Faithlife Sermons

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as we work our way through the book of Acts our goal is to learn what an authentic church looks like
Rev 2-3 teach us that every local church must struggle and work hard 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 being rebuked for various degrees of unfaithfulness and 2 who are being exhorted to remain faithful in midst of fierce persecution
we also learn from Rev 2-3 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
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?
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!
God loves to empower those whom the world considers weak and despised so that he gets all the glory
not called Paul until after Acts 13:9 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 (1 Cor 9:19-23; 2 Cor 6:3)
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 (Acts 23:6; Php 3:5)
studied under the most famous rabbi, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3)
he was so zealous for his traditions he persecuted Jewish believers whom he believed to be law breakers - Php 3:5-6
a tent maker by trade (Acts 18:3)
converted between 31 - 36AD, shortly after Jesus’ resurrection
was immediately baptized and started preaching about Christ
suffered greatly for the gospel
was responsible to a large extent for the spread of the gospel throughout the Roman Empire
his writings account for almost 1/3 of the NT
Saul’s Plan
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
Luke’s description of Apollos’ teaching:
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:
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
Acts 26:11 - 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
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 (Acts 22:19; Acts 26:11)
those who refused might be kept in prison and some put to death
The Light
Acts 22:6 - a great light
Acts 26:13 - a light brighter than the sun
Acts 26:14 - everyone fell to the ground
a light that blinded him but not those with him
it didn’t blind everyone in his party because someone had to lead him by the hand (Acts 22:9, 11)
those with Saul saw the light but were not blinded
a light specifically directed at Saul
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