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Bible Commentaries

Wells of Living Water Commentary
Acts 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-3

The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus

Acts 9:1-3

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

We have read, how, years ago, an outstanding infidel felt that if the Resurrection of Christ, and the Conversion of Saul could be demonstrated to be false, no more than a hoax then, the foundation stones of Christianity would be destroyed. In trying to establish, however, that Saul of Tarsus was never converted, he discovered that the historicity of the Bible account of his conversion was unimpeachable, and he, himself, became converted.

In our treatment of the Bible story of Saul's conversion, we call your attention, at the outset, to a phase of the salvation of this great persecutor, which many have overlooked.

I. THE FINAL STRUGGLE OF A SOUL AGAINST GOD (Acts 9:1 ; Acts 9:5 )

We accept Acts 9:5 as an illumination of Acts 9:1 . Saul, was kicking against the pricks. That is, God was prodding Saul's consciousness with a call to be saved; more and more Saul was being convinced of the error of his ways, and of the genuineness of the Christians' Christ; however, the more he was convinced the more stubbornly did he fight against God and the saints.

Now mark the significance of the words, "And Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter." He was yet doing it; he was doing it yet. His "breathings" were heavier, and louder, but they were only the "breathings" that precede collapse. Saul was about to succumb. The end of his self-life was near, and he was about to enter into a new life in Christ Jesus.

Had you approached him, as Saul went to the authorities seeking letters of commission to bring the saints of Damascus bound to Jerusalem, and had you said, "Saul, these Christians are not fanatics following some strange god; they are truly saved, and their Christ is the Jehovah God; under whose banner you profess to fight." Had you so ap-preached Saul, he would have utterly denied the truth, of your words.

However, it was true that Saul, with stubborn will, and hardened heart, was beginning to realize that he was fighting against God. The things which were happening every day, and which had been happening for some time were making great inroads on Saul's convictions concerning the Christ.

Why, then, did Saul yet breathe out threatenings and slaughter? Why did his antagonism against the Christians increase?

We believe that his actions were the result of a strongly prejudiced soul, unwilling to admit its sin. Saul had long boasted his goodness. Concerning the Law he was blameless. He had lived according to the strictest sect of the Jews. He was a devotee of the Jews' religion. He was a Pharisee. He had much in the flesh in which to boast. He was an old-fashioned, Judaistic Jew. He also had much, personally, to gain by following along the line of the orthodox faith, and much to lose by following Christ.

In persecuting saints, Saul was putting himself in line of promotion among the religionists of his day. In fighting Christ, he was paving his way to Sanhedrin honors. To his youthful mind, the Christian confession could mean, to him nothing but disaster. Socially, religiously, and financially it behoved Saul to stand in with the "powers" in Israel.

Therefore, against the encroachments of the new faith gripping his own soul, he fought with madness. He argued to himself that the old established Judaism, must be right, because the scribes and Pharisees followed in its wake. He had himself sat at Gamaliel's feet; and education mocked the new faith in Christ.

At first, Saul verily thought he was doing the will of God. While he was plainly feathering his own nest, he tried to convince himself that he was likewise fighting error, and fanaticism, and helping to put down a most dangerous foe to a religious system that had grown up during the centuries with a history of Divine favor and revelation that had marked it as Divine. Saul counted that he was standing with God, because he stood in the line of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob. He argued that the God of the Prophets and of David, was his God.

Over the other hand, Saul contended that Christ was antagonistic to the fathers, and to the God of the fathers. Saul had followed under Gamaliel's instruction, the whole course of Jewish history, and he had unshaken faith in the God who had brought Israel out of Egypt, and had established her in the land of promise.

Blinded as he was, Saul never once saw in Christ the complement of all that the fathers had believed. He knew not that Christ was the very fulfilment of the prophecies of Holy Writ. He knew not that Abraham had seen Christ's day and had exulted. He knew not that Moses had lived and died looking toward the recompense which the Advent of Christ would bring. He knew not that David had always had before his face the Coming of the very Christ whom he now hated.

To be sure Saul knew the Prophets and believed the Prophets. He knew that the Messiah was to come. However Saul had utterly repudiated the One who had come, was the Messiah. He was caught in the sweep of rabbinical prejudices. He was carried along by the sway of popular religious resentment against the Nazarene.

At the stoning of Stephen, Saul had kept the clothes of the men who slew the great apologist. He was consenting to his death. His vote was in favor of the martyrdom of the man who was filled with the Holy Ghost and wisdom.

Now, as he started along the way to Damascus, he was, himself, leading the crowd against the Christians.

II. THE GOADS THAT PRICKED (Acts 9:5 )

We wonder if we can follow somewhat, at least, the very happenings that goaded Saul with the growing conviction that he was fighting against God. We may be able to discover some of them let us see.

1. The shining of a martyr's face. We mentioned this in a former sermon, and will not now dwell upon it. However, there was something that Saul of Tarsus could not explain. The sublimity of Stephen's faith, mirrored in his shining countenance, as he died triumphant death, never left Saul nor could Saul comprehend the meaning of Stephen's words, "I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God." Saul could not understand the spirit that could lead a dying martyr to say, "Lay not this sin to their charge."

All in all, Saul found it impossible to rub that scene from his memory. Here was one of the "goads" that pricked him.

2. The serene sublimity of the faith of many Christians. Saul was playing havoc with the Churches. He was entering into homes here and there, and dragging out Christians whom he committed to prison. Their quiet mien, their willingness to suffer for Christ's sake; the songs that the Christians sang in the night, all gave token to the reality of their faith. Saul could not reason through these witnesses to saving and keeping power.

Saul knew that the Christians possessed something that he and his co-religionists did not possess. There was an unseen hand that guided them. They manifested a joy, and love, and peace, that was altogether foreign to Saul's comprehension.

These formed an added goad, which pricked Saul of Tarsus.

3. The members of his own family who had been saved. Among those who had received the Lord Jesus, were Andronicus and Junia, Saul's kinsmen. These were in Christ before him, and they were of note among the Apostles. In addition there was another kinsman of Saul, named Herodian, who may have been saved before Saul was saved. The faith and prayers of these kinsmen were another goad to prick Saul. It was impossible for Saul to shake off their pleas and their prayers. He no doubt resisted them, and they perhaps felt that they had made no impression on their youthful and brilliant relative. But God knew better. Out-wardly Saul was always on the offensive against Christ, hut inwardly he was weakening in his sincerity as an antagonist.

III. SAUL'S GRANDSTAND PLAY (Acts 9:2 )

Saul had gone to the high priest and had "desired of him letters to Damascus to the Synagogue, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem."

This was Saul's final stroke. With the sounding of trumpets and the glitter of swords, he had started off. Fighting against God, he went on his way. He went smouldering an ever-increasing fire of conviction, that he was wrong, Mid the glamor and glare of a professed persecutor, he was himself almost ready to become the persecuted. No one knew this but God and himself. The saints at Damascus, including Ananias, had heard that he was on the way to Damascus. They naturally feared his coming. They felt that he was without heart, and sympathy. He wielded against them the sword that knew no pity and no remorse.

Thus Saul journeyed on, a peer among persecutors. He journeyed on to honor and to fame. He journeyed on a vassal of Satan. The chief priest and the rulers in the Jews' religion felt that, in Saul, they had a trusted and invincible ally. The devil felt that, in Saul, his own cause was safe.

There was, however, another eye that watched that ruthless march. Christ looked down. He knew every emotion of the thoughts of Saul's heart. He knew the pricking goads, that were piercing him.

What did God see in that grandstand play? He saw a man kicking against the pricks. He saw a man unwilling to yield? Yes, but God saw more. He saw a man, who, once fully convinced, would be willing to count all but loss for Christ. He saw an intrepid worker; a servant, panoplied to pray as valiantly as he had formerly fought. He saw a missionary who through fire and flood, undaunted would continue faithful to the end. Christ saw in Saul, saved and sanctified in Christ Jesus, a man who would never flutter a flag of truce.

That young man, before he was born, was chosen of God, That young man, from his mother's womb was called by God's grace. God had environed him, and led him in a way that would finally perfect him as a warrior of the Cross, mighty in word and in deed.

Thus it was, that while others marked the grandstand-play, the march of a seemingly tyrannical foe; God watched the march of a man kicking under a growing and deepening conviction that he was wrong, all wrong. God saw that the hour for the last needed goad had come.

As he marched on his way, what questions were throbbing in Saul's brain. He must have been asking himself, "Why did Stephen's face shine?" Or, "I wonder if Stephen was under an hallucination when he said that he saw Jesus standing at God's right hand?" "I wonder where these Christians get their power to sing as they die?" "They count it all joy to suffer for their faith. Why?" Saul was asking himself, "Can it be that I am wrong?" "Am I fighting against God?"

Thus the stage play was not all a roseate scene. There were misgivings and questionings and fears. Then, the unexpected came to pass.

IV. THE MIRACULOUS LIGHT AND VOICE (Acts 9:3 )

God knew just when and how to give the final prick of the goad. Read Acts 9:3 : "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven."

The light shone suddenly, but the steps that led up to this great demonstration of glory, took many days. Conversion itself is sudden, but, not so, the conviction of sin, and the process of preparation of mind and heart that lead to climactic and regenerating faith.

Before the light of life breaks on the soul, the soul must be made ready for the light just as the soil is made ready for the seed.

God's light shining down on Saul of Tarsus came to dispel his darkness. It came as a great illumination, enforcing the Deity of Christ. Saul had been a conscience-stricken, but conscientious objector to the Lord's Christ. He had had some glimmerings of light, but he was still walking in the shadows. He must have felt that his way might be wrong, that his persecutions might be unjust, but he was not sure he was endeavoring to shut out the light, In giving this unusual demonstration, God had a twofold purpose. First, God was, by His grace, doing that which He deemed right in order to save from death a great soul, struggling in the mist of doubt. Secondly, God was doing to an individual, what He is yet to do to a race. Of this second dealing the far-flung meaning of Saul's conversion we will give a later sermon.

