ACTS - CHAPTER 9 - THE CALL OF THE APOSTLE PAUL
Tuesday Morning Bible Study
March 29, 2022, the Year of Our Lord
Pastor Carolyn Sissom
The story now shifts back to Saul and his crusade against the Christians. The first efforts to suppress them served only to scatter them, thus fulfilling the great commission to go into all the world. Persecution will always accelerate the work of the Kingdom of God.
Acts 9:1-2: Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the Synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
The first Christians were called followers of the way. Saul abhorred it because the followers of Jesus threatened the existence of Judaism. Stephen’s sermon made it quite clear that Christianity was meant to replace Judaism.
Damascus is 130 miles N.E. of Jerusalem.
Acts 9:3: As he journeyed, he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.
His Call: Acts 9:4-7: Suddenly, there shone round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him, Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? And he said, who are You, Lord? And the Lord said, “I am Jesus whom you persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads. So, he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told you what you must do. The men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
The lightning-swift light, brighter than Syria’s noon-day sun could only be the Shekinah glory of the Divine Presence. The voice from the glory could only be the voice of God. Paul asks him, “Who are you, Lord?” That he calls him Lord means he has an idea who he might be. Paul tells us in other places that he saw the Lord in the light. The fact of having seen the LORD is the basis for his apostleship.
Mt. 28:3: His countenance was like lightning.
Brother Dake provides us with 15 scripture references of the supernatural effects of God’s Presence. We will encounter four of these in the book of Acts.
1. Deep sleep (Gen. 2:21; 15:12).
2. Woe is me! For I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips (Isa. 6).
3. I fell on my face (Ez. 1:28; 3:23; 43:4; 44:4).
4. I was afraid (Dan. 8:17).
5. A great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide (Dan. 10:7).
6. There remained no strength in me; for my comeliness was turned into corruption…then was I in a deep sleep on my face…set me upon my knees and palms of my hands (Dan. 10: 8-10).
7. They fell upon their face and were sore afraid (Mt. 17:6).
8. For fear of him, the keepers did shake, and become as dead men (Mt. 28:4).
9. Moses trembled and dared not behold (Acts 7:32).
10. He fell upon the earth…trembling and astonished (Acts 9:4-9).
11. He fell into a trance (Acts 10:10).
12. Came trembling and fell down (Acts 16:29).
13. So terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake.
14. I fell at his feet as dead (Rev. 1:17; 19:10; 22:80.)
15. Fear came upon me and trembling which made my bones shake (Job 4:14).
I can attest that I have had some of these experiences since my “call” and “walk” as a minister of the gospel. I attest to that because by experience I know the LORD continues to visit his chosen in His Shekinah Glory and the flesh cannot stand up under it. Nor will we ever be the same. No longer will the foolishness of trifling of the flesh be relevant.
The time of the choosing and the commissioning will be a “Suddenly.” Until that time, we must watch, pray, read the Holy Bible, minister in our families and communities and at our work place the love and salvation of Jesus Christ.
Paul had to be led by the hand and was three days without sight and could not eat nor drink
9:10-12: There was a certain disciple at Damascus, name Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. He answered, “Behold, I am here, Lord.” The Lord said to 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 is praying.
This is not the Ananias of chapter 5, of course, but a devout Christian Jew who lived in Damascus. Ananias receives a vision with exact instructions as to street and house. Today, the street called Straight in still in Damascus. I saw one post which showed a shopping center had been built over the street, but it is still a tourist attraction in Damascus. To the best of my research, the house of Judas is there serving as a ministry.
9:13-16: Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. Here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on your name. Go your way; for he is a chosen vessel to Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: for I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name’s sake.
Here the Lord gave the scope of Saul’s future work. It is threefold. He is to declare the glory of Jesus to (1) the heathen; (2) their rulers, (3) and the children of Israel. Note that Israel is not excluded from his labors, though the order indicates the Gentile world is to be Saul’s primary field of operation. Saul’s subsequent history fulfilled all that Jesus said here, for he made the heathen world ring with the truth of the Cross.
