Acts Chapter Nine

 

Read Acts 9:1-9

 

v1.  “AND SAUL, YET BREATHING OUT THREATENINGS AND SLAUGHTER AGAINST THE DISCIPLES OF THE LORD, WENT UNTO THE HIGH PRIEST,”

 

            Saul, of course, was first mentioned in Acts 7, watching over the garments of those who stoned Stephen and mentioned again in the first verses of chapter 8.  The original language here would indicate that Saul was not just dedicated to the work he was doing but that he was totally absorbed by it, he is completely fanatical with his cause:

 

Galatians 1:13 “FOR YE HAVE HEARD OF MY CONVERSATION (manner of life) IN TIME PAST IN THE JEWS’ RELIGION, HOW THAT BEYOND MEASURE I PERSECUTED THE CHURCH OF GOD, AND WASTED IT:”

 

            But Paul later tells us that he did this in ignorance doesn’t he?

 

I Timothy 1:13 ‘WHO WAS BEFORE A BLASPHEMER, AND A PERSECUTOR, AND INJURIOUS: BUT I OBTAINED MERCY, BECAUSE I DID it IGNORANTLY IN UNBELIEF.”

 

How did this fanaticism, this extreme dedication, work for Paul in his later life?  Do you think that this is part of what made him the kind of man that God wanted to carry His gospel to the Gentiles?

 

v2.  “AND DESIRED OF HIM LETTERS TO DAMASCUS TO THE SYNAGOGUES, THAT IF HE FOUND ANY OF THIS WAY, WHETHER THEY WERE MEN OR WOMEN, HE MIGHT BRING THEM BOUND UNTO JERUSALEM."

 

            He goes to the high priest and requests letters, letters of introduction, letters of authority to act perhaps, and planned to go even unto other cities to round up these christians and bring them back to Jerusalem.  Damascus was then and is still today the principle city of Syria and at that time probably had a large Jewish population.  It would be the kind of place that the gospel of Christ would be carried to from Jerusalem and converts made.  Paul later describes it this way.

 

Acts 26:12 “WHEREUPON AS I WENT TO DAMASCUS WITH AUTHORITY AND COMMISSION FROM THE CHIEF PRIESTS,”

 

v3.  “AND AS HE JOURNEYED, HE CAME NEAR DAMASCUS: AND SUDDENLY THERE SHINED ROUND ABOUT HIM A LIGHT FROM HEAVEN.”

 

            This is one of the last times that we have recorded that God took direct action with someone here on earth.  There are others but they are few and the last was with John the Apostle on the isle of Patmos and the recording of the book of Revelation.  Paul describes this encounter this way:

 

Acts 22:6 “AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT, AS I MADE MY JOURNEY, AND WAS COME NIGH UNTO DAMASCUS ABOUT NOON, SUDDENLY THERE SHONE FROM HEAVEN A GREAT LIGHT ROUND ABOUT ME.”

 

            We don’t know which road Saul was on, history tells that there were two principle routes from Jerusalem to Damascus, but he’s on the road, letters of authority in hand and suddenly a very bright light shines down around them.  Paul says in this description that it was noon, yet the light far outshone the sun.

 

v4.  “AND HE FELL TO THE EARTH, AND HEARD A VOICE SAYING UNTO HIM, SAUL, SAUL, WHY PERSECUTEST THOU ME?”

 

            Now that would be enough to jumpstart your heart wouldn’t it?  Saul is with a group of people traveling to this city to continue the persecution of the people who are following this one that he thinks is an imposter from Galilee.  One who claimed to be the Messiah, and whom his followers claimed to be the Messiah for whom the Jews had searched for hundreds of years.  He’s just about to hear how wrong he’s been.  This great light and the voice from on high doesn’t leave much doubt that the Higher Power is its source.  Saul, why are you persecuting me?  And since he is persecuting the church he’s also persecuting Christ isn’t he?

 

Matthew 25:40  “AND THE KING SHALL ANSWER AND SAY UNTO THEM, VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, INASMUCH AS YE HAVE DONE it UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YE HAVE DONE it UNTO ME.”

 

v5.  “AND HE SAID, WHO ART THOU, LORD?  AND THE LORD SAID, I AM JESUS WHOM THOU PERSECUTEST: it is HARD FOR THEE TO KICK AGAINST THE PRICKS.”

 

            Saul didn’t have to have anyone explain to him that this light was something extremely out of the ordinary, that this light and voice was a message from on High.  He doesn’t know exactly who is speaking, but Jesus doesn’t leave him in suspense for very long.  Paul describes it later as:

 

Acts 22:8 “AND I ANSWERED, WHO ART THOU, LORD? AND HE SAID UNTO ME, I AM JESUS OF NAZARETH, WHOM THOU PERSECUTEST.”

