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Bible Commentaries

Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures
Acts 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-19

The Witness of Saul's Conversion and Divine Commission ( Acts 22:6-16; Acts 26:12-18) - In Acts 9:1-22 we have the witness of Paul's conversion and divine commission. We often find divine commissions opening the narrative material of God' servants in the Scriptures. For example, we see in the book of Genesis that Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob each received their commissions at the beginning of their genealogies, which divide the book of Genesis into major divisions. We also see how Moses received his divine commission near the beginning of his story found within Exodus to Deuteronomy. Joshua received his commission in the first few verses of the book of Joshua. Also, we see that Isaiah , Jeremiah and Ezekiel each received a divine commission at the beginning of their ministries. The book of Ezra opens with a divine call to rebuild the Temple and the book of Nehemiah begins with a call to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, which callings Ezra and Nehemiah answered. In the New Testament, we find Paul the apostle receiving his divine commission in Acts 9:1-22 at the beginning of the lengthy section on Paul's life and ministry.

Each of these divine callings can be found within God's original commission to Adam in the story of Creation, which was to be fruitful and multiply; for these men were called to bring about the multiplication of godly seeds. The patriarchs were called to multiply and produce a nation of righteousness. Moses was called to bring Israel out of bondage, but missed his calling to bring them into the Promised Land. Joshua was called to bring them in to the land. Esther was called to preserve the seed of Israel as was Noah, while Ezra and Nehemiah were called to bring them back into the Promised Land. All of the Judges , the kings and the prophets were called to call the children of Israel out of sin and bondage and into obedience and prosperity. They were all called to bring God's children out of bondage and destruction and into God's blessings and multiplication. The stories in the Old Testament show us that some of these men fulfilled their divine commission while others either fell short through disobedience or were too wicked to hear their calling from God.

One reason why these prophets received such a mighty visitation is understood in a comment by Kenneth Hagin, who said that when the Lord gives us a vision or a word for the future, it often precedes a trial, and is used to anchor our soul and take us through the trial. 158] If we look at the lives of the three Major Prophets, this is exactly what we see. These three men faced enormous trials and objections during their ministries. Their divine commissions certain were the anchor of their souls as it gave them strength and assurance that they were in God's will despite their difficulties. We see such dramatic encounters in the lives of Moses and Saul of Tarsus, as God gave them their divine commissions for a work that was difficult and even cost them their lives. Paul's divine visitation served as an anchor for his soul throughout his life. In fact, he will often refer back to this event ( Acts 22:1-21, Acts 26:1-23).

158] Kenneth Hagin, Following God's Plan For Your Life (Tulsa, Oklahoma: Faith Library Publications, c 1993, 1994), 118.

Contrasting Paul's Two Commissions before and after Conversion - It is interesting to note how God took a man on the road to Damascus with a decree from the high priests in Jerusalem to put Christians in bondage, saved him, and sent him to Rome with a divine decree to give Christians freedom in their worship.

My Grandfather's Conversion - My mother tells me that when she was seven years old, around 1941, that her father experienced a similar event to Saul of Tarsus. My grandfather was making his way to work one morning on his bicycle towards Lynn Haven. He was on highway 390 near Mill Bayou when a bright light shown about him. Out of the light a voice told him to throw away his cigarettes. With this experience he was gloriously saved. My mother saw such a change in his life that she also gave her life to Jesus Christ at this time.

God Speaks from Heaven to Men- The voice of God the Father spoke from Heaven to mankind on a number of occasions. God spoke to King Nebuchadnezzar when he took his mind from him for a season ( Daniel 4:31). God spoke from Heaven at the water baptism of His Son Jesus Christ ( Matthew 3:17, Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22). God spoke to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration ( Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7, Luke 9:35-36, 2 Peter 1:17-18). God spoke to Jesus when He rode into Jerusalem before His Passion ( John 12:28-29). Jesus spoke to Paul from Heaven on the road to Damascus ( Acts 9:3-7).

