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Jesus Saves a Wretched Man

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Saul's Conversion

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as we work our way through the book of Acts our goal is to learn what an authentic church is replicate it here at EFBC
teaches us that every local church is in a battle to stay doctrinally faithful, morally pure and faithful to its task
within 60 years of Christ’s death and resurrection we find 5 of the seven rebuked for various degrees of unfaithfulness and 2 who are being exhorted to remain faithful in midst of fierce persecution
we also learn from that faithful churches are the result of faithful pastors/elders who faithfully preach the Word, shepherd the flock and go after sin
our studies in the book of Acts have brought us to 3 persons who professed faith in Christ
one was a false Christian
Simon the magician - a false Christian
believed, baptized, continued but not saved
a high view of self, a wrong understanding of salvation, a defective view of the Spirit, a deficient understanding of sin
the 2nd was a true Christian
Ethiopian eunuch - a true Christian
God’s sovereignty in salvation, an available servant, a searching heart and mind, a prepared witness, a right response
the 3rd, the Apostle Paul
the rampaging enemy of the church stopped cold in his tracks
compare this passage w 22:6-11 & 26:12-18, both testimonies of this event
Paul’s descriptions of himself as a Christian:
- wretched man that I am
- of the flesh, sold under sin
- abnormally born
- I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle
- by the grace of God I am what I am
- I am nothing
- the least of all the saints
- the foremost of sinners
since this is what Paul was as a sinner, saved by grace, imagine what he must have been before!!
the message this morning is really quite amazing!
it will speak loudly to any who believe they are too sinful, too evil, too wicked to be saved
if Jesus can save Saul he can save you
it is also a message of hope concerning those who are most opposed to the Gospel of Christ

The Man, Saul

Saul - Hebrew - “asked for, inquired of God”
Israel “asked for”, demanded of God a king
Saul too was from the tribe of Benjamin - perhaps he was named after king Saul?
Gentile world was
Paul - Roman - small, humble
Paul - Roman - small, humble
physical appearance:
very little info in the NT
extra-biblical sources:
short - under 5’ tall
bald, bow-legged, uni-brow, hook nose
certainly not physically imposing!
1 Corinthians 1:27–29 ESV
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
God loves to empower those whom the world considers weak and despised so that he gets all the glory
not called Paul until after when he was at Cyprus during his first missionary journey
from then on called Paul by Luke
remember Paul’s desire to be all things to all people:
Saul: a Jew to the Jews
Paul: a Gentile to the Gentiles (; )
a Jew by birth and inherited Roman citizenship (Acts 22:28)
born in Tarsus in Cilicia and raised in Jerusalem (Acts 22:3)
from a family strictly devoted to the Law of Moses (Acts 22:3)
the son of Pharisees and a Pharisee himself (; Php 3:5)
studied under the most famous rabbi, Gamaliel ()
he was so zealous for his traditions he persecuted Jewish believers whom he believed to be law breakers -
from the tribe of Benjamin - perhaps named after king Saul?
a tent maker by trade ()
describes self as a Hebrew of the Hebrews and a Pharisee ()
a tent maker by trade ()
physical appearance:
very little in the NT
extra-biblical texts:
short - under 5’ tall
bald, bow-legged, uni-brow, hook nose
certainly not physically imposing!
1 Corinthians 1:27–29 ESV
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
the Way
the disciples would not be called Christians until 11:26
was considered by the Jews a sect of Judaism (24:14)
why were they called “the way”?
Jesus’ description of self in
Acts 18:25 ESV
He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.
terms for believers: sect of the Nazarenes, the Way, Christians
“breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”
Paul’s description of his animosity to the Way:
v.13 - how much evil
v.21 - wreaking havoc
Christianity was always top of mind and he was often speaking maliciously about it
22:4 - persecuted to death
22:5 - to bring them in bonds to be punished
22:19 - imprisoned and beat disciples
26:10 - cast his vote against those put to death
Christianity was always top of mind and he was often speaking maliciously about it
threats were constantly coming out of Saul
he was obsessed with attacking Christians
murder was also constantly coming out of him
he hated the disciples of Christ and was obsessed with attacking and destroying them
he was OCD when it came to his hatred of the disciples of Christ
converted between 31 - 36AD, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection
he was a powerful tool in Satan’s arsenal against the church
was immediately baptized and started preaching about Christ
it didn’t matter where these Jewish Christians were, even Damascus was not too far away for Saul to go after them
suffered greatly for the gospel
v.13 - how much evil
v.21 - wreaking havoc
22:4 - persecuted to death
22:5 - to bring them in bonds to be punished
22:19 - imprisoned and beat disciples
26:10 - cast his vote against those put to death
the Way
was responsible to a large extent for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire
the disciples would not be called Christians until 11:26
was considered by the Jews a sect of Judaism (24:14)
why were they called “the way”
terms for believers: sect of the Nazarenes, the Way, Christians
men or women
Saul’s hatred of the disciples was indiscriminate, he hated them all
had no compassion on the weak
he hated all Christians and was devoted to turning them back to Judaism or destroying them
his writings account for almost 1/3 of the NT

