Tod Kennedy, November 14, 1999
Main points of application or “So what?” from Chapter 9
- Every person receives eternal life the instant that he believes in Jesus Christ as his savior. Salvation is an instantaneous event, not a process. Saul received eternal life at the moment that he believed that Jesus was the Lord, the Messiah, the Savior (Acts 9.5-6).
- God uses faithful, everyday believers to take part in great spiritual events. Ananias was prepared and willing for God to work through him; the results of his Christian service with Saul set the path for future history. Ananias was only mentioned in Acts 9.10, 12. 13. 17, and 22.12.
- God has a wonderful plan for every believer; the fact that Saul was a notorious persecutor of Christians and very self-righteous before he believed the gospel did not prevent God from using him in a wonderful way (Acts 9.15-16 with 1 Timothy 1.15 and Philippians 3.4-6).
- Supernatural sign gifts—the temporary spiritual gifts—had the purpose of gaining a hearing for the gospel and of authenticating the apostle’s message.
- The Lord Jesus Christ appeared to Saul while Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus with religious authority that permitted him to arrest believers and bring them to Jerusalem for trial (Acts 8.1-3). Caiaphas was the high priest at this time (high priest AD 18-36).
- The Lord’s majesty blinded Saul and knocked him to the ground. Saul knew that someone with this kind of power must be God, so Saul asked his name. When Saul learned that the Lord’s name was Jesus, Saul then realized that Jesus was the Messiah, his savior, and believed in him. The Lord Jesus said that every time Saul persecuted believers he was also persecuting Jesus (Acts 9.4-5; Galatians 1.15-17; Romans 1.1).
- The Lord Jesus instructed Saul to get up and go on to Damascus. In Damascus, Jesus would tell Saul what he had planned for him. During this conversation, Saul’s traveling companions heard sounds but were not able to understand what was said (Acts 9.6-9).
- The Lord Jesus then spoke to Ananias through a vision; he told Ananias that Saul was waiting for Ananias to come and restore his sight. Ananias had, of course, heard about Saul—it was all bad. However, the Lord had good plans for Saul, and God had chosen Ananias to get him started. Ananias went to Saul and reaffirmed that Jesus had sent him to restore Saul’s sight, to instruct Saul on the filling of the Holy Spirit, and to baptize him with water. Saul then spent time with some Damascus disciples (Acts 9.10-19).
- Saul began his wonderful ministry that would stretch from around A.D. 35—his Damascus road new birth by faith in Jesus Christ as savior—until Nero had him executed in AD 67 or 68. Saul immediately began witnessing about his savior; note that he proclaimed ‘Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”’ Saul had connected the Old Testament expectations for the Messiah with the crucified and now resurrected Jesus and made the obvious conclusion that Jesus was God, the Messiah. Soon after his initial ministry in Damascus, Saul went into Arabia where, apparently, the Lord Jesus personally taught him doctrine (Galatians 1.11-17). Saul then returned to Damascus to continue his ministry to Jews. Jewish unbelievers finally had enough of Saul; they hatched a plot to kill him, but his disciples helped him escape from Damascus (Acts 9.20-25).
- Three years after Saul had believed in Christ, he went to Jerusalem (Galatians 1.18); Saul’s earlier reputation preceded him so that Barnabas had to introduce him to Peter and the other apostles. While at Jerusalem, Saul kept witnessing and teaching, so much so that Hellenistic Jews tried to kill him. This time the believers sent Saul to Caesarea and from there to his home city, Tarsus. By this time, about A.D. 38, the young church was growing—spiritual growth in the Lord and in Word and under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, and numerical growth (Acts 9.26-31).
- Luke, in his narrative, left Saul in Tarsus and rejoined Peter at Lydda (the Old Testament Lod, a town about 19 miles northwest of Jerusalem). Aeneas, a paralyzed man, lived at Lydda. Jesus Christ chose to get the attention of the people at Lydda by healing Aeneas through Peter. As a result, the people who lived in Lydda and the Sharon plain (a plain that runs north from Joppa to Mt Carmel) turned to the Lord— probably many believed in Christ (Acts 9.32-35).