Just now we insist that every soul is in need of light. He may complain, alleging that God, today, does not give so great and so miraculous a light to the multitudes of the unsaved who walk in darkness. That is not true. The darkness may not comprehend the light, but a light of accumulative power is shining today upon all men. We who live in the twentieth century have the light of a completed Gospel, and of a ripened spiritual ministry. We have the light of two millenniums of Christian living and service. We have the light of thousands of sermons, that illuminate the glory of Christ, and set forth the efficacy of the Cross.

No man living today dare complain that Saul of Tarsus was given more light than he has received. For, in addition to the light that Saul had (for that light still shines); we have Paul's ministry, and messages, and much more besides.

V. THE PROSTRATION OF A PROUD SPIRIT (Acts 9:4 )

"And he fell to the earth." We have long since discovered that the way to get up, is getting down; that humiliation is the pathway to exaltation. The broken and the contrite heart, God will not despise. If some one objects that Saul did not willingly humble himself that God forcefully struck him down, we agree, but with this reservation, that when God struck Saul down, Saul, succumbed, and willingly yielded the now flickering torch, of his selfish pride.

Saul certainly could have stiffened his neck against the light of God. That Saul received the Lord with open heart and mind is seen in the aftermath. The falling form of the proud persecutor, was the beginning of his rising into a new life in Christ Jesus.

The Lord Jesus followed Saul's collapse, with a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"

Perhaps, had Saul sought to justify his evil course, he might have answered with many words. Saul might have said some such things as these:

"I persecute You, because the men Who sit in Moses' seat, and the men who stand at the head of the religious system which has a record of antiquity and of direct Divine revelation, are solidly against You."

"I persecute You because I love my nation, and revere the memory of the fathers, and You have bitterly condemned my nation and its rulers. You entered into the Temple and drove out our money-changers with a whip of cords. You called the scribes and Pharisees, 'hypocrites,' 'a generation of vipers who could not escape the damnation of hell.'"

"I persecute You because I see in Your teachings the collapse of many cherished customs, which rabbinical lore have fastened upon our nation."

"I persecute You because You have prophesied the downfall and collapse of our nation. You have said that our House is left unto us desolate; You have said that our Temple shall be thrown down; and that a great tribulation awaits our nation, greater than any the world has ever known."

Saul might have said some such things, but he did not. He certainly had been drilled in some such conceptions. The High Priest, and the rabbi, with whom Saul associated, had no end of seemingly good arguments against the Lord Jesus Christ. They fought back, like tigers, against the accusations of Peter and the Apostles that they had been the murderers of the Son of God. They sought from every possible viewpoint, to justify all that they, in their villainy had done. And, Saul of Tarsus followed in their train. He had stood with them, and for them, and against all that opposed them.

What did Saul now do? First, he trembled. A fear gripped his soul. His mouth was shut. He found no words with which to justify himself. He had come to the end of his own road. He trembled because Heaven had stopped him in his mad career.

An angel blocked the progress of Balaam, yet Balaam had justified himself, and had gone on his way to Balac. Not so with Saul of Tarsus. He was too genuine a soul to do as Balaam had done. His very fiber was integrity itself. He had always lived an intensive, honorable life. He trembled because a tremendous conviction was gripping his soul. He began to see himself, a dupe of prejudice, swayed by darkening unbelief.

Not alone did Saul tremble, he was astonished. God was revealing two things, simultaneously to Saul first, the Son of God was being revealed; and secondly the sin of his own heart was being revealed.

Saul never forgot that hour. He never forgot the trembling and the astonishment of his own soul, when that light shone in.

Would that some one had the gift to give us, to see ourselves as God doth see us!

What astonishment would be the sinner's if he could see the glory of the Person of Christ on the one hand, and the shame of his own life on the other hand!

In our next sermon we will consider the question, which Saul asked, "Who art Thou, Lord?"


Verses 1-43

Saul's Conversion: A Pattern and a Prophecy

1 Timothy 1:15-16 ; with Acts 9:1-43

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

We marvel, therefore, that what God wrought in Saul's conversion on the Damascus road is as vital a part of prophecy, as what He wrote by Paul in the Epistles.

As we enter upon this message we ask your attention to a most striking Scripture. Let us weigh the words:

"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.

"Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting" (1 Timothy 1:15-16 ).

Paul's conversion was a model, a pattern to them who should hereafter believe. Certainly his conversion was not a pattern to the Gentiles, or even to the Jews, saved during this age of grace. We may have a wonderful change when we find the Saviour, but none of us have had the things accompanying our salvation, that befell Saul.

If, with wisdom and positive Scripture, we can truly show that Saul's conversion on the Damascus road is a sample, or pattern, of the future conversion of his own people Israel, then we will feel that we have not overstated the scope of meaning which we believe the Spirit is stressing in 1 Timothy 1:15 , 1 Timothy 1:16 . Let us give this interesting study our careful thought.

I. SAUL WAS A CHIEF OF SINNERS SO IS ISRAEL

In what sense was Saul the chief of sinners? He was not the chief of sinners morally. He could truthfully boast of his righteousness according to the Law therein he was blameless. Israel, nationally, is known for superiority over the Gentiles in the realms of the obscene, and of the baser lustings of the flesh.

Wherein was Saul so great a sinner? His sin lay in his blasphemy against Christ, and in his persecutions against the Church. What of Israel?

When Isaiah spoke of his sin, he cried, "I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips." When Paul spoke of Israel, he said, "Thou that makest thy boast of the Law, through breaking the Law dishonourest thou God? For the Name of God, is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you."

Israel has been scattered among the nations, and has been dispersed among all countries; wheresoever they have gone they have profaned the Name of the Lord. God will have pity for His Name, and will sanctify it. He will gather the Children of Israel back from every land whither they have gone, and will bring them into their own land. Then will He sprinkle clean water upon them and they shall be clean; He will give them a new heart, and put a right spirit within them: then, will they learn not to blaspheme.

II. SAUL WAS SAVED BY THE SHINING OF GREAT LIGHT ISRAEL WILL THUS BE SAVED

The light that shone upon Saul was supernatural; it was a light that demonstrated that Christ was living. Accompanying the light, was the voice of the risen and seated Lord.

When Israel is saved, there will be a marvelous effulgence of glory, shining upon her. The Spirit speaks by Isaiah this way:

"So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.

"And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.

"As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever" (Isaiah 59:19-21 ).

When Christ comes the second time He will come in the glory of His Father, and of the holy angels. His coming will be like the lightning that shineth from one end of the heaven even unto the other. Then, His people will see His glory. The Redeemer will come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob.

III. SAUL HEARD AND SAW JESUS CHRIST SO WILL ISRAEL

1. The first query that came to Saul from Jesus was, "Why persecutest thou Me?" These words were spoken from the sky, and fell upon Saul as he was filled with astonishment. Will Israel suddenly awaken to the fact that she has despised and hated the Christ of God?

The Prophet Zechariah wrote of the days of Israel's national salvation, thus:

"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn" (Zechariah 12:10 ).

Think of it Israel is yet to look on the face of the One whom she gave over to die. She shall see the One she pierced. The Book of Revelation, chapter 1, Revelation 1:7 , says, "Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of Him."

Bless God, the Lord will come, and His people shall see Him, and seeing Him, they shall mourn for Him, Israel shall both hear His voice, and see His face, even as Saul saw and heard.

IV. SAUL CALLED JESUS, LORD, ISRAEL WILL ALSO NAME CHRIST AS LORD

We have now come to the gist of the whole Damascus road scene its culminating glory. Saul had rejected Jesus, because he knew Him only as "Jesus." The bitterest offense that Jesus ever gave against the Jews' religion, was when He announced Himself God, making Himself equal with God. The climax of the sins of the Christians against Judaism, was their continued assertion, and bold declaration that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.

The name Lord summed up all that the Godhead implied. It was a word that could be applied only to Deity. Israel's conception was: "The Lord our God is one Lord." Israel held that God would never give to another, the name of Lord.

Christ accepted that title, and the early saints asserted it. Christ came in the Name of the Lord, He also came bearing the Name, Lord. This was the core of the confession of faith that marked the early Church. They were baptized in the Name of the Lord Jesus, because they confessed that Jesus was Lord, the same as the Father was Lord, and the Spirit was Lord.

Peter was not slow to say at Pentecost, "Therefore let all the House of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye crucified, both Lord and Christ."

It was of this that Christ spoke when He said unto the Pharisees, "What think ye of Christ, whose Son is He?" They said, "The son of David." Christ then asked the question that for ever closed their mouths, "How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord?" "If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?"

Now we come to the other side of the task, which we set for ourselves in today's discourse. Will Israel at Christ's Second Coming confess Christ as Lord? If they do, their change of heart and of mind will be as miraculous as was that of Saul's. Israel is blinded unto this day to the fact of the Deity of Jesus. Will they ever acclaim Him as Lord and Christ? Will they ever acknowledge Him as God?

V. SAUL KICKED AGAINST THE PRICKS SO WILL ISRAEL

The shining face of Stephen, the relatives of Saul who were in Christ before him, the mighty works of the Lord through the Christians, all of these played a great part in the conversion of Saul. Even during the time that Saul fought the Lord, there was a growing conviction that prodded his soul he felt that he was wrong in fighting God, yet, he pressed on his way of fury with even renewed vigor.

We now want to ask Has there been, and will there be certain goads to prick Israel? Will these goads open up to Israel the stubbornness of her heart against Christ Jesus, the Son of God?

The Holy Spirit in Romans 11:1-36 speaks on this wise: "Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled, that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy."

Here, then is a goad that pricks the Jews. They cannot but be moved with the fact that the Gentiles are being blessed in Christ. The One whom the Jews crucified, and the One whom the Jews now deny, is the God of the Gentiles. The Jews are also learning that the Gentiles believe all things that are written in the Prophets. They have seen the hand of God favoring the Christians. They have beheld the joy and the song that moves the lives of the truly regenerated. National Israel is more and more moved to jealousy by these things. They are prodding deeper and deeper into their consciences.

However, the goads that prick, will prod the deeper, as the Church is taken out and up to be with the Lord, and as the miracles, and wonders, and signs of the day of Jacob's trouble are multiplied. Saul of Tarsus had a Stephen to proclaim in fiery faith and miraculous power the story of the Christ of God. Saul was overwhelmed by the testimony of Stephen.

Israel will have a similar testimony in the last days. God will send His two witnesses who will prophesy for forty-two months. These two will work miracles.

