Acts 9:1-31 – The Call of Saul
SummaryOn 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.
AnalysisA 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).