corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary
Acts 9



Other Authors
Verses 1-43

SAUL WAS STILL filled with furious, persecuting zeal when the Lord intercepted him on the road to Damascus, and revealed Himself to him in a blaze of heavenly light, which shone not only round about him but into his conscience as well. We may discern in the record the essential features which mark every true conversion. There was the light which penetrates to the conscience, the revelation of the Lord Jesus to the heart, the conviction of sin in the words, “Why persecutes” thou Me?” and the collapse of all opposition and self-importance in the humble-words, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?” When Jesus is discovered, when the conscience is convicted of sin, when there is humble submission to Jesus as Lord, then there is a true conversion, though there is very much that the soul has yet to learn. The Lord’s dealings were intensely personal to Saul, for his companions, though amazed, understood nothing of what had happened.

By this tremendous revelation of the Lord, Saul was literally blinded to the world. Led into Damascus, he spent three days which he would never forget, days in which the significance of the revelation sank into his soul. Being blind, nothing distracted his mind, and his thoughts were not even turned aside to food or drink. As a preliminary to his service, Ezekiel had sat among the captives at Chebar and “remained there astonished among them seven days” (Ezekiel 3:15). Saul sat astonished in Damascus for only three days, but his experiences were of a far deeper order. We may get a glimpse of them by reading 1 Timothy 1:12-17. He was astonished at his own colossal guilt as the “chief of sinners,” and even more at the exceeding abundance of the grace of the Lord, so that he obtained mercy. In those three days he evidently passed through a spiritual process of death and resurrection. The foundations were laid in his soul of that which later on he expressed thus: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20).

During the three days Saul had a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying his hands on him that he might receive his sight, and at the end of them the vision materialized. Ananias arrived, doing what he was told, and telling Saul he was but the messenger of the Lord, even Jesus, and that he was not only to receive his sight but be filled with the Holy Ghost. By this time Saul was a believer, for only to believers is the Spirit given.

The essential work in Saul’s soul having been accomplished, a human servant is used by the Lord. Two things about that servant are worthy of note. First, he was just “a certain disciple,” evidently of no special prominence. It was fitting that the only man to help Saul in any way was a very humble one. Saul had been very prominent as an adversary and was soon to be very prominent as a servant of the Lord. He was helped by a disciple who was undistinguished and retiring, yet who was near enough to the Lord to receive His instructions and hold converse with Him. It is often thus in God’s ways. Second, Ananias dwelt in Damascus, and thus was one of those against whom Saul had been breathing out threatenings and slaughter. So one of those that Saul would have murdered was sent to call him, “Brother Saul,” to open his eyes, and that he might be filled with the Holy Ghost. Saul’s evil was requited with good in this overwhelming fashion.

Saul’s days of blindness, both physical and mental, were now over: he was baptized in the Name of the One he had formerly despised and hated, and he consorted with the very people he had thought to destroy, for he had become one of them. He had been called as “a chosen vessel,” so straightway his service began. Jesus had been revealed to him as the Christ, and as the Son of God, so he preached Him thus and proved by the Scriptures that He was the Christ, to the confounding of his former friends.

The friends however speedily became his bitter foes and took counsel to kill him, even as not long before he had thought to kill the saints. He had anticipated entering Damascus with some measure of pomp as the plenipotentiary of the hierarchy in Jerusalem. Actually, he entered as a humbled and blinded man; and he left it in undignified fashion, huddled in a basket, as a fugitive from Jewish hate.

From the outset Saul had thus to taste for himself the very things he had been inflicting upon others. Arrived back in Jerusalem, he was distrusted by the disciples, as was very natural, and the intervention of Barnabas was needed before they received him. Barnabas could vouch for the Lord’s intervention and his conversion, and he acted as his letter of commendation. In Jerusalem he witnessed boldly and came into conflict with the Grecians, possibly the very men who had been so responsible in the matter of Stephen’s death. Now they would slay the man who held the clothes of those that slew Stephen. In all this we can see the working of the government of God. The fact, that the Lord had shown such amazing mercy in his conversion, did not exempt him from reaping in this governmental way that which he had sown.

Threatened again with death, Saul had to depart to Tarsus, his native city. It may be wondered where came in that visit to Arabia, of which he writes in Galatians 1:17. We think it was probably during the “many days,” of which verse Acts 9:23 of our chapter speaks, for he tells us that he “returned again to Damascus.” If this is so, the flight from Damascus over the wall took place after his return from Arabia. Be that as it may, it was his departure to distant Tarsus that inaugurated the period of rest and edification for the churches, which led to a multiplication of their numbers.

In verse Acts 9:32 we return to the activities of Peter, that we may see that the Spirit of God had not ceased to work through him while working so powerfully elsewhere. There had been, first, a great work in Lydda through the raising up of the palsied man. Then at Joppa Peter was used to bring Dorcas to life, and this led to many in that town believing on the Lord. It also led to Peter making a lengthy stay there in the house of Simon a tanner.

Meanwhile also the Spirit of God had been at work in the heart of Cornelius the Roman centurion, as the fruit of which he was marked by piety and the fear of God, with almsgiving and prayer to God. The time had now come to bring this man and his like-minded friends into the light of the Gospel. Now to Peter had been given “the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:19), so just as he had used the keys on the day of Pentecost to admit the election from among the Jews, now it is his to admit this election from among the Gentiles. This chapter has recounted how God called and converted the man who was to be the Apostle to the Gentiles, the next tells how Peter was delivered from his prejudices and led to open the door of faith to the Gentiles, thus paving the way for subsequent ministry of the Apostle Paul.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Acts 9:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". 1947.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 30th, 2020
the First Week of Advent
Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology