Acts 9 - Outline of Acts (Book Notes menu page)
1. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings
and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord,
went unto the high priest,
2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues,
that if he found any of this way
{lit., 'the way'}, whether they were men or women,
he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
Saul was full of hatred against those who were identified with Jesus, who is 'the way' (Joh 14:6). His zealous desire was to protect Judaism, by eradicating the followers of this fast growing movement, which the Jewish religious leaders considered to be a harmful cult. The persecution, zealously led by Saul, had driven many believers out of Jerusalem (Acts 8:1-4). But unsatisfied to be rid of them, Saul determined to pursue and destroy the 'heretics.' He did so under the high priest's approval and authority.
3 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus:
and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:
4 And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him,
Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
5 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?
And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:
[it is] hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?
And the Lord [said] unto him, Arise, and go into the city,
and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
...a voice saying unto him... Why persecutest thou me?...-
Saul thought he was chasing after heretics. But in reality, he was pursuing Jesus, for each of the persecuted believers were members of His body, and therefore, one with Him. Joh 17:20-21
...[Saul] said, Who art thou, Lord?-
Out of fear, Saul fell in astonished submission, before the One speaking, and called Him, 'Lord' {GK=kurios, master}.
Yet, he did not know who He is. All of Saul's learning and religious zeal was insufficient to give him the only truly essential knowledge (Joh 17:3).
...I am Jesus whom thou persecutest...-
This word for 'persecute' {GK=dioko, to pursue, to drive away} usually refers to causing trouble for God's people. However, in several passages, it has the sense of 'following after' or 'pursuing' good things (eg., 1The 5:15; 2Tim 2:22; Heb 12:14). The 'good,' which Saul so earnestly pursued, was the end of all believers (Acts 26:9-11). But now, the true object of his pursuit reveals Himself, as the One who is Good (Mat 19:17; Psa 145:8,9). is hard for thee to kick against the pricks {GK=kentron, the stings, the goads}.-
The Lord had been goading Saul to turn from his misdirected way, to 'the way' of truth (v.2). Against all outward appearances, Saul was finding it difficult to persist in his stubborn refusal to turn to Christ.
     Stephen's message from the scriptures had rung true, and was still reverberating in Saul's mind. Could he ever erase from his memory, the glory on Stephen's face as he looked into heaven, and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God? Saul had seen nothing, then. But as he pursued other believers, he had seen their confidence and heard their prayers, like that of Stephen, asking that their enemies be forgiven. Perhaps, up until this moment, Saul's zealous actions had been, not so much to punish those he 'knew' were wrong, as to convince himself that he was right.
     But now, flooded with this light from heaven, and overwhelmed by the One who spoke, there was no more fight remaining in him. He trembled in terrible recognition that he was guilty of fighting against God ( his respected teacher, Gamaliel, had warned, in Acts 5:39).
...Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? -
There was nothing that he could do, except submit to his Master, and wait for His instructions. Saul's hated enemy had become his merciful Lord. 1Tim 1:12-16
7 And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless,
hearing a voice, but seeing no man.
8 And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man:
but they led him by the hand, and brought [him] into Damascus.
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
...the men... stood speechless... hearing... seeing no man...-
Paul recounts this event on two later occasions, with slight differences. We will compare the accounts when we come to chapters 22 and 26.
...Saul... saw no man... three days without sight... neither did eat nor drink.-
Saul spent the next three days in prayer and fasting. He had been struck blind physically. But his spiritual eyes had been opened to the Light (Joh 1:4,5; 9:4-5,39-41).
     Saul was consumed with needs far more essential than food and water: the need for repentance, and for forgiveness... and for understanding, to reconcile his knowledge of Scripture with the Truth that now confronted him.
10. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias;
and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias.
And he said, Behold, I [am here], Lord.
11 And the Lord [said] unto 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 prayeth,
12 And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in,
and putting [his] hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
13 Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man,
how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:
14 And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.
15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me,
to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:
16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
...Ananias... Behold, I am here, Lord...-
Ananias is a model disciple: his heart was prepared... ready to hear... and ready to obey the Lord's leading. a vision...-
The Lord spoke to Ananias clearly, but contrary to his expectation, and in conflict with his understanding.
