Thursday, April 11, 2013

Acts 9 - The Road to Damascus

LINK: Acts 9
The Life and Epistles of Paul by Thomas Lewin, 1890

BACKGROUND

I love this chapter! The top persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus, is blinded by a light from heaven on the road to Damascus while on his way to persecute more believers of that Jewish cult they were calling the "Way" (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).  He is confronted by the question, "Why do you persecute Me?"  Saul was not just persecuting individual followers but persecuting Christ because the church is Christ's body. 

Saul's question, "Who are you, Lord?" reveals to him that he is talking to Jesus.  He is blinded and directed to go to Damascus where Ananias, on the street called Straight, laid hands on Saul. He regained his sight, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and baptized. 
Maps by Gordon Smith can be used without further permission (http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/JBPhillips.htm)

Acts 9:13 marks the first time that believers are called saints ("set-apart ones"). See also Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Philippians 1:1. You might want to make a note of that in your Bible.

God's mission for Paul was told to Ananias: 



He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake. (9:15-16)
Saul went to Damascus to persecute the church and ended up proclaiming Jesus as the Son of God (this is the only time this phrase is used in Acts)! No wonder the Jews were baffled ("confounded, bewildered, confused"). Now the persecutor would become the persecuted, even having to leave Damascus in a basket.


The Acts account does not reveal what happened between verses 22 and 23, but Galatians 1:17 tells us that he did not "consult flesh and blood" or "go up to Jerusalem" concerning his new found faith but went to Arabia for three years (Galatians 1:18). Since Arabia was very sparsely populated, it is thought he went there to be away from men and alone with the Lord in order to consult Him regarding his faith and future mission rather than going to evangelize.

After Arabia, Saul went to Jerusalem. It took the help of Barnabas to convince the disciple that he was a legitimate disciple. After more bold preaching leading to persecution, he went to Caesarea and Tarsus. Tarsus was his hometown. It was a Greek-speaking, Roman province and center of learning. It also linked Syrian Antioch and the rest of the Middle East with the provinces of Galatia and Asia to the west.

In this chapter we continue to see the familiar pattern of Acts:
  • Power of God displayed (light on the road, healing of Saul's eyes)
  • Proclamation of Jesus as the Christ
  • Persecution
  • Propagation of the church (9:31)
Peter's Preparation for Worldwide Ministry (9:32-40)


Israel's airport is just north of Lydda today.

In Acts 8:25, Peter was traveling from Samaria to Jerusalem with John. While in Lydda, he healed Aeneas. This led to many believing. 


In Joppa, Tabitha was raised from the dead. This is the first time in the book of Acts that this occurred. Again, this led to many believing.  Surprisingly, this time there is no record of persecution.


This section is significant because God performed two miracles through Peter in a partially Gentile region. It is also significant to note that Peter stayed with a tanner named Simon. Tanners were considered ceremonially unclean because of their contact with dead animal skins (Leviticus 11:40). This is a perfect segue into Acts 10. 


Tomorrow is a BIG day in the book of Acts. So, there will be no REFLECTION and APPLICATION for today. 


Rest up and stay tuned!

PRAYER

Lord, reveal Yourself to us today. Shed light on where You would have us go and what You would have us do and say. Empower us by Your Holy Spirit. We ask this so the name of Jesus can be proclaimed throughout the whole earth. Amen. 
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