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Philip the evangelist is now put in the background, as the Spirit of God begins a work of another kind, using a most unexpected workman. Saul was filled with strongest animosity toward the disciples, determined to crush Christianity out of existence. He secured authority from the high priest to go to Damascus, in Syria, with the object of taking prisoner any Jews who had embraced Christianity, and bringing them to Jerusalem to face imprisonment or martyrdom. He was not deterred by the fact that Syria was a foreign country nor did he consider extradition proceedings necessary: he was a bold, determined man.
However, he had forgotten heaven's authority, and the light suddenly shining from heaven was more than he expected. It was the light, not an exertion of great power, that prostrated him to the ground. Then a penetrating voice, impossible to be ignored, deeply searches his conscience: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" Whoever is speaking, Saul knows that He is Lord, but questions as to His name. The answer, "I am Jesus whom you are persecuting" must surely have produced a tremendous upheaval in the heart of the proud, zealous, prejudiced Pharisee! This was the Man whose name he was determined to banish from the earth!
Saul is evidently stricken virtually dumb, and the Lord tells him to arise and go into the city (Damascus), where he would be told what to do. Those with him heard the voice, and were speechless also. Chapter 22:9 evidently indicates that they did not understand what was said, though aware of a voice speaking. The message was intended for him alone. The Lord knows how to impress His truth on individuals, who realize the message to be specifically for them. The effect of this is striking. Saul is unable to see when he stands up. Like other Pharisees (John 9:41), he thought he was a highly enlightened man, but God teaches him that the light of which he boasted was darkness in contrast to the light from heaven. For three days also he neither ate nor drank. We can hardly imagine the greatness of the revolution taking place in his soul.
But though it was primarily with the Lord he had to do, he must learn also that he cannot be independent of the people of God. The Lord therefore sends a disciple, Ananias, to inquire for Saul of Tarsus, of whom He says, "for behold, he is praying." He also adds that Saul has received a confirming vision of a man named Ananias coming to him, putting his hands on him, that his sight may be recovered. The putting on of his hands did not in itself have supernatural power: rather, God saw fit to show His power in conjunction with the expressed fellowship (which is involved in the putting on of hands) of a believer. The Lord's revelation to Ananias therefore was accompanied by a vision given to Saul, so that there could be no mistake.
When Ananias protests that he has heard from many witnesses of the evil Saul had done to the saints in Jerusalem, and of his coming to Damascus with the intention of taking Christians captive, the Lord insists that he go because Saul was a chosen vessel to bear His name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel (notice Gentiles first). Moreover, the man who had made others suffer would be shown by the Lord what great things he must suffer for Christ's name's sake. Subsequent history proved this, and with the fullest acquiescence on the part of the sufferer (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Ananias willingly obeys, and in coming into the house unhesitatingly identifies himself with Saul by the putting on of his hands and calling him, "brother," telling him that the Lord Jesus who had appeared to Saul had sent Ananias, that Saul might have his sight restored and be filled with the Spirit of God. The result was immediate as regards his sight, which reminds us that seeing the truth today is vitally connected with the fellowship of God's people, the church. He was then baptized. No mention is made of the time that he actually received the Spirit, but no doubt this was true immediately after he was baptized, for he was Jewish (Acts 2:38). No suggestion is made of any marked demonstration of his having received the Spirit, such as speaking in tongues. These things are only spoken of when a number were together (Acts 2:1-47; Acts 8:1-40; Acts 10:1-48; Acts 19:1-41).
When Saul received his sight, his fast was ended and he was strengthened by the eating of food. Then he remained some days with the disciples in Damascus, not returning to Jerusalem, as he had planned. Nothing more is said of the men who came with him. But immediately in the synagogues of Damascus he preached Christ as the Son of God (not only as Lord and Christ or as God's Servant, as Peter had done).
The change in the man amazed his hearers, who were aware of his cruel intentions against believers. But as he preached Christ his strength so do so was increased. Jews in Damascus were confounded by the clarity of his proofs (no doubt from scripture) that Jesus was in reality the Christ.
Verse 19 has spoken of his being with the disciples in Damascus only "certain days," while verse 23 speaks of "after many days." Galatians 1:15-19 clarifies this. Between the two verses he had gone into Arabia, then returned to Damascus, so that it was three years before he went to Jerusalem. How long Saul (later named Paul) was in Arabia we are not told, nor of anything he did there; but on his return to Damascus he evidently resumed his preaching, for the Jews plotted to kill him, watching the gate of the city, where he was most likely to be caught. The disciples, knowing of the plot, let Saul down by the wall in a basket during the night, so that he escaped out of their hands.
Though it was three years before his returning to Jerusalem, when he sought the fellowship of the disciples there, they were afraid of him, for they had known him before, and thought he sought to destroy them through working from the inside. Barnabas however bore good witness of him as regards his striking conversion and subsequent preaching the faith he once destroyed. We are told that he brought him to the apostles, evidently only Peter and James, for he saw only these two apostles during his fifteen days there (Galatians 1:18-19).
In this short time his preaching and disputing with the Hellenists awakened such bitter animosity that they plotted his death. The brethren however, becoming aware of this, arranged for his transfer to Caesarea, from which place he took ship to his native city Tarsus, in Asia Minor. What he did in Tarsus is not told us, but it was there that Barnabas went later to find Saul (Ch.11:25).
At this time the persecution abated in Judea, Galilee and Samaria (in all the land of Israel), and the time of respite gave occasion for the assemblies to be built up and multiplied, walking in the tear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.
Now our attention is drawn back to Peter, who was traveling to various places within the land of Israel. Coming to Lydda (between Jerusalem and Joppa), where there were believers, he found a paralytic man who had been eight years in bed. His words to him provoked an immediate response: "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you: arise, and make your bed." The man was healed and strong enough to arise without delay. This is intended to picture the fact that God had not cast away His people Israel, though the nation has been publicly set aside because of their rejection of the Messiah. This healing is both a pledge and a type of the future healing of Israel. Aeneas means "to praise," speaking of Israel's eventual adoration of their true Messiah Jesus. The miracle turned many to the Lord, just as Israel's conversion in a coming day will greatly affect others.
Peter is then called to Joppa because of the death of a godly sister, Tabitha (or Dorcas), whose good works had been a precious testimony to all who knew her. How many have been greatly blessed through the godly in Israel in the past, and yet that godliness was dying out of the nation because of their rejection of Christ. The sorrow of this is portrayed by the weeping widows.
Peter puts them all out, for her revival is to be solely God's work, not that of concerted effort by numbers, just as Israel's revival will be virtually life from the dead, a miracle of God. Kneeling, Peter prays, utterly dependent on the grace and power of God, then calmly tells Tabitha to arise. It is a striking picture of how godliness in Israel will be wonderfully revived in a coming day. Because of this many turned in faith to the Lord Jesus.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Acts 9". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent