Last we left Saul, the self-appointed persecutor of the early church, he was going door-to-door in Jerusalem grabbing and arresting followers of “The Way”, as they were called then. (That name comes from when Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). I’ll let Luke tell the story…
Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9 He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord!” he replied.
11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”
13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.
Have you ever stood at the rim of the Grand Canyon? It’s a powerful experience. The size of the canyon is almost more than you can fathom. It is difficult to even see the other side. The overwhelming feeling of standing on the rim can best be described as awe. There’s no doubt the wide expanse between one side of the canyon and the other has been created by an incredible God. It is too big, too beautiful to have been made by man’s effort.
The chasm between Saul and Jesus, seen in this chapter, is wider than the Grand Canyon. Saul’s life was radically changed when he saw Jesus for who he really is. Everybody could see a difference.
Some people were excited and wanted to help Saul in any way they could. Some people wanted to kill him. The before and after in Saul’s life was too big to miss. His life was dramatically affected by Jesus and that affected others. Nothing was the same for Saul and it never would be again.NewSpring, Bible study on Acts in YouVersion Bible App
Saul in Damascus and Jerusalem
Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”
22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. 23 After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him. 24 They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. 25 So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.
26 When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to meet with the believers, but they were all afraid of him. They did not believe he had truly become a believer! 27 Then Barnabas brought him to the apostles and told them how Saul had seen the Lord on the way to Damascus and how the Lord had spoken to Saul. He also told them that Saul had preached boldly in the name of Jesus in Damascus.
28 So Saul stayed with the apostles and went all around Jerusalem with them, preaching boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He debated with some Greek-speaking Jews, but they tried to murder him. 30 When the believers heard about this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus, his hometown.
31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
“Fear of the Lord”
What exactly do they mean by “fear of the Lord”? Well, they’re not afraid or scared of the Lord. However, they have a very healthy respect for His power, His miracles, and the way He changes people.
He radically changed Saul from a persecutor to a lover of the Good News. He even changed his name to Paul. Paul would go on to travel all over the Mediterranean preaching and starting churches. I’ve done studies on all of Paul’s letters. The links are at the bottom.
We’ll come across Paul’s story 2 more times in the Book of Acts. A good story is worth repeating. It’s called a testimony. It’s the story of how a person’s life changed from the lost sinner to a born-again, baptized believer with a whole new life. My testimony is at the bottom also. Next we have a couple of Peter’s encounters….
Peter Heals Aeneas and Raises Dorcas
32 Meanwhile, Peter traveled from place to place, and he came down to visit the believers in the town of Lydda. 33 There he met a man named Aeneas, who had been paralyzed and bedridden for eight years. 34 Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you! Get up, and roll up your sleeping mat!” And he was healed instantly. 35 Then the whole population of Lydda and Sharon saw Aeneas walking around, and they turned to the Lord.
36 There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor. 37 About this time she became ill and died. Her body was washed for burial and laid in an upstairs room. 38 But the believers had heard that Peter was nearby at Lydda, so they sent two men to beg him, “Please come as soon as possible!”
39 So Peter returned with them; and as soon as he arrived, they took him to the upstairs room. The room was filled with widows who were weeping and showing him the coats and other clothes Dorcas had made for them. 40 But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! 41 He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then he called in the widows and all the believers, and he presented her to them alive.
42 The news spread through the whole town, and many believed in the Lord. 43 And Peter stayed a long time in Joppa, living with Simon, a tanner of hides.Acts 9 NLT
Radical Changes Can Happen to You, Too!
Saul was religious and kept all the Jewish laws. Moreover, he was an enemy of God before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Peter was arrogant and a coward and Jesus changed him into a miracle worker and a bold preacher of the Good News.
A Personal Prayer
The past few days have been rough here in America. I’m sure the news has gone around the world already. Right now, the only person anyone can place their trust in is God. Many Christian churches here in America are suffering persecution. And we know that the persecution of Christians is worldwide. So, pray with me, please…
Dear God, I fervently pray for each and everyone one of the government leaders who are persecuting today’s churches, may they have a “Road to Damascus” encounter, like Saul’s, with the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ. And may it cause a softening of their hearts and an awakening in their souls to accept Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. I beseech you, Oh, Lord! In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.
Do You Need a “Road to Damascus” encounter with Jesus?
Yours needn’t be so dramatic.
If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, this is what you have to do…
Is there a “Great Divide” between you and Jesus?
Bible Studies on Paul’s Epistles (Letters):
- From Catholic to Prodigal: Surviving College
- From Prodigal to Progressive: Surviving Hurricanes
- From Progressive to Born Again Christian: Surviving Unemployment