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Acts 9:1-31 – The Call of Saul

Summary

On his way to Damascus to seek out those who believe that Jesus is God's Messiah and to stop the spread of "the Way," Saul of Tarsus is blinded by a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Jesus sends him to Damascus, where he sees again and takes up his call of evangelization in Jesus' name.

Analysis

A turning point in Acts comes when Saul of Tarsus (whose name is first given as Paul later in Acts 13:9) is called to serve God by proclaiming Jesus as Messiah. The long (by biblical standards) story includes a programmatic statement that describes the course that Saul's work will take in the second half of this book. In 9:15-16, the Lord says to a man named Ananias (not the same Ananias of Acts 5:1-11) about Saul, "He is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name."

The amount of assistance Saul requires for his calling to come to fruition is worth noting. Blinded by the brilliance of the light in which Jesus' voice is heard, Saul is led by the hand by his friends to a home where people take him in and keep him safe. He is baptized by a brave Christian, Ananias. Barnabas gives him a chance to preach from his radically changed mind and heart.

Saul is off and running. His travels will be complicated and dangerous, but Acts shows him as a respected and respectful evangelist. He never forgets or denies the importance of the Jerusalem church, even as he preaches far afield among Gentiles all over the northern Mediterranean area. According to Acts, even the abandonment of the traditional Jewish purity laws is supported by Paul with great success, although it is initiated by God through Peter in Acts 10. Paul's call does not take him outside of Jewish life but leads him to extend the joys of covenant participation through Christ, without the purity laws, to all the families of the earth. Finally, Paul takes the Christian message before high officials in several speeches connected to his trials (Acts 22, 24, 26). He is one to live out and state the claim that is so important for Acts to make, that "this was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26).

Acts 9:1-31

The Conversion of Saul

9Meanwhile Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any who belonged to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 3Now as he was going along and approaching Damascus, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ 5He asked, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ The reply came, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But get up and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.’ 7The men who were travelling with him stood speechless because they heard the voice but saw no one. 8Saul got up from the ground, and though his eyes were open, he could see nothing; so they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. 9For three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.

10 Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, ‘Ananias.’ He answered, ‘Here I am, Lord.’ 11The Lord said to him, ‘Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, 12and he has seen in a vision* a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.’ 13But Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; 14and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.’ 15But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is an instrument whom I have chosen to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel; 16I myself will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.’ 17So Ananias went and entered the house. He laid his hands on Saul* and said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on your way here, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’ 18And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and his sight was restored. Then he got up and was baptized, 19and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

Saul Preaches in Damascus

For several days he was with the disciples in Damascus, 20and immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is the Son of God.’ 21All who heard him were amazed and said, ‘Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem among those who invoked this name? And has he not come here for the purpose of bringing them bound before the chief priests?’ 22Saul became increasingly more powerful and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus* was the Messiah.*

Saul Escapes from the Jews

23 After some time had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, 24but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night so that they might kill him; 25but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall,* lowering him in a basket.

Saul in Jerusalem

26 When he had come to Jerusalem, he attempted to join the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, for they did not believe that he was a disciple. 27But Barnabas took him, brought him to the apostles, and described for them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had spoken boldly in the name of Jesus. 28So he went in and out among them in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29He spoke and argued with the Hellenists; but they were attempting to kill him. 30When the believers* learned of it, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

31 Meanwhile the church throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and was built up. Living in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

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10 February 2011

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