...Lord, I have heard... of this man... how much evil he hath done... and here he hath authority...-
Ananias did not rebel against God's leading. But he did discuss his concerns with Him. The Lord knew what Ananias could not have known or anticipated: that Saul's heart had changed, and that the Lord had a special purpose for Saul. The Lord shared enough to assure his servant (Ananias) that He knew Saul completely.
... [Saul] hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias...-
The Lord knew that Ananias would go as directed. His coming and the lifting of Saul's blindness, would further confirm the truth to the troubled heart of the former persecutor, who was now engaged in humble prayer (v.11).
...he is a chosen vessel unto me...-
- to bear my name...
  • before the Gentiles...- Saul (Paul) would become the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13).
  • before kings...- Paul would preach the Gospel to Festus, Felix and Herod Agrippa (Acts ch. 24-26) and to Nero (Acts 27:24).
  • before the children of Israel...- Wherever Paul went, he preached Christ, first, in the local synagogue. Rom 1:16
- [to] suffer for my name's sake...-
  • In the course of serving His Lord, Paul would endure severe sufferings (2Cor 11:23-27; 2Tim 1:11,12; 2:9-11; 3:11).
  • While it is true that all who live for the Lord will suffer persecution (Joh 15:20; Php 1:29), Paul would endure an extra measure of persecution, partly as a consequence of his prior treatment of the saints (Gal 6:7).
17 And 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 thee in the way as thou camest,
hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight,
and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales:
and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
19 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.
Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.
...Ananias went... and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul...-
Ananias put aside his misgivings and obeyed the Holy Spirit's leading.
He also put aside what he had heard about Saul's recent past, and embraced him as a brother... a member of the family of God, through faith in Jesus Christ.
...the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee... hath sent me...-
These words confirmed to Saul, the things that the Spirit had been teaching him (v.5,12,17). The visions given to Saul and the vision given to Ananias were in perfect agreement.
...that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.-
Saul's spiritual eyes had been opened. Now, the re-opening of his physical eyes, was yet another sign that these things were of God. The blinding brightness of Christ's glory had apparently caused his corneas to become crusted over. Now, the crust was miraculously removed, allowing him to see again. However, for the remainder of his days, he would have an impairment in his vision, as a reminder of his need for humble submission to his Lord (2Cor 12:7-9; Gal 4:14,15).
     The Holy Spirit was able to fill Saul, because his heart had been cleansed as he confessed his sin and placed his trust in Christ's death and resurrection. Before Ananias arrived, Saul had already been baptized by the Spirit into the church, the body of Christ. This was confirmed to Saul, by Ananias' greeting and embrace. There was no immediate external sign, of his filling with the Spirit to enable him to serve the Lord. However, he did display a strong desire for public identification with Christ, which exceeded his physical hunger for food following his fast.
...he received sight... arose... and was baptized...- Only then, would he eat.
The Three Essential Elements for Conversion (mentioned previously, in the Notes at Acts 8:27-31.)
are all present in the conversion of Saul, though somewhat hidden from view:
  • The Holy Spirit - brought conviction and opened Saul's eyes spiritually (Joh 16:14,15).
  • The Word of God - was already present in Saul's mind.
    He was a Pharisee and a scholar of the OT scriptures (Acts 22:3). The epistles, which he would write later, give evidence to how richly the Word of God dwelled in him. However, before he met Christ, and until the Spirit enlightened him, he had not understood of Whom the scriptures speak (cp. Acts 8:34).
  • The Man of God - Ananias had confirmed Saul's conversion and encouraged him to get up and go on, in the power of the Holy Spirit.
    However, the man of God, who most influenced Saul toward the Savior, was Stephen. Stephen had been faithful to His Lord, even unto death. Therefore, he was not present at the time of Saul's conversion. But God had used his testimony and answered his prayer, after he was gone. In that fact, there is encouragement for you and me, to plant the seed and water it with tears, and trust God for the increase (eg., 1Cor 3:6).
20 And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.
21 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 hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?
22 But Saul increased the more in strength,
and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.