 

            What does kick against the pricks mean?  In my experience the thing that comes to my mind is kicking the business end of a pitchfork or being hit with a garden rake.  But more precisely I’m told the word refers to an ox goad, a sharp pointed device that the driver used to poke the animals and encourage them to move.

 

v6.  “AND HE TREMBLING AND ASTONISHED SAID, LORD, WHAT WILT THOU HAVE ME TO DO?  AND THE LORD said UNTO HIM, ARISE, AND GO INTO THE CITY, AND IT SHALL BE TOLD THEE WHAT THOU MUST DO.”

 

            Jesus doesn’t tell him what he must do, does he?  Why?   Because in God’s plan for mankind there are people; preachers and teachers that have that responsibility.  What does Paul write later?

 

I Corinthians 1:2121For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

 

Was Paul saved on the road to Damascus?  No, he was still guilty of all of his sins.  He has not been cleansed yet.  He is to go into the city and there he will be told what he MUST do.

 

v7.  “AND THE MEN WHICH JOURNEYED WITH HIM STOOD SPEECHLESS, HEARING A VOICE, BUT SEEING NO MAN.

 

            We don’t know how many people were with Saul, but there were apparently several.  They just came to a stop or fell down as we’re told in another passage, they heard a voice but, as it would appear, possibly did not understand what it said, they couldn’t see anyone that was talking; they saw the light but didn’t understand what it was all about.

 

v8.  “AND SAUL AROSE FROM THE EARTH; AND WHEN HIS EYES WERE OPENED, HE SAW NO MAN: BUT THEY LED HIM BY THE HAND, AND BROUGHT him INTO DAMASCUS.”

 

            Saul is struck blind, at least blind enough that he can’t see to make his way and needs to be lead.  Quite a change isn’t it?  Saul was the leader of this group of men, confident, he has letters of authority from the Sanhedrin, he’s probably breathing out threats against the Christians in Damascus and now what do we have?  A man that has been shaken to the very marrow of his soul; convicted, blind, and helpless that has to be lead where ever he goes.  The Son of God, the promised Messiah has just spoken to him and he is beginning to realize the enormity of his sin.

 

v9.  “AND HE WAS THREE DAYS WITHOUT SIGHT, AND NEITHER DID EAT NOR DRINK.”

 

            Saul has left Jerusalem to go to Damascus but he didn’t intend to arrive in the way that he has, or in the condition that he’s in.  So we’re told that for three days he’s blind, he’s fasting; he’s praying neither eating or drinking anything.  In our wildest imagination can we really understand just what is going through this man’s mind for three days and nights?

 

Read Acts 9:10-22

 

v10.  “AND THERE WAS A CERTAIN DISCIPLE AT DAMASCUS, NAMED ANANIAS; AND TO HIM SAID THE LORD IN A VISION, ANANIAS.  AND HE SAID, BEHOLD, I am here, LORD.”

 

            Paul tells us a little about this man Ananias in:

 

Acts 22:12 “AND ONE ANANIAS, A DEVOUT MAN ACCORDING TO THE LAW, HAVING A GOOD REPORT OF ALL THE JEWS WHICH DWELT there,”

 

            Ananias was a devout man, a lawful man, a man who was well respected by the Jews of that city.  Beyond that, he was nobody special, just a certain disciple, and a disciple that God had chosen to carry out a specific purpose.

 

v11.  “AND THE LORD said UNTO HIM, ARISE, AND GO INTO THE STREET WHICH IS CALLED STRAIGHT, AND INQUIRE IN THE HOUSE OF JUDAS FOR one CALLED SAUL, OF TARSUS: FOR, BEHOLD, HE PRAYETH.”

 

            The Lord has appeared to Ananias in a vision.  He has a special mission for him to perform and communicates his instructions to him in much the same fashion as the angel sent to Philip when he sent him to the Ethiopian treasurer.  He knew that Saul was at a certain place, in this case the house of Judas on Straight Street.  This particular street didn’t wind around the city as many do in the old cities.  Historians tell us that it was straight as an arrow, about a mile long and ran from east to west across the city.  He identifies Saul as being from Tarsus, a description that Paul, himself, used:

 

Acts 22:3  “I AM VERILY A MAN which am A JEW, BORN IN TARSUS, a city IN CILICIA, YET BROUGHT UP IN THIS CITY AT THE FEET OF GAMALIEL, and TAUGHT ACCORDING TO THE PERFECT MANNER OF THE LAW OF THE FATHERS, AND WAS ZEALOUS TOWARD GOD, AS YE ALL ARE THIS DAY.”

