Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Acts Studies|
Introduction to Acts 9-15
In these chapters of Acts we will see the Lord enlarging his church in a more significant way. In the first eight chapters of Acts (see “How to build a Church” in this series) we saw Jesus leave his disciples, and then the Holy Spirit coming on the day of Pentecost and the Church being birthed. The early chapters focused on the church at Jerusalem and eventually the persecution that pushed them out throughout Judea and Samaria . The Church up until that point had been almost completely Jewish.
Chapters 9 to 15 are a major turning point in the history of the church. We will see:
We will see, therefore, that much of these chapters is about how God broke through the Jewish prejudice and sent His word to the Gentiles and started adding them to His kingdom. These chapters break Christianity out of the Jewish mould and release the Gospel to the whole world. These are very exciting chapters!
PART 1 : Establishing Saul
In these first studies we will see Saul's conversion. Saul is later to become a key figure in God's expansion plans. Here we will see this arrogant Pharisee literally brought to his knees by a sovereign act of God. Rarely do we see God moving so obviously in this way, but this is one of those times. Watch to see how God's choice of this man is justified in the way he immediately starts preaching the Gospel after his conversion. Watch also for the persecution that rises against him, as we will see it do time and time again in the chapters ahead of us. This the sovereignty of God and the wilful rebellion of man demonstrated here.
Chapter: Acts 9
Passage: Acts 9:1-9
A. Find Out:
1. What was Saul's state at this time? v.1
2. What did he do with what intent? v.1c,2
3. What happened on the road to Damascus ? v.3,4
4. What did he ask and what was he told? v.5,6
5. What did he find when he got up? v.8a
6. So what happened? v.8b,9
We use the phrase “a Damascus road experience” today to signify a powerful encounter with the Sovereign God. That was surely what this was. Consider carefully just what happened.
Consider first the man involved: Saul, a Pharisee who is fully committed to Judaism, zealous for God, totally sure of the way he was going, committed to eradicate this new sect that was a threat to his people. He is willing to go to the ends of the earth to deal with it. His mind is utterly set! He is immovable!
Now consider what happened to him. Nothing less than the powerfully dramatic is going to stop this man in his tracks, so that is what he gets! First a light from above seems to flash around him. This is not merely the sun, and these men of the Middle East know enough not to go getting sunstroke! It seems to take all his energy and he falls to the ground involuntarily. This proud man would not do his naturally. Then he hears a voice. Others hear a sound, but he hears it as a voice. It instructs him and tells him that it is Jesus, the one he is persecuting, who is speaking and he has plans for him. Then when he gets up he is blind and totally helpless. An encounter with God can leave us like this, for this is Almighty God we are dealing with. Let's be humble before Him!
1. God is all-powerful and to be revered. Let's worship Him.
2. God has plans and purposes for us. Let's listen to Him.
A. Find Out:
1. What did the Lord tell Ananias? v.11,12
2. What was his response? v.13,14
3. How did the Lord allay his fears? v.15,16
4. What did Ananias do? v.17
5. What happened when he did that? v.18a
6. What did Saul then do? v.18b,19
Ananias was a devout disciple. We assume he was praying when the Lord speaks to him in a vision. The content of the message is disturbing: he is to go to another praying man, a man with a bad reputation and restore him. Ananias knows about this man and if he isn't hearing correctly he could be in trouble! Yet he goes! That's faith!
He finds the man, blind and praying. He places his hands on him and, by faith, addresses him as a brother in Christ and commands his sight to be restored. It is. Encouraged by this he conveys the message he has been given by God and calls Saul to respond (22:16).
How does Saul respond? By being baptised. Water or Spirit? Both probably. Ananias had spoken about Saul being “filled with the Spirit” which is what happens when a person is “baptised in the Spirit” (see Acts 1:5 & 2:4 - just as a cup is filled when you immerse it in water), so he clearly expected this to happen. Paul also later speaks of what happened in terms of water baptism as well (22:1). So, here we have classic conversion: calling, repentance, prayer, baptism. The challenge is that in it God declares something of His purposes for this man right from the outset. Do we believe that for others being saved?
