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Acts 9

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Verses 1-19

Act 9:1-19

CONVERSION OF SAUL

Acts 9:1-19

1 But Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter—Saul was first mentioned in Acts 7:58, and again in Acts 8:1-3; now we come to his conversion. There we find him as a persistent persecutor of the church; here we find him “yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord.” His attitude and conduct is put in contrast to that of Philip by the conjunction “but.” Some translations have “and,” but others seem to translate “eti” as “yet,” as if some time had elapsed between the death of Stephen and the events that we are now to consider. “Breathing threatening and slaughter” does not mean “breathing out,” but “breathing in” or “breathing on.” It means that the very breath that Saul breathed encouraged him on to persecute the disciples of Christ. The figure is like a war horse who sniffs the smell of battle; he becomes anxious to persecute Christians. We are not told of any other death than that of Stephen, but we are led to believe that many others were put to death. Surely Saul’s anger was greatly excited by the success of the early church, and with great zeal he put forth every effort possible to stop the progress of the church. He was orderly about what he was doing, as he had the authority of the “high priest.”

2 and asked of him letters to Damascus—It is probable that the high priest here mentioned was Caiaphas, who was a chief of the Jews and exercised authority in such matters. “Letters to Damascus” means that Saul was granted authority to persecute Christians along the way and in the city of Damascus. Saul, a Pharisee, makes request of a Sadducee (the high priest) to persecute the disciples of Christ. Julius Caesar and Augustus had granted the high priest and Sanhedrin jurisdiction over Jews in foreign cities; so later Paul said that he received his authority to go to Damascus from the priests (Acts 26:10) and “the estate of the elders” (Acts 22:5); that is, the Sanhedrin. It seems that Paul had finished his persecution in Jerusalem and now wishes to extend it beyond to Damascus. “Damascus” is said to be the oldest city in the world; it was about a hundred and fifty miles northeast from Jerusalem and watered by the river Abana. A great number of Jews dwelt in this city; it seems that Christians had found refuge from Saul’s persecution in Judea and had gone to Damascus. Paul’s language in Acts 26:11 seems to imply that Damascus is merely one of the other “foreign cities” to which he carried the persecution. “The Way” is frequently used by Luke to describe Christianity as “the Way” of life. (Acts 19:9 Acts 19:23 Acts 22:4 Acts 24:14 Acts 24:22.) Luke also speaks of the way of salvation (Acts 16:17) and “the way of the Lord” (Acts 18:25). Jesus called himself “the way” (John 14:6), the only way to the Father. Paul had authority to arrest both men and women and bring them to Jerusalem to be tried before the Sanhedrin.

3-4 And as he journeyed, it came to pass—We are not told what mode of travel Paul used in making this journey to Damascus. He probably used the best mode that could be had at hand, which was horseback, or on a camel or ass or mule, or in a chariot ; he would make the journey by land. There were two roads by which Saul could make his journey—one the caravan road which led from Egypt to Damascus, and kept near the coast line of Palestine till it struck eastward to cross the Jordan at the north point of the Sea of Galilee; to connect with this road Saul would have had first to go westward from Jerusalem to the sea. The other road led through Neapolis and crossed the Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee, and passed through Gadara and on northeastward to Damascus. We do not know which road Saul traveled. As he “drew nigh unto Damascus” there suddenly “shone round about him a light out of heaven.” In Acts 22:6 we are told that the time of day was “about noon” when the vision was seen, and in Acts 26:13 Paul says that “at midday” the light was “above the brightness of the sun.” The midday glare of the sun in that country was exceedingly bright, yet the glory of Christ as seen by Paul far surpassed the glory of the sun. Paul, smitten with blindness, “fell upon the earth,” and “heard a voice saying,” “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” This voice was clear and distinct to him, but seems to have been a mysterious sound to others; the voice spoke in the Hebrew tongue. (Acts 26:14.) In all three of the ac-counts given by Luke he uses the transliteration of the Hebrew way of spelling Saul, “Saoul,” while in every other case the Greek form “Saulos” is used. The disciples of Christ are one with him. (Matthew 10:40 Matthew 25:40 Matthew 25:45; Luke 10:16; John 15:1-5.) Hence, to persecute Christians was to persecute Christ; Saul thought that he was persecuting the disciples of an impostor who had been crucified as a malefactor. He now is to see that he was persecuting the Messiah by persecuting his disciples.

5, 6 And he said, Who art thou, Lord?—“Lord” is here used in reverence and in response to the question; this title could not have been used at this moment in all the fullness of its meaning. It seems to mean: “Whose voice do I hear ?” The response came at once: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.” In Acts 22:8 Paul gives the fuller form of the sentence: “I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest.” By using this name Saul could gain a direct knowledge of the voice that was speaking to him, and know that he was persecuting Christ in persecuting his disciples. The voice is very specific, denoting definitely and accurately just what Saul was doing in persecuting Christians; it carried a conviction as well as preferring a charge. This voice told him that he should go into the city and there he would be instructed as to “what thou must do.” In Acts 26:16-18 we have what Ananias told Saul. The Authorized Version adds “it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”; that is, it is hard to kick against the “pricks” or goads used to spur an ox.

7 And the men that journeyed with him—We are not told how large a company Saul had with him; hence, there is no use to guess at the number. “Stood speechless” simply means that they came to a stop; in Acts 26:14 they are described as “all fallen to the earth,” but there is no contradiction here. “Speechless” means they were mute. Those that were with Paul heard “the voice, but beholding no man,” but in Acts 22:9 we have the statement “but they heard not the voice of him that spake to me.” There is no contradiction here. They heard the voice, but did not understand what it said; hence, in that sense they did not “hear” the voice. Those with Paul heard the sound, but did not understand the words; they saw the light, but did not see the form of the Christ; they had fallen to the ground and remained motionless.