...he preached Christ in the synagogues...-
Just a few days after his conversion, the filling of the Spirit is evidenced in Saul's bold and powerful proclamation of the Gospel.
Note the two elements of his message concerning Christ (v.20-22)...
  1. that he is the Son of God...-
    Paul was declaring that the Messiah, the Christ, foretold by the prophets, was more than a human deliverer from political oppression. Rather, He is the One appointed by God as the Savior from sin, through His death and resurrection (Isa 53:1-12). No ordinary man can pay for the sins of another. Only the eternal God could accomplish such a salvation. But because God cannot die, the Messiah must be born as a man with the essential nature of God. The Messiah must be God the Son. Indeed, this is what the scriptures teach (eg., Psa 2:7,12; 110:1; Isa 7:14; Mat 1:23; Isa 9:6,7; Mic 5:2; Isa 43:10,11).
  2. that this is the very Christ...-
    After identifying the biblical purpose, qualifications and characteristics of the Messiah, Saul 'proved' {ie., bringing scripture and recent events together} that 'this (Jesus) is Himself the Christ.' Acts 17:3; 18:5; 28:23; Luk 24:44-46; Joh 20:31
...Saul increased the more in strength... and confounded the Jews which were in Damascus...-
As opposition rose against his message, Saul was endued with a growing ability to proclaim the message ever more clearly. His opponents were perplexed and confused as they attempted to argue against his clear explanation of scriptural teaching. (Saul was following in the footsteps of Stephen. Acts 6:8-10)
23. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him:
24 But their laying await was known of Saul.
And they watched the gates day and night to kill him.
25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let [him] down by the wall in a basket.
Unable to argue against his message, the Jewish leaders in Damascus, sought to eliminate the messenger.
With the help of other believers, Saul escaped.
This event marks the beginning of Saul's suffering for Jesus' sake (v.16).
26 And when Saul was come to Jerusalem,
he assayed
{ie., attempted} to join himself to the disciples:
but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.
27 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
{the Lord} had spoken to him {Paul},
and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.
28 And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem.
Understandably, the believers in Jerusalem were suspicious that Saul was pretending conversion
in order to infiltrate the church and identify believers for persecution. (Ananias had voiced similar concerns, in v.13,14).
...But Barnabas took him... brought him... declared...-
Barnabas, the Son of Consolation, came alongside Saul and vouched for him. He 'declared' {ie., narrated the history about} Saul's conversion, and his unashamed proclamation of the Gospel.
Then, Saul was fully accepted into the fellowship of believers.
29 And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus,
and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him.
30 [Which] when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea,
and sent him forth to Tarsus.
31 Then had the churches 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.
...he... disputed against the Grecians {GK=hellinistes, Hellenistic or Greek Jews}...-
Saul presented Jesus as Lord, to the same group that had stoned Stephen (Acts 6:9,10), and received a similar response.
...when the brethren knew, they... sent him... to Tarsus.-
The believers got Saul out of town, put him on a ship, and sent him back to his home town (v.11; 21:39). The scriptures are silent about his time there. But, presumably, he was given the opportunity to witness to his family and former acquaintances.
Then had the churches rest {GK=eirene, peace, freedom from molestation, quietness}...-
For a time, there was a lull in the persecution, due to the conversion of its zealous perpetrator.
In this environment, the church was...
  • edified...- built up, strengthened (Eph 4:11-16)
    Free of persecution, they had greater opportunity to meet and teach God's Word.
  • walking in the fear of the Lord...-
    In awe filled submission to their Master, believers lived to serve Him (Heb 12:28,29).
       God was powerfully working among them (as evidenced by His direct intervention, in the discipline of Ananias and Sapphira, and in the conversion of the leader of persecution, etc.).
  • [walking in] the comfort of the Holy Ghost...{'comfort' is GK=paraklesis, 'calling alongside'} -
    Attentive to, and empowered by, the Holy Spirit, the church encouraged one another, and reached out to their neighbors. Joh 14:16-18; Gal 5:22,23; Php 2:1,2; 2The 2:16,17
  • multiplied.- The church, in Jerusalem, Judaea, and Samaria continued to grow in numbers.
    The new believers from these areas were ethnically Jews, though some had adopted aspects of Greek culture (ie., the Hellenists).
