About Jesus Steve Sweetman
This Section - Chapters 9
returns to the subject of Saul here in chapter 9.
It's no happenstance that Acts 9 comes soon after Acts 7 where we
see Stephen preaching to the Jewish leadership.
The record of what Stephen said is quite lengthy.
You might even call it systematic theology, especially of the Old
We know that Paul was standing and watching Stephen being stoned.
My guess is that Paul was also there listening to what Stephen
being a good Pharisee would have listened very closely.
Therefore, it's not surprising that what Paul would later teach
falls right in line with exactly what Stephen taught.
verse 1 Luke says,
"Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats
against the Lordís disciplesÖ"
Luke says that during the time when Philip and others were
preaching the good news with miraculous signs, Saul was still going about
persecuting Christians, or as Luke puts it, persecuting "the Lordís
see how violent Saul is here, with the words "murderous
These threats had teeth in
26:11 tells us that Paul was obsessed with persecuting the Christians.
Some suggest that after Stephen's death that Paul most likely
helped stone, or, kill, other Christians.
The use of the word "murderous"
might well suggest that. Also, in Acts 9:29 we see that the Jews
attempted to kill Paul.
Paul would have been one of these types of Jews who were out to
I conclude that it is quite possible that Paul himself killed
Christians prior to his conversion here in Acts 9.
should note that the disciples mentioned here were the "Lordís
disciples", not Peterís disciples or Johnís disciples.
One mistake that is often made in the modern discipleship movements
is that we fail to recognize the disciples belong to Jesus, not to the
earthly man who is leading the disciples.
The word "disciple" means "someone who is learning
or following one who teaches".
In today's world, the word "Christian" has been watered
down to mean something it was never meant to mean.
Many people living in the western world these days consider
themselves to be Christians.
Such use of the term "Christian" is not the Biblical
definition for the word.
Christians are disciples of Jesus.
They are those who are in the present, and in real time, learning
and following the Lord Jesus Christ and His teaching.
verse 2 Saul asked the Jewish leaders for a letter of recommendation so he
could carry out his campaign of terror north to
see the term "the Way" used in verse 2 to denote Christians.
Jesus called Himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life in John 14:6.
He said that He is the only way to God the Father.
Following in the steps of Jesus, the disciples were called the Way
Another reason for being called the Way might be that Christianity
was more than a belief system.
It was a total new living experience. The
Greek word translated as "way" means a "well walked
This clearly suggests that the Christian life is more than a belief
the way we live.
It's a daily walk with Jesus. I've
heard it said that the Bible doesn't emphasize decisions but disciples.
I like that.
idea was that Saul would arrest, both men and women, as he did in
says in verses 3 and 4, "As he neared
know that these words came from the Lord Jesus.
He calls out Saulís name twice, as if to get Saulís attention,
as if He had not already had it from the flash of light.
Also, the doubling of Saulís name suggests great emotion from the
one doing the speaking.
It reminds me of Jesus crying over
the question that was asked of Paul in verse 4.
"Why do you persecute me"?
Clearly, in the eyes of Jesus, when someone persecutes His
disciples they persecute Him.
Jesus is so associated with His people, mainly because the Holy
Spirit lives in His people, that Jesus takes such persecution not only
seriously but personally.
5 gives us Paulís response in the form of a question.
Saul asked, "Who are you, Lord"
The comma and the question mark in this sentence is important.
I think many of us read this question without pausing at the comma,
and without inflecting our voices at the question mark.
Saul did not say, "Who are you Lord".
He said, "who are you, (pause for a moment Ė the continue),
Lord" (as in a question Ė are you the Lord) Saul was not addressing
a statement to the Lord.
He was simply asking if the voice he heard was the voice of the
think he knew it was the voice of the Lord.
He was only wanting to be sure.
Then of course, who he thought was Lord, meaning the God of
Abraham, was in fact Jesus.
Paul didn't get this at this moment of time, but he'd soon find out
that the God of Abraham was in fact the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, all that I've just said is based on a comma in our English text. The Greek in which this was originally written had no punctuation marks. There was no comma. Therefore, what I've just said is somewhat conjecture. You can take it or leave it. That being said, even though Greek had no punctuation marks, which would include this question mark in our English text, this was a question. Paul was asking whose voice he was hearing. If Paul had known that the voice was from the Lord he would not have asked the question. I believe I can at least safely say that Paul thought the voice was from the Lord, and from his frame of reference, Lord meant Yahweh, not Jesus. We've got to understand that this must have been one shocking experience for Saul.
translations don't capitalize the word "Lord" in Saul's question
as the NIV and other translators do.