Saul’s Plan

having consented to Stephen’s death he turn his attention to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem
having wreaked havoc against them he decided to pursue Jewish believers to other cities
obviously many of them had fled to Damascus and so it became his next target
the Way
the disciples would not be called Christians until 11:26
was considered by the Jews a sect of Judaism (24:14)
why were they called “the way”?
Jesus’ description of self
John 14:6 ESV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Luke’s description of Apollos’ teaching:
Acts 18:25 ESV
He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John.
other terms for the disciples: sect of the Nazarenes, Christians
Saul’s mission:
having consented to Stephen’s death he turned his attention to the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem
having wreaked havoc against them he decided to pursue the Jewish believers who had fled to other cities
many of them went to Damascus and so it became his next target
“breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”
Paul’s own description of his animosity to the Way:
26:11 - raging fury
v.13 - Ananias to Jesus: “how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem”
8:3 - ravaging the church
9:21 - wreaking havoc
22:4 - persecuted to death
22:5 - to bring them in bonds to be punished
22:19 - imprisoned and beat disciples
26:10 - cast his vote against those put to death (others besides Stephen were martyred)
Christianity was always top of mind for Paul and he was often speaking maliciously about it
- raging fury
threats were constantly coming out of Saul
murder was also constantly coming out of him
he hated the disciples of Christ and was obsessed with attacking and destroying them
he was OCD when it came to his hatred of the disciples of Christ
in doing so he believed he was serving God and doing will
he persecuted the church in ignorance
as Saul served God he was a powerful tool in Satan’s arsenal against the church
it didn’t matter where these Jewish Christians were, even Damascus was not too far away for Saul to go after them
didn’t matter who men or women
Saul’s hatred of the disciples was indiscriminate, he hated them all
had no compassion on the weak
he hated all Christians and was devoted to turning them back to Judaism or destroying them
Jewish Christians stayed far away from him
not unlikely that other than Stephen’s testimony he had never heard the gospel
immediately was baptized and started preaching about Christ
suffered greatly for the gospel
wrote much of the NT

