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Bible Commentaries
Acts 9

Hampton's Commentary on Selected BooksHampton's Commentary

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Verses 1-9

Seeing the Light on the Damascus' Road

Saul not only persecuted the church in Jerusalem, but even went to foreign cities to carry out his vicious persecution. Bruce presents some evidence that the Jews had a treaty with the Romans which allowed them the privilege of extradition (1 Maccabees 15:15-21). It may have been under this right, to seek out any "pestilent fellows" that had fled from their country, that the high priest wrote letters to send with Saul to Damascus. Specifically, Saul was authorized to seek out those who followed "the Way," which was a means of designating those who followed Christ during Luke's day ( Act_16:17 ; Act_18:24-28 ; Act_19:9 ; Act_19:23 ; Act_22:4 ; Act_24:14 ; Act_24:22 ). When he found either men or women who followed that belief, he was authorized to take them in bonds to Jerusalem.

Saul's journey was interrupted by a great light coming down from heaven and shining around him. Since this occurred at midday, the light must have been very great. Saul fell to the ground and heard a voice asking him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Naturally, he had to ask who was speaking. Then, he heard, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." Clearly, the Lord was saying to persecute his followers is to persecute him. Knowing he had persecuted the followers of Jesus, Saul trembled and asked what he must do. The Lord said, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."

Saul's travelling companions seem to have heard a sound but were unable to understand the words spoken (compare Joh_12:28-29 ; Act_22:9 ). Though they all had fallen to the ground ( Act_26:14 ), they "stood," or existed, in a state of speechlessness. When Saul got up, he was blind, so his friends had to lead him by the hand into the city. For three days, he prayed and fasted, unwilling, or unable, to take food because of the tremendous shock he had received on the Damascus' road ( Act_9:1-9 ).

Verses 10-18

Saul Baptized by Ananias

Luke told Theophilus that "a certain disciple," not an apostle or preacher, saw a vision from the Lord. It must have been a shock for Ananias to hear the Lord tell him to go to Straight Street and ask for Saul of Tarsus. The Lord said Saul was praying and had seen, in a vision, a man named Ananias coming and putting his hand on him so that he might receive his sight. However, Ananias still hesitated because of all he knew about the persecution in Jerusalem and the letters Saul carried from the chief priests which gave him authority to bind any Christians he found in Damascus. The Lord informed him that Saul was specially chosen to take his name to the Gentiles, kings and the Jews. Coffman says Saul's purpose coincides directly with the prophesy of Isa_62:2 .

Ananias called Saul "Brother," perhaps because they were both from fleshly Israel, or in anticipation of Saul's impending baptism which would result in his being one of God's children in Christ. Saul's sight was miraculously restored through the laying on of Ananias' hands and, according to Act_2:38 , he received the gift of the Holy Spirit after he was baptized. Notice Saul was baptized immediately after receiving his sight ( Act_9:10-18 ).

Verses 19-30

The Persecutor Becomes a Preacher

Once he was baptized and had broken his fast by partaking of some food, Saul began to be with the disciples. Saul immediately began preaching in Damascus, then went to Arabia and returned to preach in Damascus again. Those who heard the former persecutor preach marvelled at his preaching. As he grew in strength, Saul successfully answered the challenge of the Jews and was able to prove Jesus is God's anointed and Son. Unable to refute his arguments, the Jews plotted to kill him. Somehow Saul learned of the plot and the brethren delivered him in a basket through the wall and outside the city.

When he arrived in Jerusalem, Saul was rejected by the disciples as a fellow believer. Barnabas took him to the apostles, which according to Gal_1:18-19 may only refer to Peter and James, the Lord's brother. While with them, Saul told the story of his conversion and subsequent bold preaching in Damascus. Just as Stephen had done, Saul disputed with the Hellenists (compare Act_6:8-9 ), and, just as with Stephen, they attempted to kill him. When the brethren discovered the plot, they sent him to Tarsus by way of Caesarea ( Act_9:19-30 ).

Verses 31-43

The Growth of the Church and Two of Peter's Miracles

After Saul went to Tarsus, Luke reported that a period of peace ensued during which the church in Judea, Galilee and Samaria was strengthened, walked in reverent respect for the Lord and the comfort of the Holy Spirit. All of this resulted in a further multiplication of the number of disciples. During this time frame, Peter preached his way along the Mediterranean coast. The apostle healed a man named Aeneas who had been bedridden for eight years with palsy. Significantly, Peter told Aeneas that it was Jesus Christ who healed him. Those in his own city of Lydda, as well as the surrounding coastal plain of Sharon, who heard the news were also turned to Jesus.

Meanwhile, in Joppa, which was also reasonably close, a hard working, Christian woman, named Tabitha, or Dorcas, who was constantly giving to others, became ill and died. The brethren washed her body and laid it in an upper room. Then, they sent to Lydda to plead with Peter to come as soon as possible. When Peter came, they took him to the upper room where her body laid surrounded by weeping widows who showed him some of her beautiful works. Ash wonders aloud in his writings on this verse if the brethren intentionally failed to anoint her body for burial. Perhaps they were hoping the apostle would raise her from the dead!

Peter caused everyone to leave, kneeled down and prayed. Then, in much the same fashion as he had seen the Lord do, Peter called for Tabitha to arise. She opened her eyes and sat up upon seeing the apostle. He extended his hand to her and helped her up while calling for the brethren to come. Knowledge of this great miracle naturally spread and many believed on the name of the Lord. Peter stayed for a time in Joppa at the house of Simon the tanner. Evidently, he seized the opportunity to preach God's word to an area that had recently experienced two powerful examples of God's working ( Act_9:31-43 ).

Bibliographical Information
Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Acts 9". "Hampton's Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghc/acts-9.html. 2014.
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