They believe the Greek word translated as "Lord" here can
mean "sir", and other similar words.
Therefore, by not capitalizing the word "Lord" they
remove any hint that Saul had Yahweh in mind when he asked this question.
Their translation suggests that Saul was simply calling the voice
I just don't see this to be so.
When Jews used the word "Lord" their understanding of
Lord was Yahweh.
I believe Saul thought this voice came from Yahweh.
He was simply startled and confused by this event.
He just needed confirmation.
Then, when He got the answer that the voice was Jesus' voice that
would have only added to his confusion.
interject for a moment, it is thought that the date of this event was
probably around 33 or possibly 34 or 35 A D, only a couple of years after
Jesusí death, resurrection, and
let's return to the narrative.
The voice replied by saying, "I am Jesus, who you are
This must have totally stunned Saul.
Here he was on his way to arrest the followers of Jesus.
Most likely his thoughts were full of anticipating his arrival in
note that Jesus says that Paul is persecuting Him.
Because of the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the
disciples, when the disciples are being persecuted, so is Jesus being
Jesus totally associates Himself with His followers that Saul is
out to arrest and kill.
When the voice says that "I am Jesus who you are
persecuting", He means that whatever you do to mine, you do to me.
Of course, we know that this had always been Jesusí stance.
Once, when speaking of the future judgement He said that those who
did, or did nothing, to the least of these my brothers, have done the same
to me. (Matthew 25:40)
verse 6 the Lord says one other thing.
"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what
you must do".
Apparently Jesus said nothing else.
Most likely nothing else needed to be said.
thing we should note here and that is the NIV leaves out a phrase that is
found in the KJV.
The KJV says that God told Paul that it was hard for him "to
kick against the pricks."
The word Ēpricks" is from a Greek word that means sting, as
in a bee sting.
The point is that God had been stinging Paul with pricks, trying to
get Paul over to His side, but Paul was ignoring these stings.
Therefore God had to be more drastic with Paul.
Thus we see the events of chapter 9.
There is clearly a manuscript problem here because this phrase is not found in the majority of manuscripts. The
KJV added these words as it sometime does.
The reason for this addition is most likely do to the fact that in
Acts 26:14, when Paul recounts this event, these words are found, but
once again, these words are not found here in Acts 9:6.
presented Saul with the issue of his most outstanding sin, which was,
It is interesting to note that Jesus did not preach the good news
He left that up to a human being to do.
This is interesting.
Jesus could have easily shared the gospel to Saul, but that is not
His job to do.
That is our job.
So Jesus tells Saul to go into
is hard to say just how Saul felt at this moment.
He most likely felt totally humiliated, in front of those with him,
and in the presence of the Lord Jesus.
He must have felt awe struck, probably even scared.
He must have felt confused; not really knowing what was next,
having his plans divinely interrupted.
Beyond all of this, when Saul got up from the ground, and opened
his eyes, that were blinded from the blinding light, he could not see.
He was blind, and needed someone to lead him around. The powerful
Saul was cut to the ground.
I suppose that Jesus had to do something very drastic to get Saul's
He would become the main spokesman to the Gentiles from the early
believe that Saul is the New Testament Moses.
Much of New Testament theology is defined and set forth by Saul who
would later be known as Paul.
The initiation of his new life and ministry was accompanied with
At this point I refer you to Galatians 1:15 and 16 we
note that Paul believed God set him apart at birth.
Then, in verse 16 we note that God revealed Himself in Paul.
This revealing began in Acts 9 on the road to
7 says that the men with Saul were speechless, having heard the sound, but
seeing no one.
over the years have pointed out an apparent contradiction.
Here (in the KJV) Luke says that those with Saul "heard a
In Acts 22:9 (KJV) Paul says that those with him did not hear the
possible way to reconcile this is to say that those with Saul indeed heard
a sound as it says in chapter 9 but did not hear specific words spoken to
words were probably a loud garbled sound.
Besides, the words were spoken to Saul and to no one else.The Greek construction of these two verses confirms
this rendering that the NIV makes clear.
should note the when reading the NIV you do not see this apparent
The NIV in chapter 9 says that they heard the sound.
In chapter 22 it says that they did not understand the voice, which
differs from the KJV and my Interlinear Bible. It appears that the 1994
edition of the NIV has attempted to fix this problem in the translating
8 simply tells us that Paul could not see.
