Summary: 1. I stop relying on my own righteousness (vs. 1-2). 2. God gets my attention (vs. 3-4). 3. I learn that Jesus is Lord (vs. 4-5). 4. I don’t just get religion; I get a relationship (vs. 4-5). 5. I begin to follow the Lord’s leadership (vs. 6-9).

How to Know I Am Saved

Acts 9:1-9

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church - Jan. 19, 2014


*Tonight, we will explore one of the most important meetings in all of human history: The meeting that took place on the road to Damascus, when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ appeared to the Christ-hating radical Jew, Saul of Tarsus. I can think of no other meeting in the New Testament that had more impact on God's Word, on our lives, and on our world.

*John Phillips helps us understand Paul's mindset as he left Jerusalem for Damascus. Phillips said, "Our attention is now drawn back to Saul of Tarsus and his campaign of persecution against the church, instigated by the boldness and martyrdom of Stephen.

*Saul was an intellectual giant, farsighted enough to see that there could be no peaceful coexistence between militant Judaism and militant Christianity. Whatever his teacher Gamaliel might have advised about moderation, Saul saw the incompatibility of the two faiths.

*Either Judaism was right and Christianity was apostasy, or Christianity was right and Judaism was obsolete. Saul’s birth, beliefs, and background all drove him into a head-on confrontation with the Christians. He concluded, logically enough from his own biased point of view, that Christ was a blasphemer and Christianity a cult. Because Jesus of Nazareth was dead, nothing could be done about Him. Christianity, however, was something else; the sooner it was dead and buried too, the better for everyone.

*We can see how Saul arrived at his conclusion. Jesus had not only claimed to be Israel’s Messiah, but had claimed to be the Son of God. Yet He had died on a Roman cross. The Jewish law said, 'Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree' (Galatians 3:13). Jesus had been hanged on a tree, and so He was cursed by God and could in no way have been the Son of God. He therefore was a blasphemer, and the sooner the semi-Jewish cult devoted to His worship was eradicated, the sooner Judaism and the world would be purged of a terrible heresy.

*Such would have been Saul’s reasoning. . . So in vs. 1, we see Saul 'breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.' The word for 'slaughter' is the Greek word 'phonos,' which occurs ten times in the New Testament, and which is always translated 'murder' except here and in Hebrews 11:37. Saul now set himself to get rid of the church by means of intimidation and murder." (1)

*With this background in mind, let's stand in honor of God's Word, as we read Acts 1:1-9.


*We surely are looking at one of the most important meetings in all of human history. And in these pivotal verses, Saul thought he was on the road to Damascus. But he was about to take an upward turn onto the road to Heaven!

*God was about to start turning the Christ-hating Saul into the Apostle Paul. And Saul was saved. But what does it mean to be saved? And how can I know that I am saved? God's Word shows us in this Scripture.

1. First: I stop relying on my own righteousness.

*We cannot be saved until we stop relying on our own righteousness. Saul was certainly relying on his own virtue in vs. 1-2:

1. Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest

2. and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

*When it came to religion, nobody ever tried harder than Saul. No one was ever more zealous. Years later, Paul described how we was before and after he met the Lord. It was a total transformation, and a total transfer of where Paul placed his trust.

*In Philippians 3:1-9, Paul wrote:

1. Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. For me to write the same things to you is not tedious, but for you it is safe.

2. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!

3. For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,

4. though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so:

5. circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee;

6. concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.

7. But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ.

8. But indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ

9. and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith.

*Wayne Lawson explained that "Paul was born to a prominent Jewish family in Tarsus. It was capital of the Roman province in what is now modern-day Turkey. We know his parents were prominent citizens, because Paul was a Roman citizen from birth. And citizenship had to be granted by a significant Roman government official.

*At the same time, Paul had a rich Jewish heritage. He was a Jew among Jews, born into the tribe of Benjamin. Paul was also very religious, blameless according to the Law of Moses, a Pharisee among Pharisees, very zealous for the faith of his fathers, and absolutely convinced that he was doing the will of God

*On top of that, Paul was very well educated, trained at the feet of Gamaliel, one of Israel’s greatest teachers of the day. And Paul was ambitious. He advanced quickly up the ranks of the Pharisees with ability, desire and talent far above his peers. Paul was also loyal. He sought out the permission and approval of the High Priest before he acted." (2)

*That all sounds pretty good, but here’s the problem: In vs. 1, Saul was "breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord." He was full of bitterness and hatred. Saul hated anything and anyone who could be a threat to the things that he believed.

