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A Pharisee Among Pharisees

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A PHARISEE AMONG PHARISEES

Acts 9:1—19

INTRODUCTION:

                A few months ago, Jack Schweibold was preaching from the book of Colossians:

                                a letter from Paul to the Christians at Colosse

                Paul did not start out as a powerful preacher and writer.  He, originally, was named Saul, and he, was a Pharisee among the Pharisees, a member of the group that held to the strictest following of the Law of the Jewish faith.

                The 9th chapter of Acts recounts the start of Saul’s life as a Christian, Church planter and Christian writer.  But in order to get the full picture we’ll be looking at the other two accounts of his conversion as well as this account in the 9th chapter of Acts.

I.  Events Leading Up to Paul’s Conversion

A.      Martyrdom of Stephen in Jerusalem

Acts 7:54—8:1

1.       Stephen

a.       one of the original deacons

b.       preached

(1)     Jesus as the promised Messiah

(2)     before the Sanhedrin, the religious ruling body of the Jews

c.        seized by the Sanhedrin

d.       stoned to death by the Sanhedrin

2.       Saul—consenting to Stephen’s death

a.       not just watching the death of Stephen

b.       agreed to Stephen’s death penalty

B.      Persecution of the Church by Saul

1.       after Stephen’s death, the believers scattered

a.       out of Jerusalem

b.       to many different communities

(1)     city in Samaria where Philip preached

(2)     road to Gaza from Jerusalem where Philip talked to an Ethiopian eunuch

(3)     8:40 “Philip, however, appeared at Azotus”

(a)     also known as Ashdod

(b)     one of the 5 principle cities of the Philistines during the days of Joshua

2.       Saul began his career and a persecutor

a.       received letters from Sanhedrin

b.       C. H. C. McGregor “the Romans had granted to the high priests the right of extraditing to Jerusalem Jewish malefactors who had fled abroad.”

(1)     needed these letters to have the authority to bring these people of the WAY back to  Jerusalem

(2)     couldn’t do it on his own authority

c.        traveled from Jerusalem to Damascus

(1)     a city with a large Jewish population

(2)     150 miles from Jerusalem

(3)     4—6 days journey

II.                  Conversion of Saul

A.      Time—about noon

1.       at the height of the day

2.       the brightest time of the day

B.      The event

1.       a very bright light shined upon Saul

a.       caused

(a)     Saul to fall to the ground

(b)     blindness

b.       interpretation

(1)     some scholars say the light was internal to Saul only

(a)     but if it was an internal light, why were the other people in the traveling party startled by the blazing light (Acts 26:13,14) “About noon, o King, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven brighter from the sun, blazing around me and my companions.  We all fell to the ground...”

2.       voice from heaven  “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’

as one commentator wrote “to persecute the church is to persecute Christ, for the church is the body” of Christ

3.       Saul’s response:  “Who are you, Lord?”

a.       in the tradition of the Rabbis a voice from heaven would be God

b.       the repetition of the Saul’s name suggests that Saul was in the presence of God

Ex.  3:4—5 “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look [at the burning bush that was not being consumed by the fire], God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses!  Moses!’  And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’  ‘Do not come any closer,’  God said.  ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

c.        note the term used by Saul “Lord”

realization that the voice that he was hearing was not some natural voice but something external and supernatural

                       4.  Note Jesus’ response:  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.  Now get up and go into the                  city, and you will be told what you must do.”

                                WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN GOING THROUGH SAUL’S MIND WHEN HE

                                HEARD THE VOICE SAY:  “I AM JESUS”?

