Summary: Acts 9 is one of the most exciting chapters in the early history of the church. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the leading persecutor of the early church was perhaps the greatest event in church history after the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.
AN EXTREME MAKE-OVER
Acts 9 is one of the most exciting chapters in the early history of the church. The conversion of Saul of Tarsus, the leading persecutor of the early church was perhaps the greatest event in church history after the coming of the Holy Ghost at Pentecost.
If you like reality TV, then you know all about the TV program called “Extreme Make Over.” The program takes volunteers who receive an “extreme make over” involving things like plastic surgery, a weight-loss or fitness regime, a new hairdo, and new wardrobe. Afterwards the people would be reunited with friends and family who hadn’t seen them since they left for the make over.
Well I thought about that TV program when I was studying chapter 9 this past week. Saul got an extreme make-over, but it was not just a change to the outside, like plastic surgery and weight-loss, but a radical change on the inside.
I. A regeneration that was undeniable
When we first meet Saul he is standing there watching Stephen die by stoning. He gives his approval for it. The Bible also says in 8:3 that “he made havoc of the churches, entering into every house and hailing men and women committed them to prison.”
See Acts 9:1,2.
Saul is like an animal going after the Christians! That’s the sense of verse one where it says he was “breathing out threatings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.” That’s how deep his hatred is, it’s like the air he’s breathing. He’s just living and breathing hatred
But something happens on the road to Damascus. Saul becomes a changed man.
A. How impossible his conversion must have seemed!
However, Christianity knows of no hopeless cases. The most hopeless case is not hopeless.
See verse 21
B. How incredible his conversion must have sounded
Ananias was called of God to put his hands upon Saul that he might receive his sight. He was not anxious to obey the Lord.
You can imagine what Ananias thought at that point. The worst possible enemy to Christianity was Saul. To hear that he was on his way to Damascus to capture Christians, and then to hear that when he arrived he had become a Christian was a little hard to believe.
His reputation followed him everywhere.
Had Ananias acted in any other way, he would hardly have been human.
1. He knew of Saul’s malignity (9:13)
2. He heard of Saul’s mission (9:14)
II. A reception that was unforgivable (26)
Saul immediately begins to preach Christ; the Jews get upset and take counsel to kill him. Paul escapes and heads to Jerusalem planning to join up with the disciples there. They didn’t believe he was a disciple. They thought this cannot be. Saul was now hated by his own people because he was a Christian and spurned by Christians because of his past.
A. The expectation that must have sustained
He was going to meet Peter and James. They were going to welcome him into the church. He was going to ask them for forgiveness in persecuting the church.
B. The experience that could have shattered him
He wasn’t welcome; he wasn’t believed; he wasn’t wanted.
III. A recommendation that was unmeasurable (27)
Here is a recommendation that only eternity will be able to determine its full impact and influence.
We need more people like Barnabas who have a welcoming hand and a warm heart for others.
A. How deceptive the appearance of Saul
There was no hint at all this man was to prove to be the greatest Christian ever to live for Christ. There was nothing to suggest that this man would later right more of the New Testament than any other writer.
B. How decisive the influence of Barnabas
Barnabas was well enough liked and respected and established enough in terms of his own authority and spiritual discernment to be believed; therefore, on the recommendation of Barnabas everybody accepted Saul.
I was reading the other day about the human spine. When the spine is supported by surrounding muscles, ligaments, and tendons, it can be used as a mighty lever for manipulating the body and lifting incredibly heavy objects. Yet, when the same spine loses the support of those soft tissues around it, it will buckle under a load of just five pounds. You can take an isolated human spine from a corpse, and put no more than five pounds of pressure on it, and it will totally collapse.
Likewise without the encouragement of other people, we will also quickly crumble and break under the loads of criticism that come our way.
Just as they were about to kick Saul out—at that crucial moment in Saul’s life, WHO should step in but Barnabas—Son of Encouragement—and begins to do his thing! He said in essence, “You guys are wrong about Saul. He met our Lord on the Damascus road. He has placed his faith in Him. Saul has been changed! I can vouch for him!”