All of this will have a deepening effect on Israel. It will fill them with fear. It will prick their hearts like goads prick the oxen.

There is no doubt but that there will be many stirring events which will cause Israel to turn her face toward the Lord all of these things will prepare her heart for the Advent of Christ; they will make her ready to receive the Lord when He comes.

Behold thy God, O Israel,

No God there is, but He,

No Lord, no Saviour, and no God

To whom to bend the knee;

He is Jehovah Jireh,

And Jehovah Shallum, too,

He is Jehovah Shammah,

And Jehovah Tsidkenu.

Behold thy God, O Israel,

He is the First and Last,

Thy God in coming ages, and

Thy God in ages past;

He is thine only Alpha,

Only Omega He,

A just God and a Saviour,

He calls, Look unto Me.

VI. A GREAT CHANGE CAME INTO THE LIFE OF SAUL: A GREAT CHANGE WILL COME TO ISRAEL AT CHRIST'S RETURN

The expression which the Lord used in emphasizing the fact that Saul was saved, was, "Behold, he prayeth." The populace at Damascus themselves bore witness, when they heard Saul speaking in the synagogues, "Is not this he that destroyed them that called on this Name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?"

No one will hesitate to acclaim the great change that was wrought in Saul of Tarsus by his conversion. But, what of Israel? Yes, Israel shall be changed. Hear the words of God, recorded in Ezekiel:

"For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.

"Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.

"A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" (Ezekiel 36:24-27 ).

In those days God will write His Law in the hearts of His people. She who persecuted, will pray. Hear God through Zechariah, "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness." In that day the Lord will come. His feet will stand upon the mount of Olives, The saints will come with Him. The Lord will be King of the whole earth. Then, "in that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord."

VII. SAUL SAVED WAS SENT TO THE GENTILES ISRAEL SAVED WILL BE SENT TO THE GENTILES

When salvation came to Saul, he cried, "What wilt Thou have me to do," Lord? The Lord replied, "Go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do." When the Lord gave Ananias instruction on this line, He said, of Saul, "For he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the Children of Israel."

We now come to the vital part of this message Israel in the day of her salvation and restoration is destined, Saul-like, to be God's vessel to bear His Name before the Gentiles and kings.

It will be a great day when a multitude of redeemed Jews preach the Glad Tidings. When a great host of national Israel, saved as Saul was saved, go forth as Saul went forth: go forth, as Sauls, innumerably multiplied, to preach to the Gentiles. When God's "judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness."

In the day of Israel's national forgiveness, the Lord will sing a song unto her: "A vineyard of red wine. I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day." What else will the Lord do for His chosen people? "He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit." In that day they of Assyria who were ready to perish, and the outcasts of the land of Egypt will come to worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem.

In that day the Lord will say unto Israel, "Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen." "Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, that I am God."

Hear the Lord! "It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be My servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a Light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My Salvation unto the ends of the earth."

O Israel, thou shalt arise and shine, when thy Light is come and when the glory of the Lord hath risen upon thee. Then shall "the Gentiles come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising." Men shall bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles; and, the nation or the kingdom that will not serve thee, shall perish.

In that day "the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory." And "thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God."

Israel shall yet declare God's glory among the Gentiles. All flesh shall "come to worship before Me, saith the Lord."

God will yet send the times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. The Holy Spirit in Pentecostal power will rest on Israel. Her old men shall dream dreams, her young men shall see visions. Upon her handmaids and servants will God pour forth His Spirit and they shall prophesy. Then it shall come to pass that "whosoever shall call on the Name of the Lord shall be saved."

Let us, as we close our message, not forget the meaning of Jonah recommissioned. The Lord said unto Jonah the second time, "Arise, go unto Nineveh." Then, Nineveh repented. So shall Israel, who was unfaithful to her first call, be sent again, and in her, all nations shall indeed be blessed. God will perform the truth He spoke to Abraham, and swore to the fathers of old.

Whether we hear of forbear, God has spoken and He will perform, as saith Zephaniah.

"Behold, at that time I will undo all that afflict thee: and I will save her that halteth, and gather her that was driven out; and 1 will get them praise and fame in every land where they have been put to shame.

"At that time will I bring you again, even in the time that I gather you: for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord" (Zephaniah 3:19-20 ).

It will surely come to pass that every one that is left of the nations of the earth will go up to Jerusalem from year to year to worship the Lord.

Turn thou to God, O Israel,

And stretch thy curtains forth;

Lengthen thy cords, strengthen thy stakes,

Turn homeward from the North;

Thine habitations shall be filled,

As Jews from ev'ry land

Turn back their faces toward their homes,

And toward their fatherland.

No more shalt thou be put to shame,

No more confounded be,

Thou shalt forget thy shame of youth,

From sorrows be set free;

Jehovah, thy Redeemer, shall

Be called the King of earth,

Thou shalt believe the Holy One,

The One who gave thee birth.

In wrath a while He hid His face,

A moment He forsook;

He now returns with mercies, large,

O turn to Him and look:

Sing thou, O barren, cry aloud,

Break forth with joyful song,

Thou shalt bear children unto God,

A people great and strong.

The mountains may depart from Him,

The hills may be removed;

But Israel, His loved, His own,

Shall never more be moved.

O thou, afflicted, tempest tossed,

Thy path with sorrows fraught;

With sins all gone, with lives made clean,

What change thy God hath wrought.


Verses 4-6

Three Great Questions

Acts 9:4-6

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

When Saul of Tarsus was stricken down to the ground by a great light, he heard a voice saying, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"

Saul had thought that he was fighting for, and not against, God. He had his misgivings as we taught in our last message; he had the goads which pricked him, but he sought to cast them all aside. He tried to consider himself a hero, fighting the good fight, for the faith of his fathers. The fact is that Saul found mercy because he fought in ignorance and unbelief. He was educated, to be sure, but he was ignorant withal. He thought himself fighting for the faith. but he fought in unbelief.

God smote Saul to the ground with a light that shone brighter than the sun. When the Lord spoke, and said, "Why persecutest thou Me?" Saul did not reply that he was fighting men and not God; for Saul knew that back of all his fierceness against the saints, was the hatred of his heart against the Christ whom they professed to love and to follow.

He was, in reality, fighting against Christ. Could he have gotten Christ before him in tangible form, he would have set himself against Him, as the Jews had done but a short while before.

National Israel had rid herself of the Man of Galilee, the Worker of Miracles, the Teacher of truth, the One who claimed to be God. They had succeeded in crucifying Him, and had seen Him buried. To be sure they knew that He had come forth from the grave, and they knew that He was reputed by eyewitnesses to have ascended up in a cloud into Heaven; but they felt at least that He was gone. Thus they thought that all that was left to rid the earth of His memory and might, was to rid the earth of His followers.

To this task, Saul had set about, dedicating himself to the extinction of the Christians. Now Saul, the star persecutor, was himself stricken down by the Lord. He trembled and he was astonished by what occurred. He distinctively heard the voice from Heaven. The voice was filled with agitation, as is seen in the repetition of the word, "Saul." The voice said, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"

I. THE GREAT QUESTION WHY PERSECUTEST THOU ME? (Acts 9:4 )

Before we precede with our message, we would like to ask this same question of all those who reject or despise the Lord? "Why? Why? Why do you persecute the Lord Jesus?"

The Son of God came down from above, He came forth from the Father; He came with salvation and blessing, with redemption and restoration, for His people. Why was there no room for Him in the inn? Why was He despised and rejected of man; a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief? Why was He a man from whom men turned away their faces?

Can the attitude of the men of His own day be explained? He came into the world, and the world knew Him not why not? He came unto His own, and His own received Him not why not?

Why was it that the people of Nazareth led Him to a brow of the hill on which their city was built, intent on casting Him off unto His death? Why was it that they went about to slay Him? Why did they wag their heads and cry, "Crucify Him, Crucify Him"?

"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?"

Let us hesitate a moment. Why do men today persecute Him? Why do some deny Him as God? Some, as Virgin Born? Some, as the Way, the Truth, and the Life? Why do men of today refuse to acknowledge His lordship? Why do they reject His mercy and spurn His grace?

The answer to this question must make a display of the deceitfulness and the wickedness of the human heart. It must reveal that men have minds darkened with unbelief. It must show that men are under satanic power and dominion.

Shall we spurn the One in whom we live and move and have our being? Shall we cast out the One who is the Author of every good and perfect gift? Shall we crucify the Lover of our souls?

The Lord Jesus was the essence of all that was pure, and lovely, and holy, and good. He came, a light in the darkness. He came with life, for those dead in sins. He brought a blessing and not a curse. He went about doing good, and not evil. He healed the sick, cured the lame, gave sight to the blind, and He even raised the dead. He multiplied bread and fishes. He taught as no man ever taught; spake as no man ever spake. Why, O Saul, didst thou persecute Him? Why, O man of twenty centuries later, do you persecute Him?

Surely the God of this world hath blinded the minds of the unbelieving, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ should shine in, and convert them. Surely men are lovers of self, more than lovers of God. Surely all men, like sheep, have gone astray.

II. THE GREAT RESPONSE WHO ART THOU LORD? (Acts 9:5 , f.c.)

Months before Jesus Christ had said to His disciples, "Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?" They said, "Some say that Thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the Prophets." This answer fell far beneath the facts, and it utterly failed to satisfy the Master. Most men would be delighted to be likened to earth's greatest and best among men, but not so the Christ.

Then said the Lord Jesus, "But whom say ye that I am?" Peter, without hesitancy replied, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God." No sooner had Peter spoken, than Christ said, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but My Father which is in Heaven."

On another occasion Christ said, "What think ye of Christ? whose Son is He?" They say unto Him, "The Son of David." Jesus then asked them, "How then did David, in spirit, call Him Lord?"

Here lies the battleground between orthodoxy and het-erodoxy "Who art Thou, Lord?" This is the greatest of all questions, and upon its answer the whole of Christianity stands or falls. If Christ is Lord, and Saviour, He must be "the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father," God made manifest in flesh.

If Christ was a mere man, claiming oneness with the Father, equality with God, He was the greatest of impostors, and the nation of the Jews should have rejected Him.