Acts 9:2Comments- Evidently, the Roman government allowed the Jews to exercise a limited amount of jurisdiction among themselves. The religious leaders had already put Peter, John and other apostles in prison, and brought them before the Sanhedrin ( Acts 4:1-22; Acts 5:17-41). They had stoned Stephen, the first Church martyr ( Acts 7:54-60). Now, the Jewish leaders were exerting a wider breath of authority in Palestine, extending to Damascus, unhindered by Roman rule.

Acts 9:3Comments- My mother tells me that her father, my grandfather, was converted in a similar way. In 1943, when she was seven years old, he was riding his bicycle on Highway 390 near the Mill Bayou bridge, about one mile from our home, when a bright light appeared to him and a voice told him to throw away his cigarettes. Hebrews , too, was a man of great anger and vulgarity. He obeyed the voice of the Lord and became a Christian. Because of such a dramatic transformation in his life, my mother followed him in the faith at the tender age of seven.

Acts 9:4Comments- Very often in Uganda I have to repeat my name several times to strangers before it becomes clear enough for them to pronounce. Saul appears to have been physically weakened in the presence of the Lord, but conscience enough to hear and respond to the Lord.

Acts 9:5 — "And he said, Who art thou, Lord" - Comments- In Acts 9:5 Paul addresses Jesus as "Lord" ( κύριος) (G 2962), which is used by the New Testament writers to refer to Jesus Christ as God, but this word can also be diminished to simply means, "master, sir." Scholars note that Paul seems to be calling him "Master" or " Sirach ," not knowing Jesus' true identity.

Acts 9:5 — "And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest" - Comments- The word "Lord" ( κύριος) is now used by the author to denote Jesus Christ as God, the Master of the universe.

Acts 9:5 — "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" - Word Study on "pricks" - Strong says the Greek word "pricks" ( κέντρον) (G 2759) means, "a point, a sting, a goad."

Textual Criticism - The phrase "it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks" is not well supported in ancient Greek manuscripts, so that modern Greek texts and English translations usually delete this phrase.

ASV, "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest:"

ESV, "And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

NCV, "Saul said, "Who are you, Lord?" The voice answered, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting."

RSV, "And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting;"

Comments (Historical Background) - The classical Greek and Latin writers use this phrase often enough to assume that it was, as Basil Gildersleeve suggests, an ancient proverb. 159] For example, the ancient Greek lyric poet Pindar (522-443 B.C.) writes, "But Hebrews , the patient and the wise. Who to the yoke his neck applies, Lifts not, like oxen prone to feel Each casual sting, his angry heel Be my complacent temper shown, Conversing with the good alone." (The Second Pythian Ode 2173-175) 160] The ancient Athenian tragedian Euripides (480-406 B.C.) writes, "Better to yield him prayer and sacrifice, Than kick against the pricks, since Dionyse, Is God, and thou but mortal." (The Bacchae 191) 161] The ancient Roman playwright Terence (195/185-159 B.C.) writes, "Yes, yes, it is folly kicking against the pricks." (Phormia 1227) 162]

159] Basil L. Gildersleeve, Pindar The Olympian and Pythian Odes (New York: American Book Company, 1885), 267.

160] Pindar, Pindar and Anacreon, trans. C. A. Wheelwright and Thomas Bourne (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1846), 106.

161] Euripides, The Bacchae of Euripides, trans. Gilbert Murray (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd, c 1904, 1920), 46.

162] John Sargeaunt, Terance, vol 2, in The Loeb Classical Library, eds. T. E. Page, E. Capps, and W. H. D. Rouse (London: William Heinemann Ltd, 1959), 15.

Comments - Within the context of Acts 9:5, the word "pricks" refers to the ox-goad, which was made from a long stick with some sharp object fastened on its end, being used to poke the ox and get him to move forward in his harness to pull the cart. We can imagine Paul traveling along the Damascus road in a convoy of horses, men, and wagons, with a team of oxen being prodded along the way using an ox goad. This metaphor that Jesus uses would have immediate application to what Paul was doing to the Christian in his efforts to persecute and imprison them.

