Big Idea: Jesus will grow His church by sovereignly choosing those who are saved, and using those He chooses.
A. Secular – said that God works in mysterious ways
a. Moses – murderer, fearful, poor speaker = deliverer
b. Rahab – prostitute = lineage of Jesus
c. David – adulterer, murderer = chosen seed
d. Amos – fig-slitter; country bumpkin = prophet to kings
e. Mary – unmarried virgin = mother of Jesus
C. Personal - Testimony
1. Outside OK, but inside a mess.
2. Proud, ego, unable to open up with people, so no close friends and went from girlfriend to girlfriend; by his mid-twenties he had broken all of the 10 Commandments; lost but didn’t know it.
3. Can God use a guy like this?
4. What’s your story? Have you ever asked God if He would be able to use you?
a. Maybe you’re ashamed of your past. Maybe you’re ashamed of your present.
b. Maybe you’ve tried to plug in in different places or at different churches, but nothing fit.
c. Maybe you’re here asking God for the last time: Am I good enough? Can you use me? Do you love me?
1. We’re going to meet a man who was certainly not good enough.
2. Have seen the earliest beginnings of the church
a. Has included attacks both from without and within.
1.) Chapter 7 was the stoning of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.
2.) Chapter 8 showed the result of that as people began to scatter to avoid the increasing persecution.
3.) Last week we saw one of the benefits of that scattering was that people outside of Jerusalem, both Samaritans and a man from Ethiopia, were hearing the gospel and believing in Christ.
b. So that even through attacks and persecution, God is working it out for good and growing His church.
3. Two weeks ago we were introduced to Saul, who participated in the stoning of Stephen.
a. How did that affect him?
b. We pick up his story here in Acts 9.
A. Scene 1 – On the Road to Damascus: Saul Encounters Jesus
1. Read Acts 9:1-9
2. Stephen’s stoning galvanized Saul against the church (9:1-2)
a. Breathing threats and murder = his oxygen; the very stuff that made him live was to make people die.
1.) Verb has to do with breathing in not out.
2.) Threats and murders where his oxygen.
b. What made him so angry at the disciples of the Lord?
1.) Saul was zealous for God’s righteousness and His law.
2.) He believed that people who claimed that God died as a criminal on a cross not only blasphemed the Name and righteousness of God, but also, as a Pharisee (Php. 3:5), they blasphemed the law of God by saying it was irrelevant.
3.) As a Pharisee he saw himself as the protector of God’s righteousness and the law’s righteousness.
c. Not only this, but it would have been a blasphemous lie to contend that Jesus was risen from the dead and now was at the Father’s right hand in glory.
d. This is why he felt so strongly about these heretics and believed they needed to be dealt with so severely.
e. Got letters from high priest (9:2)
1.) Probably letters of introduction for the synagogues
2.) Also letters of extradition for native Jerusalemites who had fled from the persecution in Acts 8 to bring them back for trial.
3. As he was approaching he was struck by a supernatural force (9:3-6)
a. As the group was approaching, tired and weary from a week of traveling on foot, an intense burst of light came around Saul and knocked him to the ground.
1.) It is here that he both saw the face and heard the voice of the risen Jesus.
2.) This point is essential so we can understand later in many of his epistles that Paul claimed to have seen Jesus as his basis for being an apostle (1 Cor. 9:1, “Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?”).
b. Textual discrepancy in vv. 5-6
1.) KJV, NKJV adds “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”
2.) These words are not in the best Greek manuscripts of this account, but they are in Paul’s other accounts of his conversion in Acts 22 & 26. Therefore, they did happen, just in Luke’s account here in Ch. 9.
c. Jesus then tells Saul to continue his journey and await further instructions.
4. Saul was in a state of shock (9:7-9)
a. Shock of the divine epiphany
1.) Examples of other people encountering God: Ezekiel, Daniel, John (Rev. 1:17).
