Acts 9:1-25 (NLT)
1 Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers.
Yes, we know! The last we heard of Saul he was trying to destroy the church and dragging believers off to prison.
So he went to the high priest. 2 He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus,
Damascus is 135 miles from Jerusalem. A significant journey.
asking for their cooperation in the arrest of any followers of the Way he found there. He wanted to bring them—both men and women—back to Jerusalem in chains.
Galatians 1:13-14 (NIV)
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers.
3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.
Here is the first account in Acts of Paul’s conversion
(see also chapters 22 and 26).
4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked.
Acts 9:5 (KJV)
And he said, Who art thou, Lord?
By the miracle of Redemption Saul of Tarsus was turned in one second from a strong-willed, intense Pharisee into a humble, devoted slave of the Lord Jesus.
—My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
7 The men with Saul stood speechless, for they heard the sound of someone’s voice but saw no one! 8 Saul picked himself up off the ground, but when he opened his eyes he was blind. So his companions led him by the hand to Damascus. 9 He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
Here is my personal theory of these three days of blindness: Saul was a brilliant man, well-trained in the Torah and unusually adept at expressing himself in speech and letters. I think he was whizzing through the reams of Scripture he had memorized and stored in his mind — putting it together, by the help of the Holy Spirit, with all that he had heard about Jesus, and becoming more and more sure that Jesus is in fact the Messiah. In his physical darkness, Saul was being spiritually enlightened. No wonder he forgot about food!
10 Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!”
“Yes, Lord!” he replied.
11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”
13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.”
— just in case God didn’t know these things!
15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
Oh, my. Like Jesus in Gethsemane, Saul in his blindness is “counting the cost.”
17 So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
18 Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. 19 Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength.
To all of us who are praying for loved ones to come to Jesus, loved ones who seem hard or indifferent to the Word of God, or who believe themselves intellectually beyond Jesus-of-the Bible, or who are consumed by a cult or an addiction or a bad relationship — the story of Saul’s conversion is so heartening! Jesus finds them, even when they aren’t looking for Him! Let us not stop praying for them, for the Lord’s will is that none should perish, but that all should have everlasting life.
“Just a Little Talk with Jesus (Made Me Whole)” — HERE is Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) and the Jordanaires.
I once was lost in sin but Jesus took me in
And then a little light from heaven filled my soul
It bathed my heart in love and wrote my name above
And just a little talk with Jesus made me whole
Now let us have a little talk with Jesus
Let us tell Him all about our troubles
He will hear our faintest cry
He will answer by and by
Now when you feel a little prayer wheel turning
Then you’ll know a little fire is burning
You will find a little talk with Jesus makes it right
Sometimes my path seems drear without a ray of cheer
And then the cloud about me hides the light of day
The mists of sin may rise and hide the stormy skies
But just a little talk with Jesus clears the way
I may have doubts and fears my eyes be filled with tears
But Jesus is a friend who watches day and and night
I go to Him in prayer He knows my every care
And just a little talk with Jesus makes it right
Saul Preaches in Damascus
Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. 20 And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!”
Because Saul was a skilled student of the great rabbi Gamaliel, he could take advantage of the synagogue custom that invited any able Jewish man to speak on the Scriptures at synagogue meetings.
Romans 1:16 (NASB)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
21 All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
22 Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.
Saul Escapes from the Jews
Later Paul remembers this event, as pictured here by James Shaw Crompton. 2 Corinthians 11:32-33 — “In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through their hands.”
23 After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him.
He who was once the hound is now the fox.
24 They were watching for him day and night at the city gate so they could murder him, but Saul was told about their plot. 25 So during the night, some of the other believers lowered him in a large basket through an opening in the city wall.
Job 19:20 (ESV)
I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.