Comments - Heinrich Meyer paraphrases this phrase in Acts 9:5 to mean, "It is for thee a difficult undertaking." 163]

163] Heinrich August Wilhelm Meyer, Critical and Exegetical Handbook to the Acts of the Apostles, trans. Paton J. Gloag, ed. William P. Dickson (New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1884), 275.

Acts 9:5Comments - The idea in Jesus' statement that Paul was like a harnessed ox that was being prodded along the road using an ox-goad implies that God already had Paul "harnessed." That is God was divinely intervening his Paul's live prior to his conversion. If we look at his Roman citizenship and exposure to the Greco-Roman world by his birth in Tarsus, and his upbringing in Jewish law at the feet of Gamaliel, and his prominence among the Jewish leaders, we can see that God had prepared Paul prior to his conversion for his task as an apostle to the Gentiles and writing much of the New Testament. Therefore, Jesus tells Paul that it was difficult for him to kick against God's plan for his life. We find this concept in Paul's testimony to the Galatian church of being separated by God from his mother's womb when he says, "For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews" religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: And profited in the Jews" religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother"s womb, and called me by his grace, To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:" ( Galatians 1:13-16)

In the same way, God is at work in all of our lives prior to our conversion. He has created each one of us with unique gifts and interests and sent us into this world at His time and season. If we resist His divine calling in our lives, then we, too, are "kicking against the pricks."

Acts 9:5Scripture References - Note a parallel verse:

Acts 26:14, "And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

Acts 9:6Comments- Note how God gave Paul one simple instruction at first, and told him that he would receive further instruction when he obeyed the first. In a similar way, the Lord told Abraham to leave his country and family and into a country in which He would show him. When Abraham then came into the Promised Land and pitched camp in the plain of Moreh the Lord appeared unto Him a second time and told him that this was the land that he was to live and his descendents were to inherit.

God changed Paul's directions here in this passage. God does this again in Acts 16.

Acts 16:9-12, "And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them. Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days."

Acts 9:9Comments- Saul fasted and prayed in response to this supernatural experience because of his devotion and discipline in the Jewish faith. This was his way of seeking the Lord.

Acts 9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.

Acts 9:10Comments- The ABD says the Greek name ἁνανιας is derived from the Hebrew name ănanĕyâh, "God is merciful." 164] The Hebrew name Hananiah is found frequently in the Old Testament (1-2Chron, Ezra ,, Nehemiah ,, Jeremiah , Dan).

164] R. F. O'Toole, "Ananias," in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, vol 1, ed. D. N. Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 224.

Hippolytus tells us this same Ananias of Acts 9 became the bishop of the church at Damascus, saying, "Ananias, who baptized Paul, and was bishop of Damascus." (Appendix to the Works of Hippolytus 49: The Same Hippolytus on the Seventy Apostles 5) (ANF 5)

Acts 9:11 And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

Acts 9:11Comments- The Lord spoke to me last night in a dream that the reason Ananias was sent to Saul was because he was praying (31December 2004). When I looked up this passage I saw where the Lord placed emphasis upon Saul's prayers. Because Saul chose to seek the Lord as a result of his vision and not reject Him, the Lord was able to work in his life by sending someone to reveal more of God's Word to him. The Lord would not have sent someone to Saul unless his heart been open to what Ananias had to say.

Acts 9:12Comments- It is not until a man is saved that he can see the ways of God. Saul was blind as a persecutor of the Church. But now, being made blind, he begins to see the things of God.

Acts 9:15Comments- The Lord revealed to Ananias the order of Paul's ministry in Acts 9:15 when He said to him, "for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel." We know from the New Testament that Paul first preached the Gospel to the Gentiles during his first three missionary journeys. He was then imprisoned in Caesarea and in Rome where he took the Gospel to kings. towards the end of his life tradition tells us that he wrote the epistle to the Hebrews , giving the children of Israel insight into the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is found nowhere else.

Acts 9:16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name"s sake.

