Summary: Here is the call/conversion story of Saul . From that story we understand: 1. We need to be open for the Lord's realignments 2. We need to be open for New Spiritual Revelations 3. We need to be ready to accept New Spiritual Assignments
Scripture: Acts 9:1-20
Title: Archenemy to Ambassador
(Murderer turned Missionary)
Proposition: Luke shares with us the story of Saul's call/conversion story. That story shares with us 1. We need to be open for the Lord's realignments 2. We must be open for New Spiritual Revelations 3. We need to be ready to accept New Spiritual Assignments
Grace and peace from God our Father and His Son Jesus Christ who has come to take away the sin of the world.
Have you ever thought you were so right about something that you would stake your life on it? You were so sure that your position was the right one that you were willing to risk your reputation, your money and perhaps even your future on it?
If you have, then you share a kindred spirit with Saul of Tarsus. As we open up Acts chapter nine, Saul is convinced that the early followers of the Way (Christians) are so dangerous to the faith of Judaism that he is willing to put those people in prison and even to death. Those followers included thousands of men, women, boys and girls.
In the three year period of time from Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection the Early Church had exploded in numbers. The initial group of 120 people that had gathered on Pentecost and had received the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was now numbering well into the thousands and more were being added to their numbers every day. More and more people were believing that Jesus was the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Astonishing miracles of spiritual and physical healing were being attributed to these early Christians. Although the religious establishment (Sanhedrin Council) had strictly forbidden the apostles and others to speak about Jesus, they refused to keep silent. Everywhere they went, these first century Christians shared the message about Jesus, His Death and Resurrection. They shared the Good News that all men could receive forgiveness, mercy and grace in the name of Jesus and be filled with His Holy Spirit.
All of this was having an adverse effect on Temple worship and on Jewish orthodox faith around Palestine. People were choosing Jesus over the teachings of the scribes, the Pharisees and Sadducees. Saul was determined to stop this Jesus movement and lead the people back to the Temple and to the teachings of the religious establishment. He himself had studied at the feet of the honored Rabbi Gamaliel.
You may remember that it was Rabbi Gamaliel back in Acts chapter five that spoke up for sparing the lives of the apostles. Rabbi Gamaliel believed that time would prove whether or not the way of Jesus was in line with the will of God Almighty. Rabbi Gamaliel did not want the Sanhedrin council to do anything that would be in opposition to God's will. If this New Way, this way surrounding the teachings of Jesus was not of Jehovah, then his following would come to nothing, (Acts 5:33-40). If, however, it was of the LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, then the Council would be opposing God Himself.
Saul didn't agree with his former teacher because we find him going to Damascus armed with papers permitting him to arrest Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem to stand trial. To get the flavor of Saul's dedication we have to remember that Damascus was approx. 135 miles away from Jerusalem. This was no one night adventure. Saul was willing to take weeks out of his life to hunt down and capture Jesus' followers to bring them to justice. He was that dedicated and that determined to stop the Early Church.
Verse one tells us that it was Saul's intention to do more than just imprison them. The word Luke uses here (phonos) refers to acts of murder and or slaughter. Saul firmly believed that the only way to stop the Jesus movement was to round up all Jesus' followers and condemn them to death. Charles Swindoll tells us at that time, Saul looked more "like a terrorist than a devout follower of Judaism." Luke's first portrait of Saul was "brutal and bloody."
When a person's cause is just and on target, it can be extremely effective for the Kingdom of God. Luke shares with us stories about the early Christian's commitment and dedication in the book of Acts. These disciples gave their time, their resources and if necessary their very own lives. Nothing or no one could stop or deter them. Is there any wonder why there was such phenomenal growth of Christianity in the first few centuries after Christ? These people were filled with Holy Spirit passion and courage.
However, when a person's or a group's religious zeal is off target, it can be extremely destructive in its effects on the kingdom of God. Good people with good intentions can wreck havoc when they mistakenly go against God's will. They can destroy the very thing that they want to protect. They can believe that they are standing up for what is right but still be on the wrong side of God's favor and will.