There is one thing we delight to behold that is the open mind of Saul, as he cried, "Who art Thou, Lord?" Saul had gone to great length in persecuting the One whom he verily thought was a fraud. He had, however, begun to fear that he was fighting against God; and now with the light from Heaven shining full upon him he sought for truth.

Would that men everywhere would ask themselves this question? Who is the One the Christians worship? Would that all Jews of today would go to the bottom of this same question who is the Christ of the believing Gentiles?

Would that modernists would cease from human misgivings and surmisings, and discover who is the One they persecute? Modernists may be sincere, even as Saul was sincere; but they have not allowed themselves to weigh the facts concerning Jesus Christ.

"Who art Thou, Lord?" Have we proofs sufficient to warrant us in saying, with dogmatic certainty, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, and God the Son?"

That Saul believed he had such proof no one can doubt. His after ministry, with its toil and testings; its preachings and persecutions settles that. No man ever moved Saul from his convictions that Jesus was the Christ. He knew whom he had believed. He lived in the glow of an undoubting faith. The persecutor, prayed; the disbeliever, believed; the hater, loved.

What was the supreme proof that wrought so great a change in Saul? What was the light that dispelled his darkness? He who had rejected Christ and fought Him with all the ardor of his soul, received Christ and immediately served with a passion and power that proved the sincerity of bis new faith. What wrought the change? What satisfied the mind of this student of Gamaliel; this youth set in his prejudices; this young man entwined in the meshes of Rabbinical lore?

Was Saul suddenly turned by some magical wand from the fierceness of the lion to the meekness of a lamb? Did Saul's whole make-up, his ambitions, his conceptions, his faith in the Jews' religion, his very being, meet with a sudden collapse, by reason of some strange hallucination that gripped him in the way?

We wot not.

Saul was not in his dotage. Saul was not of the nature to succumb to some strange fear, or to yield to some weird and imagined vision.

Saul was not of the stamp and fiber to easily cast overboard all the cherished hopes of his being. He was a young man with a set jaw, a determined course of action, an unmovable ambition.

Beside all of this, Saul's after-life proved that his reason had never been dethroned; Saul never was accused of being a dreamer, led on by vague visions of fancied fables. He was a sane, plodding, practical preacher of facts for which he was willing to die, if need be. People who heard him acknowledged his learning. People who followed him never slurred at his sincerity. People who touched his inner life, never doubted the reality of his faith.

Saul of Tarsus, afterward known as Paul the preacher, was a. man mighty in word and in deed. He was a reasoner out of the Scriptures. Whatever any one may say of him no one ever pronounced him a mollycoddle, or a jellyfish.

Now let us answer our question What changed Saul of Tarsus? What overthrew the conceptions of a lifetime? What halted a career?

The answer is positive, undeniable: Saul believed that Jesus was God, his Saviour. Saul was convinced that Christ was as all that he claimed. Saul acknowledged that Christ, the One crucified, and buried, was NOW risen and seated at the right hand of God.

That this is true we know. However, we know more we know that through a long and varied experience, Saul never changed from his faith of that first hour. He never showed so much as the shadow of a turning. The new faith and trust; the convictions concerning Jesus Christ which came to Saul on the Damascus road, never left him.

Had Saul merely had an hallucination, the hallucination would have worn off; had Saul merely been scared and swept away by his emotions, that scare would never have led Paul through years of ardent toil for Christ; through travels unreached by any of his day.

We who dare to doubt the genuineness of Saul's faith, should follow the footsteps of Saul's sufferings.

Let us mark some of the things which befell Paul, and some of the things he suffered:

"Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one.

"Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; "In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; "In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.

"Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches" (2 Corinthians 11:24-28 ).

There is but one conclusion: Saul of Tarsus saw Christ, and believed. Saul of Tarsus saw Christ as risen from the dead, as ascended, as seated at the Father's right hand. He saw Him and acknowledged Him as God.

Before that same Christ, and with a faith as sure, and as serene, and as sane as was Saul's, we bend the knee, and, worshiping, we crown Christ as Lord. We accept Him in all the glory that marks His person, and in the honor that is given to His Name.

III. THE GREAT RESULT WHAT WILT THOU HAVE ME TO DO? (Acts 9:6 )

What other question could have been asked? If Christ is God, and our trust is in Him what else can we do, than to seek to work His will, walk in His way, and obey His Word?

What wilt Thou have me to do? This is the cry of every newborn soul. Saul of Tarsus, on the Damascus road, demonstrated that faith works, Faith in Christ is not a nerveless, spineless, mental assent. Faith is a living, pulsing, working affiance of the heart.

No man can believe in Christ with Saul's kind of faith, and remain an inactive, inert imbecile. To know Him is to trust Him; and, to trust Him, is to serve Him.

If a man says he has faith, and he hath not works, can that kind of a faith save him? We say not. God has said, "Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone."

"As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead."

Saul cried, "What wilt Thou have me to do?" In other words, Saul acknowledged Christ. He professed his faith in Christ not with the signing of a creed, or by the uttering of a form of words, but he professed his faith by signing up for service.

"We live in deeds, not words,

In facts, not in figures on a dial."

In these years of our maturity we have sought to weigh things. We have come to the conclusion that churches have lowered the bars to get members. We ask of would-be "joiners," Do you believe in Jesus? Beloved, "the devils also believe, and tremble." There is not a boy, not a girl in our Sunday Schools, who has not always believed in Christ, so far as intellectual assent is concerned. They are raised to "believe" in Him.

Saving faith is a far deeper thing. Saving faith includes the assent of the mind, the intellectual fact of Christ; but saving faith involves the affections of the heart. Saving faith is the putting on of Christ; it is making Him Lord; it is following in His footsteps.

Saul heard Christ saying, "I am Jesus, whom thou persecutest." What did Saul do? Did he say, "I am wrong; I see my mistake; I acknowledge my error; I am convinced that Thou art God"? All of this Saul would have gladly done. However, Saul did far more. In effect Saul said, "I am ready to count all but loss for Thee, O Christ." "I see Thee raised, exalted, seated, and I am ready to serve under Thy banner 'What wilt Thou have me to do?'"

We do not say that all believers will serve as Paul served; we do say that all will serve. Following Pentecost, there arose a great persecution, and all the Christians were scattered abroad, and they all went everywhere preaching the Gospel.

O that we had another era of old-time heart-gripping faith in Christ. A faith that creates missionaries, and martyrs; a faith that stirs souls to testify, and makes the prayer-meeting a love feast; a faith that makes men willing to give, and to go in the service of the Lord.

There are some who may think that the preacher is verging toward salvation by works. Cast away your fears, I am merely teaching salvation by a faith that works.

Let me give you a few verses we penned the other day:

By grace through faith, and that alone,

I'm saved, from sin set free;

Not by the works that I have done,

Salvation came to me.

Saved not by works, but I will work,

Because I faith Him so;

No task evade, no duty shirk,

True faith must work, you know.

It is by grace I'm justified,

No boasting do I know;

My soul in Christ is satisfied,

Peace doth my heart o'er-flow.

He died, I live, I trust His grace,

Near by His Cross I stand;

He sighed, I sing; I take ray place,

Yield Him my heart and hand.

Saved not by works, but I will work,

Because I faith Him so;

No task evade no duty shirk,

True faith must work, you know.

Thus it was that Saul believed, and believing, he asked, "What wilt Thou have me to do?" Thus it was that when Saul was called by the grace of God, immediately he preached the Gospel. The Churches in Judea heard that "He which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed."

How rapidly did things transpire. In answer to Saul's cry, "What wilt Thou have me to do?" the Lord gave response, "Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."

"The men which journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man; but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink."

Thus it was that God left Saul alone in utter darkness to think through his experiences. That darkness of eyes, seemed to speak to him somewhat of the cost that his new faith might entail. What happened during those days? We may not know, but we do know that he learned to pray. These things we will study in our next address.


Verse 8-9

The Beneficence of Blindness

Acts 9:8-9

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

We now come to a most interesting study. In our last message we saw Saul, the persecutor, stricken down by a great light from Heaven. When he arose and opened his eyes, he saw no man. We wish now to set before you the meaning of Saul's three days of misery. We trust that we will, perhaps, have withal, some insight into the hours of darkness that sometimes lower over our own heads. Read the following Scripture:

"And Saul arose from the earth; and when his eyes were opened, he saw no man: but they led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus.

"And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink" (Acts 9:8-9 ).

I. THE DAYS OF DARKNESS THAT SHUT MAN OUT FROM OUR VIEW

We read that when Saul opened his eyes, "he saw no man." Our minds are carried back to the scene of the Transfiguration. There, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from that cloud God spoke saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye Him." When the disciples heard that, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid. Jesus touched them and said, "Arise, and be not afraid." And when they had lifted up their eyes, "they saw no man, save Jesus only."

Peter had desired to make three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elias, and one for Jesus. God quickly answered his folly by acclaiming Christ, and Christ alone, as His beloved Son. It was then that the disciples opened their eyes and saw Jesus only.

Perhaps for this cause Saul was blinded so that being unable to see men, with his physical eyes, he might the better see Jesus Christ with his spiritual eyes.

When George Matheson became blind his sweetheart turned him down. With broken heart he went home to weep over the loss of his eyes and the loss of his betrothed. There, mid the darkness of night, he poured out his soul to God, and wrote:

"O Love that wilt not let me go,

I rest my weary soul on Thee,

I give Thee back the life I owe,

That in Thine ocean depths its flow

May richer fuller be.

"O Light that followest ail my way,

I yield my flick'ring torch to Thee;

My heart restores its borrowed ray,

That in Thy sunshine's glow its day

May brighter fairer be.

"O Joy that seekest me thro' pain,

I cannot close my heart, to Thee;

I trace the rainbow thro' the rain,

And feel the promise is not vain

That morn shall tearless be.

"O Cross that liftest up my head,

I dare not ask to hide from Thee;

I lay in dust life's glory dead,

And from the ground there blossoms red

Life that shall endless be."

Saul of Tarsus could well have written in a like strain about the loss of his sight. He saw no man, but he saw God. His whole life had thus far centered in men. He had lived for men, and for their plaudit; now he is shut out from the sight of men.

Sometimes it becomes necessary for God to shut out of lives the lure of the earthly, that the love of the Heavenly may glow.

