Saul is one of my favorite people in the Bible. Also known as the Apostle Paul, his encounter with Jesus reminds us of two things. First, it doesn’t matter what you have done. Jesus can and will transform your life with His love and salvation. Second, God can transform anybody’s life no matter how far they seem to be from God. I also want to highlight some of the other things that we have seen throughout this series in regards to the Baptism with the Holy Spirit.
I. Saul’s encounter with Jesus
Acts 9:1-7: Meanwhile, Saul was uttering threats with every breath and was eager to kill the Lord’s followers. So he went to the high priest. He requested letters addressed to the synagogues in Damascus, 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. As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” 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. He remained there blind for three days and did not eat or drink.
Saul was the last person one would expect to surrender his life to Christ. He opposed everything about the church and its message of the cross. He wanted to capture and imprison every believer. The Word even says that he wanted to kill them. He got leadership to back him and that’s what he set out to do as he headed to Damascus.
He encountered Jesus on the way. The story is not so much about Jesus stopping Saul as it is about Jesus pursuing him.
Acts 9:6 (NKJV): So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Most people believe that Saul received salvation in this moment. This verse seems to him surrendering by asking the Lord what he wanted him to do. We also see that he prays and fast for three days before Ananias comes to visit him.
iI. Ananias’s key role in Saul’s new life in Christ
Acts 9:10-19: Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. 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. I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.” “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.” 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. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” 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.” 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.
There are a few things that I want to point out here in this next portion of the text.
1. Why did God send Ananias?
He was sent to validate what God was doing in Saul. This is all new to Saul. Ananias confirms what God speaks to Saul and he helps Saul take the next step so that he was equipped for his mission.
2. How did God speak for both Saul and Ananias?
He spoke to them through visions.
Acts 2:17-18: ‘In the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit upon all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. In those days I will pour out my Spirit even on my servants—men and women alike—and they will prophesy.
God speaks to us in multiple ways - the Word, still small voice, dreams, visions, and through other people. I believe that we will see more of this in the days ahead.
3. What did Ananias do for Saul?
He prayed for him to receive his sight, he prayed for him to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and he baptized him in water. Saul was making a public declaration that he was following Christ.
These are important elements for every person who receives Christ - salvation, water baptism, baptism with the Holy Spirit.
Ananias did not initially like the idea of going to see Saul. He was afraid of Him. God showed Ananias Saul’s purpose in the Kingdom of God.
Acts 9:15-16: 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. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”
What a great picture for us to follow! God will reveal His heart for others and we need to call those things out in their lives. This helps others to see themselves through the eyes of Christ. It also helps us to see others through the eyes of Christ.
III. The Holy Spirit and Saul’s ministry
Acts 9:19-23: Saul stayed with the believers in Damascus for a few days. And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is indeed the Son of God!” 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?” Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. After a while some of the Jews plotted together to kill him..
This is why I love Paul. He gets right down to business and immediately begins to preach that Jesus is the Messiah. This phrase is interesting. “Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful.” This is what happens with the help of the Holy Spirit and taking time to seek the Lord daily. We grow in our knowledge of Him and the Word and we become more powerful in our witness of Him.
The Jews in Damascus could not refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. Saul was a new Christian and now he is able to show others that Jesus is the Messiah. This goes back to the what is the predominant message of the book of Acts. We need to be baptized with the power of the Holy Spirit so that we can be effective in our witness of Christ and whatever He call us to do.
We will never fully accomplish all that God has called us to accomplish without the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. The Holy Spirit was key in the early church’s growing and it will be key in our reaching our city, our nation and our world for Christ.
Let’s take time to pray for people we may know that seem next to impossible to come to know Christ. They may be a lot like Saul before his conversion, completely opposing Jesus and His message. If God can transform Saul, He can transform anybody. God may be stirring hearts today to follow Ananias’s example and go to minister to a Saul on the Lord’s behalf. We need to do it under the Lord’s leading and direction in order to be successful. I also want to encourage everyone to rely upon the Holy Spirit’s power to accomplish God’s plan for your lives.