32. And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all [quarters],
he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda.
33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas,
which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.
34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole:
arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.
35 And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord.
...Peter... came down... to the saints... in Lydda...-
Peter, engaged in his responsibilities as an apostle, was visiting believers throughout the land Israel.
     The term 'saints' {GK=hagios, holy, holy ones} is first applied to NT believers in this chapter (v.13, 32, 41). It is the same word which identifies the 'Holy' Spirit as the Spirit of God. In the OT, the word 'saints' {HB=qadowsh, holy} is sometimes used of God's people (eg., Psa 16:3; Prov 2:8). Likewise, the NT 'saints' are people who are 'set apart' for God, through faith in Christ (Titus 2:14; 1Pet 2:9, where this word is translated 'holy').
...and all that... saw him, turned to the Lord.-
The healing of Aeneas at Lydda, like the healing of the lame man at the Temple (Acts 3:1-11), was a sign presented to the Jewish people in that region, for the purpose that they might believe in Jesus, the Christ... with the result that they 'turned' to the Lord. The GK word for 'turned' is translated 'converted,' in Acts 3:18,19, at the conclusion of Peter's second sermon (on the occasion of the lame man's healing). Likewise, here, those who 'turned to the Lord,' repented of sin and put their trust in Jesus, as the Christ, who fulfills scriptural prophecy.
36. Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha,
which by interpretation is called Dorcas:
this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.
37 And 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.
38 And forasmuch as Lydda was nigh to Joppa,
and the disciples had heard that Peter was there,
they sent unto him two men,
desiring [him] that he would not delay to come to them.
39 Then Peter arose and went with them.
When he was come, they brought him into the upper chamber:
and all the widows stood by him weeping,
and shewing the coats and garments which Dorcas made, while she was with them.
40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down, and prayed;
and turning [him] to the body said, Tabitha, arise.
And she opened her eyes: and when she saw Peter, she sat up.
41 And he gave her [his] hand, and lifted her up,
and when he had called the saints and widows, presented her alive.
42 And it was known throughout all Joppa; and many believed in the Lord.
43 And it came to pass, that he tarried many days in Joppa with one Simon a tanner.
...a disciple named Tabitha... Dorcas...
Tabitha was her Hebrew name, Dorcas her Greek name. Both names mean 'gazelle,' and probably reflect upon her graceful beauty.
...full of good works and almsdeeds {ie., gifts of mercy}...-
She had used her sewing skills to help those who could not support themselves... such as the widows who mourned for her, and displayed the garments which she had made for them.
...Lydda was nigh to Joppa...-
Joppa is on the Mediterranean Sea coast. Lydda is about 12 miles inland. Several hours would have elapsed as the messengers went for, and returned with, Peter. The disciples were probably hoping that Dorcas' funeral would be an opportunity for her neighbors to hear Peter proclaim the Gospel message.
But Peter put them all forth... kneeled down, and prayed...-
Peter must have remembered what Jesus did on a similar occasion (Mark 5:35-43).
Before doing or saying anything, Peter sought the mind of the Lord, privately.
When he was sure of the Holy Spirit's leading, he spoke to Dorcas, simply and privately. She awoke from the sleep of death.
     There was no power, in Peter's voice or touch, to raise the dead. That power belongs alone to the One whom he served (Joh 5:25-29). Peter was not acclaimed as a 'healer.' Rather, the resurrection of Dorcas caused many to 'believe in the Lord' (ie., in Jesus, v.42).
     This sign, like others given through the apostles, gave witness to the authenticity of the Gospel message, as the Lord began to build His church 'upon the foundation of the apostles' (Acts 4:29,30; Eph 2:20).
     However, in the history of the early church (recorded in book of Acts), miraculous signs became less frequent, as the New Testament neared completion. The authentication of the Message rests, not on signs and wonders, but on the authority of the apostolic writings, and their agreement with the OT scriptures. eg., 2Tim 3:14-17; 2Pet 3:1,2
Peter... tarried many days in Joppa...-
He took the opportunity to teach the many new believers.
But soon, the Lord would send him, from here, on an unexpected assignment...

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