 

And God heard his prayer, didn’t he?  Saul was a sinner but God heard him, now why Saul and not other sinners?  Because Saul was being chosen for a special purpose, God had a job for him to do; he’s giving him his attention.

 

v12.  “AND HATH SEEN IN A VISION A MAN NAMED ANANIAS COMING IN, AND PUTTING his HAND ON HIM, THAT HE MIGHT RECEIVE HIS SIGHT.”

 

            God has visited Saul too hasn’t he?  Saul has also been given a vision, that of a man named Ananias coming to him to heal his blindness.  The healing is nothing different that has been performed before, many times, by Jesus and in more recent days the twelve.

 

v13.  “THEN ANANIAS ANSWERED, LORD, I HAVE HEARD BY MANY OF THIS MAN, HOW MUCH EVIL HE HATH DONE TO THY SAINTS AT JERUSALEM:”

 

            Ananias is skeptical isn’t he?  Wouldn’t you be?  He knows about Saul, he knows what he’s done; he even knows why he came to Damascus in the first place.  So he tells God’s messenger says I’ve heard of this man and the great evil that he has worked against the church, the saints.

 

v14.  “AND HERE HE HATH AUTHORITY FROM THE CHIEF PRIESTS TO BIND ALL THAT CALL ON THY NAME.”

 

            This is the man who’s been raising havoc with the church.  He’s even got letters of authority from the Chief Priest to bind and send to prison all those people who dare to believe like I do.  What does this tell us about “calling on the name of the Lord”?

 

v15.  “BUT THE LORD SAID UNTO HIM, GO THY WAY: FOR HE IS A CHOSEN VESSEL UNTO ME, TO BEAR MY NAME BEFORE THE GENTILES, AND KINGS, AND THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL.”

 

            Saul was a chosen vessel, a man chosen by God to do a specific purpose and Paul later writes to the Corinthian brethren that this grace that God gave him wasn’t given in vain:

 

I Corinthians 15:10 “BUT BY THE GRACE OF GOD I AM WHAT I AM: AND HIS GRACE WHICH was bestowed UPON ME WAS NOT IN VAIN; BUT I LABOURED MORE ABUNDANTLY THAN THEY ALL: YET NOT I, BUT THE GRACE OF GOD WHICH WAS WITH ME.”

 

He was to bear the name of Jesus before the people of the Gentile races just as Peter was to bear the name of Jesus to the descendants of Israel.  Peter was sent to the circumcised, Paul to the uncircumcised.

 

Galatians 2:7-8  “BUT CONTRARIWISE, WHEN THEY SAW THAT THE GOSPEL OF THE UNCIRCUMCISION WAS COMMITTED UNTO ME, AS the gospel OF THE CIRCUMCISION was UNTO PETER.  (FOR HE THAT WROUGHT EFFECTUALLY IN PETER TO THE APOSTLESHIP OF THE CIRCUMCISION, THE SAME WAS MIGHTY IN ME TOWARD THE GENTILES:)

 

In this scripture the Jews were identified by their practice of circumcision as God had commanded Abraham in Genesis 17:11.  The Gentiles are identified by the fact that they had no such law, requirement or commandment from God and did not practice circumcision.

 

v16.  “FOR I WILL SHOW HIM HOW GREAT THINGS HE MUST SUFFER FOR MY NAME’S SAKE.”

 

            We know that Saul had at this time no idea of what he would go through in the service of God.  He had brought great suffering upon the church, the saints at Jerusalem and now perhaps its only fitting and proper that he should suffer for the cause of Christ as well.  Later in his ministry he tells us:

 

Acts 20:23 “SAVE THAT THE HOLY GHOST WITNESSETH IN EVERY CITY, SAYING THAT BONDS AND AFFLICTIONS ABIDE ME.”

 

            And others warned him about certain events that were to happen to him:

 

Acts 21:11  “AND WHEN HE WAS COME UNTO US, HE TOOK PAUL’S GIRDLE, AND BOUND HIS OWN HANDS AND FEET, AND SAID, THUS SAITH THE HOLY GHOST, SO SHALL THE JEWS AT JERUSALEM BIND THE MAN THAT OWNETH THIS GIRDLE, AND SHALL DELIVER him INTO THE HANDS OF THE GENTILES.”

