Summary: Part 10 focuses on Paul's conversion and his ability to prove that jesus was in fact the true Messiah.
A Slave for Christ Part 10
Scriptures: Acts 9:18-31
Several weeks ago I shared with you a story of a man who had abused and murdered people and got away with it. He was never arrested or paid any recompense from his crimes. Before many of you found out that I was referring to the Apostle Paul, you’d taken the stance that even after the man accepted Christ and began his preaching ministry, you would have struggled listening to him because of his background. It would be hard to separate and/or forget the atrocities he committed just because he now claimed to be a Christian. Your feelings were actually similar to those of some of the Jews when they first heard of Paul’s conversion. Again, as I stated in that message, this was why his interaction with Ananias was so important. Only Paul and the men with him knew what Jesus had said to Paul on the road to Damascus. But, since Paul’s men worked for him, it could be judged that they would say or do anything that Paul wanted them to say or do. Because of this, their testimony of Paul’s conversion would not have been accepted by many of the Jews. Ananias, however, was a disciple who served Christ. He became the proof that Paul needed. Ananias had an interaction with Christ and was told that Paul’s conversion and works were ordained by Christ Himself. Where the Jews would not accept Paul or his men’s testimony, they would accept the testimony of Ananias (or someone familiar with Ananias’ interaction with Paul, i.e. Barnabas.)
I shared with you last time that Paul became a slave for Christ immediately upon his call. When Jesus told him to go into Damascus, he went immediately – no questions asked. He just got up and went and waited for what would be revealed to him. This morning we will begin examining what Paul did and how his choice to become a slave for Christ affected him and those around him, including some of the original disciples who walked with Christ. Let’s begin where we ended last time in Acts chapter nine and verse eighteen.
I. Paul Begins to Preach Christ
“And immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his sight, and he got up and was baptized; and he took food and was strengthened. Now for several days he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ And those hearing him continued to be amazed, and were saying, ‘Is this not he who in Jerusalem destroyed those who called on this name, and who had come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests? But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ. When many days had elapsed, the Jew plotted together to do away with him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were also watching the gates day and night so that they might put him to death; but the disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket.” (Acts 9:18-25)
When Ananias arrived and laid his hands on Paul, Paul received his sight and was baptized. Shortly thereafter Paul began to preach that Jesus was in fact the Christ. As he began his public ministry, the Jews, just as you stated last time, were amazed that this same man who had destroyed Christians in Jerusalem and was coming to Damascus to do the same was now preaching Christ. Even though some doubted, Paul continued on in what he was called to do and he was so effective that he became a threat. The disciples at Damascus lived in peace with the other Jews who had not accepted Christ. But when Paul accepted Christ, he unnerved the other Jews. Now you may think it was because they felt his conversion was a major betrayal, but it was much more than that. Paul was a threat because of his knowledge. Paul had studied the Scriptures as a Pharisee so he had a firm foundation of the Old Testament better than any of the disciples who walked with Christ. Paul, after his conversion, was able to link the Old Testament to what he now understood about Christ. Let me explain.
In verse twenty-two of chapter nine, the following is recorded, “But Saul kept increasing in strength and confounding the Jews who lived at Damascus by proving that this Jesus is the Christ.” How was Paul able to prove this when the other disciples could not? Why was Paul’s testimony so much more a threat to traditional Judaism that that of the other disciples? How could Paul prove that Jesus was truly the Christ? He could prove it not because of his conversion and his one on one interaction with Christ, but because of his understanding of the Old Testament. Paul was the only one, after his conversion, whose understanding of the Old Testament allowed him to see what Jesus had done while on earth and compare that to what the Old Testament had prophesied about Him. In the Old Testament there are over four dozen major predictions about the Messiah. Isaiah revealed the manner of the Messiah’s birth (of a virgin); Micah pinpointed the place of His birth (Bethlehem); Genesis and Jeremiah specified His ancestry (a descendent of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, from the tribe of Judah, the house of David; the Psalms foretold of His betrayal, His accusation by false witnesses, His manner of death (pierced in the hands and feet, although crucifixion hadn’t been invented yet), and His resurrection (He would not decay but would ascend on high). These are just some of the predictions contained in the Old Testament of which only Jesus fulfilled them all. Jesus was the only one to fulfill each and every one of these predictions. I believe that Paul being the learned man that he was linked his knowledge of the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah with what truly happened with Jesus. Paul knew for certain, based on the prophecies and his interaction with Jesus that Jesus was the Messiah. So as he began his public ministry, Paul did not speak as most of the disciples who had been “unlearned, normal men,” he spoke as an educated man who could go toe to toe with any educated “spiritual leader” of the time.