"He was blinded by the light", as the saying goes. It's
amazing how many well used English phrases come from the Bible.
verse 9 Luke says that those with Saul led him into town and for three
days Saul did not eat or drink anything.
We donít really know if Paul was fasting, as in the sense of
fasting and praying, or if he was so out of sorts that he could not eat or
We do know that in verse 11 Luke says that Saul was praying.
This might suggest fasting in order to pray.
We can only imagine what Paul might have been going through.
is my thinking that Saul was very contemplative.
He must have been rethinking his whole life.
The words of Jesus must have been still ringing in his ears.
"It is Jesus, who you are persecuting".
Agony and torment must have filled Saulís heart and mind.
I'm sure this was a time of great repentance on Saulís part.
verse 10 we see that while Saul was in prayer the Lord spoke to a man
named Ananias. The Lord called out his name, and he answered the Lord by
saying, "yes, Lord".
Once again we note the dynamics of the miraculous in these early
Unlike Saul, this man clearly knew who was speaking to him. The
man's name was Ananias.
In Acts 22:12 we see Ananias again, assuming it's the same man.
He was a believing Jew from
verse 11 the Lord proceeded to tell Ananias, "go to the house of
what the Lord told Ananias we now know that Saul had a vision while
praying during these three days. This suggests to me that the Holy Spirit
was working in Saulís life for those three whole days prior to Saul
having the Holy Spirit in his life.
These were three very important days in the life of Saul.
Ananias heard this, he was not impressed.
In verse 13 he reminded the Lord of who Saul was, and why he had
in verse 14 that Saul had permission from the Jewish leadership to arrest
anyone "who called on the name of the Lord".
This is just another way of saying that Saul would arrest
believers, disciples, or, Christians.
Christians are those who call, that is present tense, "who
continually call on the name of the Lord".
The word "call" in Biblical terms often means cry.
It's a serious plea to the Lord.
The early Christians seriously cried out to God for their very
15 gives the Lordís response to Ananias.
He says, "Go!
This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the
Gentiles and their kings and before the people of
Lord just told Ananias some important information about Saul.
We donít know if the Lord had actually told Saul this at this
point, but I think we can safely say that he found out sooner than later
Godís plans for him.
Right at the beginning, at Saulís conversion, the Lord told him
that he was a chosen instrument to carry the gospel of Jesus, both to Jews
and to Gentiles, and to the Gentile kings.
How this would happen would be a result of Saul's great suffering.
Saul understood from the very beginning that his new life would not
be easy, that he would suffer much for the name of Jesus.
In the same way that he caused suffering on Christians before his
conversion, he would suffer himself in like fashion as a Christian.
it comes to suffering because of one's association with Jesus in the early
church, it was simply the thing to expect.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus was very serious.
You didn't say a sinner's prayer and live happily ever-after.
You gave your life to Jesus, and for many, that was a literal life
or death decision.
called Saul during these three days.
This calling was a special calling, a calling that ranked with the
twelve apostles themselves.
As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:8, he was born out of season,
meaning he was born into this ministry later than the twelve apostles.
Without getting too involved here, 1Corinthians 15:8 suggests that
Paul viewed himself as one like the twelve, that is, one with just as much
If you remember, the stipulation that Peter made in Acts 1 for
Judas' replacement was that he had to have seen Jesus. Paul
might have known this and that is why he said what he said in 1
Paul did see Jesus. He saw Him here in Acts 9.
read in verse 17 that Ananias obeyed the Lord.
He went to the house and met Saul and said, "Brother
Right away we see that Ananias recognized Saul as a brother in the
should take from this that Saul was now classified as a real Christian,
although he might not yet have received the Holy Spirit into his life.
Whether he first believed on the road to
continues by saying, "the Lord Ė JesusÖ"
It seems to me that Ananias wanted to make sure that Saul knew what
Lord was in fact Jesus.
The Lord God of Abraham was the in all reality the Lord Jesus
That would have simply blown Saul's Pharisee indoctrinated mind.
Saul would later teach that Jesus was the all-important offspring
See Galatians 3:16.
"Jesus, who appeared to you on the road
Ö has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the
Two things were going to happen to Saul when Ananias lays his hands
They were, Saulís blind eyes would be healed, and Saul would be
filled with the Spirit.
we see the term "filled with the Holy Spirit".
The question can be asked, "Did Saul have the Holy Spirit
before Ananias laid hands on him"?