 

            And in his own writings especially in those to the church at Corinth he tells about his afflictions.  Due to the constraint of our time we will only refer to the first verse of that series:

 

II Corinthians 11:23 “ARE THEY MINISTERS OF CHRIST? (I SPEAK AS A FOOL) I am MORE; IN LABOURS MORE ABUNDANT, IN STRIPES ABOVE MEASURE, IN PRISONS MORE FREQUENT, IN DEATHS OFT.”

 

v17.  “AND ANANIAS WENT HIS WAY, AND ENTERED INTO THE HOUSE; AND PUTTING HIS HANDS ON HIM SAID, BROTHER SAUL, THE LORD, even JESUS, THAT APPEARED UNTO THEE IN THE WAY AS THOU CAMEST, HATH SENT ME, THAT THOU MIGHTEST RECEIVE THY SIGHT, AND BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY GHOST.”

 

            We now have this preacher Ananias going as instructed by Jesus.  He’s overcome his fears, understands his mission and immediately gets up and goes to the place instructed.  There he lays his hands on Saul and Saul’s sight is returned, as Paul himself describes it:

 

Acts 22:13 “CAME UNTO ME, AND STOOD, AND SAID UNTO ME, BROTHER SAUL, RECEIVE THY SIGHT.  AND THE SAME HOUR I LOOKED UP UPON HIM.”

 

            Ananias also tells Saul of the authority for what he’s doing, he tells him that Jesus, the same one that Saul saw on the Damascus road, has sent him to heal him and then he says something that some people might find to be somewhat curious.  What might that be?  He’s to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but how?  There are no apostles in Damascus to impart the Spirit by their hands.  Ananias is not an apostle that he might impart the power of the Spirit.  What power and what measure did Saul receive?  The same as the other apostles, God chose him, as he says himself in one place:

 

I Corinthians 15:8-9 “AND LAST OF ALL HE WAS SEEN OF ME ALSO, AS OF ONE BORN OUT OF DUE TIME.  FOR I AM THE LEAST OF THE APOSTLES, THAT AM NOT MEET TO BE CALLED AN APOSTLE, BECAUSE I PERSECUTED THE CHURCH OF GOD.”

 

v18.  “AND IMMEDIATELY THERE FELL FROM HIS EYES AS IT HAD BEEN SCALES: AND HE RECEIVED SIGHT FORTHWITH, AND AROSE, AND WAS BAPTIZED.”

 

            Saul immediately received his sight, just as though scales had fallen from his eyes.  He got up and went to be baptized.  Did he wait for anything?  No, and here we have a lesson for all mankind.  Even though Saul hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for three days, he didn’t even wait for something to eat but went immediately to be baptized.

 

v19.  “AND WHEN HE HAD RECEIVED MEAT, HE WAS STRENGTHENED.  THEN WAS SAUL CERTAIN DAYS WITH THE DISCIPLES WHICH WERE AT DAMASCUS.”

 

            So when Saul was baptized and his spiritual needs were met, then he attended to his physical needs by taking food and regaining his strength.  He stayed in Damascus for certain days, or several days; perhaps even weeks, we don’t know.  But is probably wasn’t very long as Luke uses that expression in other places in his writing to mean a short span of time.

 

v20.  “AND STRAIGHTWAY HE PREACHED CHRIST IN THE SYNAGOGUES, THAT HE IS THE SON OF GOD.”

 

            Saul didn’t wait to begin his ministry did he?  Straightway, or right away, as in the next day or so Saul began to speak in the synagogues of Damascus, proclaiming to the Jews there that this Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Messiah, the Saviour for who they had searched and looked for so many generations.  That Jesus was indeed the son of God.  These folks were somewhat amazed at that weren’t they?

 

v21.  “BUT ALL THAT HEARD him WERE AMAZED, AND SAID; IS NOT THIS HE THAT DESTROYED THEM WHICH CALLED ON THIS NAME IN JERUSALEM, AND CAME HITHER FOR THAT INTENT, THAT THE MIGHT BRING THEM BOUND UNTO THE CHIEF PRIESTS?”

 

            Now isn’t this the same man?  Some of these people were probably even some that had fled Jerusalem or that had been in Jerusalem as Damascus had a large Jewish population.  Isn’t this the same one that we read about just a few verses back:

 

Acts 8:3 “AS FOR SAUL, HE MADE HAVOCK OF THE CHURCH, ENTERING INTO EVERY HOUSE, AND HALING MEN AND WOMEN COMMITTED them TO PRISON.”