8 And Saul arose from the earth;—When Saul, who had fallen to the earth with the others, arose “his eyes were opened,” but “he saw nothing.” Some translations say he “saw no man.” His eyes were open, but he did not have the power to discern or see clearly objects that were before him. He was led “by the hand, and brought” into Damascus. Saul at this time presents a sad and pathetic picture; Saul, the persecutor, clothed with authority from the Sanhedrin, now becomes the convicted, blind, and helpless one, and has to be led with the authority with which he was clothed, in this helpless condition, into the city of Damascus to wait for fur-ther instruction.

9 And he was three days without sight,—In his helpless condition Saul the persecutor is led into Damascus. He has now reached his destination; he had left Jerusalem to go to Damascus. Little did he think that he would enter Damascus in such a helpless and humbled condition. He began praying, and for “three days” he was “without sight,” and did “neither eat nor drink.” Verse 11 tells us that he was praying. The mental anguish for a time overpowered the natural craving for food.

10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus,—This disciple was named “Ananias”; it was a common name among the Jews, and is to be thought of as meaning “Jehovah is gracious.” This Ananias had the respect of both Jews and Christians in Damascus (Acts 22 Acts 12); he was “a devout man according to the law,” and “well reported of by all the Jews that dwelt there.” Here he is described as “a certain disciple”; the disciple that bap-tized Saul was no high dignitary in the church; he was just “a certain disciple.”

11 And the Lord said unto him,—We do not know when or how Ananias became a disciple; he may have been one of those converted on Pentecost; the Lord spoke to him in a vision; he was told to go to the street “which is called Straight” and inquire at the house of Judas for Saul; he was further instructed that Saul was praying. This street was called “Straight,” and is said to extend in a direct line from east to west, and was a mile long. Ananias received from the Lord in the vision direct and accurate information so that he could locate Saul without delay. Ananias was ready to render service in the name of the Lord; we do not have him mentioned anywhere else except in Acts 22:12, which is in connection with the conversion of Saul. Nothing is further known about Judas where Saul was sojourning; he may have been one of the Christians, or he may have been one to whom Paul had letters. We are not told for what he was praying; probably he was praying for his sight and for more light in a spiritual way.

12 and he hath seen a man named Ananias—The Lord in this vision told Ananias where to find Saul, and also told him that Saul had seen “a man named Ananias coming in,” and that he would lay his hands on him that he might receive his sight. It seems that there had been two simultaneous visions—Saul had received one and Ananias the other. Ananias was now told just what he should say and do to Saul. In Acts 22:13-16 Saul is told what he should do; he received his sight at that time, and was informed that he should become a witness for Christ and should suffer many things for him. He was told to arise and be baptized, “and wash away thy sins.”

13-14 But Ananias answered, Lord,—Ananias hesitated because he had heard “from many of this man”; he had heard of the bitter persecution that Saul had waged against “thy saints at Jerusalem” ; he had also heard of Saul’s “authority from the chief priests” to persecute Christians in Damascus. Here we learn that the disciples were called “saints”; that is, “sanctified ones,” early in the history of the church. Paul frequently uses this word and applies it to Christians. This is the first time that the word is used and applied to Christians; Saul was deeply impressed with this word and addressed at least six of his epistles to those who were “called saints.” “Saints” mean the same as those who “call upon thy name.”

15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way:—Ananias is assured of the vision and its meaning, and is commanded to obey it. The instruction is that Saul was to be “a chosen vessel” unto the Lord, and that he was to bear his name “before the Gentiles and kings, and the children of Israel.” Here Saul is said to perform the task of being a witness for Christ to three classes—namely, “Gentiles,” “kings,” and “the children of Israel.” “Chosen vessel” simply means “a vessel of choice or selection”; Jesus chose Saul before Saul had chosen Jesus as his Lord. He makes Saul an earthen vessel (2 Corinthians 4:7), an unworthy vessel for so great a treasure. His chief work was to be among the Gentiles. (Galatians 2:8; Ephesians 3:6-12.) Saul fulfilled this commission in going before kings when he appeared before Agrippa at Caesarea (Acts 26:1-32); perhaps he went before Emperor Nero at Rome, and pleaded his cause before the tribunals of the Roman governors, Sergius Paulus, Gallio, Felix, and Festus (2 Timothy 4:16-17).

16 for I will show him how many things he must suffer— Saul had made others suffer for Christ; he had persecuted them even unto death; now he is to suffer more than he has caused others to suffer. He said in his address to the elders of the church at Ephesus that “the Holy Spirit testifieth unto me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me.” (Acts 20:23.) In writing to the church at Corinth later Paul gave a long list of persecutions and sufferings which he had endured for Christ. (2 Corinthians 6:4-10 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.)

17 And Ananias departed, and entered—Ananias now was convinced that he would obey the vision, and he at once departed to find the man who needed his services. He entered into the house and placed his hands on Saul and said: “Brother Saul,” the Lord who appeared to you on the way has sent me to you that “thou mayest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ananias addressed him as “brother”; whether this was because of the Jewish relation, or because of their relation in Christ is not made clear; it has been the occasion of much discussion. This comes about by not knowing at what point Saul was converted. Saul was not converted until he was baptized into Christ; forgiveness of sins, with Saul, took place after his obedience to the gospel, just as it did with all others. Paul says that he and others were baptized into Christ. (Romans 6:3-4.) Hence, as Paul had not been baptized into Christ when Ananias first addressed him, he must have addressed him as a fellow member of the Jewish family.