2.) This left him blind as a result.
a.) Reminiscent of how God struck the men of Sodom who were in the middle of intending to carry out a desperately evil act with blindness in Gen. 19.
b.) This humiliation of being blinded was compounded by the fact that now he had to be led about by the hand like a toddler.
b. Shock of the news
1.) Jesus was alive.
2.) Jesus identified Himself with His disciples.
c. Spends the next three days fasting and praying, and trying to figure out what just happened to him.
B. Scene 2 – In a House in Damascus: Saul Encounters Ananias
1. Read Acts 9:10-19a
2. Jesus calls Ananias (9:10-16)
a. Background of Ananias
1.) Probably a native of Damascus and Jewish follower of Christ.
2.) Unclear how the gospel got out there, but perhaps he had visited Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost and was one of the thousands of people from around the world that heard Peter’s speech and witnessed the Holy Spirit’s descent.
3.) In Acts 22 Paul calls him a pious man with a good reputation in the community.
b. Jesus appears in a vision.
1.) Different than what happened to Saul, which was an appearance (cf. 9:17). Also don’t see same physical response from Ananias.
2.) Jesus gave specific instructions with confirmation that Ananias would be received. Anticipates Ananias’ objection.
a.) Ananias probably wasn’t in danger himself, but had good reason to fear.
b.) News of Saul coming traveled ahead of him.
3.) Jesus gave Saul his identity, his purpose and his future
a.) “He is a chosen instrument of Mine” – he is a vessel picked out specifically by Me for Me.
b.) “To bear my Name…” – to present a defense of My gospel and my testimony to people in the farthest places and in the highest places.
c.) “I will show him how much he must suffer” – His life and ministry will be marked with constant opposition and torment, which is considered a generous gift because that suffering unites Him with His Savior.
d.) Everything about Saul’s life centers around these verses.
3. Ananias obeys Jesus (9:17-19)
a. Jesus, through Ananias, healed Saul and brought him into the church
1.) Ananias immediately obeyed Jesus and went down to see Saul.
2.) Ananias identified himself with Saul – fellowship
a.) Laid hands, called him “Brother”, baptized him
b.) Confirmed the vision that Saul had been having.
b. Paul recovers physically and spiritually. He is a new man.
C. Scene 3 – In the Streets of Damascus and Jerusalem: Saul Encounters Opposition
1. Read Acts 9:19b-25
2. Saul’s message (9:19b-22)
a. Time in Arabia to ponder these things (Gal. 1:17)
b. He went to the synagogues, to those, he thought, would understand the Messianic prophecies.
1.) However, they were more fascinated by his reputation; who he used to be.
2.) Confound = baffling and confusing
c. As he did so, the Holy Spirit kept enabling him and strengthening him for his ministry.
1.) Kept working out his theology
2.) Proved = he took the Messianic prophecies recorded in Scripture and united them with the facts about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
d. Doctrines that come out of the Damascus Road experience: things he could tell them:
2.) sovereign election,
3.) Jesus is alive,
4.) Jesus is Son of God and Messiah,
5.) Jesus reigns in heaven,
6.) community of saints,
7.) church as Jesus’ body,
8.) Spirit’s indwelling a believer,
9.) no difference between Jew and Gentile in Christ
3. Saul’s life threatened (9:23-25)
a. Saul had been there for three years (Gal. 1:18)
b. Finally the opposition grew to a plot to kill him.
c. The one who had come to Damascus as a persecutor and threatener was now being threatened for his own life.
d. However, his disciples rescued him by dropping him out of a window in the wall so that he could escape safely.
e. Already we see Jesus’ words of suffering bearing fruit.
4. Read Acts 9:26-30
5. Saul seeks the disciples (9:26-28)
a. Saul came back to the city where he was responsible for imprisoning and killing believers in a state of humility and supplication.
1.) He immediately tried to seek out Peter and the other apostles to associate them.
b. Barnabas vouches for him
1.) Barnabas takes hold of Saul.
a.) Picture of grabbing his elbow and taking him before the apostles.
2.) Immediately there is a change
3.) He is preaching boldly in Jesus’ name
4.) He has seen Jesus
5.) As a result, he is with the brethren.