The text does not give us the answer to this question, so I
According to what I have seen so far in the book of Acts, and what
comes later, it is quite likely that Saul actually received the Spirit
when Ananias laid hands on him; just the Samaritans received the Holy
Spirit in Acts 8 when Peter and John laid hands on them.
Saul first became a believer, then after three days he received the
Holy Spirit. As I've said before, the conversion experience is made up of
One must repent, then believe, and then receive the Holy Spirit.
This can take place all at once, or over a period of time.
I think with Paul, it might have taken three days.
may argue that Saul had received the Holy Spirit during his three days of
blindness, and maybe they are right.
I just don't see it that way.
see in verse 18 that as soon as Ananias prayed for Saul his eyes were
says that it was like scales falling off his eyes.
Luke does not record any evidence of Saul being filled with the
Holy Spirit, but I am sure he was.
If the Lord told Ananias that Paul would be filled with the Spirit,
then that surely happened. Besides, in Peter's first Christian sermon in
Acts 2 he clearly points out that one who repents and is baptized will
receive the Holy Spirit.
That should not be questioned.
the term "filled with the Holy Spirit".
This term is used in two ways in Acts.
It's used in reference to someone receiving the Holy Spirit for the
It is also used in reference to someone having the Holy Spirit come
on him after already receiving the Holy Spirit.
As I've said earlier, I believe Saul received the Holy Spirit here.
I don't see this as a subsequent filling of the Spirit after he had
already received the Holy Spirit.
The context must show us how to understand the term "filled
with the Spirit".
19 says that after this had happened Saul ate some food to regain the
strength he had lost while fasting for 3 days.
should also note that Saul was immediately water baptized.
The early church did not wait to water baptize people.
They did not put them through a ten week course of study on water
They would have briefly explained the process and baptized the new
believer right away.
From this point on, Saul was a changed man.
when a person should be water baptized we should note that Saul was water
baptized after receiving the Holy Spirit.
The Samaritans in Acts 8 were baptized before they received the
Holy Spirit, and so were the one hundred and twenty in Acts 2.
We'll see that the Gentiles in Acts 10 were baptized after they
received the Holy Spirit too, as were the Ephesians in Acts 19.
I say this to show that there is no real consistency here when it
comes to when one gets water baptized.
You can't build a doctrine on this.
I suggest that one gets water baptized as soon as possible, as soon
as it is humanly convenient.
For Paul this was after he was healed of his blindness.
Saul being blind and then being healed, some suggest that Saul's
"thorn in the flesh" was an eye problem, and that might well be
More and more I am leaning towards this thinking.
Some say that even though Paul was healed here, there might well
have been a residue of a serious eye problem, maybe as a reminder of his
Of course, this is speculation.
We don't know.
Some might suggest, and for good reason, that Saul was totally
healed from blindness because if God heals, he doesn't heal half way.
verse 20 Luke says that Saul spent "several days in
believe that Paul was a zealous man by nature, and when Jesus took over
his life, that zeal was used by the Lord, just as it was once used by the
devil. When someone comes to
Jesus, the Lord doesn't take away the characteristics that He placed in
the person at birth. If a man
is zealous prior to be saved, he is zealous after getting saved.
It a man is a good organizer prior to being saved; he is a good
organizer after getting saved. All
human characteristics that were once used for self prior to conversion are
meant to be used for Jesus after conversion.
verse 21 we note that everyone who heard Saul was totally astonished
because they all knew why he had come to
what Luke says in verse 22 we can see that it did not take Saul long to
learn. He "baffled the
verses 23 to 25 we see that it did not take long for the Jews to get angry
with Saul. They were so upset
with him they tried to kill him. They
guarded the gates to the city in case he escaped, but Saulís
"followers", as Luke puts it, helped him escape one night by
lowering him in a basket in a whole in the city wall.
should know that houses were often joined to the city walls.
Therefore, the outside of these houses was the wall of the city,
thus the window in the wall that Paul was let out through.
verse 26 we note that after this Saul went to
can ask, "When did Saul go down to
clarify things, geographically speaking,
did not go up to
commentators say that Saul spent 3 years in Arabia, but the Galatian
account, at leas to me, states that he returned to Damascus after being in
Arabia, then after 3 years went to Jerusalem.
that Barnabas didn't say that Saul had a vision of Jesus.
He said Saul met Jesus, as Paul himself said.
We have to know for sure that Saul met the living Jesus.
He didn't have a vision, although, Saul did have visions from the
Lord after his conversion.
