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Bible Commentaries

William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament
Acts 9

 

 


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Verses 1-15

SAUL’S CONVERSION

1-15. As the Romans looked upon the Nazarenes as an insignificant faction of Judaism, in some way to them utterly mysterious, out of harmony with their own church, they acquiesced in the purchase of Jewish favor with Nazarene blood. The miraculous appearing of the glorified Jesus to Saul was adumbratory of His glorious appearing at His second coming, just as His miraculous appearing to Abraham at Mamre in the humiliation of human flesh was a prelude of His incarnation in His first advent. It is also confirmatory of His revelation to the soul of every sinner in his conversion, since Christ is now glorified. He always appears in His glory when revealed by the Holy Ghost to the soul. The Holy Spirit is not only the personal Successor of Jesus on the earth, but His personal Revelator.

Saul’s comrades saw the light, but no person; and heard the sound, but no utterance. Hence there is no disharmony with chapter 22. Saul was an indefatigable student, having graduated in the Greek colleges of Tarsus, and in the Hebrew schools of Jerusalem. Hence his eyes were feeble and much worn, so that they went into total eclipse under the supernatural effulgence of the glorified Savior, simultaneously symbolizing the significant fact that the great light of his wonderful unsanctified learning must go into total eclipse before the unspeakable glory destined to pour on him the Sun of Righteousness. So must every man become utterly blind to human learning and wisdom before he can receive the supernatural illuminations of God and His truth. Many great theologians are never struck blind like Saul.

Therefore they never receive the preternatural light of Paul. Oh, how we all need to be made blind that we may receive our spiritual sight. That good old evangelist, Ananias, falters till he hears that Saul is praying, then all his fears depart. You need not fear the most bloodthirsty desperado if he is praying.


Verse 14

14. . . .“to bind all those who call on the name of the Lord.” This is the universal designation of God’s people, i. e., calling on the name of the Lord. Prayer moves the arm that moves the world, and turns the key that unlocks heaven.


Verse 15

15. “The Lord said to him, Go, for he is a vessel of election unto me.” “Election,” eklogee, is from ek, “out,” and legoo, “choose.” Hence it means out from the chosen, i. e., chosen from the chosen. You are chosen out of this wicked world in regeneration. In sanctification, you are chosen from the regenerated. Christ does not take a bride from the devil’s people, which would follow if there was but one work in salvation. But He takes a wife from God’s people. While Saul was leading Satan’s host, he was elect in the mind of God. Hence He sends Ananias to call him. In Saul’s conversion, we see the double miracle often repeated in our day, i. e., bodily healing and salvation. His sight was miraculously restored and his soul converted, i. e., filled with the Holy Ghost to the full capacity of spiritual infancy, not his sanctification, as some think. I have seen many converted after the Sauline manner, i. e., filled with the Holy Ghost so they shouted all over the community like Saul throughout Damascus.


Verses 20-25

PAUL’S SANCTIFICATION

20-25. (Galatians 1:15-22 and Romans 7.) Saul had long been a preacher of no ordinary ability. Hence he was a fluent orator when thus powerfully converted under the impetus of a spiritual Niagara. He preached Jesus boldly in Damascus, to the unutterable surprise of all who had trembled with awe at the mention of his name. Luke’s scanning history is here elliptical, involving the conclusion of an inward conflict, accompanied by divine leadership off to Arabia, where God taught Moses forty years and sanctified him at the burning bush. John the Baptist was also taught in God’s theological school, i. e., the desert of Judea, preparatory for his wonderful ministry. So Saul must spend three years amid the wild beasts and Bedouins of the Arabian desert. Galatians 1:16 :

“When God was pleased to reveal his Son in me, I conferred not with flesh and blood, but went away into Arabia.”

This is included in Luke’s narrative (Acts 9:22), “And Saul continued to be more and more fi]led up with dynamite.” This is his Arabian experience of sanctification, testified in Romans 7:25, the preceding chapter describing his conflict with inbred sin, while in the justified state. On the Damascus Road the Holy Ghost revealed to him the Son of God, shining on him from without. In Arabia (Galatians 1:15), He revealed to him Jesus within sitting on the throne of his heart. It is our privilege all to have Pauline experiences, in which Jesus first appears to us, shining on us from without in regeneration. Then it is our privilege to receive the Holy Ghost, our sanctification, who in that case always enthrones Jesus in the heart and gives you the blessed consciousness that Jesus henceforth sits on the throne of your heart, making your life a cloudless sunshine and lighting up your entire being with the glory of His presence. Be sure your experience is Pauline; first Jesus appearing to you and shining on you, and then revealed in you, sitting on the throne of your heart. Saul did not dare to go up to Jerusalem, appear before the apostles and claim his apostleship, to which Jesus called him when He met him, without receiving in addition to his conversion in the house of Judas a clear Pentecostal sanctification, thus rendering him experimentally homogeneous with the other apostles. Acts 9:9 : “And he mightily confounded the Jews, proving that He is the Christ.” This was after he returned from Arabia. He is now a cyclone of fire and logic irresistible.


