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Encountering Christ

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Last time we were in Acts we discussed Philip and his passion for preaching the gospel. He preached anywhere and everywhere taking advantage of every opportunity. He was used by God to spread the Gospel to Samaria. The outline for the book of Acts is given in 1:8. We have seen the gospel spread to Jersualem and now to Samaria and Judea. As we come to ch. 9 the gospel continues to spread in Judea through the unlikeliest of sources. Ch. 9 deals with The Miraculous Conversion Of Saul The Persecutor Ch. 9:1-31. The portion of ch. 9 we will deal with today focuses on Saul Encountering Christ On The Road To Damascus vv. 1-9. With that idea in mind, the title of the message this morning is “Encountering Christ”. PRAY
The Miraculous Conversion Of Saul The Persecutor Ch. 9:1-31
The Miraculous Conversion Of Saul The Persecutor Ch. 9:1-31
When I was just out of high school my older brother, myself, and a friend were traveling to the coast. I was driving and we get on the road and head out (S). About 20 min. outside of Redding Tim says “I think we are going the wrong way.” I confidently assure him that we are fine, headed to the coast. About 20 min. later we see a sign that makes it very clear that we are indeed, going the wrong way (S). I turned us around and after this delightful detour we were able to reach the coast, just later than we had expected! I was confident that we were going the right way. Even when questioned, I was confident. However, when I had an encounter with the truth, I was able to correct my course and get back on track.
Encountering Christ On The Road To Damascus vv. 1-9
Saul is a sincere, passionate person who is completely deceived and dangerously wrong. What he needs to get him back on track, to get him on the correct path, is an encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the way the truth and the life and when we encounter Him, He gets us on the correct course.
Today we will walk through the three elements of Saul’s encounter with Christ.
From Saul’s encounter we will draw principles to help us stay on the correct course.
Only as we are on the right path will we be able to grow and bring glory to Jesus Christ.
The first element of Saul’s encounter is…

1. The Reason For The Journey vv. 1-3

As we travel through life we all have reasons for what we do. As Luke reintroduces us to Saul he gives us three reasons why Saul is headed to Damascus. We first met Saul in ch. 7 when Stephen preached a powerful and convicting message and was stoned for it. Saul was present as Stephen was murdered. In fact, he held the coats of those who stoned Stephen. We meet him again as he is seeking to further persecute the church. The first reason we are given for his journey is…

a. Saul’s rage v. 1

The word “still” is interesting. This is the Greek word ἔτι (eti) meaning still; yet. With reference to action or condition; without change, interruption, or cessation. Temporal adverb.
Still – ἔτι (eti)
The idea is that the murder of Stephen had in no way satiated Saul. That wasn’t enough! His rage against Jesus and these followers of His has not changed in the slightest. The word “breathing” here is used metaphorically to represent what someone is living for. The reason Saul breathed was to persecute the church! Notice Luke’s wording. Saul lived for the threat, declared intention to cause harm on another, and murder, the unlawful killing of a human being, of the church.
Saul wanted to shut Christians up! He was so passionate about this he was even willing to outside the law to do it. That’s what the word “murder” implies. Saul is passionate about keeping Judaism pure. His rage is caused by his belief that the disciples of Jesus are corrupting the faith he holds dear. What Saul doesn’t know is that God is going to use his rage to set him up, convert him, and make him a useful tool. This leads us to a principle.
Heightened emotions prepare us to encounter Christ.
Tragedy, success, grief, joy; these times of high emotion are when we most often find people open to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I actually came to Christ after winning a baseball game! The Lord used that high emotion time to bring everything together for me. Saul is in a very high state of emotion here and this leaves him wide open for Christ! As Christians, we need to be investing in the lives of others so that when the times of high emotion come, we are able to speak Christ into those situations.
What Saul doesn’t know is that God is going to use his rage to set him up, convert him, and make him a useful tool.
What Saul doesn’t know is that God is going to use his rage to set him up, convert him, and make him a useful tool.
The reason for Saul’s journey is motivated by his rage. The second reason for this journey is…
Heightened emotions prepare us to encounter Christ.