If our darkness in dimming the sight of things terrestrial, causes the light of the Saviour's face to shine upon us, all is well.

If our loss of the things temporal makes sure the gain of things eternal, all is well.

If our sorrow and our sighing in this present time, increases our songs and singing in the time to come, then, all is well.

II. THE DAYS OF DARKNESS THAT ARE MARKED WITH DEPENDENCY

How stirring the words: "They led him by the hand, and brought him into Damascus!" How had the mighty fallen! How had the strong become weak? He who was once the essence of self-trust and of self-confidence could no longer lean on the arm of his own prowess.

Saul had been a captain, a leader of others; now he is a captive, led of others.

Saul had been prone to trust his own strength; now he was all weakness, cast upon the power of God.

We say again, How had the mighty fallen! He who was chief, had become tributary. He who was sought by reason of his leadership, had become solitary. He who went forth to lead men and women bound into captivity, was a captive to his own weakness.

Once more Saul of Tarsus was cast upon God. He who was led by the hand, knew that the end of his own self-life had come. He had always, in the past, leaned on the arm of his own strength, now he was forced to lean on God, Once again we see the beneficence of Saul's blindness. The Lord was not only bringing Saul to the end of himself; He was also bringing him to the place of dependency on God.

All of this was working out for Saul's own good. It is not in a man to order his own steps. He who walketh in pride must sooner or later come to his fall. Man's breath is in his nostrils, and whereof is he to be accounted for? Man's wisdom is but foolishness with God; his strength is but weakness; his glory, is but as the grass.

How are men cut down as in a moment! They fade as fades the flower. In the morning they flourish and grow up, in the evening they are cut down and they wither away. They are carried away as with a flood. Even though their years reach unto threescore years and ten, or by reason of strength to fourscore years, yet is their strength, labor, and sorrow; for they are soon cut off and they fly away.

Even though pride compasseth a man as a chain; even though violence covereth him as a garment, even though he speaks loftily, and sets his mouth against the heavens, yet, he will be brought into desolation as in a moment; he will be cast down into destruction; he will be utterly consumed with terrors.

Thank God that Saul was made low! Thank God that Saul's hopes were shattered, and his pride humbled!

As Saul was led by the hand, perhaps he knew not that his weakness would shortly lead him to a new strength; that his pathway of humiliation would prove the stepping stone to his Divine exaltation.

III. THE DAYS OF DARKNESS, THAT ARE WITHOUT FOOD OR DRINK

Eating and drinking represents the apex of a world-centered life. The rich farmer said, "I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." Christ said, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink." Again He said, "Take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek.)"

Solomon in discussing what wisdom had found out as the supreme good for a man, under the sun, all the days of his vain life, said; "A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry."

Saul "neither did eat nor drink," for three days. We thus judge that his self-life had indeed met its collapse. He had come to the end of his own row. Plunged into darkness, his mirth was dampened, his joy was gone. Instead of satisfaction, sorrow of soul stirred him to the depth. Instead of the best of men, he felt himself the greatest of sinners. To be sure he was still righteous after the requirements of the Law; yet, he was altogether vile in the sight of God.

His bones began to wax old with their roaring all the day. He had awakened to the fact that his zeal was misguided, and that he had, in reality, been fighting against God. His only relief from the heinousness of his sin, was this, that he had done all in ignorance and unbelief. Now, however, that his spiritual eyes were opened, he saw the vileness of his own soul.

We have discovered in all of this just what the unsaved world needs today a deep, pungent consciousness of sin. It is this sense of the heart's depravity, that drives one to the Cross of Christ.

Is thy life all filled with sorrows and with sighing?

Dost thou walk in darkened pathways, lone, and drear?

Art thou given unto weeping and to sighing?

Dost thou know not that thy Saviour standeth near?

Do you pant for God as pants the hart for water?

Does no star of hope about you now appear?

Has the devil snared your soul and has he bound you?

Christ is standing at your side, His help is near.

Cease thy fear, thy pathway drear,

Christ is standing at thy side to give thee cheer;

Why delay, haste thou away!

Turn to Christ, He'll wipe away each bitter tear.

This is just what happened to Saul of Tarsus. When the light had left his life and the sorrows of hell had laid hold upon him, then he saw that Christ was near. This brings us to our next consideration.

IV. THE DAYS OP DARKNESS THAT CAST THE SOUL UPON GOD

How meaningful are the words spoken of Saul, "Behold, he prayeth." He who persecuted Christ now prayed to Christ. He had seen the One whom he had despised; the One whom the scribes and elders had delivered to Pontius Pilate to be crucified he had seen Him exalted, and seated at the Father's right hand. He had heard His voice, saying, "I am Jesus." Now Saul prayed. He prayed for pardon and for peace; he prayed for his sight; he prayed that the burden that lay heavy upon him might be lifted.

We have often seen the motto, "Pray through." Is this not what Saul of Tarsus found it necessary to do? We are saved by grace through faith, and yet there are other things that lie beyond the realm of saving grace, and of trusting faith Saul sought the restoration of his sight; he sought guidance for his next step. He still held those same letters of authority; he still was, supposedly, under obligation to the chief priests. That he was saved, we have no doubt; that he was willing to follow the Lord anywhere, we are sure; however, there was much of mist before him as to his future.

What was Saul to do now? He could not follow his old path. He could not persecute saints what should he do? Closed in by circumstances that baffled him, he began to cry to God. He must have prayed with a Jacob-like clinging, "I will not let Thee go, except Thou bless me." One thing we know, God said of Saul, "Behold, he prayeth"; and God does not call "praying," much that we call prayer.

When saints pray, God hears. Yea, when saints pray, as Saul prayed, God must hear and answer prayer. Do we not remember how the angel said to Lot, "Haste thee, escape thither; for I cannot do any thing till thou be come thither." What held back the angel's hand? It was the prayer of Abraham, "Peradventure there be found fifty righteous," "forty-five," "thirty," "twenty," "ten"; thus, "God remembered Abraham, and sent Lot out."

At the blessed throne of grace,

Day by day I'll take my place,

While I seek my Saviour's blessing from on high:

There I'll cast my ev'ry care,

Leave it at the place of prayer,

And His joy and peace I'll share,

While He is nigh.

I will close my closet door,

And ray Lord I will adore,

Place on Him my ev'ry vexing care and strife:

In that hallowed, safe retreat,

I will worship at His feet,

And His Name I will repeat,

For He is nigh.

To the place of prayer I'll go,

There I'll seek His will to know,

And with joy I will His ev'ry word obey:

I will heed His voice Divine,

Make His will and purpose mine,

And my heart to Him incline,

Each passing day.

V. THE DAYS OF DARKNESS THAT BRING VISIONS OF DIVINE AID

Saul, in reality, had "visions in the night." His loss of eyesight, increased his faith-sight. God came the closer to him, by reason of his distress. It is always so. When our boat is storm-tossed and driven of the wind; then, over the troubled waters our Lord comes walking on the waves. We may become alarmed, crying, "It is a spirit," but soon we hear His voice saying, "It is I; be not afraid."

When the storms sweep o'er your sky,

And the wind and waves are high,

Then look up, for help is nigh,

Christ is saying, "It is I."

It is I; be not afraid,

I am come to give thee aid,

Let your eye on Me be stayed,

It is I, yes, it is I.

As Saul prayed, he saw "in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight."

Saul's blinded eyes suggest to us the years that his spiritual eyes had been blinded to the Christ of God. Now, with his natural eyes blinded, he knew not whither he went; of old, with his spiritual eyes blinded, he knew not whither he went. Thousands today are walking in darkness, because the God of this world has blinded their eyes, lest the light of the glorious Gospel should shine in upon them and convert them.

"O blind, blind, blind, amid the blaze of noon;

Irrecoverably dark, total eclipse,

Without one ray of light."

That is the condition of every one who wanders on in sin. What do blind men need? It is vision. Saul's first vision, was of Christ speaking to Him; Saul's second vision, was of a man coming to give him sight.

What an analogy a blind man, saw. Certainly that was true. Sometimes our natural sight hinders our spiritual sight. We speak with stronger words, sometimes we cannot see, because we do see. This is what we mean the natural mind receiveth not the things of God, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. No human eye hath ever seen, nor has human ear ever heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.

Saul of Tarsus had been educated at the feet of Gamaliel. However, scholastic eyes do not suffice to see God. The blinding of Saul's physical eyes demonstrated that he was now about to enter a realm where neither natural eyes, nor natural wisdom and scholarship could see. Had Saul sought to know God by his natural senses, he would not have known Him. It was only when his human eyesight was gone, that his spiritual eyes saw.

Jennie Lind said something once that suggested that the glare and glitter of the headlights, hid from her the vision of the glory of God. Saul of Tarsus blinded, saw as he had never seen he saw in a vision the Lord of glory; he saw also a man coming to aid him.

We are not arguing that the sight of our natural eyes is not necessary, for God sent Ananias that Saul might receive his sight. We are only arguing that the eyes that operate in so marvelous a manner, along the path of the physical and earthy, are utterly useless along the pathway of things Divine. We have argued more that the loss of the natural, often makes the vision of the spiritual more effective, for, "we walk by faith, not by sight."

When I am lonely, then Jesus only,

Stands at my side the livelong day;

When naught doth cheer me, then He is near me,

He scatters sunlight on my way,


Verses 10-17

Ananias, Servant of God

Acts 9:10-17

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

God links Himself with man in the performance of His Word and work. "We are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us." What could be more blessed than this Heavenly partnership. The First Epistle to the Corinthians begins with a Divine call to partnership in the work of the Lord. Let me quote 1 Corinthians 1:9 , "God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship (partnership) of His Son Jesus Christ our Lord." This is a call into business. The same Epistle in 1 Corinthians 15:58 presents this appeal, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord." This is a plea that we give attention to our business.

God wanted to do certain things for Saul, but He chose to do it through a human mediary. Let us follow the way the Lord dealt with Ananias.

I. GOD'S EYE IS ON HIS SERVANTS (Acts 9:10 )

Mark the words, "A certain disciple"; "a certain disciple at Damascus"; "a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias."

What meaneth all of this? It means that God knows us individually, and personally. He knows us as distinct from all others there was "a certain disciple."