18-19 And straightway there fell from his eyes—Immediately when Ananias came to Saul and placed his hands upon him, Saul received his sight. His vision came to him suddenly as if “scales” had fallen from “his eyes.” The original for “scales” is “lepides,” and comes from the verb “lepo,” which means “to peel.” Luke does not say that actual “scales” fell from the eyes of Saul, but that it felt that way to him as his sight was restored to him. Saul “arose and was baptized”; it seems that he was baptized by Ananias (Acts 22:16), and his sins were forgiven, and he could claim promises of salvation through faith in Christ. Some think that this left a permanent defect in Paul’s eyes; however, there is no direct evidence of it. Saul at once “took food and was strengthened.” He had been fasting for three days, and now since he has been refreshed in soul, he is also refreshed in body. He remained with the disciples in Damascus for “certain days”; we do not know how long he remained there; it is probable that he spent these days in private devotion and in private intercourse with the disciples. “Certain days” is a phrase used by Luke to mean a short space of time. (Acts 10:48 Acts 15:36 Acts 16:12 Acts 24:24 Acts 25:13.)

Verses 1-43

Act 9:1-43

THE PROMISE IS FOR ALL:

LESSONS FROM THE BOOK OF ACTS

Notes For Lesson Nine: God’s Power & Grace At Work

(Acts 9:1-43)

This chapter, best known for the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, provides several examples of God’s power and grace. In humbling and saving Saul, God showed that his love was more powerful than human pride and hatred. In healing Aeneas and raising Tabitha, God showed that his ability to heal is greater than any earthly ailment, greater even than death itself.

Through Acts chapters 4 through 8, we were given a picture of some of the most important aspects of the earliest years of the church of Jesus Christ. Most notable are the opportunities that God continually created for the believers, the opposition that the gospel aroused, and the ways that the believers met one another’s needs as the church grew and spread.

The next few chapters (9 -12) are something of a transition period between the time when the church was concentrated in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samara, and the last part of Acts, when congregations began all over the Roman Empire. The events of chapters 8 and 9 take place approximately 3-4 years after the crucifixion, resurrection, and Pentecost. The most careful chronologies usually place the crucifixion in about AD 32 or 33, and the conversion of Saul in about AD 36. Some other chronologies place the crucifixion in AD 30 and Saul’s conversion in about AD 33.

Saul Becomes A Disciple (Acts 9:1-19)

Even as the hate-filled Saul is persecuting the church with as much determination as he can find, God is making other plans for him. Since we see Saul/Paul from the perspective of what he later became, these developments might not seem as remarkable as they truly were. But if we view these events as they would have appeared at the time, we can better appreciate this dramatic display of God’s power and grace. This chapter presents us with powerful examples of how these go together.

We are first reminded of Saul’s original "ministry" (Acts 9:1-2) as he followed up on the persecution in Jerusalem with further efforts to destroy the church of Christ. He is graphically described as "breathing out murderous threats", indicating that his actions were not so much a thoughtful plan based on careful study of the truth as they were an outpouring of Saul’s own raging emotions. He does not stop at persecuting the believers in Jerusalem, but also intends to track down the ones in other cities. It was on his way to the city of Damascus that everything suddenly changed for him.

Saul’s conversion began with a most humbling experience (Acts 9:3-9). First, he perceives a mysterious combination of sights and sounds, as Jesus himself speaks to him. Saul is then brought to the shattering realization that everything he is trying so hard to do is exactly the opposite of God’s will. This realization is combined with the onset of a state of complete dependency, as Saul is blinded and must be led by the hand into the city where he had intended to make a much more powerful entrance. For three days he eats and drinks nothing, and has nothing to do except to think about the complete shift in his perspective that has come about. Saul’s experience is unique in that he was given a special appearance by Jesus, and was soon to receive a special commission. But the same basic pattern is often used by God with those who have an earnestness to seek him but who also have a stubbornness that prevents God from correcting them via more gentle methods.

As Saul ponders what he has learned, God reveals his plans (Acts 9:10-19). Rather than come directly to Saul again, God chooses a disciple named Ananias to explain to Saul the details that he must know now. Ananias rather understandably finds this to be an unsettling task, knowing of the fear and havoc that Saul has created through his violent persecution of the disciples. But when God explains that he has chosen Saul to carry out a special ministry to the Gentiles, Ananias drops his objections. As a result, he was privileged to be the human means by which God achieved one of the most remarkable conversions in the Bible. He accepts the task God has given him, meets Saul, and explains the gospel to him. Saul has his physical sight restored, and at the same time is able to see spiritually for the first time, as he accepts the gospel and is baptized into the same Christ whom he had been persecuting until now.

For Discussion or Study: What qualities would Saul have needed to have in order to respond so quickly to the gospel? Would the miraculous appearance of Jesus have been enough, or would there have had to be other things in Saul’s heart to enable him to respond? Having first gotten Saul’s attention through miracles, why did Jesus not personally tell Saul everything else - that is, why was it necessary to involve Ananias in Saul’s conversion?

A New Ministry (Acts 9:20-31)

The new disciple wastes no time in replacing his old "ministry" of persecution with a new one of truth and grace. The same determination and abilities that he had been using for the wrong purposes now can be put to use for the gospel. Saul encounters many difficulties early in his ministry, but he is already being prepared by God for the vital tasks that lie ahead. This eagerness to do everything possible in behalf of what he believed is a quality that Saul once misused, but that soon proves invaluable to the church.