                                                fear

                                                awe

                                                repentance

                                                confusion

                                    or ALL of the above

III.               The Rest of the Story

A.      traveling companions were speechless

1.       not understanding what was happening

a.       heard the sound

b.       did not see anyone speaking

c.        as stated in another account of this event, they did not understand the words spoken

2.       Saul

a.       stood up

b.       realized that he was blind

c.        led by the others to Damascus

d.       stayed blind for three days

e.        did not eat or drink for those three days

a.       anything significant about those three days:

Jonah inside the whale for 3 days

Jesus in tomb for 3 days

                                                                probably stretching to get any parallel meaning of the 3 days

3.       Ananias

a.       name derived from Hebrew Hananiah meaning “The Lord is gracious/shows grace”

b.       called by God to go see Saul of Tarsus

c.        to a street named Straight

looking at a map of Damascus, this street is the only street that goes straight  through

        the city

goes from East Gate to the west part of the city

d.       look at Ananais’ response to the Lord  “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done for your saints in Jerusalem.  And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest those who call on your name.”

(1)     what reports

(a)     possibly the report that Saul had been consenting to Stephen’s death

(b)     for sure, the reports of the arrest papers that Saul had to bring the people of the Way back to Jerusalem to face persecution

4.       the Lord’s response:  “Go!  This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel.  i will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

5.       from the beginning of Paul’s walk

a.       with Christ, he knew that he would suffer for the cause of Christ

isn’t this one of the statements of Jesus “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

b.       Ananias

(1)     obey God

(a)     went to the house where Paul was

(b)     placed his hands on Paul

(c)     told Paul that Jesus, the Lord had sent him

(d)     Saul’s eyes were healed when something like scales fell off his eyes

c.        Saul

(1)     could see again

(2)     got up

(3)     was baptized

(4)     ate some food

(5)     regained his strength

LESSONS FROM THIS PASSAGE

 

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS NOT EASY

                IT IS

                                POSSIBLY FULL OF SUFFERINGS

                                                LOOK AT STEPHEN

                                                LOOK AT THE CHRISTIANS OF CHINA TODAY

                                                                MEET IN THE HOMES FOR FEAR OF PERSECUTION FROM

                                                                                THE GOVERNMENT IF FOUND WORSHIPPING JESUS

                                FULL OF STRUGGLES

                                                NOT EASY TO LIVE A RIGHTEOUS LIFE

                                                TEMPTATIONS FROM WITHIN AND WITHOUT

                                                CHRISTIANS STILL ARE FULL OF EVIL DESIRES THAT HAVE TO BE

                                                                OVERCOME

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE HAS THE STRENGTH AVAILABLE TO LIVE VICTORIOUSLY

                                STRENGTH OF GOD

                                THE POWER OF GOD THAT RESURRECTED JESUS FROM THE DEAD

YOU DON’T HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE BEFORE COMING TO CHRIST

                SAUL DIDN’T

                NEITHER DO YOU

LOOK AT THE LIGHT THAT SHONE ON SAUL

                GOD IS DESCRIBED AS “LIGHT”

I JOHN 1:5 “THIS IS THE MESSSAGE WE HAVE HEARD FROM HIM AND DECLARE TO YOU:  GOD IS LIGHT; IN HIM THERE IS NO DARKNESS AT ALL.”

                                RECENTLY IN MY SUNDAY SCHOOL CLASS AT COLLEGE PARK,

                                                THIS VERSE WAS DISCUSSED

                                                TRY TO IMAGINE ANY LIGHT,

                                                                A BULB OF ANY KIND

                                                                THE SUN

                                                                WHATEVER

                                                                NONE ARE PURE LIGHT

                                                                                ALL BURN SOMETHING TO PRODUCE LIGHT

IN MY GREEK CLASS A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO, WE WERE LOOKING AT THIS PASSAGE IN I JOHN, AND SOMETHING STUCK ME:  THE END PHRASE IS “THERE WAS NEVER ANY DARKNESS IN HIM AT ANY TIME.”

                                                    AND IT WAS THIS LIGHT THAT SHONE ON SAUL THAT DAY

                                                                NO DARKNESS

                                                                NO UNRIGHTEOUSNESS

                                               

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