It means that God knows where we dwell; He knows our environment; He sees us in the city of our abode a disciple "in Damascus."

It means that God knows us by name. He can say, "Saul, Saul!" He can also say, "Ananias!" We are not mere sheep void of any distinctive individuality The Good Shepherd knoweth His own sheep; He calleth them by name, and He leadeth them out.

Our personality follows us into the Glory. In Heaven Abraham will be Abraham, and Isaac will be Isaac, and Jacob will be Jacob. The names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb will be in the foundations of the New Jerusalem. the City that cometh down from God out of Heaven.

We bless God that we carry a name that distinguishes us from every other man on earth. We thank God that we are known by name, called by name; and that, in the eternal glory awaiting us beyond the tomb, we shall wear our name, and carry our own individuality.

There is now before us more, however, than our distinctive personality, there is the fact that our personality, in all of its details stands forth in the limelight before God. He knows our name; He knows where we dwell; He knows our discipleship; He knows whether or not we are worthy to receive a special call, to a special service.

II. GOD GIVES DETAILED DIRECTIONS TO HIS SERVANTS (Acts 9:10-11 )

To Ananias God said, "Ananias." The response was immediately given, "Behold, I am here, Lord." Then 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." There was no hit and miss proposition in God's orders to Ananias. God knew the details, and He charted them out for His servant.

There are some who imagine that when God saves a soul, He at once turns him loose to paddle his own canoe. There are others who believe that God merely calls a man to some definite task, but leaves him to work out all of the details to his own liking. That neither of these conceptions were true in Ananias' case is evident; and we believe that they never express all of the truth.

There is for each of us a definite calling and a detailed plan. To Philip, God said, "Arise, and go * * unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert." A while later, God said, "Go near, and join thyself to this chariot." Paul He directed to go to Asia.

We are God's workmanship, "created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." According to the Word of God, every man has his own work. This being the case, how vital that each of us should get on our watch and set ourselves on our high tower to see what He will say unto us.

Why are saints urged to present their bodies unto God as a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto Him, if there is no special and designated plan of service, which those bodies may render? Why are we told to yield ourselves unto God, if there is no plan in His hand whereby He may use us?

When the Brooklyn Suspension Bridge was in course of building, the head architect was laid up by an accident. From his bed he gave orders for the continuance of the work. Finally, when the great span was completed, the architect was carried on a cot to view the work. After carefully examining the whole great structure, he clapped his hands in the ecstasy of delight, and exclaimed, "It's just according to the plan; it's just according to the plan."

After God has called upon us to present our bodies a living sacrifice, He continues to explain unto us how we may get into His plan. He tells us not to be conformed unto this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds; then, says He, "Ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."

III. GOD GIVES HIS SERVANTS NEEDED ENCOURAGEMENT IN THEIR TASK (Acts 9:11 , l.c.)

As we pursue our study we must remember that Saul had come to Damascus with letters of authority to apprehend the Christians, whether men, or women, and to take them bound to Jerusalem. God was not unmindful of the fear which hung over the Damascus Christians. They had neither heard of the redemption of Saul, nor of his being detained blind at the home of Judas. This had evidently been hushed up by the authorities. All the time the saints were imagining that Saul was laying his plans to discover them, and to pounce upon them unawares.

Knowing this fear, the Lord spoke to Ananias, and, in giving command that Saul should be visited, He said, "Enquire * * for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth , and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight."

How gracious is our God, how ready to strengthen the feeble knees, and how willing to encourage the trembling spirit When the storm-tossed disciples pulling at the oars, saw Christ walking on the waters, they were filled with fear, thinking Him a spirit. He quickly reassured their hearts, saying, "It is I; be not afraid."

When Paul was on the Mediterranean, driven with a wild tempest, and when the mariners had given up alt hope that they should be saved, then an angel of the Lord came to Paul saying, "Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee."

Our God is a God of all comfort. He is not unmindful of the difficult places we are called to fill. He is ever saying. "Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of My righteousness."

Ananias, however, was not satisfied. He said, "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to Thy saints at Jerusalem: and here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on Thy Name."

From Ananias' plea, it is evident that Saul's presence in Damascus was generally known and discussed among the saints. The Christians of that day furnished many noble martyrs of the faith; but they were all men, and they had their fears. They were ready to die if need be, but they did not care to rush into the enemy's hand.

How graciously did God lend further encouragement to Ananias. The Lord said, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto Me."

We tremble lest we have failed to note the gentleness with which our God hath sheltered us from many a foe. He hides us under His wing. He is our shadow of a great rock, from the heat; He is our covert, from the storm.

God has caused many a gourd to spring up for our comfort. He has shut many a lion's mouth, and stopped the violence of many a raging fire.

Hear His voice, even now He is saying, "When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee."

Better than all we have been able to ask or think, God, in grace, has wrought our salvation from every foe.

Mark you, the Christians in Damascus had no doubt prayed for deliverance from the tyranny of Saul. God had heard their prayer, and had given them all that they had asked; yea, He had given them more. He had turned their hater into a helper; He had made their persecutor their comrade in persecutions. How wonderful it must have been! The man who came down to apprehend saints and bring them bound to the high priests, was ready to join the hated believers, and stand with them for their Lord.

We are overcome with the blessings which are ours from the Lord.

IV. GOD'S WORK IS WROUGHT THROUGH HIS SERVANTS (Acts 9:11 )

God said to Ananias, "Arise," "Go." We stop to ponder these words. We ask ourselves this question, could not God have given Saul his sight without Ananias' aid, as easily as He had made Saul blind? Could God not have told Saul directly what He wanted him to do; as easily as to have told him through Ananias? There must be some special reason for this command, "Arise," "Go."

Into the home of Judas came Ananias. He went at once to Saul 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."

What then was the purpose of God in commissioning His servant to arise, and go? We wot that He had His reasons.

1. Perhaps God wanted an eyewitness to His marvels that thus the saints in Damascus might know the certainty of His miraculous grace.

2. Perhaps God wanted the coming of Ananias to be the introduction of Saul unto the saints in Damascus, that he might thus be ushered more readily and heartily into their fellowship.

3. Perhaps God wanted to establish His plan to serve men through men. When Christ said, "Without Me ye can do nothing," He established our utter inert helplessness. If we should say, "Apart from saints, God does nothing," we must, at once, hem our words into this meaning, that God has chosen to reach men through men.

When the multitudes had sat down on the grass, Christ took the loaves and fishes, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. That is, the disciples stood between the Lord and the hungry crowd.

This is God's will. God did not go to the inquiring eunuch, He sent Philip. God did not go to India, He sent Judson and Carey. God did not go to the New Hebrides, He sent John G. Paton.

The last message of Christ was, "Go ye into all the world." That message still reverberates. Its voice is still heard. Go! Go! GO!

Oh, list to the voice of the Spirit,

Speaking today;

Oh, do not refuse now to listen,

Haste to obey:

Ask God to direct all your pathway,

Seek for the light;

And when He gives orders then follow,

Trusting His might.

Perhaps to your own home, and loved ones,

You hold so dear

He calls you to carry His message-

Go without fear:

Perhaps to the lanes of the city,

Near to your home;

Perhaps to the byways and hedges,

Where sinners roam.

Perhaps to the fields that are distant,

He leads you on;

Where souls grope in heathenish darkness,

All the day long:

Go then, nothing doubting and follow,

Where'er He leads,

He'll go in the way, on, before you,

Meeting your needs.

V. GOD'S MESSAGE TO ANANIAS (Acts 9:15-16 )

There are several things vitally important before us.

1. God said of Saul "Behold, he prayeth."

As we see it, this was God's proof to Ananias that Saul was truly saved. The newborn babe sets up a lusty shout. The newborn soul begins to pray to God, "Because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father."

2. God said of Saul "He is a chosen vessel unto Me."

Paul, in later years, established his faith in this very thing, when in the Spirit, he wrote to the Galatians, "When it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called my 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."

Accordingly, God chose Paul to preach His Gospel before He met him on the Damascus road, yea, before he was even born.

Some may object. However, such was the case. The architect plans his building before the first spade of dirt is dug. He sees it as it will be, when it stands completed. God plans His works, and then works out His plan,

3. God said of Saul, "He is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My Name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the Children of Israel."

Not only "chosen" to work, but chosen to a special work. Each of Paul's three missionary journeys, were all chartered of God, long before Saul was saved. God fore-ordered the cities he should visit. No marvel that the storm on the Mediterranean could not take Paul's life. No marvel that the angel of the Lord said to Paul, "Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar." God foretold Ananias that very thing, under the word, "and kings."

We have spoken about God's definite call in the case of Ananias, this corroborates that part of our message. However, God now places His call far back in the purpose of the One who worketh all things according to the counsel of His will.

4. God said of Saul: "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake." This, to say the least, was not a very roseate picture to place before a newborn soul. Yet so it was, and so it is. It is given unto us in the behalf of Christ, "not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake."

None of these things moved Saul. He soon became universally known as Paul, and in later life, Paul himself said, "And now, behold, I go bound in the spirit unto Jerusalem, not knowing the things that shall befall me there: save that the Holy Spirit witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus." God give us more men like Paul.

VI. GOD'S MESSAGE THROUGH ANANIAS TO SAUL (Acts 9:17 )

1. Ananias said, "Brother Saul."

As the servant of the Lord approached the stricken and blind Saul, he said, "Brother Saul." What a thrill of joy the words must have brought to the heart of Saul! "Brother Saul." What deeps of fellowship, what marks of trust, what comradeship are here.

"Blest be the tie that binds,

Our hearts in Christian love;

The fellowship of kindred minds,

Is like to that above."

2. Ananias said, "The Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou earnest, hast sent me,"

Here was the corroboration of Ananias to the personality of the One who had spoken to him on the Damascus road. Here is an insight not alone to Saul's faith, but to the faith that gripped the early saints. Jesus Christ was real to them. His resurrection was real; His ascension was real.

The saints of the first century worshiped a Living Christ. He was to them a blessed and all-glorious fact; not a fancied and inglorious fable. Saul may have been startled that an utter stranger should have known what had happened unto him as he journeyed. Certainly no other knew it. The men who traveled with Saul had heard a voice, but they had seen no man. Saul in the darkness of his eyes, may have confided to the man Judas, at whose house he lodged, what had happened, but if so, it had been told under utmost secrecy. Saul therefore was struck by a new manifestation of the Divine. The Lord who had spoken to him, had also spoken to Ananias.