Saul begins to go to the synagogues in Damascus to proclaim that Jesus is the Christ (Acts 9:20-22). This quick turnaround causes confusion and astonishment, as those who hear of Saul’s conversion try to reconcile it in their minds with his former activities. He quickly proved to be a persuasive preacher of Jesus, since he is described as "proving" that Jesus was the Christ. We could not fault any observers for not being able fully to accept that he had suddenly changed so much.

Some time later, Saul’s new ministry is interrupted by a conspiracy that compels him to make a quick escape (Acts 9:23-25). Those Jews who formerly had appreciated Saul’s activities now looked at his new ministry with growing anger, to the point that they decided to kill him. Their plot is fairly organized, and they make sure to guard the gates out of the city, thinking this would prevent Saul from escaping*. But he is able to get out, albeit in rather ignominious fashion, when some friends pack him into a basket and lower it over the wall. Paul refers to this humbling experience in 2 Corinthians 11, as an example of "boasting of things that show my weakness".

*In 2 Corinthians 11:32, Paul indicates that even the governor was in on this plot, and that it was by his orders that the city gates were guarded.

But attacks from former friends were not Saul’s only problem as a newly baptized believer in Jesus. His struggle for acceptance in the church itself was also a difficult one (Acts 9:24-30). The other disciples had very understandable suspicions of this supposed convert. Given his past record, they could easily conceive that he might be posing as a believer in order to collect information for further persecutions. In this case, their fear and suspicion proved greater than their faith and love, but we probably should not criticize them too strongly, for most of us would have had the same struggle to accept someone who had probably harmed or even killed our friends and relations. Only the intervention of Barnabas finally brings the church to accept Saul. Barnabas details Saul’s conversion and the risks he has already taken for the name of Christ, as he now must endure the same kind of persecution that not long ago he himself dealt out. Finally accepted by the believers, he begins a preaching ministry in Jerusalem, but soon is again the object of potentially violent opposition. The still- controversial preacher is taken back home to Tarsus, where God can prepare him further for the fulfillment of his purpose, which was as yet a little while in the future.

This ushered in a time of peace for the church (Acts 9:31). God’s hand is clearly seen at work, having brought them through a difficult time, and now giving them a period of peace so that they can strengthen themselves further for the many events and responsibilities that were still ahead of them.

For Discussion or Study: Why did Saul arouse such strong hatred from unbelievers after his conversion? Are there any parallels (on a lower scale, of course) in our own experience? Should the believers in Jerusalem have accepted Saul more readily? Is there anything in our experience that might be similar to the difficulty they had in accepting him as a brother?

Aeneas & Tabitha (Acts 9:32-43)

The narrative now returns to Peter’s activities, telling of two (of what were likely many) occasions on which Peter used the miraculous abilities that God had given him. These two miracles show us God’s power and grace working together, as he displays his power over natural forces even as he shows his loving grace in relieving human pain and sadness. On both occasions, the miracles also lead to new opportunities to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The first of the two short accounts tells of how Aeneas was healed in Lydda (Acts 9:32-35). On his visit to that town, Peter met this man, who had been confined to his bed for several years due to paralysis. Peter heals him in the name of Jesus, and Aeneas is instantly cured. The healing quickly becomes known throughout the area, leading many to put their faith in Jesus.

The account of Peter raising Tabitha from the dead in Joppa is somewhat more involved (Acts 9:36-43). This woman, who had died shortly before Peter came to visit the town, had been a caring and popular disciple, noted for many acts of service and kindness that shared God’s love with others. Even as Peter is taken to her home, he is shown examples of all that Tabitha had done for others. Having pity on those who have lost a dear friend, Peter raises her from the dead in a way not dissimilar from some of the similar miracles done by Jesus himself. The joyous and miraculous news quickly becomes known all over Joppa, and again leads to many more persons believing in Jesus. It also has the practical effect of resulting in Peter staying in Joppa with Simon the Tanner, from whose home would soon begin a chain of events that would accomplish the next great step in God’s purpose for the church.

For Discussion or Study: What are the main lessons taught to us by these miracle accounts? Is there any reason why these two persons were miraculously healed, out ofthe many such needs there must have been in these cities? How does this passage fit into the broader design of God which the book of Acts details?

- Mark W. Garner, April 2002

Verses 20-22

Act 9:20-22

PAUL’S PREACHING AT DAMASCUS

Acts 9:20-22

20 And straightway in the synagogues—The “certain days” were very profitable days. Saul who is now converted; he visited without delay the synagogues and “proclaimed Jesus, that he is the Son of God.” The preaching of Jesus to the Jews was a stumbling block; nevertheless, Saul now boldly went into the synagogues and where he could have opportunity told the people that Jesus of Nazareth who had been crucified, buried, and raised from the dead was the Messiah of the Old Testament scriptures. Strange indeed that he who had gone to Damascus to punish those who believed in Christ is now proclaiming him from the synagogues. Henceforth, Saul is ready to stand on this platform: “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.”

21 And all that heard him were amazed,—Those who heard Saul were “amazed”; that is, they continued to sense in themselves astonishment at this violent reversal in Saul the persecutor; they were not so much astonished at what he preached as they were at the sudden turn that had taken place in the preacher. They began to inquire: “Is not this he that in Jerusalem made havoc of them that called on this name?” Saul’s fame as a leader in persecution had even reached Damascus. He “made havoc of them” who believed on Jesus. “Made havoc” is from the Greek “northesas,” which means “to lay waste”; hence Saul laid waste the church in Jerusalem by his persecution. He had even gone to Damascus with “this intent,” that if he found disciples of Christ he would bind them and bring them before the chief priests. All knew why Saul had come to Damascus, and all now knew that he preached Jesus as the Son of God. Some think that Saul, when he left Jerusalem to go to Damascus, had instructed the rulers of the synagogue or the Sanhedrin had instructed the synagogue to receive Saul as the agent of persecution; but now they are greatly astonished that instead of waging his persecution he proclaims the divinity and Messiahship of Jesus.