 

            This change in Saul was something that people did not understand.  But when they understood what actually happened they would be convinced that if Saul would be converted, if Saul would turn from the destruction that he was waging on the church to preaching Jesus then there must be something about this that they needed to learn further.  There must be something to this Jesus of Nazareth since even his greatest enemy is now preaching his name as the Messiah, the Saviour of the world.  They knew Saul just as the Galatians had heard:

 

Galatians 1:13 “FOR YE HAVE HEARD OF MY CONVERSATION IN TIME PAST IN THE JEWS’ RELIGION, HOW THAT BEYOND MEASURE I PERSECUTED THE CHURCH OF GOD, AND WASTED IT:”

 

v22.  “BUT SAUL INCREASED THE MORE IN STRENGTH, AND CONFOUNDED THE JEWS WHICH DWELT AT DAMASCUS, PROVING THAT THIS IS VERY CHRIST.”

 

            Now Saul is going to find himself in the same position as those that he before had persecuted.  Those who would have welcomed him to their midst would now become his opponents.  As he preached the Word says they were confounded and that word means confused, perplexed, disturbed, drawn together against this man that was one of them but who has now turned, become a strong proponent of the Jesus Christ as the Messiah.  They couldn’t stand against the power of his logic, or his presentation.  He’s like Stephen in Jerusalem or Apollos in Ephesus:

 

Acts 18:28 “FOR HE MIGHTILY CONVINCED THE JEWS, and that PUBLICLY, SHOWING BY THE SCRIPTURES THAT JESUS WAS CHRIST.”

 

            The Greek word here translated “proving” means to bring things together.  In other words Saul was able to put things together or side by side to help men understand how they fit and thereby prove, from the scripture and prophecy; that Jesus was indeed the Christ, the promised Messiah, just as we would do from the scriptures today.

 

Read Acts 9:23-31

 

v23.  “AND AFTER THAT MANY DAYS WERE FULFILLED, THE JEWS TOOK COUNSEL TO KILL HIM”

 

            Now we don’t know how many days that Saul preached before the Jews of Damascus got stirred enough to go after him as a follower of Christ.  He was in Damascus twice before he went back to Jerusalem wasn’t he?

 

Galatians 1:17-18 “NEITHER WENT I UP TO JERUSALEM TO THEM WHICH WERE APOSTLES BEFORE ME; BUT I WENT INTO ARABIA, AND RETURNED AGAIN UNTO DAMASCUS.  THEN AFTER THREE YEARS I WENT UP TO JERUSALEM TO SEE PETER, AND ABODE WITH HIM FIFTEEN DAYS.”

 

And we don’t know for sure which time he’s talking about in his writing to the Galatians but probably the second visit based upon the context in Acts 9.

 

v24.  “BUT THEIR LAYING AWAIT WAS KNOWN OF SAUL.  AND THEY WATCHED THE GATES DAY AND NIGHT TO KILL HIM.”

 

            Saul knew what was going on.  He knew that the unbelieving Jews had become his enemies.  They were so fanatical in their hate that the even watched the gates of the city to try to catch him and kill him even if he tried to leave the city.

 

v25.  “THEN THE DISCIPLES TOOK HIM BY NIGHT, AND LET him DOWN BY THE WALL IN A BASKET.”

 

            These people were just like those in that region today weren’t they.  They couldn’t resist Saul’s arguments; they couldn’t get to do what they wanted, so they plotted to kill him.  They even had the civil government after him as he tells us in II Corinthians 11:32.  His disciples knew this, of course, and made arrangements to get him out of the city.  The gates were being watched; he couldn’t leave the city any other way safely, so they put him in a basket and let him down the wall at night.  Paul describes that event himself later:

 

II Corinthians 11:33 “AND THROUGH A WINDOW IN A BASKET WAS I LET DOWN BY THE WALL, AND ESCAPED HIS HANDS.”

 

v26.  “AND WHEN SAUL WAS COME TO JERUSALEM, HE ASSAYED TO JOIN HIMSELF TO THE DISCIPLES: BUT THEY WERE ALL AFRAID OF HIM, AND BELIEVED NOT THAT HE WAS A DISCIPLE.”

 

            So after more than three years Saul returns to Jerusalem and tries to join himself to the disciples, the church, but what happens?  Even after three long years, they still remember, they still fear him.  They didn’t believe that he had been converted.  History tells us that there were a number of things going on.  Things had changed drastically since Saul had been in Jerusalem last.  The civil government had changed rulers, Rome had a new emperor and many of the politically appointed governors had changed including apparently the one at Jerusalem.  The Jews themselves were being persecuted at this time.  The Jerusalem Christians probably had not heard of his preaching in Syria and Arabia.  So they didn’t believe him, they didn’t believe that he had been converted and they were being very careful who they allowed into their fellowship.  But one man came to his rescue:

 

v27.  “BUT BARNABAS TOOK HIM, AND BROUGHT him TO THE APOSTLES, AND DECLARED UNTO THEM HOW HE HAD SEEN THE LORD IN THE WAY, AND THAT HE HAD SPOKEN TO HIM, AND HOW HE PREACHED BOLDLY AT DAMASCUS IN THE NAME OF JESUS.”

