Acts 9 sets the stage for the most well known conversion in all of scripture. The Apostle Paul, someone we would recognize in the modern world as a religious terrorist, meets Jesus and becomes a born again Christian. Until this point, Peter is the alpha dog apostle, but now the Holy Spirit is driving the gospel toward gentile nations, and Paul, still known as Saul at this point, is God’s chosen instrument. Peter will now fade from the pages of scripture, and Paul and his ministry will take center stage.
Before The Turn
Saul is recognized as a murderer and religious terrorist, targeting “the disciples of the Lord.” He went to the High Priest asking for permission, “papers,” in order to justify and continue his terrorist activities.
It’s worth noting that many people who engage in evil enjoy documenting it. The Nazi for example and a morbid fascination with detail. They wrote down the number of Jews murdered, what they took from each person, the weight of their hair after shaved, the amount of gold taken from teeth, and so on. Saul asks for specific permission, to go to Damascus and bring those who belong to the “Way,” the early churches name, back to Jerusalem.
Jesus Asked Why
Saul was nearby Damascus, the text is vague with few details, and in a moment a heaven lit up Saul’s life. “A light shone around him,” but seems not obvious to his companions, though they too heard the voice. Jesus asked Saul “why?” The question feels like a glance toward the question the Lord asked Job. After a series of long diatribes, God intervenes with Job and simply says Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” The question is designed to bring revelation, and in Saul’s case, Jesus will reveal himself, and layout for Saul God’s divine plan.
The question asked, “why are you persecuting me,” is profound. Saul was killing God’s people, not God, but God see’s it as the same. To injure God’s people is to injure God, and Jesus reveals that God does not taken kindly to such a thing.
Saul asked Jesus, “Who are you Lord?”
And the Lord with clarity said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” The Lord did not elaborate, nor did he need to—without stutter Jesus gives a quick command. “Rise and enter the city, and you will be told what to do.” Saul rose from the ground, somehow the revelation knocked him off his feet, please take note no horse is involved, as many European accounts of this story embellish. What we know is that upon meeting Jesus he was knocked to the ground, the how and why of it are not told.
Saul rose from the ground blind, with the caveat that his eyes were opened but blind. He was led by the hand into the city, and could not eat or drink for three days. It’s unclear what took place in Saul’s heart during those three days. Some believe his received a download from God about the gospel. Others think he was dumb, and bit frozen, similar to soldiers suffering from post traumatic syndrome. It seems clear from the text God had big plans for the chief gentile evangelist. Somehow it seems right to say God was ministering to him, but to come to hard and fast conclusions about that content would lead us into error.
Ananias was devoted disciple of Jesus, what follows is a sterling example of someone in possession of an intimate relationship with God, deep enough to make the most zealous follower of Christ jealous. Talking and listening to God, and in a serious manner, are not foreign to Ananias, but a practice developed over years of obedience.
They Lord first spoke his name, “Ananias.” The text says the revelation came to him in a vision. The Greek word is a nod toward having the ability to stare, as if God gave Ananias the ability to stare a bit into the plan of God.
Ananias said, “Here I am,” the phrase is a close cousin to Mary’s response before the angel Gabriel, “be it done unto your servant,” is what the Virgin said.
The text opens a window into things (interesting enough), Paul will codify in I Corinthians 14. The prophetic voice of God is designed for supernatural ministry, so that things unknown in the heart can be revealed, and in doing so, God can be glorified.
What God revealed to Ananias
- He is told to “Rise and Go.”
- He is told where to look, Straight Street.”
- He is told who to ask for, “Judas.”
- He is told to ask for, “Saul.”
- He is told that Saul received a vision about Ananias.
Talking Deeply With God
Ananias will not fight with God, but will talk deeply with the Lord. He does so by not asking a question, but by making a point, “I have heard about this man, “how much evil he has done,” “he has authority to bind.” It’s all true, and then God speaks again, and here is what the Lord said.
- He is a chosen instrument of mine
- To carry my name
- Before Gentiles, kings, and Israel
- He must suffer for the sake of my name
Ananias shows the blessed fruit of deep walk with God. The conversation with God is familiar, and he knows when God is talking, and when God is done talking. Twice in this section God told him to “Go,” and Ananias did not need to hear it a third time.
The Supernatural Requires Boldness
If you want to see someone become a born again Christian, then find an unbeliever and boldly with love proclaim Christ to them. Skillfulness is helpful but not a need. If you want to see someone healed find a sick person and pray for them to be healed. If in such matters you take none of the glory unto yourself, then you will possess none of the blame. Ananias the text says, “departed,” and “entered the house.” He knew not to hesitate at God’s bidding. Supernatural ministry requires a bold proclamation of biblical truth, along with sure and swift action.
Here is what Ananias spoke
- Brother Saul (If God saved him, then he would receive him)
- Lord Jesus (Ananias knows no other God)
- Appeared to you on the road (I know about this)
- Sent me (I am here for a divine purpose)
- So that you can regain your sight (You will now be healed)
- And be filled with the Holy Spirit (You will now be a changed man)
Luke is a medical doctor, and knows enough to leave a mystery alone. The affliction was divine, much like Zechariah was mute until his son was born. Saul’s blindness was from God, designed for a kingdom purpose, a necessary good in altering the course of a life, human history, and the God’s heavenly kingdom. Saul rose, ate, was baptized, and became strong.