22 But Saul increased the more in strength,—Saul’s conversion would necessarily excite opposition to those who had not accepted Christ; Saul necessarily had to give his reasons for the change, and his reasons for believing that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Opposition would increase against him, and Saul would necessarily have to increase “the more in strength” until he was able to demonstrate without any doubt that Jesus was the Christ. He was strengthened for this great task. (Romans 4:22; Philippians 4:13; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:1 2 Timothy 4:17.) “Proving” is from the Greek “sunbibazon,” and means that Saul put things side by side, and so making a comparison and forming a conclusion that Jesus was the Christ. Saul not only grew in Christian life, but he also grew as a preacher of the gospel. He not only proved that Jesus is the Christ, but he “confounded the Jews,” which means that they were “poured together, commingled.”

Verses 23-25

Act 9:23-25

PAUL PERSECUTED; ESCAPED IN A BASKET

Acts 9:23-25

23 And when many days were fulfilled,—“Many days” here denote an indefinite period of time; some think that it includes at least three years; they draw this conclusion from Galatians 1:17-18, where Paul says, that he “went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem.” The order of events seemed to have been as follows: (1) Saul struck down on the road to Damascus near the city (Acts 9:3-8); (2) three days of blindness and prayer to God in the house of Judas on the street called Straight (verse 9); (3) sight restored, baptized, and received some measure of the Holy Spirit (verses 10-19); (4) preached that Jesus is the Christ in the synagogues with such power and spiritual force that the Jews were confounded (verses 19-22); (5) sudden departure to Arabia for solitary communion with God (Galatians 1:17-18); (6) back to Damascus; (7) conspiracy to slay him (verse 23); (8) escape to Jerusalem (verse 25); (9) disciples afraid of him (verse 26); (10) Barnabas vouches for his conversion (verse 27); (11) takes the place of Stephen and preaches to the Hellenists (verse 29) ; (12) conspiracy to slay him (verse 29); (13) sent to Caesarea, and thence to Tarsus (verse 30).

24 but their plot became known to Saul.—The Jews were not able to withstand Saul’s arguments, and hence resorted to persecution. They plotted to kill Saul; they “watched the gates also day and night,” thinking that he might attempt to escape, and they would fall on him and kill him. It seems that the governor of the city used the garrison of soldiers to watch the gates so that Saul would not escape. “In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king guarded the city of the Damascenes in order to take me: and through a window was I let down in a basket by the wall, and escaped his hands.” (2 Corinthians 11:32-33.) It may be that the Jews prevailed upon Aretas to furnish the guard to keep Saul from escaping. The Jews were powerful in Damascus, and hence would have a great influence on Aretas.

25 but his disciples took him by night,—Saul was successful in convincing some that Jesus was the Son of God; here “his disciples,” that is, the disciples that Saul had made by preaching the gospel, were also disciples of Christ. One night they let Saul down “through the wall, lowering him in a basket.” Some think that he was let “through a window.” The Greek is “dia tou tei- chous,” and is explained by Saul in 2 Corinthians 11:33 as being “through a window”; or “dia thuridos,” which means a window that opened into the house on the inside of the wall. Rahab let the spies escape “by a cord through the window.” (Joshua 2:15.) “In a basket” is from “en sphuridi,” and is the word used when the four thousand were fed. (Matthew 15:37; Mark 8:8.) Large baskets were made of reeds, and are distinguished from the smaller kind. This escape by night by the help of the men whom he had come to destroy was an occasion that Saul never forgot.

Verses 26-29

Act 9:26-29

PAUL AT JERUSALEM

Acts 9:26-29

26 And when he was come to Jerusalem,—We do not know just how long it has been since Saul left Jerusalem; it seems that the Jewish authorities there had lost sight of him; evidently they had not known of his long disappearance into Arabia and his second period of preaching in Damascus. Saul attempted to “join himself to the disciples,” but they were not willing to receive him. There had been political changes in Judea since the persecution began three years before; a change of emperors and of policy had taken place, so that Jews were themselves being persecuted, and had little time to persecute the Christians. Communication with Damascus was slow and difficult; this was especially true on account of the hostility which had arisen between Aretas the ruler of Damascus and Herod the ruler of Judea. Saul’s escape had been too hurried for him to obtain letters of commendation; he was in Damascus but a short time after his conversion, and the disciples in Jerusalem had not heard from him for more than two years, and could not be sure that he had continued in the faith. Some think that the meaning here is that they doubted Saul’s sincerity; this was his first visit to Jerusalem since he left as a persecutor.

27 But Barnabas took him,—Barnabas, who introduced Saul to the apostles, has already been mentioned as a Levite of Cyprus (Acts 4:36) and, from the nearness of Cyprus to Cilicia and the distinction of the schools of Tarsus, some have thought that Barnabas may have been known to Saul before they came to Jerusalem. Barnabas declared to the apostles that Saul had seen the Lord; it was necessary for Saul, like the other apostles, to have seen the Lord in order to be a witness of the resurrection; hence, his sight of the risen Christ is always brought forward. Barnabas also declared to the apostles that Saul had preached boldly “in the name of Jesus” in Damascus. It seems that at this time Barnabas presented Saul only to Peter and James (Galatians 1:18-19), the representative leaders; the other apostles may have been away on preaching tours as we know Peter and John had been. It seems that Saul conversed with Peter and James. This James is called “the Lord’s brother,” and may be said to have been the half brother of Jesus. Peter was convinced that Saul had been converted and kept him as a guest for “fifteen days.” Saul had gone to Jerusalem to see Peter, but not to receive a commission from him. He received his commission to preach from the Lord. (Galatians 1:1-5 Galatians 1:11-17.)

