May 8, 2022
Pastor Craig Ledbetter
Bible Baptist Church, Ballincollig, Cork, Ireland
A. Who was Saul of Tarsus?
B. Why does he HATE Jesus and His followers so much?
C. Surely Saul would be the LAST person on earth to get born again and follow Jesus… right?
D. Yet Acts 9 shows Jesus seeking out the worst of us, to save and use for His greatest tasks!
A. The Journey to Damascus (Acts 9:1,2)
1. Acts 9:1 And Saul…
2. Who was Saul of Tarsus? This Saul guy is worth exploring
a. Acts 22:3 I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia [LOCATED IN EASTERN TURKEY], yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.
b. Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.
c. Philippians 3:5,6 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
3. He hated anything or anyone that was a threat to his nice, tidy religion!
4. Acts 9:1,2 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.
5. Saul has heard that there are heretics up in the synagogues in Damascus, Lebanon
6. So, sought authority to:
a. Examine all the people in every synagogue there
b. Arrest them for changing their faith
c. Drag them to Jerusalem to humiliate them and imprison them
7. THIS has always been true about so many cultures and religions… until Christ came
B. Encounter With the Lord Jesus (Acts 9:3-5)
1. Acts 9:3-5 And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: 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 art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
2. Suddenly, a conversation takes place – it always does when getting saved!
a. As Saul journeyed, and was getting near to the city limits of Damascus, with so much religious power and authority; so much anger, and zeal …
b. A bright light, brighter than the desert sun shone around him like a spotlight from the sky
c. Knocked him to the grown – overwhelming presence of someone
d. And a voice from above called Saul’s name!
3. “Saul, Saul…”
a. Remember, Saul believed Jesus was believed was DEAD and gone
b. Yet here is Saul hearing the voice from heaven of Jesus!
4. “Saul, Saul… why are you fighting against ME?”
a. Saul was NOT just persecuting Jesus’ followers
b. But Saul’s anger and fight was against Jesus
c. Like an atheist constantly fighting against a God he thinks doesn’t exist – what a waste of time if God doesn’t exist!
5. “Who are you… LORD?”
a. This is not a question of “Who is this?”, like when you get a phone call and can’t recognise the voice
b. This is a terrifying suspicion that it might just actually be the Jesus all the Christians were saying is alive
c. That is why he calls Jesus LORD here
d. He is wondering, IT IS YOU LORD?
e. Is that you knocking on my heart?
6. “I AM JESUS!” Wow! What a statement!
a. It’s ME! Jesus! The Man you thought was dead and gone!
b. I am very much alive and well
c. And yes, I am the Sovereign Lord God of the universe
d. I am here in heaven, sitting next to Jehovah God, like I promised I would be
1) Matthew 26:63-65 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.
2) For all his life, such an idea was blasphemous – that God would have a Son!
7. You are wasting your time trying to fight me! Ain’t THAT the truth!
C. Absolute Surrender! (Acts 9:6)
1. Acts 9:6 And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.
2. One of THE greatest Scriptures for the Christian!
a. The second greatest prayer to pray is… “what do you want me to do?”
b. No more fighting Jesus - No more arguing
c. Just absolute, unconditional surrender - Like Germany and Japan in World War II
d. Not many people do this – most only want to believe, but not surrender
e. So, there is no victory in Christian’s lives, and continuous bondage in Christian homes
3. Saul did two things one right after the other
a. He BELIEVED the voice was Jesus, who had been crucified, was back alive!
b. And he SUBMITTED to the Lordship of that Man named Jesus
4. And that was all!
a. There was nothing Saul could do to earn what Jesus had just given him
b. There was nothing to do but believe, and surrender!
c. And Saul became a Christian!
D. A New Believer’s Baby Steps (Acts 9:7-9)
1. Acts 9:7-9 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 hand, and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.
2. Saul had just reset everything he believed – started over - Start at Level Zero
a. Jesus called it being born all over again – on the inside
b. If you have a PhD, you need to start completely over
c. Theologian, you need to start all over
d. Atheist, agnostic – you cannot half-believe – you must start all over!
e. Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal – ye must be born again!
3. So he was taking some baby steps - learning to pray again and just wait on God
E. The Calling of Ananias (Acts 9:10-16)
1. Acts 9:10-16 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, 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 shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake.
2. Who was Ananias?
a. Acts 9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias…
b. A Disciple/follower of Jesus living up in Damascus in Lebanon
c. A Target of Saul’s – someone that Saul had come to punish and imprison
d. But he was a Servant of Jesus at heart – wanted to do something for Him by his life
3. Jesus Had a job for him to do – a great calling
a. Called his name – spoke right to Ananias
1) Acts 9:10 And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.
2) I am here Lord – I am ready to do whatever you ask of me
b. Gave Clear Instructions
1) Acts 9:11,12 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, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.
2) Listen to Jesus’ instructions – His will
a) Arise, search for a man named Saul of Tarsus – find him
b) I want you to HELP Saul! Encourage him
c) He is in a house owned by a man named Judas on the street called Straight
d) He is praying right now
e) And, he is expecting you
4. “But Lord!”
a. Acts 9:13,14 Then Ananias answered, [BUT] 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.
b. Oh how quick we are to volunteer until we discover God’s will – then we struggle!
c. Our normal response to clear instructions in the Bible… “but, but, but, but Lord!”
1) “Lord, Saul is a dangerous man” – why do we argue with God, and think we can tell Him what He already knows?
2) “I have heard what Saul did to the SAINTS in Jerusalem” – the Christians
3) “And Saul has authority here to imprison all of us who are following YOU”
4) That should be enough to reject your request of me!
