2017-1-01 The Call Of Saul

ACTS 9:1-31                                                                                        JANUARY 1, 2017


During my college years I was active with Campus Crusade for Christ. Our college chapter was often asked to provide students who were willing to share their testimonies in area churches. It was an honor to share my testimony and love of Jesus in these churches. In reading this chapter I was reminded of my college years as Luke provides the testimony of Saul, who became known as Paul, for the encouragement of the church in how God called Saul to faith in Jesus Christ.

All testimonies begin with a brief look at the type of individual the person was before their call to faith. Acts 9:1-2 (NIV) 1 Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2 and 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.” Saul clearly saw that this new faith in Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah would clearly lead to the Temple being less important. This idea that the Temple would no longer be necessary was anathema, abhorrent to most Jews.  Saul wanted to destroy anyone who would dare to promote this teaching of Jesus. This is why he went to the High priest looking for permission to stamp out these followers of the Way.

When the church fled with the persecution that began in Jerusalem, many of the disciples fled to Damascus. Damascus was known to have a large Jewish population with several synagogues. When the Jews revolted against Rome thirty years later over 18,000 Jews were killed in Damascus. So it is not surprising that a large group of Christians would have gone to Damascus and led to Saul’s request so he could arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem to be tried.

Acts 9:3-4 (NIV) 3 As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”  Most Jews would have immediately made the connection of a great light being connected to the presence and glory of God as predicted in the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah. Isaiah 9:2 (NIV) 2 The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Yet Saul did not recognize the voice calling to him. 2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV) 4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Paul was spiritually blinded to the truth of who Jesus was.

Acts 9:5-6 (NIV) 5 “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. 6 “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”  This is the last post resurrection appearance of Jesus. All apostles were those who Jesus had appeared to and called to be his witnesses. Paul later spoke of this in his letter to the Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 15:7-9 (ESV) 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Paul declared that Jesus had appeared to him.

Jesus tells Paul, that his actions against the followers of Jesus are really a direct attack on him. Jesus, the Son of God, calls Saul to now follow his instructions. Acts 9:7-9 (NIV) 7 The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8 Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9 For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.”

Those three days must have seemed like an eternity. Paul reacted by refusing to eat or drink for three days. A person can only go three days without drinking water and will perish. This extreme act of fasting, most fasts are those who only go without eating, is a sign of those who are repenting or seeking God’s face. It was quite a shock for Saul to realize the depth of his sin in refusing to acknowledge that Jesus is the Son of God and the promised Messiah. Saul’s world was turned upside down. This is what God does when he calls people to faith. Our world is turned upside down and we realize the depth of our sins and our denial of Jesus, the Christ.

The story now takes a unique turn in that there is a double vision. Both Saul and Ananias have a vision from God directing their meeting together. Acts 9:12-16 (NIV) 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.” 13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.” 15 But 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. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Our call to follow Christ requires our obedience and can often lead to suffering. Many Christians mistakenly believe that once they accept Jesus as their LORD that nothing bad will ever happen to them. Romans 8:16-18 (NIV) 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Peter also understood that suffering in following Jesus was normal. 1 Peter 4:12-13 (NIV) 12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” God is with us, seeking to deepen our trust and our faith.

Look at how Saul responded to his being healed. Acts 9:17-20 (NIV) 17 Then 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.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, 19 and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. 20 At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.” Saul did two things. First, he was baptized and second he began talking to others about Jesus, the Son of God, who called him to faith.

What does God expect from us? First, to be baptized and then to witness to others about Jesus. Almost everyone has heard of Mr. Heinz (Heinz 57 Sauce). One day after an evangelistic service the speaker turned to Mr. Heinz and said, “You are a believer, but with all your energy why aren’t you up and at it for the Lord?” Heinz went home in anger. That night, he couldn’t sleep; however, at 4:00 AM he prayed and asked God to use him to lead others to the savior. A day or so later at a meeting of bank presidents, he turned the man next to him and told him of his joy in knowing Jesus. His friend looked at him in surprise and said, “Because I knew you were a Christian, I’ve wondered why you never spoke to be about salvation.” That gentleman was the first of 267 people that Mr. Heinz saw make a decision to answer the call from God.

Is there someone you know who is wondering why you have never spoke to them about Jesus? Speaking to others about Jesus would make an awesome New Year’s resolution, don’t you think?

Let us pray.