 

            This is the same Barnabas, if you’ll remember that we read about earlier:

 

Acts 4:36-37  “AND JOSES, WHO BY THE APOSTLES WAS SURNAMED BARNABAS, (WHICH IS, BEING INTERPRETED, THE SON OF CONSOLATION,) A LEVITE, and OF THE COUNTRY OF CYPRUS, HAVING LAND, SOLD it, AND BROUGHT THE MONEY, AND LAID it AT THE APOSTLES FEET.”

 

            This is the same Barnabas that Luke writes about later:

 

Acts 13:2 “AS THEY MINISTERED TO THE LORD, AND FASTED, THE HOLY GHOST SAID, SEPARATE ME BARNABAS AND SAUL FOR THE WORK THEREUNTO I HAVE CALLED THEM.”

 

            So this same Barnabas who had sold land and given the proceeds to the church, who would later be a traveling companion of Paul in his first missionary journey, vouches for Saul, presents his credentials, as it were, to the apostles apparently knowing of his miraculous conversion and his work in Damascus, Syria.  God has duties and purpose for Saul that lie elsewhere.

 

v28.  “AND HE WAS WITH THEM COMING AND GOING OUT AT JERUSALEM.”

 

            Saul remained in Jerusalem only a short time, in Galatians 1:18-19, he tells us that he visited Peter for fifteen days but he made the most of his time there.

 

v29.  “AND HE SPAKE BOLDY IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS, AND DISPUTED AGAINST THE GRECIANS: BUT THEY WENT ABOUT TO SLAY HIM.”

 

            Saul’s in trouble again.  Apparently he goes especially to the Grecian Jews, those that held closer to the Hellenist ideas, or as we would say today the more liberal, less orthodox of those gathered at Jerusalem.  Why would they particularly be upset with Saul?  What was Saul’s prior relationship to them?  He was one of them, even to the point of being present and keeping the clothing of those who stoned Stephen and we’re told that these Jews were of:

 

“THEN THERE AROSE CERTAIN OF THE SYNAGOGUE, WHICH IS CALLED the synagogue OF THE LIBERTINES, AND CYRENIANS, AND ALEXANDRIANS, AND OF THEM OF CILICIA AND OF ASIA, DISPUTING WITH STEPHEN.” Acts 6:9 

 

So Saul is not only causing them a problem, disputing with them, debating with them and by the power of the Holy Spirit refuting them even as Stephen did, they may very well look on him as a turncoat, a traitor, an enemy to be hated even more than others.  So they plotted to kill him, perhaps just as they had killed Stephen three years or more before.

 

v30.  which WHEN THE BRETHREN KNEW, THEY BROUGHT HIM DOWN TO CAESAREA, AND SENT HIM FORTH TO TARSUS.”

 

            Saul’s situation at Jerusalem has turned completely around.  Three years before he was searching out and persecuting the Christians in that city.  Three years later the Jews are seeking to destroy him and when the Christians in that city found out that he’s in danger they’re helping him escape.  They send him to Caesarea, but I’m not sure which Caesarea.  Our first thought would be that he went to the seaport near Tyre but there was also Caesarea Philippi a city at the foot of Mt. Hermon on the road to Syria and that is more likely the city named here, because:

 

Galatians 1:21-22 “AFTERWARDS I CAME INTO THE REGIONS OF SYRIA AND CILICIA; AND WAS UNKNOWN BY FACE UNTO THE CHURCHES OF JUDAEA WHICH WERE IN CHRIST:”

 

So Saul has been driven from Jerusalem, preaches in Syria and Cilicia where his face is not known and travels to Tarsus, the city were he was born.

 

v31.  “THEN HAD THE CHURCHES REST THROUGHOUT ALL JUDAEA AND GALILEE AND SAMARIA, AND WERE EDIFIED; AND WALKING IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD, AND IN THE COMFORT OF THE HOLY GHOST, WERE MULTIPLIED.”