b. Saul’s request v. 2

In the end of v. 1 we read that Saul goes to the high priest. This tells us the influence and importance of Saul. He had access to the high priest. The wording is such that it implies Saul simply told the high priest what to do. Saul has a plan. He wants permission to “clean house” 150 miles away in Damascus (S). If any followers of Jesus are part of the Damascus synagogues, he wants to arrest them and bring them back to Jerusalem. This word “found” is important. Saul isn’t just going to walk in and see if he can see any Jesus followers. No! He is searching for them! He’s like a detective. He is going to find these people, arrest them, bring them to Jerusalem, and the implication in the text is that he will then see them dead. Just like Stephen. Saul has no remorse for what happened to Stephen! He wants more of the same.
At this point the Christians were still active parts of Jewish society. Christianity was viewed by many as a sect of Judaism. The believers were using the synagogues to build relationships, witness, and bring people to Christ! Saul knows this and he plans to put a stop to it. Believers are not called Christians yet. They are called “The Way” or “Followers of the Way”. Where does that come from? John 14:6 (S).
9:2 – Not called Christians yet. Called “The Way” or “Followers of the Way”.
John 14:6 NKJV
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Saul doesn’t care if they are men or women. He is going to find all those who follow Jesus and he is going to bring them to Jerusalem. Now don’t forget the beginning of the chapter. V. 1 says Saul was living to bring harm and death on the church. Saul has a plan. But God has a better one.
We encounter Christ when God hijacks our plans.
In life, we have our plans. There is nothing wrong with that. However, we must recognize that God has His plan. Sometimes God’s plan is the opposite of ours. When this happens, what do we do? Are we going to fight God? Or change direction?
Saul thought he was going to Damascus so that he could arrest Christians. However, God had another plan. We begin to see that plan in the third reason for the journey…

c. Saul’s rendezvous v. 3

Saul thought he knew why he was going to Damascus. He had no idea! God has His own reasons for bringing Saul there. Saul is going along, heading to Damascus, when Jesus shows up and changes everything! This is what a true encounter with Christ does! It transforms. Saul’s encounter is going to move Him from darkness to light! From the kingdom of Satan to the Kingdom of Christ! From evil to righteous, from opposing God to serving Him! Saul is going to encounter Christ and He is going to be transformed.
Saul is going along, heading to Damascus, when Jesus shows up and changes everything!
Luke uses the word “suddenly” which speaks of something happening abruptly or quickly, and without warning. Saul is not seeking God. Saul is not wanting to convert. God just reaches down and grabs him!
This is what a true encounter with Christ does! It transforms.
Encountering Christ is a sovereign appointment.
It doesn’t just happen. It is ordained and orchestrated by God! The light shines around Saul. This Greek word depicts a light so bright and intense it is like lightening. This light shines out of heaven so that there is no mistake who is behind it. God want’s Saul’s attention. Have you noticed that God has ways of getting our attention? Before we know Him it is often through dramatic incidents that He attracts our notice. Once we have trusted Christ we are given the Holy Spirit and He uses the Word and fellowship with the saints to gently nudge us. He quietly convicts and softens and works. But what happens when we don’t respond to that? Beloved, we can either hear the soft, tender, still, small voice of God, or we can force Him to get our attention. Encounters with Christ can be entered voluntarily, or they can be divinely ordered. In Saul’s case, it was not a voluntary encounter. Saul is about to have an encounter with the risen Lord. In the second element of this encounter he will face…
Beloved, we can either hear the soft, tender, still, small voice of God, or we can force Him to get our attention.

