Acts 9 presents another shift in the study of Acts:
- Acts 8 provides an account of God’s work in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1, 4)
- Acts 9 brings us to God’s beginning work in the uttermost parts of the earth. God rescued Saul of Tarsus and called him as the apostle to the Gentiles (9:15; Romans 11:13; Galatians 2:8).
- So, as Jesus said, the Gospel is going into all the world.
Remember the outline from Acts 1:8:
- Spirit-empowered witnesses in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7)
- Spirit-empowered witnesses in Judea and Samaria (Acts 8)
- Spirit-empowered witnesses in the uttermost parts of the earth (Acts 9-28)
Acts 9 has two main sections:
- Acts 9:1-31 – The Beginning of Saul’s Ministry
- Acts 9:32-43 – Peter’s Expanding Ministry
We will focus on the larger and first of these sections, because the last section moves into and belongs with chapter 10.
The Beginning of Saul’s Ministry:
1. Saul’s Conversion – Acts 9:1-9 – As Saul was still planning his murder and persecution of the church, he headed to Damascus to carry believers away to prison. He had permission from the high priest to do so. As he was going to Damascus, there was a blinding light, and Jesus appeared to him. Jesus asked Saul why he was persecuting Him (to persecute Jesus’ people is to persecute Jesus). He commanded Saul to go on to Damascus and wait for directions of what he must do. Saul was blinded by the vision of Jesus, and he was led to Damascus by those who had accompanied him. He was three days without any food or anything to drink, because he was fasting and praying (see. 9:11).
2. Saul’s Calling – Acts 9:10-19a – The Lord Jesus spoke to a disciple names Ananias (clearly not the Ananias from Acts 5). Jesus commanded Ananias to go to Saul of Tarsus. The Lord had prepared Saul for Ananias’ coming, because Saul had seen a vision of a man named Ananias coming to lay hands on him to heal his blindness. Ananias was afraid, due to Saul’s reputation and purpose for coming to Damascus. However, Jesus assured Ananias that Saul was Jesus’ chosen instrument to take His name to Gentiles, kings, and Israel. Jesus also told Ananias that Saul would no longer be a persecutor of Jesus but a sufferer for Jesus (v. 16). Ananias obeyed Jesus and went and laid hands on Saul. Saul’s eyes were healed, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then Ananias baptized Saul.
3. Saul’s Bold Communication – Acts 9:19b-31 – Saul immediately began to tell Jews in the synagogues about the Lord Jesus Christ. He was proclaiming that Jesus is the Son of God and proving that Jesus is the Christ. Saul’s suffering for Jesus began immediately. The Jews planned to put him to death, but he escaped from Damascus. Then Saul came to Jerusalem, but the disciples were afraid of him. They did not believe that he was a disciple of Jesus. However, Barnabas took up Saul’s case and defended his testimony of conversion to Jesus and his bold communication of Jesus. Saul then went throughout Jerusalem and preached in the name of the Lord Jesus. There was another plot to kill Saul for his bold communication of Jesus. Again, Saul escaped these murderous attempts, and he was sent to Tarsus, his hometown.
Summary of Church’s Condition – Acts 9:31 – Acts 9:31 is presented as an independent paragraph in the NASB. I believe this is a good representation as this presents a summary of the church’s overall condition in Judea and Samaria. The church in Judea and Samaria enjoyed peace. Was this due to the end of persecution? Obviously not, because Saul was now facing severe persecution from the Jews. The church enjoyed peace, because they were being built up. They continued in the fear of the Lord and not the fear of man. They were being comforted by the Holy Spirit. They were increasing in numbers.
Important Reminders – As we read Acts 9, we are reminded of God’s work in spreading His Good News throughout the world. We have seen some important reminders in this chapter:
- The Gospel is the power of God to transform those who believe. Even the most violent opponent of the Gospel can be completely transformed by the Lord Jesus Christ.
- The Gospel is offensive to the world. When we are bold proclaimers of the Good News, we can expect persecution in some form or another.
- Jesus Christ identifies with His people and experiences our pain with us. Jesus told Saul that he was persecuting Jesus. Saul was persecuting Jesus’ followers, but mistreating Jesus’ people is mistreating Jesus.
- The Gospel is not hindered by persecution; it is fueled by persecution.
- There can be great peace and assurance in the midst of persecution as the church is built up by the Lord and comforted by the Holy Spirit.
To learn more about the Gospel of Jesus please visit the Good News page.
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (R), Copyright (C) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission http://www.Lockman.org