Summary: Exposition of Acts 9:1-19 about four aspects of the conversion of the Apostle Paul
Text: Acts 9:1-19, Title: The Worst Imaginable Nightmare, Date/Place: NRBC, 1/13/08, AM
A. Opening illustration: Have you heard of the best-selling book called “The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook.” It’s a manual, written in quite a factual tone, based on interviews with experts in a variety of fields. It has reached number one best-selling status as a non-fiction paperback book. It just has little chapters, little sections on things like “how to escape from quicksand,” “how to jump from a building into a dumpster,” “how to perform a tracheotomy.” There’s a whole chapter on how to perform an emergency tracheotomy on one of your friends if you should need to do that. All you need is a razor blade or very sharp knife and a ballpoint pen with the ink removed from it. And this has sold over a million copies. What should you do if confronted by an angry mountain lion? A, run; B, play dead; C, make yourself look bigger by opening your coat; D, sing a gentle, happy song. Believe it or not, the correct answer according to the “Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook” is C--make yourself look bigger by opening your coat. This is what the authors say, “The principle behind this book is a simple one. You just never know. You never really know what life will throw at you, what is sitting around the corner. You never really know when you might be called upon to choose life or death with your actions. But when you are called, you need to know what to do. That’s why this book is written.” Remember a couple of years ago when Jerry Vines made some rather offensive but true comments about Mohammed, what if he showed up in Jerry’s car one day as he left for work…
B. Background to passage: As you have noted we are seeing less and less of Peter and John (who took up the first five chapters), and more and more of other disciples like Stephen and Phillip the deacons. And so after the interlude with Phillip with the Samaritans and the Ethiopian, we transition again to a major event and another major player. Hardly can too much be made of the significance of the next 19 verses toward the advancement and solidification of the Christian faith. With the books written, and the churches planted, and the countries reached for Christ, the Apostle Paul’s conversion is huge for the church. Knowing who Saul was, and what he was doing in Damascus, this experience would have been initially his worst imaginable nightmare, as he found out that this Jesus of Nazareth IS really alive.
C. Main thought: So we will look at four aspects of his conversion
A. The persecution of Christ (v. 1-5)
1. The first aspect of Saul’s conversion is his anti-Christ direction. And this is why the title of the message—for Saul this would have been the worst case scenario. It is an interesting side note, that now the gospel has moved South to Gaza and Ethiopia, North to Samaria, West to Caesarea, and now East to Damascus. There is some strong language used by Luke, like threats and murders. But there is also strong language from Jesus who indicates that Saul is persecuting Christ Himself. Jesus closely identifies with his church. Just as a protective husband would take offense at the persecution of his wife, Christ loves and adores the church, and therefore feels her pain. But note that the Husband to be of the church is willing to saved even His enemies.
3. Illustration: every time a church is burned, persecuted, shot up, smeared in the media, Christ is hurt, and considers it a personal attack upon Him, tell about the homosexual who gave his testimony during a seminary chapel at SEBTS, and received a standing ovation. Speaking about the night of his conversion, he said, “perhaps that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all of England,” –C. S. Lewis
4. We must all realize that we are just as anti-Christ if we are not saved, even though we are not threatening, murdering, and imprisoning Christians. We must be cautious about the attacks upon the church of Christ. You can’t love Jesus without loving His bride. In all our theology and practice we should hold the church high in value, because Jesus does. It is not something to mock, make fun of, sneer at, or even to ignore. She is the bride of Jesus, precious to Him. If you are against the church, you make yourself an enemy of God. Some do this actively, and some passively, and seemingly without even realizing it. And as the church of a gracious Master, we should also be ready to receive even the enemies of Christ as they believe on Him. We are to welcome them with open arms into the fellowship of the holy ones. If you are here today going directly away from God, you are in good company. God wants to save you, transform you, fill you, and fulfill you with the absolute sufficiency of His being. Maybe there are Paul’s or C. S. Lewis’s out there!