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Bible Commentaries

Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible
Acts 9

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-22

l, 2. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings, and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

His very breath was threatening. Slaughter seemed to be a necessity of his existence, He was breathing out threatenings and slaughter — could not breathe without them — could not speak without them. So full was he of fury against the people of God, that Jerusalem was not enough for him; he wanted wider hunting grounds; he must go to Damascus.

Acts 9:3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus.

There was his prey before him, and the wolf was ready to leap upon it.

Acts 9:3-5. And suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who are thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.

So it is when God means to save a man. He will make every kick that he gives against the gospel to be like that of an ox that kicks against the goad and wounds itself.

Acts 9:6. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? What a sudden change! Before, he knew what he was going to do. He was going to do his own will and wreak his own vengeance, but now it is, “Lord. what wilt thou have me to do? My will is in a moment subdued.

What is it thou dost ask of me?”

Acts 9:6-9. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. And 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 head, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.

And what a battle went on in his soul then, perhaps even he could scarcely describe afterwards. Brethren, some of you can surely guess, for you, perhaps, have felt the same. Some souls are born to God with terrible pangs; and this man was one. And oh! what strong believers those often are who have great difficulty in coming at peace. “And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.”

Acts 9:10. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias;

One of those to whom Paul had intended to pay his cruel respects.

Acts 9:10. And to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold I am here, Lord.

A grand way to be able to answer the Lord at all times. May we never be, dear friends, where we shall be ashamed to say, “Behold, I am here, Lord.” Some Christians go into very strange company, and they would not like their Master to know. They would be ashamed to say, “Behold, I am here, Lord.”

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

The Lord knows the whereabouts of his people. He knows your whereabouts tonight, young man. I only trust that though you are an opponent of the gospel, he has brought you here on purpose that you may become one of his best advocates, through his renewing grace.

Acts 9:11. For, behold, he prayeth.

There was the secret sign and mark of a changed character, “Behold, he prayeth.” What a wonder! He prayeth — he that breathed out slaughter. He prayeth — he that came to destroy. “Behold, he prayeth.”

Acts 9:12-16. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Then Ananias answered, 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. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

And it seemed a gracious retribution of him, did it not? I say not a penal infliction. I know not how to put it better than “a gracious retribution” —that he who made saints to suffer should now have the high privilege to take the front rank in suffering himself. Often, I doubt not, when he was bearing and enduring with such matchless fortitude, he thought of those saints whom he had harried and worried in the days of his carnal estate; and how he must have prized them, and with what wonder must he have said, “Unto me, who am less than the least of all the saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

Acts 9:17. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul,

Oh! what new words, “brother Saul”! A few days before no man durst have used such language of familiarity to this mighty disciple of Gamaliel, armed with authority from the chief priests. Now how sweetly it must have sounded on his ear, “brother Saul”! Oh! there is nothing that makes us such brothers as the gospel. “This is the dear uniting bond That will not let us part.”

Acts 9:17-18. 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. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

What else should a believer be but be baptized? It is the very next step which he should take after he has found the Saviour.

Acts 9:19. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.

It seemed unimportant to put that in here, did it not? Yet it is not so. While grace heals the infirmities of the mind, bodily food is still wanted for the body; and sometimes it is well with your young convert, when he has been a long time in distress of mind, that you refresh him in body, as well as cheer him in heart.

Acts 9:19-20. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

And had they ever heard such a preacher before? How they gnashed their teeth on him — the unbelievers; and how the timid saints crept in and heard this man advocate — this man who had had a wonderful twist in his mind from which he never recovered — who had seen something — as yet he himself could hardly tell all that he had seen. Oh! it must have been fine hearing to listen to his preaching that Christ is the Son of God.

Acts 9:21-22. But all that 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? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.

And this is the great thing to prove to the Jew. Oh! when shall it come to pass that poor forsaken Israel shall know that this is the very Christ? God grant her restoration right speedily!


Verses 1-31

Acts 9:1. And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,-

Notice that little word “yet.” “Saul yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord;” but there was to be a point beyond which he could not go. I pray God that there may be such a “yet” as that put into the histories of any here who are opposing God and his Christ. “Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter,” — as if they were his very breath, as if he only lived to blaspheme the name of Christ, and to persecute his followers, — “went unto the high priest,” —

Acts 9:2. And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.

He wanted his hunting-ground enlarged; he had not enough to gratify his malice among the thousands of believers in Jerusalem, so he must go to Damascus to hunt out the Christians there. Paul was always very thorough in all that he did; so, when he was a persecutor, he was a very bitter one. It mattered not to him whether the saints were men or women. In ordinary warfare it is the custom to spare the women. A brave man is satisfied to fight with men like himself; but a bigot’s zeal knows no bounds, and so Saul asked for letters, so that “if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.”

Acts 9:3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus:

The lion is about to leap upon his prey. The sheepfold lies in the valley and the wolf surveys it from the hill-side. “Alas for the Church of God at Damascus!” you and I would have said if we had been there.

Acts 9:3. And suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:

A supernatural blaze, as though heaven’s gate had been thrown open, and the glory had come streaming down upon this rebellious man.

Acts 9:4. And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?

