Summary: The gospel is about transformation from the inside out through the power of the risen Jesus.
A Changed Man
Text: Acts 9:1-19
1. Gary Habermas was a young doctoral student at Michigan State in the 1970s struggling with his faith. Like so many young people who grow up in a Christian family and eventually leave home and their faith as well, he was definitely rethinking what he really believed. It came to the point of announcing to his mother that he was leaning toward Buddhism.
2. To settle the issue rationally, Gary decided to do his doctoral dissertation on the resurrection of Jesus. He felt that anchoring his faith in the truth of the resurrection would give him the peace and confidence he sought. The chairman of his doctoral committee said the topic was fine, but added, "Don't come back and tell us the resurrection happened because the Bible tells us so."
3. Gary's challenge was to demonstrate the reality of this event without exclusively using Scripture. He called his approach the "Minimal Facts Method." He presented twelve historical facts that validated the core events and people surrounding the most crucial event in the Christian faith: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
4. The results of his research on the resurrection not only literally saved his Christian faith, but Gary Habermas is now considered one of the world's leading experts on the topic.
A. Jesus actually lived and was Jewish.
B. Jesus was executed by crucifixion by Pontius Pilate.
C. Jesus tomb was found empty by some of His female followers three days after his death.
D. His disciples believed that Jesus appeared to them after his death.
E. Saul of Tarsus was transformed after claiming to have seen the risen Jesus.
5. Three things transformed Saul...
A. A Personal Encounter With Jesus
B. The Willingness Of A Believer
C. Faithful Prayer
6. Let's stand together as read Acts 9:1-19
Proposition: The gospel is about transformation from the inside out through the power of the risen Jesus.
Transition: First we must have...
I. A Personal Encounter With Jesus (1-6).
A. Saul, Saul Why Are You Persecuting Me
1. As we have learned so far in the Book of Acts, Saul was a pretty nasty guy when it came to Christians. He wasn't satisfied with attacking the church in Jerusalem, no, he wanted to destroy the church all over the world.
2. Luke tells us, "Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains."
A. "Uttering threats" here is literally "breathing in." It is a Greek participle (empneōn) indicating it had become characteristic and continuous.
B. In other words, Saul created an atmosphere around him of threats and murder so that he was constantly breathing it in.
C. As oxygen enables an athlete to keep going, so this atmosphere kept Saul going.
D. He put many in prison and voted to put them to death.
E. Now, however, most of the believers had left Jerusalem. So Saul went of his own accord to the high priest, probably Caiaphas, and asked for official letters to the synagogues at Damascus, giving him authority to arrest any of "the Way," men or women, and to bring them bound as prisoners to Jerusalem (Acts 26:11-12).
F. This would mean a trial before the Sanhedrin and probably the death sentence.
G. "The Way" was an interesting title for the believers, one they could accept: Jesus is the way of salvation, the way of life.
H. That Paul wanted to make arrests regardless of gender, "whether men or women," shows he noticed that the believing women were as active as the men, and he considered them just as dangerous.
I. The law of Moses placed women on a high level, but Pharisees tended to ignore and degrade them.
J. In the Church, women from the beginning were outstanding in prayer, in Christian love and service, and in the gifts of the Spirit. In Christ and in the ministry of the Spirit there is "neither... male nor female"
3. However, "As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?"
A. Damascus was about 140 miles northeast of Jerusalem, and nearly 200 miles by road in those days.
B. Near the end of the journey a light from heaven unexpectedly flashed like lightning around Saul.
C. As he told King Agrippa, it continued to shine around him with a light brighter than the noonday sun.