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22 October 2023  // Acts 9

SCRIPTURAL APPLICATION:  Read Acts Chapter 9 & watch/listen to Oct 22 sermon.  

 Saul Goes to Damascus vs. 1-18
Meets Jesus
Meets Ananias
Saul Goes to Church vs. 19-25
                  Meets Opposition
Finds Believers
Saul Goes Home vs. 26-29
                   Finds Rejection
                   Meets Barnabas
Saul Goes to Tarsus vs. 30-31
  • What did the message teach me about God/Jesus/Holy Spirit?
  • What did the message teach me about the human condition?
  • Is there anything I need to confess, repent, or be grateful for, because of this passage?
  • How do I need help in believing and applying this scripture to my life?
  • How can I encourage others with this passage?
Satan’s Strategy Session
As the story goes, Satan had called a meeting of his senior demons, a strategy session with the particular intent of devising new ways to keep people from trusting Jesus Christ for salvation. With a series of clever overhead transparencies the boss explained the dilemma—too many leaving the fold of darkness and choosing to follow the giver of light.

When he opened the meeting for discussion, he precisely asked the demons to suggest concrete ways they could act on earth to choke off these despised “conversions” in some effective way. The first volunteer proposed, “Tell them there is no God.” That suggestion fell on deaf ears, for the demons knew well that many choosing to remain in the fold of darkness would never sink far enough to adopt such a ludicrous idea.

The second speaker offered, “Tell them the Bible is not true.” This provoked several minutes of discussion because such a tactic had been used with some success down through the years and the idea of elevating it to a long-range strategic plan seemed to incur some favor.

Tabling the idea for a moment, the chairman heard yet a third suggestion which immediately brought a diabolic smile to all the faces at the meeting: “Tell them it’s all true, and even tell them they need to be saved—but not now.” Some might believe there is no God. A greater number reject the authority of the Scripture. This delaying tactic, this intent to cause well-meaning people to procrastinate any choice on the gospel, to put off turning to Jesus until too late, this could work with untold millions.

As the story goes, the demons approved suggestion three, and the chairman declared the meeting adjourned.

Fictitious nonsense to be sure, though Satan’s legions have probably used all three tactics with great success to keep people chained in darkness. Here is a chapter about light. The light of Jesus shining from heaven on Saul. The light of Ananias openly receiving his new “brother” and assisting him to faith. The light of Peter traveling to visit saints, healing and raising them as he went. The light of Dorcas caring for those who could not care for themselves.

We should see ourselves in this chapter, perhaps more than once. Some of us may have had dramatic conversion experiences. Others may feel neglected, unnoticed by fellow Christians as we try to serve God faithfully wherever he has placed us. Please notice our title again, especially the appearance of the last word in the plural. Yes, Saul was now God’s chosen instrument, but so was Ananias, and Peter, and Dorcas. Christians should not try to be somebody else nor to do what God has called someone else to do. God calls and gifts us to be ourselves, even if those selves do not look much like the popular models of a particular era, place, or denomination.[1]
A.  Missing Phrase (v. 4)
Bible readers familiar with Paul’s testimony in Acts 26:14 will notice the absence of the phrase it is hard for you to kick against the goads from Luke’s account in Acts 9. New Testament scholars find general agreement that the phrase was added to Acts 9 on the strength of its appearance in Acts 26. The words appear in the Western Text and, therefore, in the King James Version; but the best available manuscripts do not include it in our chapter. This is a similar situation to the phrase we discussed in 8:37.

B.  Gentiles (v. 15)
In the Old Testament we find Jews and Gentiles demonstrating peaceful coexistence and even intermarrying (for example, Rahab, Ruth, Bathsheba). By the New Testament era, however, hostility between Jews and Gentiles seems complete. Hundreds of years of persecution had totally embittered the nation of Israel which now hated everything Gentile and avoided contact completely. Jesus limited his own ministry to Jews with only rare exceptions (John 4:1–42; Matt. 15:21–28; John 12:20–36). Clearly, the gospel went first to the Jew and only later to the Gentiles as Paul reminds us in Romans 1. The division of all humankind into two classes—Jew and Gentile—was no longer acceptable now that the gospel had permeated the Gentile world. Paul will repeatedly write about the breaking down of that wall and the unity of all ethnic believers in Christ (Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:24; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:14; Col. 3:11).

C.  Arabia (vv. 22–23)
In Galatians 1:17 Paul talks about a period of time spent in Arabia, and most scholars fit those three years between verses 22 and 23 of Acts 9. This was the kingdom of the Nabateans stretching east and south from Damascus. Like Moses, Saul apparently spent time in the wilderness before coming full force in his service for God. Surely we have no difficulty picturing him rethinking the Scriptures, developing the christological hermeneutic of the Old Testament for which he became so famous, receiving new revelation from the Lord, and getting his theology in general New Covenant order.[2]

1.   Has God ever told you to wait for instructions? How do you react to having to wait on God?
2.   Do your church leaders need someone like Barnabas to do the behind-the-scenes work and encourage others? What type of work would such a person do in your church? Might God be calling you to such work?[3]

  [1] Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 149–150.
[2] Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 150–151.
[3] Kenneth O. Gangel, Acts, vol. 5, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998), 153.