Most people are converted in a somewhat similar fashion to this. There is “a light from heaven” shining through the gospel upon them, they fall to the ground in penitent self-abasement, and then they hear the voice of the Son of God speaking to their hearts. I do not mean that the external phenomena are the same as in the case of Saul of Tarsus, but the work is the same in its effects, and in some of its processes. Saul “heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?” It was a voice divine, majestic, piercing, affectionate, convincing. Saul’s mind was of a deeply logical kind, so Christ’s question was an appeal to his reasoning faculties: “Give the reason for thy present action. ‘Why persecutest thou me?’”

Acts 9:5. And he said Who art thou. Lord? And the lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks

I do not doubt that he had been already pricked in his conscience, and he had kicked out as an ox kicks against the ox-goad when he is pricked by it to make him go forward. Saul was a man of strong will and determined purpose. He had already felt in his own heart some of the sorrows that follow from a wrong course of life, yet he resolved to persevere in it, so the Lord said to him, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks;” and if any of you resist the thrusts of conscience and the strivings of God’s Spirit, you will be like a man, with naked feet, kicking against iron spikes, and hurting himself, but not injuring that against which he kicks.

Acts 9:6. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?

This was a very natural question from one who had always tried to live by doing. He had been a work-monger up to that very moment, so he naturally cried, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?”

Acts 9:6. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

“Thou must become a disciple, and sit at the feet of another man, of a humbler sort, and thou must learn from him.” Christ will never teach us by visions what we can learn by the ordinary means of instruction, nor will he work miracles where common methods may suffice.

Acts 9:7. And the men which journeyed with him stood speechless,-

They were struck with astonishment, —

Acts 9:7. Hearing a voice, but seeing no man.

A loud voice stunned their ears, but they could not understand its message.

Acts 9:8-9. 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.

What a whirl of anguish must his mind have been in all that time! The panorama of Stephen’s martyrdom and of the holy men and women against whom he had breathed out threatenings and slaughter would pass before his inward eyes, even though his outward eyes were closed.

Acts 9:10-11. And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth,

God knows where every sinner is, the street he lies in, the number of the house, and the name of the owner of the house, so that he can find him when he pleases, or send one of his servants to him. You remember what John Bunyan said to the Quaker who came to see him in prison. The Quaker said to him, “Friend John, I am glad I have found thee at last, for the Lord sent me to thee, and I have been through half the prisons in England trying to find thee.” “No, no,” said Bunyan, “do not tell me that. The Lord did not send thee to me, for he knows I have been here all these years. If he had sent thee, thou wouldst have come straight to the prison door.” When the Lord calls a man to go on an errand for him, he puts his finger on the right spot, and says, “Go there.”

Acts 9:12. And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.

You see how true revelations fit into each other. Something is revealed to Ananias, and it is also revealed to Saul, and therefore it is proved to be true. Some years ago, a brother told me that he had had it revealed to him that I was to let him preach for me in the Tabernacle. I said that of course I would agree to that when it was revealed to me that I was to let him, but I do not believe in lopsided revelations. You will find a great many of those crazy revelations about, and you may generally judge them in some such common-sense way as that.

Acts 9:13-16. Then Ananias answered, 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. But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.

He had made God’s people suffer because of their loyalty to Christ, so it seemed only right that he himself should suffer for the same reason.

Acts 9:17-18. And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.

As he believed in Jesus, it was right that he should confess his faith in the way that Christ appointed.

Acts 9:19. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.

Do admire the tenderness of the Holy Spirit in recording that Saul received meat, and was strengthened. He had been without food or drink for three days and nights, so that it was as right for him to partake of food as to confess his faith by being baptized.

Acts 9:19. Then was Saul certain days with the disciples which were at Damascus.

Thus did the lion lie down with the lamb, and the wolf with the kid.

Acts 9:20. And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God.

How he must have startled his Jewish brethren that day! They knew why he had come to Damascus, but, behold, he was preaching the very faith that he had gone there to destroy!

Acts 9:21-25. But all that 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? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

I never heard of a more precious basketful of material than that. Sometimes, the greatest of men may owe their safety to the very poorest of instruments; and I think it is the duty of a Christian to avoid trouble if he can, just as our Lord bade his disciples, when they were persecuted in one city, to flee to another. Paul was carrying out that command of his Master. It was not cowardice, it was the very soul of courage, that he might go elsewhere to proclaim the gospel that he had received in Damascus.

Acts 9:26. And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

They did not admit anybody and everybody into the Church. They guarded it as Christ’s Church should be guarded, that unworthy people might not enter it. If any of you should be kept back a little while, you can say to yourself, “Well, they kept back Paul.” We are poor fallible creatures, but we try to judge rightly concerning those who wish to unite with us.

Acts 9:27-31. But Barnabus took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. And he was with them coming in and going out at Jerusalem, And he spake boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus, and disputed against the Grecians: but they went about to slay him. Which when the brethren knew, they brought him down to Caesarea, and sent him forth to Tarsus. 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.

Blessed be God for such a conversion as that of Saul of Tarsus!

 


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Bibliography Information
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Acts 9:4". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/acts-9.html. 2011.

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