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. 16I will show him how much he must suffer for my name." 17Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit." 18Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, -- Acts 9:15-18

At the time Christianity was largely a movement among the Jews. Later on we will see a bit of a conflict between Peter and Paul as to whether the Message was meant for the Gentiles or not. We see here though, through Ananias, that the message was indeed for the Gentiles, meaning everyone. Paul was selected as the one that would deliver that message. This show the amazing power to change that God has. Paul literally became a different person because God basically grabbed him by the neck and showed him what He wanted. From my own personal experience, sometimes that is what it takes for God to get our attention.

So naturally, since Paul was one of the leaders of the Sanhedrin, he immediately changed the minds of that august body and brought them over to the side of Christ right? No. In fact he had the opposite effect on them. As we see in the following verses, he returned to Jerusalem and began to preach the gospel passionately. He baffled the disciples there, and managed to enrage the Jews to the point they wanted to kill him. We then see Paul's first daring escape with his life on the line. This is an important lesson to keep in mind when you are feeling like God cannot change you and use you for His gain. If God can completely change someone like Paul, imagine what He can do for someone who is more willing.


  1. How is God's mercy evident in Paul's conversion?
  2. Why did Paul need to be appointed as the envoy for the Gentiles even though he himself was a Jew?
  3. Why would the Sanhedrin turn on him so quickly?

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