*Saul was trusting in his own wisdom, in his own heart. But Jeremiah 17:9 says: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?" Left to ourselves we will get it wrong every time. Left to ourselves we will be dead wrong. We can never be saved by our own goodness or efforts, so we must stop relying on our own righteousness.

2. How can I know that I am saved? I stop relying on my own righteousness. -- And God gets my attention.

*The Lord got Saul’s attention in vs. 3-4:

3. And as he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.

4. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?''

*Talk about a wake-up call! As James May once said, "God showed up and interrupted Saul’s plans. God shot a laser beam of light out of the throne room of Heaven and knocked Saul to the ground. Suddenly all of the education, the plans, the hatred, the condemnation that had been controlling Saul was erased. In one quick flash, Saul became the accused and the condemned. The God of Heaven had hunted down the hunter and felled his prey." (3)

*The truth is that sometimes, just like Saul, God has to knock us down to lift us up. But thank God He is willing to get our attention! Is God trying to get your attention? I guarantee you that He is. And just like Paul, God will meet you where you are.

*But we have to let God speak to us according to His perfect will. It will not be a blinding flash for most people. I used to wish something like that would have happened to me. Maybe you have wished that too. But I have changed my mind on that. The truth is that there are a lot of less traumatic and painful ways for the Lord to get our attention.

*I hope I don’t have to get knocked to the ground and struck blind for the Lord to get my attention! There are some easier ways: How about through an inspirational song I hear at church? Or by seeing someone else’s life turned around by the Lord? Maybe the Lord could get your attention by bringing a special blessing into your life: a new mate, a new baby or a new grandbaby. God can find a way to get our attention, and He wants our attention.

3. How can I know that I am saved? God gets my attention. -- And I learn that Jesus is Lord.

*The Lord revealed this great truth to Paul in vs. 4-5:

4. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?''

5. And he said, "Who are You, Lord?'' And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.''

*James May said, "Before, Saul had not really heard the voice of God. He had listened only to the voice of religion and the world. But now he heard a different voice, a voice with power and authority that shook him to the core of his soul.

*This same voice had spoken the world into existence. This same voice had called to Adam in the Garden of Eden. This same voice had spoken judgment upon Satan the serpent and all of creation as a result of sin. This same voice had spoken to Moses on Mount Sinai and given the Law. This same voice had spoken to Lazarus and raised him from the dead! This same voice had raised the Window’s son at Nain. This same voice had caused the soldiers to fall backward in the Garden of Gethsemane. This same voice had cried out, 'it is finished' as he paid the price to redeem us on the cross." (3)

*Jesus is Lord! But what kind of Lord is He? -- He is the Sovereign, awesome, Almighty God! He could knock Paul to the ground, and He can knock anyone to the ground.

*What kind of Lord is He? -- One who cares for His people. In vs. 4, Jesus asked, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Not "why are you persecuting my people?" or "why are you persecuting my church?" But "why are you persecuting Me." Christians: Jesus cares so much about us that He feels our every pain. Everything that hurts you hurts Him.

*What kind of Lord is He? -- One who cares for His people, and one who cares for the lost. I don’t suppose the Lord had a greater human enemy in the world back then than Saul of Tarsus. Saul was filled with raging hatred for Jesus Christ. He had the hardest heart. He was as lost as you can be. He was the last person you would ever expect to trust in Jesus. But Jesus loved Saul. Jesus died on the cross for Saul. Jesus saved Saul, and He is willing to save anybody who will put their trust in the Lord.

*That’s our Lord Jesus Christ! He was Lord on the Road to Damascus, and He is still Lord today!

*Gladys Aylward was a long-time missionary to China in the 1930s and 40s. During that time, the brutal Japanese army invaded Yangcheng, and Gladys was forced to flee. With only one assistant, she led more than 100 orphans over the mountains toward Free China.

*And during this dangerous journey, Gladys struggled with despair as never before. After a sleepless night, she faced the morning with no hope of reaching safety. Then, a 13-year-old girl in the group reminded her of their much-loved story about Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea.

*Gladys listened fearfully; then desperately cried out, "But I am not Moses!" And the young believer replied: "Of course you aren’t, but the Lord is still Lord!" (4)

4. How can I know that I am saved? I learn that Jesus is Lord. -- And I don’t just get religion, I get a relationship.

*We can see this truth as the Lord introduced Himself to Paul in vs. 4-5:

4. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?''

5. And he said, "Who are You, Lord?'' And the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.''

*Steven Kellett explained, "I think most of us know what goads are. Today, we call them "cattle prods" and use electricity. But before the advent of the battery, a goad was a long, sharp, pointed stick used to move cattle.