Long afterwards Paul spoke of God’s providential workings in him from his birth (Gal.1:15). He was born a Hebrew son of Hebrew parents, trained in the best tradition of Judaism and yet a citizen of Tarsus and of the Empire. He was thoroughly conversant with Hellenistic culture. His rare intellectual endowment was energized by a strong temperament which knew nothing of half-measure. As persecutor, he was terrible, but once he yielded obedience to Jesus, the Christ, his loyalty was absolute and his service unstinting. This was God’s chosen vessel, the great teaching apostle, commissioned by the glorified Lord to mark out the lines of missionary strategy and to be the principle steward of the mystery of Christ and His church.
Luke emphasizes Paul’s apostleship by giving the story of his conversion and commission three times in the Book of Acts.
In God’s redemptive program, the first was the advent of Christ from His incarnation to His ascension, the central epoch in all human history. Everything human is measured by it. The second fact was the spiritual diffusion of Christ at Pentecost creating the dispensation of the of the Spirit. There Jesus became available to all men as the Holy Spirit. The third was the stoning of Stephen which separated the Church from Judaism. The fourth fact is this manifestation of Jesus to Saul whereby he salvaged him and made him an apostle. Or as Paul himself says in three of his letters, that he was called to be an Apostle. But in the other letters, he calls himself an Apostle. Nothing in subsequent history is comparable to it. In the next 30-years Jesus will work through this man to throw His revelation of the Kingdom of God into the heart of the world with such force that paganism will be shattered and a new thing called “churches” will be established to multiply everywhere. The “churches” would become the vehicle of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
Paul prayed for an effective door to open for him to preach the gospel. Let us pray for the Lord to open the doors. Paul traveled most of the known world spreading the gospel and wrote one-third of the New Testament.
His Revelations: He was the first to fully explain the death and resurrection of Christ as the focus of God’s plan of salvation. It was he who first understood the new nature of God’s people now made up of Jews and Gentiles bound together in one body. He was the first to see how God’s new action in Christ fits together with his special relationship with the people, Israel. It was he who first spread the gospel effectively around the Gentile world, telling people simply of Jesus the Savior, and not requiring them to become Jews. He was the first to announce in the message to the Romans that God is ready to receive all men who will come to Him on the basis faith.
9:17-19: 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 you on the way as you came has sent me that you might receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Ghost.” Immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales; and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. When he had received meat, he was strengthened. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
This would be a lot for anyone to handle in three days. Note the steps:
1. Visitation of the Shekinah Glory.
2. Came face to face with Jesus.
3. Saved on the Damascus Road.
4. Three days in God’s presence.
5. Filled with the Holy Ghost.
6. Commissioned to a world-wide ministry.
7. Instantly healed.
19: 20-25: Straightway, he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. 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 here for that intent, that he might bring them bound into the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. After many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him. But their laying await was known of Saul. They watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down the wall in a basket.
Straightway, that means the passionate and fiery Saul had received the anointing of the “preacher.” The preacher has to preach. He had met the Messiah, His Savior, and the impartation of the preacher and the presence of the Glory made him fearless.
In Galatians, Paul tells us of this next season of his life in perils in the wilderness (2 Co. 11:26).
Gal. 1:11-18: I certify to you brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. It pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood. Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years, I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, except James the Lord’s brother.
The Arabia was a large ill-defined area east of Syria and Palestine, reaching northward from the Gulf of Akaba nearly to Damascus. I describe this as Paul’s wilderness experience. In the school of the wilderness, the LORD prepared him to become His great apostle to the Gentiles. He would have shown him how much he would suffer and give him the revelation of His Kingdom. What a glorious time in the wilderness sitting at the feet of Jesus. We will all go through our ‘wilderness,” may we use that precious time of life to sit at the feet of Jesus as did the Apostle Paul in the wilderness of Arabia.