2. The Reprimand By Christ vv. 4-6

Often when we have an encounter with Christ it is because He wants to expose an area of weakness or sin in our lives that He might correct it. This involves reprimanding or correcting us. That is what Saul faces here. He has been persecuting the church and he needs to be confronted for this behavior. There are two reprimands handed down in these verses. Saul is first…

a. Reprimanded for persecution Vv. 4-5a

As this lightening bright light shines around Saul, he drops to the ground. He then hears a voice asking him a question. For us today, we may assume we have just gone crazy. In Saul’s day and in his society There was more of an immediate understanding of this being a supernatural event. We see that in Saul’s response. There are two important points that arise from v. 4. First, Is Jesus seeking information that He does not know? Of course not! Jesus knows exactly why Saul is persecuting Him! So why is He asking? Saul needs to realize who he is fighting against! Saul is being introduced to Jesus. The second point in this verse is that Persecuting believers is persecuting Jesus. The head feels everything that the body endures! You cannot attack a body without also attacking its head.
The question asked of Saul leads him to ask one of his own in v. 5. This is a logical question. Saul has been accused by this voice of targeted persecution. He can’t know if that is true until he knows who is speaking! Saul knows that he is not talking to an ordinary person. This is evident in him addressing the voice as “Lord”. This is a term of respect and submission.
Why persecute Jesus?
The response Saul receives must have been paralyzing. In one sentence Saul’s entire world is torn down and rebuilt. He learns a host of things.
Jesus is alive!
9:4 – Persecuting believers = persecution of Christ.
Jesus rose from the dead!
Jesus is who He claimed to be!
He is who His disciples have declared!
Jesus is God!
Jesus is the Messiah!
Saul’s persecution of “the Way” is a persecution of the one they are following!
Saul has been horribly, horribly wrong! He has not been serving God! He has not been doing the Lord’s work. He has been fighting against the Messiah! He has been opposing the very one He sought to serve! This is why he needed an encounter with Christ! This is like sailing a ship according to a map only to realize you have been holding it upside down (S)! You have to immediately set a new course. Saul needed a new course for his life. For those of us who have already trusted Christ, we simply need course corrections. We need those little nudges of the wheel to keep us going the right direction.
An encounter with Christ exposes our altered course.
Probably added by a scribe who wanted all the accounts to be the same. However, we have to remember that Paul expresses things differently depending on his audience. See this with spiritual gift listings, sin listing, etc.
When we are going the wrong way or drifting off course, we need an encounter with Jesus Christ! That is what is going to keep us on track, that is what will help us stay the course. Saul is reprimanded by Christ to expose that he is going the wrong direction. Saul is further…

b. Reprimanded for obstinance Vv. 5b-6

The end of v. 5 and beginning of v. 6 contains a significant textual variant. The NASB reads
Acts 9:5–6 NASB95
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the city, and it will be told you what you must do.”
This is one of the rare times that I agree with the critical text. This is probably not original to this passage. It was likely added by a scribe who wanted all the accounts to appear the same. When Paul gives his testimony before Agrippa he mentions the “kicking against the goads” in 26:14. However, few manuscripts have the phrase here. We have to remember that Paul expresses things differently depending on his audience. We see this with spiritual gift listings, sin listing, etc. Therefore, I believe Paul’s varied accounts of his conversion reflect the varying audiences he speaks to. The phrase “trembling and astonished” does not actually appear in any Greek manuscripts. It is in the Latin translation and was translated into Greek by Erasmus. The final variation “Lord what do You want me to do?” is also probably not original here but does appear in 22:10 when Paul speaks to the Jews in Jerusalem. It is likely that this variation is caused by a scribal attempt to harmonize the accounts.
Probably not original in this text. However, it does appear in 26:14.
Probably added by a scribe who wanted all the accounts to be the same. However, we have to remember that Paul expresses things differently depending on his audience. See this with spiritual gift listings, sin listing, etc.
However, it is definitely possible that these things are original. Since they appear in the NKJV and that is what I teach from, we will deal with them as if they were original.
Saul has received Christ’s reprimand for his persecution and is now reprimanded for ignoring the previous “goads” Christ has given. Philip Comfort writes

In the Greek world this was a well-known expression for opposition to deity (Euripides, Bacchanals 794–795; Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 324–325; Pindar, Pythian Odes 2.94–95). Longenecker (1981, 552–553) elaborates: “Lest [Paul] be misunderstood as proclaiming only a Galilean prophet he had formerly opposed, he pointed out to his hearers what was obvious to any Jew: correction by a voice from heaven meant opposition to God himself. So he used a current expression familiar to Agrippa and the others.”