Verse 23

23. Hence the Jews can stand him no longer. The Greek reveals that they passed a vote, assuming the form of a decree, to kill him. They secure the co-operation of Areta, the governor, who keeps the gates guarded, so as to catch him if he endeavors to pass out, while the Jews ransack the whole city to find him for martyrdom. His time had not come. The disciples slip him over the wall in the night and let him down in a basket.


Verses 26-30

PAUL’S APOSTOLICAL RECOGNITION

26-30. They had no mails nor telegraphs. News was slow and uncertain. His name had been the terror of Jerusalem. They fear a strategem, and all stand aloof until Barnabas, his old neighbor (a native of Cyprus, out in the Mediterranean near the Cilician shore), interposes in behalf of his neighbor, schoolmate and brother, Saul of Tarsus. Doubtless Barnabas had attended the Greek schools of Tarsus, in which Saul excelled; hence Barnabas, a preacher and prophet, eminent among the apostles and saints for his personal piety and preaching ability, introduces and vouches for his old friend, Saul; hence they receive and recognize him a bona fide apostle.


Verse 29

29. See how he now seeks to undo all the mischief he ever did the cause of Christ at Jerusalem. He goes directly into those Hellenistic synagogues, i. e., where they used the Greek language, and where Stephen had preached and suffered martyrdom, and there he espoused Stephen’s doctrine and profession, in whose condemnation and martyrdom he had led the way (see Chapter 7). Oh, how the laying down of their garments at Saul’s feet, when they stoned Stephen, signified his succession! So it turned out, when Saul got back to Jerusalem, converted at Damascus and sanctified in Arabia, and received his apostolical recognition, he immediately took up the gospel and testimony right where Stephen laid it down under the stony shower. The same bigoted Jews who rejected and stoned Stephen under the leadership of Saul, now reject him and plot to kill him. Hence, the brethren only save his life by leading him away to Caesarea and sending him home to Tarsus, where he drops out of history several years; meanwhile, he is busy preaching the gospel in Cilicia, Galatia and Phoenicia, of which we have no direct history, as Luke had not yet fallen in with him. Now we lose sight of Saul, during this unknown period of his stay in his native land, until Barnabas goes and brings him to Antioch, about a year preceding their first evangelistic tour.


Verse 31

PETER’S EVANGELISTIC TOURS

31. The miraculous conversion of Saul stunned and paralyzed the aggressive persecutors of the fallen ecclesiasticism, at the same time giving a great boom to the rising hopes of the gospel church. “And the church was multiplied by the exhortation of the Holy Ghost,” i. e., by the exhortation inspired and superinduced by the Holy Ghost. It is a significant fact, of which the popular church has utterly lost sight, and to which the holiness movement is not half awake, that sinners are not converted by the cultured sermonic preaching, but by the irregular, impromptu, spontaneous, ejaculatory utterances and effusions of the Holy Ghost. I am an old revivalist, and have seen this verified on a thousand battlefields. The preaching is for the revival, sanctification and enduement of the church, who, thus flooded and inundated with the Spirit, all turn preachers, not in the modern but the Apostolic sense (Acts 8:4), and literally encompass every sinner, pouring on him their red-hot exhortations, electrified with sympathetic tears and dynamited with prevailing prayers. I have actually witnessed revivals in which several hundred sinners, thus besieged by the irresistible exhortations of Spirit-filled saints, surrendered unanimously, all crowding the altar and crying for mercy. This beautiful and valuable passage is not translated correctly in E. V.; but such is its beauty and force and its inspiring testimony to the miraculous efficiency of the Pentecostal gospel, that I hope every reader will appropriate, utilize and proclaim it to others.