Jesus’ Plan

Saul’s plan: to attack Jewish Christians wherever they went
his mission was to track down Christ’s Jewish disciples and force them to turn back to Judaism using the threat of imprisonment, torture and even death
this rabid focus brought him to Damascus
had received letters from the High Priest in Jerusalem authorizing him to capture Jews who had turned to Christ, put them in chains and bring to Jerusalem
would be beaten with the goal of pressuring them into blaspheming (; )
those who refused might be kept in prison and some put to death
The Light
Acts 9:3 ESV
Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him.
“suddenly a light from heaven shone around him”
- a great light
- a great light
- a light brighter than the sun
- everyone fell to the ground
a light that blinded him but not those with him
this light was specifically for Paul
it didn’t blind everyone in his party because someone had to lead him by the hand (, )
note that it didn’t blind everyone in his party because someone had to lead him by the hand (, - those with Paul saw the light but did not understand and led Paul into Damascus by his hand)
those with Saul saw the light but were not blinded
they led Saul into Damascus by his hand
a light specifically directed at Saul
those with Saul saw the light but only he was blinded
The Voice
Acts 9:4 ESV
And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
Acts 9:4
we learn from the conversation which followed that the voice belonged to Jesus (vv. 4-5)
Jesus spoke directly to Saul
his question: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
“Saul, Saul” - there was no question in Saul’s mind that he, an no one else, was the focus of this intervention by the Lord Jesus
this message was not for those who were with Saul
though Jesus spoke in the Jewish language, those who were with Saul were unable understand (; )
all they were able to hear was Paul’s question, “who are you Lord?”
on that given day, with Saul’s company, God’s purpose was to save Saul and no one else
one of many examples of the doctrine of particular redemption
though God does not desire the death of the wicked he does not save all persons
The Voice:
Jesus’ question: “why are you persecuting me?”
“Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?”
22:14 Paul adds “It is hard for you to kick against the goads”
a goad was a long stick with a pointed end used to prod cattle forward
ex. of sitting on a tack
implication is that Jesus was prodding Saul but he was kicking against that prodding, he was rebelling
he heard the testimonies of many disciples and saw that as he beat them and killed them that they joyfully committed themselves to Christ!
this is the most powerful kind of witness
it is like a miraculous sign validating the testimony!
Saul addressed Jesus as “lord”
lord = owner, one who has full authority
Saul and all who were with him had been forced to their knees, a posture of defeat, of submission and a sign of the power of the one before whom they had fallen down
remember the crowd that came to arrest Jesus (Jn 18:6)
“I am Jesus (of Nazareth (22:8)), whom you are persecuting”
to persecute Christians is to persecute Christ
Saul’s persecution of Christians was persecution against Christ
Isaiah 63:9 ESV
In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.
Zechariah 2:8 ESV
For thus said the Lord of hosts, after his glory sent me to the nations who plundered you, for he who touches you touches the apple of his eye:
though this was true the persecuted disciples still had to endure!
why should we endure?
enduring persecution is a sign to unbelievers which causes them to ask about the hope of those being persecuted ()
enduring persecution is a blessing to the believer (,; 4:12-13)
enduring persecution helps us overcome sin ()
Saul’s Commission
Acts 9:6 ESV
But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
Acts 9:6
Acts 22:10 ESV
And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’
Acts 26:16–18 ESV
16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’
Acts 26:

Application

God is able to save the most unlikely sinners
unfaithfulness to God had led to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities
to prevent this from happening again the Jews made the law their focus and came to believe they were to earn their salvation by keeping the law
Paul’s descriptions of himself:
Paul went from believing this to seeing that the law only reveals the extent of a person’s enslavement to sin, a power that can only be broken by Christ (Rom 3:20b)
- wretched man that I am
- of the flesh, sold under sin
- abnormally born
- I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle
- by the grace of God I am what I am
- I am nothing
God is able to save the most unlikely sinners
- the least of all the saints
- the foremost of sinners
since this is what Paul was as a sinner, saved by grace, imagine what he must have been before!!
salvation does not depend on the free will of man but on the sovereignty of God
everything Paul had done was worthy of destruction
God did not look into the future and see that Paul would choose him
scriptures clearly teach that because of original sin man’s will is not absolutely free
if salvation depended on Saul’s “free will”, he would have continued persecuting Christians and would never have been saved
scriptures clearly teach that because of original sin man’s will is not absolutely free
indwelling sin will always pervert his good will making it filthy and unacceptable to God (Isa 64:6)
Saul was not searching for God, he was already righteous in his own eyes
Jesus did not plead with Saul to accept him
Jesus was not waiting for Saul to put his faith in him
Jesus completely overpowered him
he knocked Saul down on his knees and blinded him
Jesus then gave him his marching orders, what he was to do with the rest of his life
salvation does not depend on human free will but upon sovereign grace
God did not look into the future and see that Paul would choose him
if salvation depended on Saul, he would never have been saved
when God saves a person there are unmistakeable marks
humility, prayer, obedience (baptism), fasting
Paul turned from his pride
Paul became obedient to Christ
Paul was given spiritual sight
Paul became a witness
God uses converted sinners to spread the good news of his Son the Lord Jesus
disciples of Christ called “the way”
was this a transition from signs and wonders as validation? and is this was we should expect today?
if so this would weed out most of today’s popular Christian leaders!
disciples of Christ called “the way”
refers to actions
it is not enough to pay lip service to the Lord
Paul to his disciples: imitate my way of life
James: faith without works is dead
description of Jesus as the light of the world which lights every man
he who walks in the light will not walk in darkness
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