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Bible Commentaries

The Bible Study New Testament
Acts 9

 

 

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Introduction

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Verse 1

Saul kept up his violent threats. See Acts 8:3. The life of this man is about to undergo a radical transformation as he comes face to face with the Risen Lord! Saul tried to live as he understood the Law of God. It was because of ignorance that he tried to destroy the church (1 Timothy 1:13). [One year or more has passed since the death of Stephen.] Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin (Philippians 3:5); his Jewish father was a Roman citizen, so Saul was born a Roman citizen (Acts 22:28). He was born in Tarsus, a Greek city, capital of Cilicia. He grew up with the Greek language and customs, as well as being raised a strict Pharisee (Philippians 3:5-6). While still young, he went to Jerusalem to study the Law at the theological schools, and was taught by one of the greatest teachers of the Law, Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), He was one of the militant Pharisees (Acts 26:5), and probably had been trained as a missionary for Judaism. It is thought that he had been away from Jerusalem during the time of Christ's public ministry and the events of the Cross. As we first meet him, he is a young man [between 30,35 years old], outstanding and with great influence, active in his attempt to destroy what he believes to be a heresy, and a trusted leader of those who are enemies of Christianity.


Verse 2

And asked for letters. If Saul's conversion was in 33 A.D. [by the corrected calendar], the High Priest must have been Joseph Calaphas, a Sadducee, who held office until 36 A.D. The High Priest was a "pope" over the Jews, and authority from him would allow Saul to demand help from any synagogue. Damascus. About 140 miles northeast of Jerusalem, east of Mt. Hermon, in Syria. Watered by mountain streams, this beautiful city was a fertile spot in the desert. It is one of the oldest cities in the world, dating from before Abraham. Saul's activity had the backing of the Council, of which he himself may have been a member (see note on Acts 26:10). The Way of the Lord. Christianity; the Christian System.


Verse 3

On his way. Six or seven days were needed to go that far. Suddenly a light from the sky. Much brighter than the sun (Acts 26:13). The same as that seen at the Transfiguration, and by John on Patmos. Paul tells more details in chapters 22 & 26.


Verse 4

And heard a voice. The voice spoke to him in Hebrew (Acts 26:14), the language he spoke at his mother's knee, which was also the theological language. This strikes Saul at the very depths of his personality. Why do you persecute me? The blow that strikes against the messianic community also strikes Jesus himself! This shows how closely united Christ is with his church.


Verse 5

Who are you, Lord? He recognized this as a supernormal communication, but would not know that it was Christ who spoke. Saul was a religious Prayer of Manasseh, sincere in what he was doing (Acts 23:1). I am Jesus. He does not say, "I am the Eternal Logos, the Living God." Saul would have answered, "I am not persecuting you, Lord." The voice says, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you persecute." And immediately Saul understands! The one whom he had hated intensely, whose religious community he had worked to destroy, is the Lord himself!!! He could reject this knowledge, as did Judas Iscariot. And the power of the vision had not offered anything to change his mind, until the voice identified itself. But his mind GRASPS this knowledge and he lies there a believer who desperately wants to escape his sin!


Verse 6

Where you will be told what you must do. He must come into the Kingdom in the same way the others have. Christ has placed the terms of salvation into human hands, and Saul must learn what to do to be saved from a human source [Ananias]. Compare 2 Corinthians 4:1-7.


Verse 7

They heard the voice. Saul both heard the voice and saw Jesus (Acts 9:17; 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8). These men were on the fringes of the vision and did not receive the full impact. Although they heard the voice, they did not understand what it said (Acts 22:9). It is implied they got up from the ground in a shorter time than Saul did.


Verse 8

But could not see a thing. This blindness was proof he had not imagined the whole thing. Saul the destroyer was led helplessly into the city.


Verse 9

For three days. Try to picture the panic and anguish of this devoutly religious man who suddenly discovered he had been fighting against the very God he loved and served!!! Compare Acts 2:37 and note.


Verse 10

There was a disciple. Ananias is only mentioned in his connection with Saul.


Verse 11-12

The Lord said to him. Just as Philip was sent to the Ethiopian eunuch, Ananias is sent to Saul. Straight Street. This street ran across the city, from the eastern gate to the western gate, and was about 100 feet wide. At the house of Judas. We know only his name. A man from Tarsus named Saul. This would identify the right man. He is praying. Try to picture how Ananias must have felt, being sent to Saul of Tarsus, the fierce enemy of Christians!!!


Verse 13-14

Ananias answered. He voices his fears to the Lord. Put yourself in his place.


Verse 15-16

Go, because I have chosen him. The case of Saul is unique! He alone of the apostles, saw the Lord in this way and received this call (1 Corinthians 15:8; Acts 26:16-18). Note that Saul was called to be an apostle before his sins were forgiven, and it was his option whether he obeyed the Lord (Acts 22:16).