1. When God calls us to be obedient we're to leave the outcome to Him.
2. We have to simply get on with the apparently small things God gives us
to do, and perhaps they may have mighty effect!
A. Find Out:
1. How many days did Saul initially spend in Damascus ? v.19
2. What did he do there? v.20
3. How did that confuse some? v.21
4. Yet how did Saul continue? v.22
5. When did a plot arise against him? v.23
6. So what happened? v.24,25
Saul, having been converted, spends a few days there in Damascus . He goes to the synagogue (as would be his custom) but there he now preaches that Jesus is the Son of God. For the Jews, and especially the Christians, this was totally baffling. They knew this man's reputation, a persecutor of Christians, but now he is on their side! The more he speaks the more powerful he becomes. His faith grows!
We then come to a slight mystery. First of all (v.19) Luke says Saul spent “several days” in Damascus and then later (v.25) he says “after many days had gone by”. The solution seems to be found in Gal 1:18 where Paul (as he then was) speaks about having gone from Damascus into Arabia and then back. He doesn't tell us why, simply that he did go, possibly on a prayer retreat to take in further all that had happened to him, perhaps to visit friends there, we just don't know. Yet when he came back he continued on as before and eventually the unbelieving Jews of Damascus conspired to kill him. The reaction of religious zealots when they are confronted with the truth is either to change dramatically, as Saul himself did, or to react violently against it, as the Pharisees did against Jesus, and the Jews now do against Saul.
1. When true conversion takes place there is a desire to share Jesus.
2. When Jesus is shared with others it sometimes produces acceptance but
sometimes violent opposition. Be aware of this!
A. Find Out:
1. Where did Saul go, what did he try to do with what result? v.26
2. Who did what for him? v.27
3. So what did Saul do? v.28
4. To whom did he speak and with what effect? v.29
5. So what happened? v.30
6. What was happening in the church? v.31
Having fled from Damascus where the unbelieving Jews had sought to kill him, Saul arrives in Jerusalem where the very same thing happens: he shares the Gospel, Jews are upset and again try to kill him, so he has to move on to another town again. Why this cycle of events?
The answer is probably twofold. First, the message of the Gospel presented powerfully was a threat to the unbelieving world, and that included the religious Jews. Jesus had warned his followers that he would be rejected and persecuted and that the same thing would happen to his followers (see Mt 10:22 -25). Many people do not like the truth and when it threatens them they will try and destroy the source of it. The second reason was probably that they realised that this persecutor turned preacher was perhaps the greatest threat to Judaism that they had met since Jesus himself. They anticipated that when the common people heard Saul's testimony they would be more likely to accept his message. As a threat to Judaism's very culture, he had to go!
Note the arrival of Barnabus, obviously a man of faith as well as being a great encourager. He opens the way for Saul with the church in Jerusalem . Note also, a period of peace after persecution and upset. Why? Because God has just dealt with the chief persecutor! Wonderful!
1. The Gospel frequently receives opposition.
2. Some dedicated to preach it will also receive opposition.
In this first group of 4 studies we have seen Saul:
The story of Saul's conversion is one of those things that verifies the gospel. Nothing else can explain the turn about of this young zealous Pharisee, except that he had a dramatic encounter with the risen Lord Jesus Christ. So changed is this man that within a short time, this harsh persecutor of Christianity has changed into a militant preacher of the Christian faith. He has become such a threat to the Judaism that he had previously supported, that twice in a short space of time his life is threatened because of the Gospel.
Want to change the world around? Ask the Lord to use you to bring others to Him. Changed lives change the world!
1. No one is too hard for God!
2. No one is too hard for God!
3. No one is too hard for God!
Got the message?
Thank the Lord that the Gospel is the power of God for salvation, that it radically transforms lives.
PART 2 : Peter to the Gentiles
In this next Part we'll see the story moves from Saul back to Peter but it's still about people being saved, a whole group of Gentiles!