Thus did the glory of the Christ take on added meaning to Saul. The name "Lord Jesus" shone with a luster of glory that dazzled the soul of Saul. And so does that Name shine to us.

Saviour Divine, all full of glory,

Saviour Divine, through ages hoary,

Thou art the theme of sacred story,

Saviour Divine, for evermore.

Saviour Divine, in grace excelling,

Saviour Divine, in light e'er dwelling,

Saviour Divine with love compelling,

Saviour Divine, for evermore.

Saviour Divine, all virtues blending,

Saviour Divine, all grace extending,

We come to Thee, with praise ascending,

Saviour Divine, for evermore.

Saviour Divine, all clothed with power,

Saviour Divine, Thy mercies shower,

Soon with Thee, Lord, in Heaven's tomorrow

Saviour Divine, for evermore.

3. Ananias said, "The Lord, even Jesus, * * hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost."

What blessings flow from the Risen Christ. Health of body and of spirit are alike from Him. "That thou mightest receive thy sight" speaks of the bodily blessing. "That thou mightest * * be filled with the Holy Ghost" speaks of the acme of all spiritual life. Let us not hesitate to claim both from the Lord Jesus who is seated at the Father's right hand, clothed with all authority and power.

The words of Ananias were immediately effective. It was not a slow stage of improvement it was a sudden manifestation of power. We will begin here in our next address and mark how graciously God led Saul, and how Saul quickly began the ministry to which he was called.

As we think of how God led both Saul and Ananias, and wrought out through them His marvelous will, we cannot refrain from quoting a few verses we penned the other day:

Whatever God's will, there is also His way;

He backs His commands with the power to obey;

So hasten, my brother, and brook no delay;

Be up, and be doing, while yet it is day.

Let God plan your life, make His will your choice;

Oh, listen, each moment, give heed to His voice;

He'll guide you, and keep you, make you to rejoice;

He'll lead you to vict'ry, when He is your choice.

Let thy constant quest, be always His will;

O'er river, o'er ocean, o'er valley and hill;

Stand ready each moment, His Word to fulfil;

Await His commands, be quiet, be still.


Verses 18-25

Saul Saved to Serve

Acts 9:18-25

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

Following his baptism Saul received meat for his famished body, and was strengthened. Then Saul entered into a new comradeship with believers; a comradeship that never was broken during a long and eventful ministry. Our text reads, "Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus." He was not baptized into that fellowship, he was saved into it. The Cross must ever remain the sign by which the believer is separated from the world. The Cross, not baptism, must ever remain the great center of fellowship among saints.

Saul saved, was Saul separated; Saul saved, was Saul fellowshiped. In after years, Paul, by inspiration wrote, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

How blessed that the one who, in separation, comes out of the associations of the old life, can find a new life, hallowed with blessed and new associations!

The day that Saul, the erstwhile persecutor entered their group, must have been epochal in the lives of the Christians at Damascus. As long as they lived, they surely delighted in relating how Saul, by the side of Ananias, entered their assembly, and stood among them. We can easily imagine how they gathered around Saul, and gave him welcome. There was a common tie that bound their hearts together. They were "brothers" indeed; they loved one Lord, and therefore they loved one another.

I. SAUL'S TESTIMONY (Acts 9:20 )

Saul, the sinner; was Saul, the persecutor; Saul, the saved; was Saul, the preacher. Saul who had been active against Christ now was active for Christ. When Saul was saved, Satan lost a mighty warrior; but God found one:

There was no delay on Saul's part in testifying of Christ. Mark the reading of Acts 9:20 : "And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God."

"Straightway," means without delay. There was no waiting for human authority, or for human recognition. "Straightway" there was no going up, first, to Jerusalem to those who were Apostles before him. The Gospel which Saul preached was "not after man," neither received he it of man, neither was he taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Straightway Saul preached Christ, that He was the Son of God. No wonder that all the Jews who heard him were amazed, and said: "Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests?" (Acts 9:21 ).

Saul, however, "increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ."

How we would have enjoyed "sitting in" on one of Saul's messages! He spoke with an earnestness, a wisdom, and a full assurance of faith, that swept all before him.

No one could resist his wisdom, nor gainsay his infallible proofs that Christ was the Son of God.

This is the crux of all theology. We need men today with Pauline conviction and courage, who will preach Christ as Paul preached Him.

II. SAUL'S SUFFERINGS (Acts 9:23 )

It was not long until the animosity of the Jews was aroused; then, after many days were fulfilled, "The Jews took counsel to kill him." We need not be surprised at this. There is much in the old time Gospel to stir up the heart of men in antagonism. Men love to hear of smooth things. They love to make a fair show in the flesh. They love to find in themselves their saviour. They prefer to say to the works of their own hands: "ye are our gods."

The Jews' religion, as it was carried on in Saul's day, was a system of laws and ceremonies builded upon the works of the flesh. The priests went about to establish their own righteousness; they rested in the Law, and made their boast of God; they professed to know His will; they made themselves guides to the blind, and a guide to them who were in darkness; instructors of the foolish and a teacher of babes. Their idea of a Jew was one who was a Jew outwardly.

The Jews' religion in Saul's day had lost the meaning of the sacrifices; had lost the need of atonement. It was builded upon ceremonials the washing of pots, the making broad of their phylacteries, and the enlarging of the borders of their garments.

The Jews' religion consisted in "uppermost rooms" and "chief seats" in the synagogues; it delighted in being called, "Rabbi, Rabbi," and in receiving greetings in the market places. It was summed up in a making of long prayers, in the paying of tithes, in compassing sea and land to make proselytes. It was centered in the enforcement of ceremonials, obnoxious to God. It carried an exterior of sanctity, and appeared as whited sepulchers. It delighted in garnishing the tombs of the Prophets.

In all of this, the Jews' religion had lost mercy, and justice and faith. It had given itself over to base excesses in carnal impurities. It had utterly repudiated the Son of God, the Saviour, whom the Prophets had foretold would come to redeem the people.

This is what Saul faced. Do we marvel, that, as Saul preached the Gospel divers were hardened, and that many, especially of the Jews went about to kill him?

III. SAUL'S SAFETY SECURED (Acts 9:24-25 )

When the Jews lying in wait sought to take Saul; watching the gates day and night that they might kill him; the disciples took him by night and let him down by the wall in a basket.

What a strange sense of circumstances must have come over Saul as, by night, he slipped away from the city to which he had come to apprehend the saints! He who had come to seek the saints, was himself sought. The tables were turned. Saul knew something of the spirit that prompted his would-be slayers, for his own breast had throbbed with that same spirit not many moons before.

Saul slipping down the wall in a basket, was not Saul afraid to die; but Saul, desiring to live that he might preach the Christ whom he once despised. Saul, who was so soon to be known as Paul, was a chosen vessel unto God to carry His Gospel far hence to the Gentiles. Thus, in retreat from one city, he hastened on to another. In a subsequent message we will find Paul in Jerusalem, the city from whence he left to go to Damascus; however, we will find him there, under different auspices.

Let us all arise to follow our Lord, and to follow, if need be, even unto death.


Verses 31-35

Among the Churches

Acts 9:31-35

INTRODUCTORY WORDS

For the while we turn from Saul and the record of his ministry, and we return to the early Church and her dominant figure, Peter.

We ask your attention first of all to the reading of Acts 9:31 : "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied."

The Churches of this Scripture included the groups of saints who assembled in various parts of Judea, Galilee and Samaria. The central Church was in Jerusalem, but the persecutions which had scattered the Christians had resulted in many smaller fellowships.

I. THE CHURCHES OF JUDEA, GALILEE AND SAMARIA (Acts 9:31 )

The Holy Spirit called these fellowships, "Churches." Several things are stated of these:

1. They had rest. There was a cessation of the persecutions which had arisen against the saints, This "rest" from their enemies may have been in answer to the prayers of the saints; it may have been because Satan saw that he was only increasing instead of depleting the Churches by his cruelties; it may have been also because the objective which Christ had in view by permitting the persecutions had been accomplished, namely, the saints had begun to fulfil the Lord's command to go beyond Jerusalem, to Judea and Samaria, and on unto the uttermost part of the earth with the Gospel.

The heart of man had not changed Judaistic ecclesiasticism was still set against Christ and the Church; the attitude of the devil had not changed Satan was still going about seeking to destroy. However, God had folded His lambs to His bosom, and was shielding them, for the time from the wrath of men and demons. God had proved them by manifold testings and found them true, now He gave them "rest."

2. They were edified. Edification carries with it the thought of being builded up. The Christians were growing in grace, because they were growing in the knowledge of God, They were growing in knowledge because the Apostles were daily teaching them the Word. Peter expressed the fundamentals of growth when he wrote, in Spirit, "Desire the sincere milk of the Word, that ye may grow thereby. "

Would that Christians today might be edified grow up into Him in all things. Would that preachers taught the Word with more deep searchings.

3. They walked in the fear of the Lord. The early saints were not afraid of the Lord in any slavish sense. They did not fear Christ as a servant fears a tyrannical master. They did not hide away from Him because they were afraid of Him; they sought His face, and rejoiced in His constant presence. They walked in the fear of the Lord, because they knew the might of His power and the glory of His presence. Christ was real unto them. He was God. He was the One once crucified, but now risen and exalted at the Father's right hand.

A renewed vision of God and of Christ is a great need at this hour. Deity has been dethroned and humanized in the minds of men; and humanity has been lifted up and deified.

The "fear of the Lord" is contained in the expression, "Hallowed be Thy Name." The fear of the Lord carries with it an ever-deepening realization of the Lord, high and lifted up; while His glory fills the Temple. The fear of the Lord, is the sense of the presence of God that makes one take off his shoes on hallowed ground; it causes one to bend the knee, to bow the head, and to worship.

The spirit of the "fear of the Lord" causes one to approach the Lord by means of the shed Blood, confessing one's sin. It carries with it a sense of God's holiness and greatness, on the one hand; and a sense of man's inherent sin and weakness on the other hand.

Thank God, the first Churches walked in the "fear of the Lord."