Jesus is explicitly stating that Saul has been opposing deity! His persecution of “the way” has been in opposition to God Himself! The implication is that Saul should have recognized this.
Saul is overcome with fear and shock in v. 6 and so he asks what to do. This is submission. This is a man whose purpose has been stripped away and he is drifting. Christ’s direction to Saul is similar to the direction given to Abraham. “Go into the city and you will be told” mirrors “go to a country I will tell you of.”
Go into the city and you will be told.
Encountering Christ changes our direction.
Go into the city and you will be told.
Saul needs to demonstrate his change of direction through his faith-filled obedience. Transformation ought to be demonstrated. Saul is going to go into a town and await God’s direction. What a moment in his life! This man who has influence with the High Priest, is now waiting to be told what to do. “Must” is the Greek word δεῖ (dei) meaning must; it is necessary. To be obligatory v. — to be required by obligation, compulsion, or convention.
Saul needs to demonstrate his change of direction through his faith-filled obedience.
Must – δεῖ (dei)
Saul needs to demonstrate his change of direction through his faith-filled obedience.
God has something for Saul to do. He is not finished with us simply because we get off course. Through an encounter with Christ, God will correct our course, that we might once again be used for His glory. Saul’s entire life has been changed. As he awaits direction we have the third element in Saul’s encounter…

3. The Reflection In Damascus vv. 7-9

Anytime we are confronted with sin or with an area that requires change, we need time to reflect. In the last three verses we will consider today Saul is given this much needed opportunity to reflect. There are three areas on which I believe Saul reflected. First we find him…

a. Reflecting on the impossible v. 7

The men accompanying Saul are struck dumb. They stand there hearing the voice but not seeing anyone. Think about this with me. These men are hearing the voice of God! Now, states that they didn’t understand what was said. The message was only for Saul.
The men accompanying Saul are struck dumb. They stand there hearing the voice but not seeing anyone. Think about this with me. These men are hearing the voice of God!
It is interesting how this miraculous phenomenon is mentioned in passing. It is a bare statement of fact. Yet I imagine Saul and his men reflecting on this later. In some ways, this is Saul’s first test. The temptation would be to say that it was some sort of dream or hallucination. No one was there and they all imagined a voice. Yet, Saul knew it had been the voice of Jesus. The carpenter from Nazareth who had been crucified because He claimed to be God! He is alive! He is at the right hand of God!
Encountering Christ challenges our understanding of the possible.
Have you noticed that Scripture is full of impossible things? Let me take a favorite verse as an example. (S).
Hebrews 13:5 NKJV
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Someone being with us all the time is not possible! Yet that is what God has promised and because Jesus Christ is God, He will do it! To Saul’s knowledge, Jesus was beaten, scourged, crucified, and buried. Then His body was stolen by the disciples. That is what Saul has believed. Yet now He is confronted with the risen Christ! A voice is speaking but no one can be seen! As Saul is in Damascus, he has time to reflect on this impossibility. God may do impossible things to change our course. He wants us to walk worthy of our calling. He wants us to walk in the Spirit. He wants us to walk as children of light! When we get off course, He will correct us as He does Saul. As Saul is in Damascus he will also be…