6. Saul preaches and argues with the Hellenists (9:29)
a. Saul himself was a Hellenist (as a native of Tarsus)
b. Was familiar with the Greek language and culture.
7. Saul is saved by the brethren (9:30)
a. Hellenists this time seek to take his life.
b. Brethren come to his rescue.
c. Take him to port of Caesarea and ship him to hometown of Tarsus.
D. Summary – 9:31
1. This is a general summary statement for the book of Acts up to this point.
2. How was it enjoying peace? They were under severe persecution in Acts 8:1.
a. First off, their chief enemy was now their chief ally.
b. Secondly, their peace came not from their circumstances, but from God.
A. Understand the concept of grace
1. None of us are good enough. None of us are desirable or lovable.
a. Righteousness like filthy rags.
b. None is good.
c. Men’s conference – first thing we had to face is that we’re not as good as we think we are.
2. Like Saul, when we were at the height of being unlovable, God loved us.
a. When we were helpless – He died for us, the ungodly, sinners, enemies (Rom. 5:6, 8, 10).
b. Col. 1:21 says that we are hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds.
3. Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve.
a. At the height of our rebellion, at the height of our sinfulness, He gave us His Son, who offers to take our sins upon Himself, so that we might have eternal life.
b. We don’t do anything to deserve it or earn it, we simply receive it by faith.
4. Saul experienced that grace – have you?
B. Understand the responsibility of being a disciple
1. Saved by grace – we owe Him our lives
a. Bought with a price
b. Offer our bodies
c. Conformed to His image
d. Carry our cross daily
2. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – costly grace
a. German Lutheran pastor and theologian during WWII.
b. Worked against the Nazi’s with underground church services and was banned by the SS against any teaching, preaching or speaking in public.
c. Finally caught and imprisoned, only to be hanged in April 1945 in the Flossenburg concentration camp
d. Talked about “costly grace”
1.) Grace cost Jesus His life
2.) Grace should also cost us something
3. Marks of discipleship in this passage
b. Grace to others (Ananias to Saul)
c. Repentant life
d. Bold proclamation of Jesus’ name
e. Confidence in the Word of God (Saul preaching even though he was promised suffering)
f. Making other disciples (Saul, Acts 9:25)
g. Fellowship with other believers
C. Allow Jesus to use you
1. Each of us are unique and fit uniquely into the whole Body of Christ.
a. Saul was zealous for God’s righteousness, knowledgeable in the Scriptures, and not afraid of confrontation.
b. He was also born in Tarsus to a wealthy family which meant that he was a Roman citizen and could read and write in the Greek language as well as understand the Greek culture.
c. God turned all of that around and used it for His glory.
2. What makes you unique? What are your strengths? Your interests? Your desires? How can God use these things to bring Himself glory?
a. Asking D/M groups this week to think outside of the box.
3. Jesus could have healed Saul’s sight by himself, but He chose to use Ananias.
a. Rom. 10 – faithàsentàWord
D. Be Jesus to others
1. Whether in a vision or through members of His body, the church, Saul encountered Jesus wherever he went.
a. Ananias – The Lord is gracious
1.) Ministry of grace, encouragement, hospitality
b. Barnabas – Son of Encouragement
1.) Had his back
2. Protect others from danger
a. Warn them of the sin that they are engaged in.
b. Tell them consequences and give them hope to get out of it.
3. Spread that message of God’s grace to those who need to hear it.
A. Finish testimony emphasizing God’s grace
1. God got a hold of that man through a godly woman that he had met and like tremendously.
2. She took him to church where one day he heard the pastor say…
B. If God can use someone like me, He can use someone like you.
1. If He can use someone like Saul, who can’t He use?
C. He offers you this gift of grace, His Son on the cross, so that you might receive righteousness and eternal life. So that you might be born again into a new life.
1. He desires that you follow Him in discipleship: repenting of your old ways to move forward towards Him.
2. Allowing Him to use you to minister to others, to be an encouragement at the right time.