5. Jesus responds… YOU ARE GOING TO HELP THE FUTURE APOSTLE PAUL
a. Acts 9:15,16 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.
b. Ananias… Do what I tell you. Why?
c. Because Saul belongs to me now – he is not the same man he was three days ago
d. He has been changed in his heart and soul – saved – converted
1) Acts 3:19 Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord
2) Matthew 18:3,4 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
e. He is a chosen vessel – chosen for a special high purpose
1) Just like I chose YOU Ananias
2) I have chosen that fierce, angry, murderous man named Saul
3) To preach my name to everyone he meets
4) AND believe me Ananias, Saul will suffer for my name’s sake when he does my will
F. Two Brother’s Meet (Acts 9:17-19)
1. Acts 9:17-19 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. And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.
2. Ananias yielded to the will of Jesus
a. Ananias was taking big risks
b. Did what Jesus commanded instead of giving into his fears!
3. Started to search for the man who had come searching for him
a. Acts 9:17 And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house…
b. Went down a long street called straight, asking for a name named Judas, and found him
c. Entered into the house UNINVITED
d. Found the Pharisee named Saul, sitting on the floor and praying
4. Placed both his hands upon Saul – must have been hard for Ananias, and a shock to Saul who had no idea who had just grabbed him (he could have been trapped, about to be taken away and tortured…)
5. And then Ananias called him BROTHER!
a. Acts 9:17 And Ananias … said, Brother Saul…
b. A huge chasm of fear and history was instantly crossed
c. Ananias accepts that Saul of Tarsus is now his brother in Christ!
d. Both men were instantly encouraged – real acceptance!
6. Then Ananias reveals what had happened to Saul on the Road just outside of Damascus three days earlier
a. Acts 9:17 … 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.
b. This was more confirmation to Saul that it was no coincidence
1) No one else had heard who Saul was talking to, and what he said
2) Yet here was a man telling Saul that Jesus had spoken to him too
7. “Jesus sent me to give you two gifts:”
a. A gift of healing
1) Saul was blind at every level – had been wrong about most everything, and needed healing of a blindness in his heart
2) 2Corinthians 4:4 In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
b. And the gift of the filling of the Holy Spirit of God
1) The greater gift – to have the presence of God with him forever!
2) But, the Holy Spirit was given only to believers
8. Saul gave in to Ananias – no more arguing, just accepting whatever happened
a. Acts 9:18 And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.
b. Immediately the blindness was gone!
c. THEN Saul got up and went with Ananias, and was baptized
G. Notice the Sequence of Events…
1. On the Road to Damascus, Saul surrendered to the FACT of Jesus being alive (BELIEVED), and being Messiah and Lord – that was when Saul believed and was saved! NOT at his baptism!
2. Saul instantly submitted to the will of Jesus as Lord - YIELDED
a. No longer going to do the will of the Pharisees, and hunt down Christians
b. He was going to do the will of the very Man whom he had hated – Jesus
c. And this was not just a once off thing – his greatest desire was to stay faithful to Christ to the end of his life!
3. Ananias put his hands on blind Saul - HEALED
a. Immediately the blindness was gone – miracle occurred on outside AND inside
b. And he was filled with the Spirit of God
4. And THEN Saul got up and went and lastly, was baptized
a. NOT before all that, or during all that…
b. But AFTER everything!
5. BAPTISM DID NOTHING FOR HIM – He was already saved
6. He was just publickly announcing he had CROSSED OVER and was now a Christian
H. Saul Got Busy for Jesus (Acts 9:19,20)
1. Act 9:19,20 And when he had received meat, he was strengthened. 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.
2. He is completely convinced:
a. That he had been wrong about God, about Jesus, about Stephen, about the Law
b. That Jesus is alive, and the Son of God
c. And that Jesus had something for him to do – from the moment he was saved
d. Saul has a new direction, AND the same energy
1) He put as much effort (the same energy) into living for Jesus as he had against Him!
2) THAT is Biblical Christianity!
3) So many “christians” used to spend €150 a week on drink or drugs, but put €10 euros into the offering? That’s weird!
4) So many “christians” spend 6 hours a week doing sports and gym, but grumble every time they come to church for an hour and a half!
5) They will read social media by the hour, and never pick up their Bible for just 1 hour
6) If We would put as much time and effort into living for Jesus like we used to live for the devil, this world would be turned upside down in less than 25 years!
3. He spent several days with the disciples in Damascus
a. Saul had SO many questions. He was SO hungry to know what he had missed
b. So excited about the new truths he had been given – insight
c. He found a love for the brethren, that replaced all the hatred of them
4. And he started to preach to all the unsaved Jews in Damascus, telling them he had been wrong all along, and that Jesus really IS the Son of God! Scriptures now opened up to him, and Saul started seeing Jesus on every page of Scripture, and he just HAD to tell somebody!
A. Did you happen to notice…
1. Saul wasn’t looking for Jesus – Jesus came looking for Saul – interrupted his life
2. Conversion was not automatic – there had to be a conversation between them, and an absolute surrender to Jesus
3. Saul was the most religious man he could be, and yet deep down, he was a sinner who needed a Saviour from his sins
4. Saul was converted – he did not just become more religious – he met Jesus and was changed
5. Are there any Saul’s here today? Who haven’t yet had that conversation?
6. “Lord? What do you have for ME to do?”
B. Every Christian in here is an Ananias that God wants to use to reach and encourage the NEXT Apostle Paul
1. Will you argue and resist, or yield and obey?
2. There are Saul’s to be won to Christ and encouraged!
3. They need us in motion, not fearing them, but loving them, and giving to them what God gave us – a second chance!