b. Reflecting on the miraculous v. 8

Saul takes immediate action. However, he is miraculously prevented from seeing anything. He opens his eyes, but he cannot see. This is undeniable proof that this event is real. This was no hallucination or dream. This was a divine meeting. I believe this is God’s way of forcing Saul to reflect. Saul is also being humbled as he is forced to have someone lead him to Damascus. Rather than the triumphant arrival with letter in hand to condemn and arrest Christians. Saul is led into town, blind, questioning, and shattered.
We are torn down and rebuilt when we encounter Christ.
After we have an encounter with Christ, we need a time of reflection. Here, Christ is forcing that on Saul through removing his eyesight. This also puts him in a position to be more receptive to what comes next. The contrast between vv. 8-9 and vv. 1-2 is exceedingly sharp. When we operate in our own strength and wisdom we are full of self. Self-righteous and self-confident. Then Christ steps in, we are shaken to our core, and we begin to see how our confidence must be in Christ. Saul undergoes this process as he is in Damascus…

c. Reflecting on the spiritual v. 9

Saul is in Damascus, blind, for three days. During this time he fasts. He doesn’t eat, he doesn’t drink, he just sits. What do you think he was meditating on? He is probably reviewing all he had done in his persecution of Jesus. One commentator suggested that this is the second most important three day period in the history of the world.
Put yourself in Saul’s place. Everything you have been living for has been demonstrated to be 100% wrong. In fact, you have been destroying the work of the very One you thought you were serving! Talk about an identity crisis. This crisis is necessary for Saul to become Paul. Over this three day period of reflection, Saul is completely transformed. This will be clearly demonstrated throughout the rest of the chapter.
The goal of encountering Christ is transformation.
Transformation comes as we reflect on what we have been confronted with. For Saul it was the confrontation of his complete wrong direction. For you and me it may be a slight course correction. Whatever the case, make the change.


We have talked a lot about encountering Christ and what it does, what it means, and what the goal is. What we haven’t really addressed is what an encounter with Christ looks like for us today. How can we encounter Christ?
What we need to do is travel to the Middle East, and head toward Damascus. On the road Christ will appear. Just kidding! We cannot expect to have the experience that Saul had. We need to be reminded that Acts is a transitional book. With the completion of Scripture, we don’t need, nor can we expect, to have a physical encounter with Christ.
We can encounter Christ through His Word.
Some might argue that a physical encounter is better. In the topic is the transfiguration. Peter is discussing how he knows of the power and majesty of Jesus because he saw it when Christ was transfigured before him, James, and John. But then Peter says this. Turn to .
2 Peter 1:19–21 NKJV
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
This is one of those times where the NKJV poorly translates a verse. The footnote on the verse says “We also have the more sure prophetic word”. The idea here is that Scripture is more reliable than experience. Why? Because Scripture comes from God Himself!
This means that when we go to the Word of God, we encounter Christ! According to Peter, encountering Christ through His Word is better than having Him strike us blind on the road! This book is more reliable than any experience you could ever have! Hebrews says it pierces, cuts, and divides. It exposes what is inside us and is then used by God to transform us.
If you want to have an encounter with Jesus Christ, get into His Word. Be prepared, He will work in your heart and life just as dramatically as He did the life of Saul. Kent Hughes writes
Preaching the Word: Acts—The Church Afire Captured by Christ (Vv. 3–9)

Our Damascus Roads are generally less dramatic than Saul’s, but they are meant to have the same effect—to break our compulsive independence and arrogance and to bring us to Christ for salvation or reconsecration. Our Damascus Roads are meant to convey our emptiness and the greatness of Christ. Have we gotten the message?

So, here is our challenge for the week.
Get into the Word. Meet Christ there.
Through His Word the need to make course corrections will be exposed.
When He reveals the changes that need to be made, let’s make them.
Maybe you need to turn around completely. Like Saul you have had a form of godliness, but have never trusted Christ. Today is the day to set a new course. Turn around, turn to Jesus.
For those of us who have trusted Christ, we need to be sure that we are headed the right direction.
If there is a change that needs to be made, make it today.
“Change My Heart Oh God”
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