Term 3 – Week 6
Big Idea – Jesus reveals himself to Saul on the road to Damascus and he is dramatically converted!
See how God saved Saul in an amazing way to achieve his mission to the world.
- Belief – Saul met Jesus and was totally changed. We can experience conversion too!
- Behaviour – Saul was totally transformed from the persecutor to the preacher. How does following Jesus change us?
We have by now seen the inauguration of gospel ministry by Peter, Stephen and Philip. Peter began the Spirit-filled preaching of the word, Stephen demonstrated biblical evangelism and martyrdom, while Philip demonstrated both individual and corporate evangelistic outreach. Now we meet the final dominant character in God’s work in the early church. Saul (9:11; 22:3), later called Paul (13:9) was a Roman citizen brought up in the city of Tarsus in modern day Turkey. He was of Jewish background and a strict Pharisee (Jewish leader). Upon hearing the claim that Jesus of Nazareth was Messiah, he worked really hard to stop the gospel message from spreading. He was at (and approved of) Stephen’s death (8:1) and then became a leader in a campaign to destroy the Christian church (8:3; 9:2). This campaign took him to Damascus where he (the arch-persecutor) met the risen Lord Jesus and was transformed.
On the road to Damascus, 300km from Jerusalem, with letters of authority from the High priest to arrest Christians in synagogues, Saul experiences a Christophany (seeing the resurrected Christ). A light flashes around him (v.3), a voice speaks to him (v.4) and he is addressed by name (v.4). Saul meets the risen and glorified Lord Jesus. [Note: This episode has close parallels with the calling of Moses (Ex3:2-4)]. Jesus takes the persecution of his followers personally by saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” When Saul replies, “Who are you, Lord?” Jesus identifies himself, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” It’s at that moment Saul realises that the crucified Lord Jesus lives and the church is the genuine people of God. The persecution of these people is the persecution of the risen Lord Jesus. God has intervened to dramatically reverse the persecution of his people into the explosive expansion of the church through the apostle ‘Paul’. Saul is temporarily blinded (a picture of his spiritual blindness) and told to go to Damascus to await further instructions.
This account of Saul’s encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus is highly significant, so much so it is re-told twice (in Acts 22 & 26). This is because Saul is God’s chosen instrument to take the gospel to the gentiles (9:15). Paul is the one who takes the gospel to the nations (the non-Jews) – remember the mission of Acts 1:8! On the road to Damascus, Saul’s life changed forever because he met the risen Lord Jesus. Saul obeyed the instructions of Jesus. After receiving the prayer from the courageous Ananias, Saul was filled with the Holy Spirit and baptised. Much of Saul’s conversion is unique, so we can celebrate and wonder at this dramatic conversion of the arch-persecutor, but not see it as a typical experience for the Christian. The (last) appearance of the risen Jesus, the dramatic supernatural events, and the call to be the apostle to the Gentiles, are all things we do not expect to be a part of normal conversions. We can celebrate this watershed moment for the church. We can remark about how the one who intended to come into Damacus in power to imprison God’s people was instead humbled as he is led blind into the city as a prisoner of the risen Christ! But we do not avoid all comparison. The dramatic turn from spiritual blindness to sight (pictured by the physical blindness), the radical change in the life of Saul, the call to serve and suffer for Jesus, are all typical for a Christian conversion. We can rejoice at the gracious work of Christ to save a sinner such as Saul, and therefore his abundant grace in saving us also! Jesus reaches out to all of us to reveal his truth and to help us see and turn and follow his call.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”Acts 1v8
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