29 tells us that Saul preached to the Grecian Jews in
was one very important city,
especially for educational purposes. It had the third largest university
31 says, "Then the church enjoyed a time of peace".
The word "then" would refer to the fact that once Saul
left the area of Judea, Galilee, and
this time of peace, the Holy Spirit strengthened and encouraged the
church, as the church feared the Lord. As a result, the church grew
specifically says that these disciples "lived in the fear of
God". I believe when the
Bible speaks of the fear of the Lord it is more than a healthy respect,
reverence, or awe. I believe
fear is fear. People in one
real sense of the word were afraid of God, and rightly so. The
fear of the Lord is something we know little of these days, and I believe
our churches show the results. There
is little growth in many sectors of the western church, either numerically
or spiritually, and, it's because we are not afraid of God.
fear of the Lord is balanced with love for Him.
We love the one we fear and we fear the one we love.
We want to run from God because as the book of Hebrews states,
"He is a consuming fire". On
the other hand we realize that there is no place to run to escape God, so
we run back into His loving arms.
now turns his attention from Saul back to Peter.
In verse 32 we see that Peter often traveled throughout the country
side preaching the good news of Jesus. On
one of these occasions he visited the saints in Lydda.
Lydda was North West of
verse 33 we have Acts 3 all over again.
There was a crippled man who had been this way for eight years.
It's hard to know how to translate this verse.
Although most translations say this man was crippled for eight
years, it could also be translated that he was crippled since he was eight
His name was Aenaes.
Peter saw his condition, in verse 34 Peter simply told him that
"Jesus Christ heals you".
The Greeks says, "Jesus instantaneously, as in right now,
The point is that there was no waiting around.
The miracle was instantaneous.
donít believe there is some Biblical formula for healing in the New
Here Peter tells this man that Jesus heals him.
In Acts 3 Peter just tells the crippled man to get up in the name
Whatever way that this man or any other person is healed, it makes
a difference in those around.
I know this from my own life.
My father became a Christian when Jesus healed me of Juvenile
Diabetes at the age of five years old.
Luke says that all those who lived in those parts believed the
gospel because of this miracle.
This again is why we have miracles.
They are signs that bring people to Jesus.
might have heard the term "rose of Sharon".
You see the town of
35 tells us that "all" those in Lydda and
verse 36 Peter leaves Lydda and goes to Jappa, farther to the north and to
the west, a city on the coast.
Peter went to Jappa because a lady named Dorcus had died.
Since the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda they asked him to
come to Jappa since it wasnít that far. They asked him, "please
come at once".
Now at this point Dorcus was already dead and ready to be buried.
They had placed her body in an upper room, most likely waiting for
should know that in the city of
Jerusalem, when someone died, the person would be buried within the day.
This wasn't necessarily the case for those who died outside the
city of Jerusalem. Dorcus
was probably dead for more than one day.
It appears that they waited for Peter to come.
It seems they had great faith that Peter could raise this lady from
verse 39 Peter enters the upper room and saw many of Dorcusí women
friends in tears because of her death. They showed Peter some of the
clothing that she had made.
They were very saddened by her sudden illness that led to this
spent her time making clothes for the poor in the area.
She was a woman of good works, thus the reason for all the tears.
She was well loved.
verse 40 Peter sent everyone out of the room.
Why he did this, we donít know.
We do know that he had seen Jesus do this a time or two.
After they all left, he knelt down on his knees and prayed.
What Peter prayed we don't know.
He then turned to the dead woman and said "Tabitha (or Dorcus)
Peter did not pray and ask Jesus to raise her up, at least not
he did before.
We just don't know.
Peter merely told her to get up.
This is most likely due to the fact that Peter represented Jesus in
that upper room.
He spoke on His behalf.
my thinking there was a bit of a time laps between Peter getting on his
knees and praying and then turning to the lady and telling her to get up.
Again, this tells me that there is no set formula in the Bible when
it comes to healing.
Whatever seems right at the time would be the rule of thumb I
saying these words to Dorcus, she opened her eyes and sat up.
In verse 41 Peter took her by the hand and helped her up.
Then Peter called in the disciples and presented Dorcus to them
alive and well. Once
again we see Peter is an example of a man used in miraculous ways in the
As usual, because of the miracle, many came to believe in Jesus
verse 43 we note that Peter decided to stay in Jappa for "some
time" with a "tanner named Simon".
We should note that Peter is beginning to lose some of his Jewish
A tanner dealt with dead animals which was against Jewish law.
In Jewish terms, Peter should not have been staying in the same
house with a tanner.