AENAES IS HEALED

Peter, in his rapid peregrinations throughout Palestine, inspiring the saints to grander conquests, arrives at Lydda, down on the Mediterranean Sea near Joppa. There he finds Aeneas, lying on a bed, held fast with the paralysis of eight years. He says to him: “Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you: arise, take up thy bed; and he arose immediately.” Of course, Peter had preached to him, praying for him and expounding the plan of salvation, appertaining to both soul and body, and thus prepared him for the sudden inspiration of his faith, which took hold of Jesus Christ for the healing of his body. “As your faith is, so be it unto you,” is as true of the body as of the soul. With the spread of Scriptural holiness over the earth, divine healing is again everywhere becoming common, witnesses already innumerable and multiplying on all sides. The subjective reason why Aeneas was healed, was simply because he took hold of Jesus by faith and believed that He healed him that very moment. Faith is always in the present tense. A future faith is a misnomer; not faith, but hope. A true faith inspired by the Holy Ghost, either for soul or body, appropriates the very Omnipotence of God and becomes the medium of the supernatural and the miraculous, both spiritual and physical. We must remember, however, that while we are saved and sanctified through the grace of faith, bodily healing is through the gifts (1 Corinthians 12:9), which are not essential to spiritual salvation, but appertain to God’s wonderful munificence in the interest of our bodies, as well as the souls and bodies of others. While the absence of faith for your soul forfeits salvation and heaven, because it is condemnatory (Mark 16:16), the delinquency of faith for bodily healing only forfeits the healing and brings no condemnation to the soul.


Verse 35

35. Here we find that the healing of Aeneas was wonderfully blessed of God in the awakening of the entire community, including the city of Lydda and the Plain of Sharon, extending from the sea back to the great mountain highlands of Judah and Benjamin. Consequently, many in those regions turned to the Lord. We see that it is our glorious privilege to serve our Master in the ministry of both soul and body, either proving an inspiration and an auxiliary of the other. Paul commands us earnestly to seek these gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:31); among which you will find the “gifts of healings.” In the Apostolic succession, we should preach from house to house, everywhere ministering to’ the sick in the interest of the soul and body. Thus you will find the Lord will bless your ministry to the sick, making it a valuable auxiliary in your access to the souls of the healthy as well as the sick.

DORCAS IS RAISED FROM THE DEAD

The mechanical arts were then in their infancy, no factories having been invented. Weaving cloth was an art so rare that it was sought after by the wives and daughters of kings, appreciated as a royal encomium, embellishing their names with historic renown. Homer very graphically describes how Penelope, the beautiful queen of Ulysses, the king of Ithaca, excelled as a weaver, executing the work with her own royal hands. Hence Dorcas was celebrated, appreciated, honored and beloved not only for the rarity of her genius, but for her saintly philanthropy, which proved a benediction to many.


Verse 37

37. . . .“and washing her they placed her in an upper chamber.” Pursuant to the beautiful symbolism of the Jewish dispensation, they invariably washed a corpse with great care before depositing it in the sepulcher, thus typifying the complete purification of the soul in order to its admission into paradise. On Peter’s arrival the saints and widows gather around him, showing him “the shirts and cloaks, such as Dorcas was accustomed to make while with them.” Oriental costume at the present day is very simple with the common people, consisting of only two garments, i. e., the interior, which is constantly worn, and the exterior, frequently carried on the arm, to be worn when needed and used as a bed for lodging. These were the garments in whose manufacture Dorcas excelled. While the common people in the Old World dress in a cheap and simple style, such as we seldom see in this country, the nobility and royalists go to excess in quantity and quality far beyond anything observable among Occidentals.


Verse 40

40. We find here, and uniformly throughout the Scriptures, Peter, in harmony with the saints of all ages, kneeling in prayer. The Bible is our only guide. God help us to stick close to it. It is shocking to witness the stiff, formal worship of popular churches, not even the preacher kneeling. As Satan is doing his best to snow under the holiness movement, it is truly alarming now to frequently see people claiming sanctification sitting up during prayers. It is a withering burlesque on the profession. Good Lord, help us to remember that profession and possession are different words. “Brother Godbey, do you believe that persons are ever raised from the dead nowadays?” That the days of miracles are past is one of Satan’s buncombe lies palmed off on a backslidden church. “Lo, I am with you all the days, even unto the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We are living in the age in which Jesus delivered this affirmation. Hence we still have with us the miracle-worker. In this case, the interment had not taken place. History authenticates not a few parallels even down to the present day. About thirty years ago a very godly young lady, by the name of Marietta Davis, died in Elmira, New York. The family was divinely impressed to retain the corpse and postpone interment till nine days had elapsed, when, to the surprise of the city, she revived, convalesced and wrote a book describing her visit to heaven during the nine days of her absence from the body. I have read the book. I remember well seeing in the introductory the name of the pastor of the Baptist Church of which she was a member, also the name of her physician, and the sworn affidavits of both, who testified under one oath of affirmation administered by a magistrate, whose name was also given, all certifying to the above stated facts. Our Savior has all power over disease and even death. I doubt not but many cases have occurred in which the human spirit has evacuated the body, as in the event of Paul’s martyrdom at Lystra, when he spent an hour in heaven and returned to reanimate his body.

 


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Bibliography Information
Godbey, William. "Commentary on Acts 9:4". "William Godbey's Commentary on the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ges/acts-9.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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