28-29 And he was with them going in and going out—Saul remained quietly at the home of Peter for fifteen days (Galatians 1:18-19), and visited others at that time. It seems that Barnabas and Peter and James opened all the doors for Saul and the fear of the disciples ceased; they received him as a brother in the Lord. Saul, now in the city of Jerusalem, preached boldly “in the name of the Lord.” He came in contact especially with “the Grecian Jews,” or Hellenists. It should be remembered that it was as the leader of the Hellenistic Jews of the synagogue (Acts 6:9) that Saul had first appeared in the history of the disciples of Christ. Saul is seeking to undo the evil that he had then done by preaching to them the faith which he had then opposed, and presenting the very arguments and truths that had been most prominent in Stephen’s address. Saul could not preach Christ to these Jews without antagonizing them. He did not shrink, but spoke boldly to them as did Stephen; they resisted his teaching and sought to kill him as they had done Stephen. Saul was no coward; he did not merely run from the enemy, but escaped that he might continue preaching the gospel as God’s power to save.

Verses 30-31

Act 9:30-31

PAUL IN TARSUS; CHURCH EDIFIED

Acts 9:30-31

30 And when the brethren knew it,—The fact that the disciples in Jerusalem helped Saul to escape shows that they had received him into their fellowship and were willing to help him in every way possible, consistent with the teachings of Christ. The brethren assisted him in leaving Jerusalem, and “they brought him down to Caesarea.” Caesarea was the seaport on the Mediterranean coast, and was on the great road from Tyre to Egypt, and about halfway betweeen Joppa and Dora; it was about seventy miles from Jerusalem. It was the seaport from which Saul could set sail for Tarsus. It seems that the brethren accompanied Saul down to Caesarea. Saul gives a different reason in Acts 22:17 for leaving Jerusalem; God revealed to him in a vision that another sphere of work awaited him. In Galatians 1:21 Saul tells us that he went from Jerusalem to Syria and Cilicia; hence, some have inferred that the “Caesarea” mentioned here is “Caesarea Philippi,” which was situated at the foot of Mount Hermon, on the direct road to lower Syria. Tarsus was Saul’s birthplace; he tells us that he was “a Jew, of Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no mean city.” (Acts 21:39.) Saul tells us that he was engaged in preaching the gospel in that region (Galatians 1:21-23), and we are led to believe that he was eminently successful (Acts 15:23 Acts 15:41). Some think that during this period Saul converted to Christ some of his own relatives (Romans 16:7 Romans 16:11 Romans 16:21), and possibly his sister and her son (Acts 23:16). Although Saul was denied the privilege of preaching Christ in Jerusalem, yet an open door was before him in other regions.

31 So the church throughout all Judaea—Some versions read “churches,” but the Greek is “ekklesia,” and is in the singular; at this time there were churches scattered over Judea, Galilee, and Samaria (Galatians 1:22), but Luke either regards the disciples in Palestine as still members of the one great church in Jerusalem or he employs the term “ekklesia” in a geographical or collective sense covering all of Palestine. “Church” is used in the strictly local sense in Acts 8:1 Acts 8:3 and in Matthew 18:17, and in the general spiritual sense in Matthew 16:18. Here “the church throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria had peace”; this seems to be used in the general sense. The church was edified: such preachers of the gospel and teachers would edify the church: not a line of the New Testament had been written at this time and all of the teaching was oral, yet the church was greatly “edified.” The term “edified” comes from the Greek “oikodomoumene,” and means “to build up a house”; this term or figure is used frequently by Paul; Peter speaks of “a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2:5.) Great political changes had taken place at this time which worked advant- y to the peace of the church. Petronius was appointed governor of Syria in A.D. 40, and a firm government was restored; in the same year Emperor Caligula ordered his statue to be set up in the temple at Jerusalem, and the Jews had to use all their energy to prevent this form of idolatry. In A.D. 41, Herod Agrippa I was made ruler in Judea and Samaria; all these events would prevent the persecution which had taken place with impunity during the three or four preceding years of anarchy; this would give opportunity for the disciples of Christ to have peace and to continue to edify the church and enjoy “the comfort of the Holy Spirit.” The “peace” here means a freedom from war and persecution, whether from Jews or Romans; “being edified” refers to a growth in the knowledge of Christ and a gain in spiritual power; “was multiplied” refers to increase in number of places to which the gospel was successfully carried, and to the gain in the number of disciples also where the gospel had been proclaimed.

Verses 32-35

Act 9:32-35

PETER CURES AENEAS

Acts 9:32-35

32 And it came to pass, as Peter went throughout all parts,—Luke in arranging his materials gave an account of Peter and John going from Jerusalem down to Samaria, and there bestowing spiritual gifts upon the Samaritans and then mentioning the incidents connected with Simon the sorcerer; here we left Peter in Samaria. Next Luke gave an account of Philip and the eunuch, and then an account of the conversion of Saul and the incidents that followed. He now returns to Peter. So far this section of the book of Acts may be described as the acts of Peter; however, it is evident that only a part of the general outline of work that Peter did is given. Luke does not follow Peter’s course, as in a biography, but confines himself to tracing the steps by which he had been led to the part he played in the great work of the conversion of the Gentiles. In leaving Samaria Peter “went throughout all parts,” and finally “came down also to the saints that dwelt at Lydda.” Here again we have “the saints” mentioned. “Lydda” is the same as “Lod” in the Old Testament. (1 Chronicles 8:12; Ezra 2:33; Nehemiah 7:37 Nehemiah 11:35.) Lydda was about ten miles from Joppa, and was on the highway between Jerusalem and Joppa; it was a day’s journey from Jerusalem.