*That Jesus would use the analogy, tells us that Saul was resisting God’s prodding, causing God to goad him even harder. But what was wrong with Saul’s life that God would say he was kicking against the goad?

*First of all, there was a problem with Saul’s faith. You see, Saul had a religion, but he didn’t have a relationship. Philippians 3 tells us that Saul was a 'Hebrew of the Hebrews,' and a 'Pharisee.' Saul had a religion he inherited and learned from his earthly father. He grew up in a Pharisee’s home. He was taught the life of a Pharisee as a child. As he got older, he sat under the teaching of the most influential Jewish teacher of his day.

*It wasn’t long before Saul knew all of the laws and ordinances of Judaism. There was one problem: Saul knew Judaism, but he didn’t know God." And salvation is much more than religious rituals. Salvation is a personal relationship with God that we receive by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. (5)

*When I explain the plan of salvation to people I like to use my hand, because every finger tells part of the story. And my ring finger highlights the fact that the heart of Christianity is a personal relationship with God.

*The Bible uses human relationships to help us understand God’s desire for our relationship with Him: Jesus wants to be our best Friend. God the Father wants to be our Heavenly Father. We also see the relationship between Christ and the church compared to a marriage.

*At this point, I usually tell them a little about my mom. Then I ask them if they believe what I told them, pointing out that I could have made the whole thing up. Next I stress that no matter how much they knew about my mom and believed about my mom, they would still not know her in a personal way. I don’t just know ABOUT my mom, I know HER. She is my mom and I am her son. We have a personal relationship with each other. And God the Father wants to have a personal relationship with us through His Son Jesus Christ.

*This is the heart of Christianity: A personal relationship with God that comes by receiving Jesus Christ, and knowing Him as our personal Lord and Savior.

5. How can I know that I am saved? I don’t just get religion, I get a relationship. -- And I begin to follow the Lord’s leadership.

*I begin to follow Jesus like Paul did starting in vs. 6: "So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You want me to do?' And the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'''

*"Lord, what do You want me to do?" That is a question we ought to be asking the Lord every day! And when we are truly saved, we begin to respond in obedience. That is the only proper response to Jesus.

*Paul began to follow the Lord's leadership. Again in vs. 6, "So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You want me to do?' And the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.'''

*Next in vs. 7-9:

7. And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.

8. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.

9. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

*Paul obeyed humbly. Paul obeyed immediately. And that’s the way we should obey the Lord Jesus Christ. When we get saved, our life is changed. No, we are not yet perfect. God is still working on us. But one of the greatest signs of salvation is a changed life.

*As James May said, "Saul was instantly and eternally changed in the flash of light. Where he was threatening, now he was trembling. Where he was in control, now he was under God’s control. Where he could see his future under his own control, now he was blind to the world around him and blind to the future that lay before him. This man who had once persecuted Jesus became the greatest missionary who ever lived. And his life has touched the life of every Christian since that day." (3)

*Jesus Christ changed Paul’s life and He will change our lives too! Some of us remember Dale Evans, "The Queen of the West." Dale was the TV and movie star who was married to one of my childhood heroes: Roy Rogers.

*Roy died in 1998, and Dale passed on in 2001. They were both devoted Christians, and I really like this quote from Dale: "All my life I searched for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. But I found what I really needed at the foot of the cross." (6)


*Christians: So have we! By the grace of God, we are saved! But what does it mean to be saved?

-I stop relying on my own righteousness.

-God gets my attention.

-I learn that Jesus is Lord.

-I don’t just get religion; I get a relationship.

-And I begin to follow the Lord’s leadership.

*Let's keep following the Lord, as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Adapted from "Exploring Acts" by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - Acts 9:1a

(2) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "That Was Then, This Is Now" by Wayne Lawson - Acts 8:3-9:28

(3) SermonCentral sermon "Changed in a Flash" by James May - Acts:9 1-6

(4) Adapted from "The Hidden Price of Greatness" by Besson and Hunsicker. as recounted in "How to Start a Church Fire" by Paul Powell - Texas Baptist Leadership Center, Inc. Dallas TX - Source: SermonCentral sermon "He Knew" by Rodney Buchanan - Psalm 22 - Oct. 27, 2002

(5) Adapted from SermonCentral sermon "The Breaking of Saul" by Steven Kellett - Acts 9:1-9)

(6) SermonCentral sermon "Life’s Ups and Downs" by Steve Shepherd - Acts 9:1-19