4. They walked in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. How this simplifies matters. The fear of the Lord, instead of driving the Christians away from the Lord, that they might hide from His presence, led them, the rather to draw near to the shelter of His strong and protecting arm. They walked in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. What a blessed garden of flowers in which to walk! What a wholesome aroma, delightful and invigorating!

Our God is a God of all comfort. The Holy Ghost is the Divine comfort bringer.

"Comfort" that is what the child finds nestling away in his mother's arms. That is what the mother does as she soothes the throbbing head, and quiets the sobbing voice.

"Comfort" suggests a balm against all tribulation and trouble. Thus Paul wrote, "As the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ."

Our God is "The Father of mercies." He "comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God."

5. They were multiplied. Here is a distinctive basis for the increase of disciples: the disciples had rest, they were edified, they walked in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost doing this they were multiplied.

Churches today imagine that they are multiplied by setting in motion certain machinery that induces people to join the church. Some look to the annual revival period for their additions; some look to "special days" when particular effort is made to get members; some make a canvass for new converts.

It is blessed to see the number of saints multiplied, but it is more blessed when that enlargement is brought about by increased spiritual knowledge, and by the deepening of spirituality among saints.

II. PETER'S MINISTRY (Acts 9:32 )

1. He passed throughout all quarters. We return once more to Peter and his activities. Open your Bibles and read Acts 9:32 : "And it came to pass, as Peter passed throughout all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lydda."

These words sound much like an expression found in Acts 10:38 : "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with Him."

Peter anointed with the same Holy Ghost and clothed with a like power as that which once clothed his Lord, passed throughout all quarters. He went from one city to another preaching the Gospel, and doing good. With what joy he ministered the Word, and with what joy did the saints hear him. He carried blessing from Heaven with him. He was a man who gladly spent himself for others. There was not an idle or lazy bone in him. From city to city, and, doubtless, from house to house he went his rounds, giving words of comfort and of counsel, teaching and preaching, helping and healing.

How gracious is such a ministry. How needful unto this hour that some men give themselves to a similar task. There are young ministers who need the wisdom and counsel of older minds; there are struggling churches which need encouragement; stumbling saints who need help; indeed, all need the teaching that some true and tried preacher of long experience may render,

2. He found Aeneas and healed him.

"And there he found a certain man named Aeneas, which had kept his bed eight years, and was sick of the palsy.

"And Peter said unto him, Aeneas, Jesus Christ maketh thee whole: arise, and make thy bed. And he arose immediately.

"And all that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him, and turned to the Lord" (Acts 9:33-35 ).

The rule for healing as James puts it, is, "Let him call for the elders of the Church." Peter, however, did not wait to be found by Aeneas, he found Aeneas. Peter did not reserve his healings for those who were able to come to him, he went to them. Here was a man who for eight years had been kept in bed with the palsy. The physicians had utterly failed to help him. His case was hopeless, from every medicinal viewpoint. Peter did not consider his disease beyond the power of the healing Christ. He said to Him, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." In full assurance of faith, Peter added, "Arise, and make thy bed."

God hath said, "The prayer of faith shall save the sick." He has also said of prayer in general, "Let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven of the wind and tossed, For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord."

Peter showed no wavering, no doubt. He spoke with a present tense faith he said, "Jesus Christ maketh thee whole." There was no waiting for results, to see what might happen; there was a command, "Arise, and make thy bed." Peter wanted the bed that had held the sick of the palsy for eight years, set aside. He wanted the man of the palsy to set it aside.

Not only was Peter's faith fixed, but the sick had a similar faith; "He arose immediately."

The result was what might have been expected "All that dwelt at Lydda and Saron saw him." The people flocked from every direction. They came, they saw, and they turned to the Lord.

If some in pondering these words wonder why it is not so done today we quietly and confidently reply that the Lord Jesus is able so to do. Perhaps the cessation of the Apostolic miraculous has ceased, because our faith in the miraculous has ceased. Perhaps God is now giving men up to their unbelief. We know not. We do know that God is able; we do know that we would rejoice to see such miracles done today in order that Christ might be glorified, and that men might be aroused from the skepticism that has gripped this doubting age.

III. DORCAS, A GOOD WOMAN (Acts 9:36 )

We have so many Dorcas Societies in our churches, named for this Joppa saint, that we will tarry to consider several things.

1. Dorcas was a woman full of good works and alms-deeds. The Christian life glorifies the everyday contacts of Christian men. Christianity is not a creed, it is a Person and that Person, is Christ. However, Christianity is more than Christ seated at the right hand of power, on high; it is Christ formed anew in His children.

"Full of good works and almsdeeds" that is the result of real salvation. Christ went about doing good; so also do we, if we are Christians men and women, with Christ-in.

The life of Jesus among men was a life spent in opening prison bars, preaching peace to the captive, the recovering of sight to the blind, the setting at liberty the bruised. Those of us who walk as He walked, will work along the same lines.

The real Christian may be called a fanatic in doctrine; but, in life, he will be a blessing to all he touches. The State must ever find in the Church its greatest asset along every line of human aid. If a man sees his brother have need and shutteth up his bowels of compassion against him, how dwelleth the love of God in him.

Good works and almsdeeds do not save men, but the saved delight in such things. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father centers in visiting the fatherless, and the widow in their affliction, and in keeping one's self unspotted from the world.

Those who boast a "religion" centered in a creed, be that creed ever so orthodox, but who know nothing of a life of love toward those who are without, are Christless. "By their fruits ye shall know them."

We are created unto good works, which God hath ordained that we should walk in them. The man who claims justification but knows nothing of sanctification, may well doubt that he is justified.

2. Dorcas was a woman who consecrated her needle to the Lord. Perhaps Dorcas felt rather insignificant among the saints. She doubtless knew nothing of pulpit oratory; she could not have been a leader in the making of large and munificent gifts. Among the pillars of the Church, she seemed very small. However, Dorcas gave God what she had she dedicated her needle to the Lord.

God said to Moses, "What is that in thine hand?" Moses said, "A rod." Nevertheless with that rod Moses led forth the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and to the borders of Canaan.

God came to Samson, and what did Samson have in his hand? Just the jaw bone of an ass. Nevertheless God used that jawbone and with it He gave Samson the victory over the Philistines.

God found David with a sling and five smooth pebbles. Nevertheless David gave God his sling, his pebbles, his best, and with the sling and one pebble he smote the giant.

Dorcas had a needle, only a needle and a willing mind. Nevertheless she dedicated her needle to God, and when she lay dead, the widows took Peter and showed him the coats and garments which Dorcas had made for the poor.

The import of their act was this: they felt that the Church could not spare so gracious a life from their number. The brethren seemed to say to Peter, "Dorcas is dead, but we need her; the poor need her needle, the Lord needs her life."

What a lesson is here! May we ever be so busy for the Master, so filled with good works and almsdeeds, that if sickness or death should seek to claim us, the saints will seek to pray us back to life.

Some saints might be better off dead, than alive. Some may not discern the Lord's body, or serve the Lord in sincerity of heart, and for this cause they may become sickly or die; but when we are buying up our opportunities, and redeeming the time, God will give us health and strength until our task is done.

A man whom I love dearly in the Lord, some time ago was sick, nigh unto death. Many prayed for him so did I. I know it was true with me, perhaps it was with the others we laid before the Lord the great publishing plant which for so many years has been sending forth the Truth from their great presses in Cleveland, Ohio; and we said, "Dear Lord, we cannot spare this man. He is needed to head this great service; behold what he hath wrought." God heard our prayers, and gave us back the brother to finish his task.

Whether our place be an humble one like that of Dorcas, or a large one like that of the brother to whom we have just referred, let us, in either case, be found so faithful that God will save us from death, that we may continue in our service for Him.

IV. DORCAS WAS NOT IMMUNE TO SICKNESS AND DEATH (Acts 9:37-38 )

We believe that the ultimate perfection of health and deliverance from all sickness and disease is in the Atonement, just as the redemption of the body by way of the resurrection, is in the Atonement; however, Divine healing in the time of our present earth pilgrimage must be obtained in answer to the prayer of faith.

Dorcas was sick. Paul left Trophimus sick at Miletus. Epaphroditus was sick nigh unto death. Job was sick, grievously afflicted. Many saints who know God and love Him are ofttimes sick. God frequently heals them in answer to prayer, or, as in the case of Dorcas, He may raise them from the dead but He does not always heal, not always raise from the dead. Healing may be sought and expected in answer to the prayer of faith, but healing may not be demanded. Prayer is a plea, not a demand.

While we thank God for "Jehovah who healeth thee," we do not by any means teach that sickness is necessarily a sign of the curse of God upon the one who is sick. All sickness is due in the last analysis to sin, all sickness is a part of the curse for when sin entered into the world sickness and death entered with it; however, sickness and death by no means is a proof that the one afflicted, is suffering as a chastening caused by their own evil ways. This was the contention of Job's three pronounced friends, however, they did not speak of the Lord the thing that was right.

With the good works and almsdeeds of Dorcas before us; with the garments that she had made for the poor before us; with the love and confidence of the saints at Joppa confronting us, we can hardly judge that Dorcas was sick and died because she was a sinner above any other saint, and was therefore smitten of God. Nay Dorcas was an earth-dweller, and was subject to the same conditions of possible sickness and death that confront all other earth-dwellers. However, in the case of Dorcas, God heard prayer and brought her back to life, even after she was assuredly dead.

V. DORCAS WAS PRESENTED ALIVE UNTO THE SAINTS AND WIDOWS (Acts 9:40-43 )

Those who loved her most, the saints; and those whom she had nourished by her good works and almsdeeds, the widows, were called to see Dorcas alive. They had mourned her as dead. With aching hearts they had wept. Now they are made to rejoice, for Dorcas is alive again.

No wonder that the saints rejoiced, and that many sinners turned to the Lord and believed. They had beheld the wonder-working Christ, they had seen His power, and known of His compassionate love therefore they believed.

Beloved, all of our dead shall yet live. With changed and glorified bodies shall the believers come forth. The Lord shall descend from Heaven with a shout, and with the voice of the archangel, and the trump of God. The dead in Christ shall hear, and they shall awake. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Let us all voice a hearty Amen!

 


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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Acts 9:4". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lwc/acts-9.html.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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