Verse 17

And placed his hands on Saul. As an act of friendship, not to give any gift [since Ananias was not an apostle]. Paul declared that he received his authority as an apostle from God, not men (Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:11-12). The "be filled with the Holy Spirit" took place after Ananias had baptized Saul into Christ. Compare Acts 22:13-16. All the apostles received the "baptism with the Holy Spirit" direct from God (Acts 1:4), and none but the apostles could "pass on" the special gifts to others.


Verse 18

Something like fish scales. As soon as Ananias says "Brother Saul, see again!" this happens. He stood up and was baptized. J.F. Bethune-Baker, in An Introduction to the Early History of Christian Doctrine says this of how the early church understood the role of baptism: "It was regarded as in itself conveying the blessings and the grace which were bestowed. It was the medium by which the power of the life and death of Christ was made effective to the individual experience. " See note on Acts 22:16.


Verse 19

Saul stayed for a few days. Paul, as we better know him, received his knowledge and his message direct from God and did not need to be taught (Galatians 1:12). But try to picture his intense desire for companionship! In turning to Jesus Christ, he has cut himself off from everything in the past!


Verse 20

He went straight to the synagogues. He immediately begins working to bring people to Jesus. For a short time, the bizarre turn-around in him would cause many unbelieving Jews to hear him out.


Verse 21

AU who heard him were amazed. They knew who he was and what he had done in the past, but had not yet learned of his converting to Christ.


Verse 22

But Saul's preaching. His ability grew rapidly!


Verse 23

After many days had gone by. Probably three years time, during which he was away in Arabia (Galatians 1:16-18). It was when he had come back to Damascus that this persecution broke out. And made plans to kill Saul. Paul tells about this in 2 Corinthians 11:32-33. King Aretas, an Arabian, controlled Damascus at this time, and he was willing to kill Paul to please the Jews.


Verse 24

Day and night they watched. "The governor under King Aretas placed guards at the city gates to arrest me" (2 Corinthians 11:32).


Verse 25

Lowering him in a basket. Houses built against the wall, or on the wall, gave the opportunity to escape from the city.


Verse 26

Saul went to Jerusalem. Three years before, he had set out from Jerusalem, as a proud, talented young Pharisee, with a bright future as an agent of the Council. He set out with authority from the High Priest himself, to stamp out Christianity in Damascus. Now he comes back as a disciple of the hated Jesus of Nazareth, with no future at all as far as the Council and Judaism is concerned. Persecuted, hated, he is an outcast from his own nation. Why the change??? He had decided that what Jesus had to offer was worth more than the whole world put together!!! And they were all afraid of him. Could you blame them???


Verse 27

Then Barnabas came to his help. We met Barnabas in Acts 4:36. Like Paul, he was a Greek-speaking Jew. He may have known Paul personally,


Verse 28

And went all over Jerusalem. He certainly was not timid!


Verse 29

And disputed with the Greek-speaking Jews. He was "one of them." But they considered him a "traitor" because he had turned to Christ. Note also that the Lord warned him to get away from Jerusalem (Acts 22:17-21).


Verse 30

And sent him away to Tarsus. The same group of Jews who had killed Stephen, now wanted to kill Paul. Some think Galatians 1:21 implies Paul went by land through Syria. Johnson thinks Paul went by boat to Seleucia, on the seacoast close to Antioch, and then by land to Tarsus. Four or five years pass before we hear of Paul again (Acts 11:26), during which time he was busy preaching Christ (Galatians 1:21-24; Acts 15:23; Acts 15:41).


Verse 31

Had a time of peace. After Paul escaped from the city, persecution ceased for a while. The Roman Emperor Caligula ordered his statue placed in the temple at Jerusalem. The Jews were too busy with this defilement of their temple, to persecute the Christians.


Verses 32-34

Peter traveled everywhere. Visiting the communities of Christians in Judea. In Lydda. Near Joppa. Here Peter heals a man who had been paralyzed for eight years. Note he credits the healing to Christ.


Verse 35

Living in Lydda and Sharon. Sharon is mentioned in Song of Solomon 2:1. "All the people" means there was a general "turning to the Lord."


Verse 36

There was a woman named Tabitha. Joppa has been a seaport since the time of David. Citrus fruit is grown in the flat coastal plain. She was a Christian well known for her charity.


Verse 37

Her body was washed. Eastern houses often had a large upstairs room. Bodies were washed to prepare them for burial. [Note the symbolism in Romans 6:3-4]


Verse 38-39

They sent two men to him. His fame suggests he may restore her to life. All the widows crowded around him. It was a bitter experience to be a widow in the first century, and it was very often necessary to depend upon charity. Tabitha had been one who helped them.


Verse 40

Peter put them all out of the room. Compare 1 Kings 17:19-23; 2 Kings 4:32-36; Matthew 9:25. This is so nothing will disturb him, as he kneels down in prayer. This is the first "Raising from death" done by an apostle.


Verse 42-43

The news about this. This sort of thing "advertised" Christianity! Peter stayed on in Joppa. For perhaps a year. Joppa was a large city, and there were many people to hear the Good News. Peter is at the house of Simon the leatherworker when the messengers come to him (Acts 10:32).

 


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Acts 9:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/acts-9.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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