 

            Actually the word translated churches (plural) here is “ekklesia”, the Greek word that means called out, the one we use for church.  In the purest sense it is used to indicate the called out of God, the church in general.  It is also used to indicate individual congregations but here is used to indicate a number of congregations in within a geographic area.  All three usages are correct, an individual congregation, a group of congregations in a specific region and the church at large or throughout man’s history.  They had peace; historians tell us that part of the reason was the local politics of the time.  The past three years at Jerusalem anarchy had ruled, much the same as we’re seeing in that region on TV today, but now a new Roman governor has been appointed in both Syria and Judaea and strong civil government has been restored.  The great persecution is now diminished, the saints have been disbursed as God planned, they are to teach in other areas, they grew and were at peace.

            What does that word edified mean?  The Greek word, very long and impossible for me to pronounce, means “the act of building” to “build up a house” (Wine’s Expository Dictionary).  It is used extensively by Paul and Peter in their writings and specifically as applies to a “spiritual house” in:

 

I Peter 2:5 “YE ALSO, AS LIVELY STONES, ARE BUILT UP A SPIRITUAL HOUSE, AN HOLY PRIESTHOOD, TO OFFER UP SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES, ACCEPTABLE TO GOD BY JESUS CHRIST.”

 

So the church in that region was edified, built up, strengthened because they walked “IN THE FEAR OF THE LORD” and were comforted “BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

 

Read Acts 9:32-35

 

v32.  “AND IT CAME TO PASS, AS PETER PASSED THROUGHOUT ALL quarters, HE CAME DOWN ALSO TO THE SAINTS WHICH DWELT AT LYDDA.”

 

            So Luke turns back to the activities of Peter.  What is Peter doing now?  He’s shepherding the flock isn’t he?  He’s traveling in the region of Israel; going through the area, the translators add the word quarters to help us understand and he comes to Lydda, where’s that?  It’s a city near Joppa, a city on the southeastern coast of the Mediterranean.

 

v33.  “AND THERE HE FOUND A CERTAIN MAN NAMED AENEAS, WHICH HAD KEPT HIS BED EIGHT YEARS, AND WAS SICK OF THE PALSY.”

 

            Now we’ve seen this word palsy before, what does it mean?  Again Wines Expository Dictionary tells us that the Greek word translated here means “paralytic” paralyzed, as in having had a stroke.  So we have a certain man here who has been bedfast for eight years, apparently from a stroke or something like a stroke, and we all know what that is.  My father has been disabled by a stroke for 26 years, though he’s not bedfast.   Luke tells us that he was a certain man, what does that mean?  It appears that all that indicates is that he’s speaking of a specific person and he goes on to give his name.

 

v34.  “AND PETER SAID UNTO HIM, AENEAS, JESUS CHRIST MAKETH THEE WHOLE: ARISE, AND MAKE THY BED.  AND HE AROSE IMMEDIATELY.”

 

            Just as before in the temple at Jerusalem:

 

Acts 3:6-7 “THEN PETER SAID, SILVER AND GOLD HAVE I NONE; BUT SUCH AS I HAVE GIVE I THEE: IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST OF NAZARETH RISE UP AND WALK.  AND THE TOOK HIM BY THE RIGHT HAND, AND LIFTED him UP: AND IMMEDIATELY HIS FEET AND ANKLE BONES RECEIVED STRENGTH.”

 

When God heals someone the effect is obvious and immediate.

 

v35.  “AND ALL THAT DWELT AT LYDDA AND SARON SAW HIM, AND TURNED TO THE LORD.”

 

            Peter, by that one action, gained enough respect and fear of God to completely convert two villages Lydda and Saron, everyone that lived there that was of accountable age.

 

Read Acts 9:36-41

 

v36.  “NOW THERE WAS AT JOPPA A CERTAIN DISCIPLE NAMED TABITHA, WHICH BY INTERPRETATION IS CALLED DORCAS: THIS WOMAN WAS FULL OF GOOD WORKS AND ALMSDEEDS WHICH SHE DID.”

 

            Now is there any shortage of honorable work for the women of the church?  God doesn’t think so and neither should anyone else.  Tabitha or Dorcas as we know her best; the Holy Spirit tells us was “FULL OF GOOD WORKS AND ALMSDEEDS”.  She was very busy at the works of the church that women by the very nature that God has given us can do best.  I point this out to say that today many people want to change what God has given, they want roles for women that were not only not intended by God but roles that, at least in some ways, women in their normal nature are not equipped to handle as well as men are. 