33 And there he found a certain man named Aeneas,—This name implies that he belonged to the Hellenistic section of disciples. As Peter went about doing good he was led to this man. He had been sick for eight years; he “had kept his bed eight years”; Luke being a physician tells us the specific disease with which he was afflicted; he was “palsied”; “palsy” is a contraction of the word “paralysis.” The term is used by the ancient physicians in a much wider sense than by our modern men of science; it included not only what we call paralysis, but also catalepsy and tetanus; that is, cramps and lockjaw. Since he was bedfast for eight years, the miracle of his cure would be more famous.

34 And Peter said unto him, Aeneas,—As in the cure of the cripple at the temple (Acts 3:6), Peter makes known that he is but the messenger of Christ, and that the power to heal comes through Christ. We do not know whether Aeneas was a disciple, but it seems reasonable to infer that he was among “the saints,” and that Peter was brought to him. He is commanded to “arise, and make thy bed.” Literally, he was commanded to spread his bed for himself; he was commanded to do that which others for years had done for him. This was proof that he could take care of himself, and immediately he obeyed Peter. This shows that the cure was miraculous. No doubt Peter remembered the time when four men brought a man with the same disease to Christ at Capernaum and that Jesus had commanded the man to “arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thy house.” (Mark 2:1-11.)

35 And all that dwelt at Lydda—This miracle had a wonderful effect on the people in Lydda; “Sharon” was not a city or town, but was a section of country about thirty miles long from Joppa to Caesarea. Those who saw Aeneas healed were now ready to accept the preaching of Peter; they “turned to the Lord,” which means that they heard the gospel, repented of their sins, were baptized into Christ, and were thus numbered among “the saints,” or added to the church.

Verses 36-43

Act 9:36-43

PETER RAISES DORCAS

Acts 9:36-43

36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha,—Joppa was on the Mediterranean coast and about ten miles from Lydda; there was “a certain disciple” there who bore the name of “Tabitha,” which is also interpreted to mean “Dorcas.” Dorcas is called a disciple that it may be seen that under the gospel there is no distinction between male and female. (Galatians 3:28.) “Tabitha” is the Aramaic form of a Hebrew proper name which means “a gazelle” (Song of Solomon 4:5), as does the Greek word “Dorcas.” Dorcas is described as being a woman “full of good works and almsdeeds.” There is nothing said about a husband, and so it is inferred that she was unmarried. Dorcas is the second woman mentioned by name after Pentecost; the first one mentioned is Sapphira. (Acts 5:1.) We are not told what “the good works” were that Dorcas had done; however, they showed Peter “the coats and garments which Dorcas made,” and probably these were made for the poor and widows who in that country were a most unfortunate class. Dorcas continued to do such good work while she lived.

37 And it came to pass in those days,—Luke does not tell the disease with which Dorcas suffered and died; some have thought that it was due to her overexertion in helping others; this is merely a conjecture. The body was placed in an upper room, according to Jewish custom, and was prepared for burial. She was not buried with that rapidity with which Ananias and Sapphira were buried. Perhaps an evidence of faith is seen in the delayed burial as the sequence shows.

38 And as Lydda was nigh unto Joppa,—Peter was at Lydda and Dorcas lived at Joppa. The friends of Dorcas had heard that Peter was at Lydda, and “sent two men unto him,” entreating him to come to Joppa without delay. Lydda was nine or ten miles from Joppa; it was too late to send for a physician, but not too late to send for Peter. We are not told why they sent for Peter; some have thought that they anticipated what Peter would do. They knew that Peter had wrought some great miracles in the name of Jesus, though we have no record thus far of his raising anyone from the dead. They were very urgent in their request for Peter to come without delay; they wanted him to hasten, as every hour of delay tended toward the decay of the body.

39 And Peter arose and went with them.—Peter responded at once to the urgent request and returned with the two men who had come for him. When he arrived without delay they took him “into the upper chamber” where the body of Dorcas was. “All the widows stood by him weeping,” and displayed to him some of the “coats and garments which Dorcas made” while she was alive. “The widows” were either the poor widows whom Dorcas had helped, or those who had been associated with her in the good work with which her life was filled. “Coats” is from the Greek “chitonas,” and means “the shirt-like undergarment or tunic”; “garments” is from the Greek “himatia,” which means the outer garment, the mantle. Dorcas had made these and the widows were displaying them as an appeal to Peter to help them in some way. This presented a very vivid and pathetic picture; to see the prostrate body of Dorcas lying cold and stiff in death, and to see the work of her hands which had blessed and helped so many, and to hear the grief-stricken widows sobbing in sorrow for the loss of their friend and sister; it must have made a very strong appeal to Peter.

40 But Peter put them all forth, and kneeled down,—Surely Peter remembered what his Lord had done at the house of Jairus. (Mark 5:40; Luke 8:54.) After putting all out of the room, Peter kneeled down and prayed. Peter’s praying alone in the presence of the corpse reminds one of the prayer of Elijah (1 Kings 17:20); and that of Elisha (2 Kings 4:33). After praying Peter turned “to the body” and said: “Tabitha, arise.” Here Peter displayed sublime faith in the name of the Christ, for he commanded the dead to come to life. He is following closely the example of Jesus which he had observed at the house of Jairus. Peter had been present three times when Jesus had raised the dead: (1) the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:40-41); (2) the raising of the son of the widow at Nain (Luke 7:11-15) ; (3) the raising of Lazarus (John 11:36-44). The dead obeyed the voice of Peter, and Tabitha opened her eyes, and “when she saw Peter, she sat up.” She arose as one awaking from sleep. “She sat up” is from “anakathizo,” and is used only here and in Luke 7:15; it is a medical term often used.