Acts 9:16Comments- Acts 9:16 tells us that Paul must suffer for Christ's name sake. Anything that has value to us comes at a cost. Paul's missionary life will cost him much suffering as an apostle to the Gentiles. We can read Paul's epistle of 2Corinthians and gain a tremendous insight as to what these sufferings were and how they glorified Christ Jesus. In this epistle he explains how these suffering were for the consolation and salvation of the churches he established ( 2 Corinthians 1:6). They produced endurance for many other believers by his examples. The comfort he received from God was used to comfort others so that they would endure.

Acts 9:15-16Comments - Paul's Divine Commission- Acts 9:15-16 reveals Paul"s lifetime commission from the Lord Jesus Christ. He because an apostle to the Gentiles. He testified often in Jewish synagogues and in Jerusalem. He ultimately finished his course having testified to the Emperor in Rome. Paul had to fulfill this commission in order to finish his course. Note:

2 Timothy 4:6-7, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:"

Note that God gave Moses his lifetime commission at the burning bush.

Exodus 3:10, "Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt."

Note that God gave Jeremiah his lifetime commission while he was a young man.

Jeremiah 1:4-5, "Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."

Peter received his commission from Jesus by the Lake of Galilee.

John 21:15, "So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs."

Acts 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.

Acts 9:17"Brother Saul" - Comments- Saul was saved by now. Song of Solomon , he was a brother in the Lord. Then he received the Holy Ghost.


Verses 1-31

The Witness of Paul's Conversion - In Acts 9:1-31 Luke records the conversion and early ministry of Paul the apostle. One important outcome of this event is that the wave of Jewish persecutions against the Church ceased ( Acts 9:31).

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. The Witness of Saul's Conversion and Divine Commission — Acts 9:1-19

2. Saul's Early Ministry in Damascus — Acts 9:20-25

3. Saul's Ministry in Jerusalem — Acts 9:26-31


Verses 20-25

Saul's Early Ministry in Damascus - In Acts 9:20-25 we have the account of Paul's early ministry as he began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in Damascus.

Acts 9:20Comments- The message that Jesus Christ is the Son of God is the foundational message of the Christian faith. The Gospel of John builds its theme around this foundational truth.


Verses 26-31

Saul's Ministry in Jerusalem - In Acts 9:26-31 we have the account of Saul's ministry in Jerusalem after he flees Damascus because of his testimony.


Verses 32-35

The Witness of Peter in Lydda - In Acts 9:32-35 we have the account of Peter healing Aeneas in Lydda.


Verses 32-48

The Witness of Peter's Ministry Beyond Jerusalem - In Acts 9:32 to Acts 10:48 we have the testimony of Peter's ministry beyond Jerusalem. In these passages he heals Aeneas ( Acts 9:32-35), he raises Dorcas from the dead ( Acts 9:36-43) and he preaches to the household of Cornelius ( Acts 10:1-48).

Outline - Here is a proposed outline:

1. Witness of Peter in Lydda — Acts 9:32-35

2. Witness of Peter in Joppa — Acts 9:36-43

3. Witness of Peter in Caesarea — Acts 10:1-48


Verses 36-43

The Witness of Peter in Joppa- In Acts 9:36-43 we have the account of Peter raising Dorcas from the dead in Joppa.

Acts 9:36 Now there was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and almsdeeds which she did.

Acts 9:36Comments- Because of the grace of the deer, women were named after them. The Aramaic name "Tabitha" and its Greek equivalent "Dorcas" mean "gazelle." The grace of the deer is referred to in the wisdom literature and poetic books of the Old Testament.

Proverbs 5:19, "Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love."

Song of Solomon 2:9, "My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice."

Song of Solomon 4:5, "Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins, which feed among the lilies."

Song of Solomon 7:3, "Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins."

Song of Solomon 8:14, "Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe or to a young hart upon the mountains of spices."

 


Copyright Statement
These files are copyrighted by the author, Gary Everett. Used by Permission.
No distribution beyond personal use without permission.

Bibliography Information
Everett, Gary H. "Commentary on Acts 9:4". Gary H. Everett's Study Notes on the Holy Scriptures. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghe/acts-9.html. 2013.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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