Summary: All that we have from God, including a relationship with Him, is by His initiative. This should strengthen our faith in all His promises for the future.
We’ve recently taken time to study the passage concerning Paul’s conversion experience, and not so much for focusing on Paul himself, but in order to get a closer look at this obscure fellow named Ananias and determine what we might learn from the very brief glimpse we are given of him in scripture.
So what I’d like to do today is pick up where we left off, and just read down through the verses of chapter 9, making, hopefully, some helpful commentary as we go, and then perhaps find some points of personal application before we close.
It is actually more accurate to continue calling him Saul at this point, since it will be some time before he begins using his Greek name, Paul, in ministry.
This change is introduced to us in an interesting way by Luke, in chapter 13. Up until now only the name Saul has been used. Then in verse 9 of that chapter Luke says, “But Saul, who was also known as Paul…” and from then on Luke only refers to the Apostle using the Greek, Paul.
So here in our text he is still Saul, and Saul has been changed, by the initiative of God. Saul was not seeking God;
Saul thought he was God’s mercenary, and with the same mindset that Moses had when he struck down the Egyptian, and the same that Peter had in the garden when he slashed off Malchus’ ear, he had been going about persecuting the followers of Jesus and in doing that, persecuting Jesus Himself.
Saul wasn’t seeking change for himself. The self-righteous never do. But God had a plan, and as is the case with every man woman or child who is finally awakened to their need for forgiveness and for a savior, it was by God’s initiative in Saul’s life that he came very suddenly to this spot on the road, confronted by the very One he was persecuting, and drafted into service.
But there had to be changes first in Saul as there needs to be in anyone new to the faith, and in Saul’s case the Lord made them very rapidly. There was work to be done and no time to waste.
So we move on from there or we’ll never get where we want to go today.
Verse 19 tells us that Saul stayed for several days with the disciples who were at Damascus.
It might seem strange to us, that he immediately began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, when we remember reading in I Timothy 5:22 his advice to Timothy not to lay hands too soon on any man, and we understand that to have reference to ministry. And the history of the church has borne witness many times over to the danger of taking a novice and giving him authority and setting him to the work of ministry without proper teaching and training and evidence of spiritual maturity.
But I would point out two things to you here, and one may seem to contradict the other but there is no contradiction.
First, we remind ourselves that Saul is a Pharisee who came up under the teaching of the most respected of Jewish teachers, Gamaliel Acts 5:34, 22:3.
So Saul was coming into this with a wealth of knowledge and understanding of the scriptures, which we know pointed to the Messiah. So when his spiritual eyes were opened and his mind was opened to receive truth, there had to be a lot of blanks filled in for him immediately.
Those early days for Saul, following his conversion, must have been almost overwhelming for him as the truth of scripture really opened up for the first time and understanding of what he thought he knew now rushed in like a flood!
But here is the other point, and it applies more straightforwardly to you and I.
The brand new Christian can go and proclaim Christ. It doesn’t take Bible college or seminary or years of personal study to do that.
People, all you need to be able to say is what Jesus did for you. I understood that I was spiritually dead because of my sin against God, and I heard that Jesus died to pay for my sins and rose from the dead, and that if I believed that I would be given spiritual life from above.
I believe that is what happened to me, and I believe because of that I am going to spend eternity with Jesus in Heaven.
If you can’t say that or something very much like it, then we need to sit down and talk.
But supposing Saul hadn’t made the connections yet. Let’s just pretend he hadn’t yet realized the connection between his vast Old Testament knowledge and the risen Christ.
I doubt it, but let’s just suppose. Even so, if all he knew was that the risen Jesus had appeared to him on the road and called him into the service of the gospel, he had enough to proclaim.