9:26-30: When Saul came to Jerusalem, he attempted to join himself to the disciples; but they were afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple. 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. He was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem. He spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians; but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus.
"True ministry is always rejected before it is recognized. It must be this way, because without rejection there can be no channel for grace to flow forth, no room for the spirit of the dove and the spirit of the lamb" (George H. Warnock (1917-2016).
Saul’s escape from Damascus was dramatic and dangerous as he was let over a wall in a basket. His reception in Jerusalem was more than cool. Then the rejection by the Greeks would add to his disappointment. Fortunately, Barnabas was used by the LORD to recognize Paul’s calling and giftings. As many gifts as the Apostles had, it is interesting the LORD only revealed him to Barnabas. The gifts and callings of God will be affirmed by the Presbytery.
Saul’s hopes that his witness to his old companions of the Hellenistic (Greek) synagogues would be effective was not realized. A plot was soon laid to take his life. The journey to Tarsus initiates the hidden period of Saul’s life during which he was probably disowned by his family and suffered the loss of all things (Phil. 3:8). It may be highly probable that he witnessed in the synagogues of Cilicia and that certain sufferings listed in 2 Co. 11: 21-28 belong to this period. We do not meet him again until Barnabas sought him as a co-worker in Antioch (Acts 11: 25-26).
9:31: Then the churches had 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.
Palestine enjoyed a period of peace and prosperity. We don’t hear much about this time in the early church. The mainspring of the persecution had been broken, while the Jews had other matters to thing about, especially when Caligula insisted that his image should be set up in the Holy of Holies of the temple. The danger of rebellion was only averted by the assassination of the emperor in A.D. 41. However, only 25 years later, the Jewish revolt of A.D. 66 resulted in the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70. This will be the side-story of Acts as we continue.
It is noted that there were multiple churches in Judaea, Galilee and Samaria.
9: 32-35: It came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda. There, he found a certain man name Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy. Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ makes you whole; arise, and make your bed.” He arose immediately. All who dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
Lydda was on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa. Once again, a miracle was God’s mega-phone, directing attention to a powerful and saving word. Peter spoke a direct word and the Lord performed it. “Jesus Christ makes you whole; arise and make your bed!” I interpret this to mean a mass-movement of salvation for two areas. Lydda was close to the Plain of Sharon.
9: 36-43: There was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas; this woman was full of good works and alms-deeds which she did. 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. For-as-much as Lydda was near to Joppa, and the disciples had heard that Peter was there, they sent to him two men, desiring him that he would not delay to come to them. Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper chamber. All the widows stood by him weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them. Peter put them all out, kneeled down and prayed. Turning toward the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” She opened her eyes. When she saw Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand, and lifted her up. He then called the saints and widows and presented her alive. It was known throughout all Joppa. Many believed in the Lord. He stayed many days in Joppa with one Simon, a tanner.”
Joppa was only 10 miles N.W. of Lydda. The news of the healing of Aeneas would have spread to Joppa. Unlike Aeneas, Dorcas is introduced at once as a Christian. Dorcas is beloved by the citizens of Joppa as wonderful Christian lady, whose life was filled with good works. Having the power to raise the dead, does not mean that we will always have permission to raise the dead. He sent everyone out of the room to pray and seek the LORD for His will to be done. It is the Lord who raised her from the dead, not Peter. Many believed in the LORD.
By this means, Peter has been led of God to the place where he will receive new and strange marching orders, constituting one of the greatest land-marks in the history of redemption. Phase 3 of the great commission is at hand. With the success of the gospel in Samaria, Peter is about to open the door to the Gentiles. But as yet, he is wholly unprepared for this task. God will keep Peter here in Joppa long enough to prepare his heart for ministry to the Gentiles.
Carolyn Sissom, Pastor
Eastgate Ministries Church
I entered into the labors of F.F. Bruce Bible Commentary, E. H. Trenchard; George H. Warnock and Finis J. Dake. Comments and conclusions are my own and not meant to reflect the views of Brother Trenchard.