- Joppa, now a suburb of Tel Aviv, was a Mediterranean seaport about 11 miles northwest of Lydda. A disciple named Tabitha (Aramaic name) and Dorcas (Greek name), who was known for her good works, lived there. She suddenly became sick and died. Other disciples heard that Peter was nearby, so they sent for him. He came and through the gift of miracles brought her back to life (resuscitation, not resurrection). This miracle got the attention of the people so that they listened to the gospel of Jesus Christ, believed in him and so received eternal life (Acts 9.36-43).
- Gospel is the good news that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1.15). Whoever will believe in Jesus Christ, trust Jesus Christ to give him eternal life, receives eternal life at that moment of faith (John 3.16). Six words help to explain the gospel: God, man, sin, Christ, grace, and faith. 1. God: is righteous, to be honored and served (Deuteronomy 32.3-4; Psalm 99.9); 2. Man: was created to reflect God’s glory and to love and serve Him (Genesis 1.21; Revelation 4.11) 3. Sin: all have sinned, all are separated from God, and all are under His judgment (Romans 3.23; 6.23); 4. Christ: came into the world to die for our sins, arose, and is the only way to God (1 Timothy 1.15; John 14.6); 5. Grace: salvation is a free gift, not a reward (Ephesians 2.8-9; Romans 6.23); 6. Faith: believe in Christ, trust Him to save you (John 3.16-18; John 20.31; Acts 16.31).
- Temporary spiritual gifts are supernatural sign gifts (supernatural abilities) that God gave to certain believers for a limited period of time so that they could authenticate their ministry and message about Jesus Christ; the primary purpose was not to cure physical or social ills. These gifts were operational only during the transitional first century. The Bible lists the following temporary spiritual gifts: word of wisdom, word of knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles or powers, apostle, prophet and prophecy, differentiating of spirits, tongues, and interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12.8-10; 28-31; 13.8-9). The principle of temporary spiritual gifts is found in Hebrews 2.3-4, 1 Corinthians 13.8-11, 2 Corinthians 12.12, and Romans 15.18-19. Paul, during his first Roman imprisonment in AD 60-62, was not able to heal Epaphroditus even though he had healed Publius’ father and others on the island of Malta two years earlier (Acts 28.7-9; Philippians 2.25-27). Paul could not heal him because God had withdrawn the gift of healing.
- Saul, also named Paul, was born in Tarsus, an important city within the Roman world. He was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin and a Roman citizen by birth. We do not know for sure how his family first acquired Roman citizenship, but “Presumably Paul’s father, grandfather or even great-grandfather had rendered some outstanding service to the Roman cause….One thing is certain, however: among the citizens and other residents of Tarsus, the few Roman citizens, whether Greeks or Jews by birth, would constitute a social elite.” (F.F. Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free, p. 38-39) (Acts 16.37; 21.39; 22.3, 25-29; Romans 11.1; Philippians 3.5). Saul was a Pharisee, and Gamaliel, the leading Pharisee of the day, had taught him (Acts 23.6; 26.5; Philippians 3.5). Saul had a wonderful heritage, intellect, ability, and training. He succeeded at whatever he did (Philippians 3.4-6). Saul was hostile to Christ and Christians. He was present at the stoning of Stephen; while there, he must have heard the message which Stephen delivered. Later he was armed with written authority to seek out and persecute believers (Acts 7.58-60; 8.1-3; 9.1-2; 22.4-8; 26.9-12; 1 Corinthians 15.9; Galatians 1.13; Philippians 3.6). Later, the Lord Jesus Christ revealed Himself to Saul while he was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus to harass and arrest believers. Saul believed in Christ as savior at that time. The Lord immediately sent him to Ananias, a believer, in Damascus. God removed Paul’s temporary blindness and instructed him through Ananias (Acts 9.1-19; 22.3-16; 26.12-18). Soon after Paul met Ananias, he went into Arabia where the Lord taught him and prepared him for his ministry. Following this training he returned to Damascus to witness and teach Bible doctrine (Acts 9.20-22; Galatians 1.16-18). Later, Saul began his missionary travels. Saul began to go by his Roman name, Paul, about the time his missionary trips to the Gentiles began (Acts 13.1-13).