41 And he gave her his hand,—Peter extended his hand to her and assisted her by raising her up. She was now alive and Peter rendered her what assistance she needed; Jesus took Jaims’ daughter’s hand before she was restored to life. After she had been restored to life and was now in normal condition, he called “the saints and widows,” and presented Dorcas to them. “Saints and widows” are mentioned here, not that the “widows” were not “saints,” but the widows’ are mentioned to distinguish them from the main body of disciples, who are here called “saints,” because the widows were the more grieved at the death of Dorcas.

42 And it became known throughout all Joppa:—The result of this miracle was to confirm the preaching of the gospel. This was a notable incident and it became known to all those who dwelt in Joppa, and as a result of this, “many believed on the Lord.” The faith of the disciples was strengthened and others believed on the Lord. The effect of this miracle was similar to that of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. (John 11:45.) It does not say “all,” as in the case of Lydda and Sharon (verse 35), as Joppa was a large place, and all the inhabitants did not come to witness the miracle.

43 And it came to pass, that he abode many days in Joppa —Again we have “many days,” which means a considerable time. (Acts 8:11 Acts 9:23.) Peter abode in the house of a man by the name of Simon; his occupation was that of a tanner. Since we do not know the length of time expressed by “many days,” and as it may mean ten days, ten months, or ten years, we cannot calculate, with any accuracy, the chronology of the events. The trade of “a tanner” was held abominable to the Jews, as he would have to handle unclean animals. It seems that Peter was gradually getting away from his Jewish prejudices; this will help to prepare him for the vision that is recorded in the next chapter.

Questions on Acts

By E.M. Zerr

Acts Chapter 9

  • · What persecutor is again introduced?

  • · How could he ’’breathe’’ out slaughter?

  • · To whom did he go?

  • · Why to this person?

  • · State his request.

  • · Give meaning of "this way" verse two.

  • · Why mention just men and women?

  • · To what city did he start?

  • · Was his journey interrupted by anything?

  • · From where was the light?

  • · Was Saul alone?

  • · Who fell to the earth?

  • · What did he hear?

  • · Who spoke it?

  • · Why Saul’s question in verse 5?

  • · Explain latter part of same verse.

  • · Repeat Saul’s next question.

  • · Was his question answered directly?

  • · How were the other men affected?

  • · State the condition of Saul’s vision.

  • · How did he find Damascus?

  • · State his condition for three days.

  • · Who was Ananias?

  • · Tell what orders were given him.

  • · How was Saul passing the time?

  • · Did his prayers save him?

  • · Was he a Christian?

  • · What fears did Ananias have?

  • · For what was Saul chosen?

  • · What things were to be shown him?

  • · On entering what was the first act of Ananias?

  • · Was this to convert him?

  • · Tell what he bestowed on Saul.

  • · What empowered Ananias to bestow this gift?

  • · Tell what happened to Saul.

  • · After that what did he do?

  • · The next period of days was spent where?

  • · What and where did he preach?

  • · Why in such a place?

  • · Was his identity recognized?

  • · What did they know about him?

  • · State Saul’s success over the Jews.

  • · What did they plan to do?

  • · How did he elude them?

  • · How was he treated at Jerusalem?

  • · Name his defender.

  • · Then what did he do?

  • · Who were the Grecians?

  • · What did they prepare to do?

  • · How was it avoided?

  • · Tell what now came to the churches.

  • · Explain the cause of this.

  • · With what deed is Peter now introduced?

  • · Tell some of the results of this deed.

  • · To what place is the scene of action now taken?

  • · Name the disciple at that place.

  • · What service had she rendered?

  • · State what happened to her.

  • · For whom did they send?

  • · Describe the condition he found.

  • · Was the body of Dorcas present?

  • · Why the words "with them" in the 39th verse?

  • · Relate the work here performed by Peter.

  • · What were the results?

Acts Chapter Nine

Ralph Starling

Saul, with his heart angry and bitter

Went to the High Priest for a letter

To Damascus where Christians were to be found,

And bring them to Jerusalem securely bound.

As he traveled feeling totally undaunted,

Suddenly by Jesus he was confronted.

“Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”

Saul, trembling saind, “Tell me what to do please.”

Jesus said, “Go to the city and you will be told.”

Ananais, A disciple, was told what had unfold,

That Saul was chosen to preach to the Gentiles,

And would endure for Christ’s sake suffering and trials.

When Ananias explained to Saul his plight,

His sight returned and he was baptized.

Recovering his strength he amazed not a few,

Preaching Christ in the synagogues fo the Jews.

Plans to kill him became known to Saul.

He was delivered in a basket over the wall.

In Jerusalem his disciples were afraid of him,

After Barnabas’s defense he was on of them.

With trouble still brewing going to Tarsus was thought to be best,

And the churches throughout the region had rest.

Being comforted by the Spirit and being edified

By walking in the fear of the Lord their number multiplied.

From Saul we turned to the work of Peter,

It became known and many became believers.

Peter healed Ananias with palsy for eight years,

The there was Dorcas whoc death brought tears.

These miracles performed in the Lord’s name,

Gave Peter and the gospel considerable fame.

He continued in Jerusalem after this manner

Making his home with Simon the Tanner.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Acts 9". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/acts-9.html.
 
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