The name Dorcas, according to the dictionaries means “gazelle” a small, slender animal of the deer family.  I picture Dorcas much as my own “Granny”, short, wiry, constantly on the go and doing things for either her family or all of the other people she could reach out and touch.  Doing all of these things with a full understanding of her position and role in this life, at peace with that and with God.  She’s the example, she’s the very picture of what Paul means when he talks about how a modest woman should be clothed; they should adorn themselves with modest apparel and:

 

I Timothy 2:10 “BUT (WHICH BECOMETH WOMEN PROFESSING GODLINESS) WITH GOOD WORKS.”

 

v37.  “AND IT CAME TO PASS IN THOSE DAYS, THAT SHE WAS SICK, AND DIED:  WHOM WHEN THEY HAD WASHED, THEY LAID her IN AN UPPER CHAMBER.”

 

            This good woman died, but contrary to the normal custom, they didn’t bury her right away.  After she has been prepared for viewing, washed and dressed in clean clothing, as only the very richest could afford anything more than that then, they do much the same as we would today didn’t they?  They gathered around to console each other, probably talk of Dorcas and the works that she did, mourn and lament her passing.

 

v38.  “AND FORASMUCH AS LYDDA WAS NIGH TO JOPPA, AND THE DISCIPLES HAD HEARD THAT PETER WAS THERE, THEY SENT UNTO HIM TWO MEN, DESIRING him THAT HE WOULD NOT DELAY TO COME TO THEM.”

 

            Joppa is near to Lydda; Peter is only about nine or ten miles away.  At a brisk walk a trip of about 2.5 hours two men could be there, they know he’s there so they go to him.  They don’t know what the eventual outcome would be but they’re going to Peter as an apostle, as a leader in the church to come to them in their time of sorrow.  We’re seeing God’s providence at work aren’t we?

 

v39.  “THEN PETER AROSE AND WENT WITH THEM.  WHEN HE WAS COME, THEY BROUGHT HIM INTO THE UPPER CHAMBER: AND ALL THE WIDOWS STOOD BY HIM WEEPING, AND SHOWING THE COATS AND GARMENTS WHICH DORCAS MADE, WHILE SHE WAS WITH THEM.”

 

            Peter didn’t hesitate.  The Christians at Joppa needed him, send men to bring him to them, so he “AROSE AND WENT WITH THEM” and they brought him to the chamber where Dorcas was laid out.

            The widows, either people that worked with her or people that Dorcas has helped or both; were standing by weeping and talking about this wonderful woman and all the good works that she had done for them.  They’re displaying the very garments, in the Greek we’re told the undershirts or tunics that was worn under the outer garment or mantle and the outer garments or mantles themselves.  The Word indicates, to me at least, that they may have been talking about garments they were actually wearing.

 

v40.  “BUT PETER PUT THEM ALL FORTH, AND KNEELED DOWN, AND PRAYED; AND TURNING him TO THE BODY SAID, TABITHA, ARISE.  AND SHE OPENED HER EYES: AND WHEN SHE SAW PETER, SHE SAT UP.”

 

            Peter puts everyone out of the chamber or room.  He has work to do and the first thing he does is kneel down and pray, asking God perhaps, for the soul of Dorcas to be returned, for her life to be restored.

 

In I Kings 17:20, Elijah prayed that the son of the widow who had befriended and provided for him be returned to life.  Elisha did the same for the son of the Shunammite woman in II Kings 4:33.  Peter had been present when Jesus raised people from the dead, including Lazarus in John 11, so he knew what was needed, and he knelt and prayed to God.

            He commands her to rise; she opens her eyes, sees him and sits up.

 

v41.  “AND HE GAVE HER his HAND, AND LIFTED HER UP, AND WHEN HE HAD CALLED THE SAINTS AND WIDOWS, PRESENTED HER ALIVE.”

 

            She is now alive so Peter simply reaches down to her, takes her hand, helps her get up and then calls in the people who were mourning her to show them that she is indeed alive again.

 

v42.  “AND IT WAS KNOWN THROUGHOUT ALL JOPPA; AND MANY BELIEVED IN THE LORD.”

 

            Joppa is a fair sized city.  It is the seaport for Jerusalem, where goods would be unloaded from ships and transferred to land transport for the city.  As a result of Peter’s raising Dorcas from the dead the church grows and is strengthened in this city.

 

v43.  “AND IT CAME TO PASS, THAT HE TARRIED MANY DAYS IN JOPPA WITH ONE SIMON A TANNER.”

 

            We don’t know how long that Peter stayed in this city, the scripture just says “MANY DAYS” but it was for some time.  It would almost seem that Peter just sort of stays where he is until called to go somewhere else as we will see in the next chapter of our study.  And he lives with a man called Simon, a tanner by trade.